Getting the Most out of your MBA Experience

8682553817_55d7aec6e0_cApplying to business school can be an all-consuming experience. Candidates spend so much time researching programs, cramming for the GMAT, writing essays and preparing for interviews that it can sometimes be hard to remember that getting in isn’t the end goal. It’s just the beginning.

If you are a soon-to-be member of the MBA Class of 2015, you may be wondering how to best prepare for what comes next. Just as you spent ample time strategizing how to get into business school, now you should put together your plan for getting the most out of your MBA experience. Here are some places to start:

Come up with your financial plan.

As I mentioned here, MBA tuition can top $100,000, which doesn’t even factor in living expenses. In the months following your acceptance, it’s important to make your financial game plan, so you don’t have to stress about it too much once classes begin.

Read through your program’s informational package about public and private loans and scholarships. Apply for as many scholarships as you can. I know you never thought you’d have to write another application essay ever again, but putting in the time with scholarship apps can definitely pay off by lessening the amount of loans you’ll have to repay.

Focus on the full MBA experience.

Yes, you’ll want to show future employers that you mastered the coursework content. But your MBA grades won’t matter as much as your undergraduate grades—if your program has a grading system at all. So take advantage of extracurriculars. Clubs and other organizations are where you’ll make some of your most valuable connections and friendships. Your involvement will also give you something to talk about in your interviews for summer internships and post-MBA jobs.

Network broadly.

Most of us gravitate to people who share similar backgrounds and industry experience, so make a special effort to take advantage of the diversity in your b-school class. Doing so will greatly enrich your perspective and experience, and you never know when that contact from the other side of the world or completely different field will be useful down the road.

Be proactive.

Is there something you hoped to get out of your program that isn’t available? Let your administrators know. You’ll find that most will be willing to work with you on designing a new class or organizing a trip or conference–all of which will look great on your resume.

Evolve your career goals.

While you probably stated fairly concrete career goals in your application, part of an MBA program is discovering new interests and talents. Don’t be afraid to update your blueprint as you go.

Apply for many summer internships.

These can be more competitive than the eventual job offers. Even if you have your heart set on a particular internship, cover your bases.

Don’t get intimidated.

Finally, keep in mind that it can be normal to feel a little out of your depth when you first arrive at your program—especially when you’ll be surrounded by so many successful, smart people. Keep in mind that the admissions committee chose you because they knew you would be an asset to their community. So use the first couple weeks to get acclimated—then dive in. The next two years are going to go fast!

 

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