Preparing for the life of a full-time MBA student is as important as preparing for admission to business school.
You will be devoting one or two life-changing years to your MBA studies. Most applicants focus a lot on GMAT scores, admission essays and interviews and on their post-MBA career dreams. So, let’s take a look at what to expect during your MBA programme.
The right attitude and mindset is important for making the most of your time in business school. Here are some situations that may turn out to be quite challenging at times, but they all provide a great learning experience. Moreover, they can affect your networking and post-MBA career.
Share and contribute
Why do you want to join an MBA? Because you want to learn from the others, right? Learn from your professors and peers in the classroom. But they want to learn from you as well. That is why MBA admissions teams focus on selecting professionals from diverse academic and professional backgrounds, cultures and personality types. They want to provide every student with a stimulating learning environment.
What does this mean to you? That you have to be ready to contribute to the learning environment. You have to be comfortable sharing ideas, experiences, achievements, failures and lessons learnt. Also you have to be aware of what is really unique about you and invest it in the MBA classroom.
Learn from the others
Sometime this is easier said than done. Learning from other takes curiosity and open mind. Relating things to your experience, providing feedback, engaging in discussions and critical thinking are all effective approaches to learning. Stepping into the shoes of your peers is a great way to understand different perspectives and see the world with new eyes.
You are not the boss anymore
It can be quite challenging to some MBA students to assume a new role within a group if they already have a successful managerial role. Indeed, you may act – or have someone in your MBA class who acts – the boss, just because this was their role before the MBA or this is what they want to be after graduation.
Most business schools encourage a cooperative environment, where the alpha-type characters have to be ready to jump into other roles. So, consider your own behaviour and also reflect on how you get along with outstanding leaders.
Give your best in team work
MBA students have individual assignments, but there is a special focus on teamwork. You should be committed to performing really well on both types of tasks. You may even choose to give a little more attention to your performance in a group. This is because one of the major take-aways from an MBA is the network you build. It is certainly better for you if your peers see that you are a reliable partner. Being active in team projects, taking initiative and responsibility, maintaining the deadlines and the high standard of your work, and lending a hand in crisis situations are all traits that will be appreciated by your peers. Ultimately, these are your future business partners, competitors or friends for life.
Test business ideas
MBA classrooms are great business incubators. You will enjoy the luxury of having both the professors and your classmates give you feedback, encourage you, share scepticism, and give their proposals and perspectives from different cultures and backgrounds. All of this for free and in a safe environment.
Take the courage to discuss and test your business ideas. They may be so inspiring that you attract business partners or investors among your classmates. Even if someone else decides to try out a similar idea independently, this will provide a healthy competition.
Stay open and creative
Your time at business school is a period of learning and experimenting. You have paid a good price for it, so make the best use of it. Of course you have you career plans, your style, your personality, but stay on a creative note. The MBA is often defined by alumni as a “transformational” and “life-changing” experience.
Although business school admission committees (AdComs) are very much interested in your career plans when they evaluate your application for admission, they realise that the learning environment is so stimulating that you can be inspired to take a different path. Business schools also care greatly about your development and provide personal and leadership coaching and comprehensive MBA career services.
Studies are demanding
If you thought that your work schedule is busy, think again. In an MBA you are expected to improve yourself, develop and grow and this can be much harder than achieving business objectives.
The MBA is an academic programme with a practical focus, but there is a lot of theory to master, analyse and apply. You will have to read long specialised texts from different areas, write papers, essays or presentations, work on business cases, and be active in discussions. This is a challenge for native speakers of English, and certainly harder for foreigners.
Your schedule will be full of classes, home reading, assignments, networking activities, teamwork, guest speakers, study trips, boot camps and projects for real clients. You will be out of your daily routine and your comfort zone.
Check out: How to Survive an MBA
If you are studying in your home country, you should expect to invest more of your time in your studies. If you have a family or other personal commitments, make sure that you have an endorsement for your MBA studies in advance, so that you can avoid crisis situations. If you are studying abroad research well in advance whether it is feasible to have your dependents with you.
Check out: How to Survive an Executive MBA
International exposure is one essential element of your profile that admissions committees evaluate. This is because the business world is globalised and because MBA classrooms are usually highly international. Your multicultural awareness is also important if you choose to study for an MBA degree in another country or cultural setting.
Be the best of yourself
MBA studies are usually a very refreshing experience that can help mid-career professionals reinvent themselves and find the right path for the next decade(s). The recipe for success is for you to be authentic and self-reflective. This is also a sure way to attract reliable business partners from among your peers, and advisors and business angels from among your professors or guest speakers or the corporate contacts that you will make during the programme.
The MBA experience is a bridge between your past and your future. You have done a lot of research to identify the right business school and MBA programme; you have put a lot of effort into gaining admission. So make the most of this achievement and enjoy every learning experience. MBA alumni are always happy to revisit their business school or meet current students or graduates. This is a good sign, indeed.