How to Prepare for Your First MBA Semester

How to Prepare for Your First MBA Semester

You’ve aced the GMAT, written outstanding admissions essays, polished your resume, and made it into business school – and now the real hard work begins! Starting your MBA is an exciting but nerve-wracking time, and you want to make sure you’re as prepared as you can possibly be. Read on to discover our top tips to prepare for your first semester to ensure that you get the most out of your MBA…

Brush up your skills

For many MBA students, this is their first return to studying for quite some time, and it can come as quite a shock after years in the workplace. Therefore, it’s a good idea to brush up on skills you may not have used for a while, such as quantitative skills or note-taking.

If you are studying in a foreign country and are not a native speaker of the language, it’s a good idea to get some language tuition before starting your program (even if it is taught in English). This will help you feel more at home in a new environment, so try and use the time before your MBA to improve your language skills with an intensive course – some schools even offer these to enrolled students.

MBA students read a huge amount every week. To minimize fatigue, get some reading practice in by keeping up to date with business publications, or check out some books about business (you can see our recommendations here).

Students often cite quantitative learning and skills as some of the more difficult parts of the first MBA semester. Many MBA programs have mandatory pre-MBA study primers in quant topics, but if your school doesn’t, it might be a good idea to seek external tutoring if your skills are a bit rusty.

Get talking

Networking is consistently cited as being one of the most rewarding and useful elements of an MBA, and it begins early – even before the official start of your studies. Make sure to register to attend campus events for new students and join LinkedIn and Facebook pages set up for new cohorts. This gives you a chance to get to know your future classmates so there are familiar faces and names when you arrive.

Updating your LinkedIn profile to show you’re at business school is a good way to get the word out to your professional network, and even to forge new connections with alumni and professors.

Attend as many meet-and-greets and social mixers for new students as possible – a good business school should try to foster a sense of community from the outset. You could also consider joining student groups aligned with your specific interests (such as entrepreneurship) to deepen your connections with classmates and network with students from other year groups or disciplines.

Get comfortable

Familiarize yourself with your surroundings. If possible, tour the school before classes start so you know where lectures will be held and pinpoint where libraries and career centers are. If you are moving to a new city or country this is even more important. Try to arrive as early as you can to familiarize yourself with the new neighborhood and trial your journey to campus.

Don’t forget about other life admin, such as working out a budget, managing bills, and setting up insurance, as this will reduce anxiety before the real hard work begins. It’s a good idea to join a gym on campus as they offer discounted rates for students, and physical activity can be a great stressbuster.

Get career-ready

It’s never too early to prepare for recruiter season. Research companies that you are interested in who recruit on campus, or at external events that you can attend. Try and contact these companies for informational interviews as soon as possible.

Keep up to date with the latest business trends – many business schools will offer free subscriptions to publications like the Financial Times, Harvard Business Review and the Economist. Podcasts are also a fun and easy way to expand your horizons. A diverse range of knowledge means that you won’t be stuck for topics to discuss when networking with fellow students or recruiters.

You will have revised your resume as part of your MBA application, but it’s a good idea to make sure it’s up to date before starting your degree.

Make time

Learn efficient time management – as a successful professional, this probably feels like a no-brainer, but the intensity of an MBA course and the academic workload can come as quite a shock and need effective planning and prioritizing.

Get into the habit of making a daily schedule for yourself and invest in a good diary or planner (you may prefer to use your phone or laptop but having a paper copy is always useful). Remember to schedule time away from your desk each day to recharge!

Chill out

Take some time to relax! Depending on when you are admitted, you should be able to take at least a week off before starting your course to recharge. Unless it’s completely necessary, avoid working right until the start of your MBA, as arriving on campus fresh and ready for the new term is worth needing to take out a slightly larger loan for. You could even consider taking some time to travel, so you begin your course with expanded horizons.

Work out what you want to prioritize. It’s impossible to join all the clubs you want AND have a thriving social life AND do heaps of extra reading, so decide what’s best for your career goals and mental health and plan accordingly.

Written by Julia Gilmore

Julia is a writer for TopMBA.com, publishing articles for business students and graduates across the world. A native Londoner, she holds an MSc in Marketing Strategy & Innovation from Cass Business School and a BA in Classical Studies & English from Newcastle University.

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