10 Ways to Make the Most of Your B-School Experience

This post originally appeared on Stacy’s “Strictly Business” MBA Blog on U.S.News.com

If you’re heading to business school in the coming weeks, you’re about to embark on a transformative experience, both personally and professionally. If you are a soon-to-be member of the MBA class of 2016, 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, you should now put together your plan for getting the most out of your MBA experience. Here’s a top ten list of things you should keep in mind as you’re bombarded with all of the wonderful, exhausting opportunities that come your way.

1. Remember your attributes as a student: Your classmates will seem to be phenomenally accomplished, and perhaps even intimidating. Don’t forget that you, too, were accepted into the class for a reason. The school believes that you have a great deal to contribute, so make sure that you do.

2. Make friends with people of all backgrounds: You’ll probably gravitate to the people like you, who are from the same country or similar backgrounds. Your MBA cohort is an extremely diverse group. If you make an effort to get to know those outside of your comfort zone, your experience will be greatly enriched.

3. Get involved in extracurriculars: If you don’t get involved with some activity outside of the classroom, you won’t be reaping the full benefit of the MBA experience. There’s a multitude of ways to get involved, and you’ll learn as much from these activities as you will from your studies. Activities will also help you with networking and give you something to talk about in your interviews.

4. Don’t put too much weight on grades: Your grades really don’t count all that much. Even if your school has a grading system, no one is going to ask about them after you graduate. So go to class to learn, but don’t study so much that you miss out on the rest of the experience.

5. Take time to explore academic options: Even if you’re entering school with a firm idea of your career goals, use this time to explore a few options. Go to diverse corporate presentations, take classes in new subjects and interview with one company outside of your focus. You may be surprised at what you discover you like.

[Here's how b-school students can choose a concentration.]

6. Be respectful of recruiters: Not long ago, most of your recruiters were in your shoes. They too are human, so be respectful but not fawning. You should go to interviews and corporate presentations prepared to have a conversation and tell them about yourself.

7. Don’t stress over internships: Even if you don’t land your dream internship, you still have a great chance at the same job full time. Summer positions are often more competitive than full-time offers.

8. Learn from your summer internships:  While plenty of people go back to their summer employer, many do not. If you end up not enjoying your summer internship, it’s still worthwhile to have had the experience and learn from it.

It’s better to find out you don’t like banking while working as an intern rather than after being hired for a full-time job. Do your best, and know that no matter what happens, it is a valuable learning experience.

9. Speak up when something bothers you: Most MBA programs are very flexible and constantly evolving. If you’re dissatisfied with some aspect of the curriculum or programming, don’t sit back and complain. Speak up and do something. Often, you’ll be able to initiate a new class, trip, club or conference.

10. Stay connected to your classmates: Remember that your classmates, whether you like them or not, are your professional network. Your class and the classes above and below you are all members of this priceless network.

While you’ll want to relax, enjoy and make friends, always keep in mind that you may network with any of these people down the line.

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