Imagine: How do you want to feel when your head hits the pillow after your first day as an MBA candidate on campus?
Thrilled to enter a new chapter of your life surrounded by fascinating people and big ideas, while appropriately daunted by the scope of challenge you’ve undertaken? Or will the quality of your elation be diminished by having to troubleshoot pesky details you’d neglected to anticipate or tend to before arriving?
Here’s the thing: You can enter the MBA process prepared, or you can parachute into the first day of school and feel totally overwhelmed. So many students gear up for their first term as they would for a much-anticipated getaway trip: book the flight and hotel but read the guidebook on the plane and figure it out when you hit the ground. While this level of improvisation makes for fun vacations, it can have the opposite effect as a first year MBA candidate.
I’m in favor of thoughtful lead up that helps you feel prepared on day one. This means going in with a couple of connections, an updated resume, copy of your birth certificate and updated immunization records – to name a few essentials.
Top Tips for Arriving Ready on Day 1 for Your MBA
1. Read the orientation materials thoroughly.
You’ll want a firm understanding of what will be expected of you the first month. You don’t want to be surprised and have to scramble because you saved it for airplane reading.
2. Tie up loose ends.
Conclude any major projects, personal and professional you’re working on, to really enter with a clean slate to this program. Make sure you thanked your recommenders, handed over projects, if you serve in an outside organization, hand over the reins of your leadership.
3. Have personal documents updated and in order.
Is your passport within six months of expiration? Do you have a copy of your birth certificate on hand? Copies of bank statements available? Identify and collection any documentation you might need for potential financing, housing or transportation interactions you’ll need. You don’t want to be rushing around trying to get everything set when you’re already on site. If you’re planning to go early to find a place to live, make it as easy as possible.
4. Start developing your network in advance.
Ideally, you want to arrive on campus with a network that you can continue to cultivate during your studies. Instead of trying to connect with everybody in your class at the same time upon arrival, start by identifying a smaller circle of individuals that you might have affinity with (e.g. Anyone else from your hometown, interested in social tech, from the same undergrad, etc.) You can start reaching out to certain clubs you want to get involved with and start making connections with current students in these clubs. This is particularly useful if you’re entering a program of 800 students for a year, as early outreach can make the relationship building more manageable.
5. Update your resume.
Make sure it reflects any changes/updates from April until start date, and that the tone is geared toward your new audience (future employers versus the MBA admissions committee). Your post-MBA job search begins before you even walk into the first day of classes. While your career plans will inevitably evolve as you spend time at school, you’ll want to arrive prepared to respond to potential opportunities and adapt as needed.
As for the airplane reading, consider picking up that copy of Blue Ocean Strategy or any other must-read you’ve been meaning to get to. There will be a mountain of required reading of the econ/finance/accounting variety once classes are underway, so putting yourself into the mindset will help you feel prepared when you arrive.
With a firm grasp of what to expect, the details covered, and some groundwork laid for the relationships you hope to nurture, the first week of b-school can feel as exhilarating as any epic adventure.
Onward to Getting the Most from Your MBA Experience
I highly recommend this 1-hour discussion with MBA expert coaches Wendy Metter and Fortuna’s Michael Malone, who focus on how you can develop a holistic and strategic approach to your upcoming MBA experience. Michael and Wendy explore themes of intentional decision-making, staying true to your values and remaining open to possibilities, and prioritizing your time as you balance the academic, social, career, and significant other/family/community elements of your MBA program. (They also have some great book recommendations.)
Fortuna Admissions Co-Founder and Director Judith Silverman Hodara is former Wharton head of Admissions. For a candid assessment of your chances of admission success at a top MBA program, sign up for a free consultation.