This post originally appeared on Stacy’s “Strictly Business” MBA Blog on U.S.News.com
Even though many incoming first-year MBA students think they have a pretty good idea of what awaits them, there’s always something about business school that takes them by surprise. Whether you are a member of the class of 2017, or a candidate working on your application for next fall, take a look at these tips to help better prepare you for an awesome MBA experience.
1. Don’t be intimidated by your classmates: It’s difficult to not be impressed when you see the caliber of your peers, who will all seem to be phenomenally accomplished. After all, at a top MBA program, you’re sure to be surrounded by marathon winners, Everest summiters, judo champions and probably a White House aide or two.
Instead of feeling less-than-accomplished among these type-A leaders, take the approach of learning from a diverse group of people who have experience in areas you’re not familiar with. Most business schools foster a collaborative culture, so these geniuses will more than likely be excited to share their knowledge.
While it’s human nature to gravitate toward people who are similar to you, business school is a unique opportunity to interact closely with students from other countries and backgrounds. If you make an effort to get to know those outside of your comfort zone, your experience will be greatly enriched.
And 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. There’s a right way to engage at recruiting events: To really maximize the job recruiting experience, your main goal should be trying to get a grasp of each company’s culture. Use this opportunity to determine how well you would enjoy working on their team. Within the same industry, most companies will provide the same types of projects or experiences, so finding out whether you connect with the people you’re speaking with will go a long way toward helping you decide which offer is most attractive.
Remember, most of the people you will be speaking with at these events were in your shoes not that long ago. Be respectful, but not daunted, by their position.
You should go into interviews and corporate presentations prepared to have a conversation and tell them about yourself. Also, don’t stress if you don’t land the dream summer internship. Summer positions are often more competitive than full-time offers, so you’ll still have a great chance at the same job after graduation.
3. What happens outside the classroom is more important: GPA may have been the be-all and end-all in your undergraduate career, but at business school, your grades really don’t count that much.
Many schools have a grade nondisclosure policy, but even if it doesn’t, no one is going to ask. Go to class to learn, but don’t study so much that you miss out on the rest of the experience.
Reap the full benefits of the MBA experience by getting involved with activities outside of the classroom. The opportunities are overwhelming, so be selective with your choices and know that you will learn as much from these activities as you will from your studies. Extracurriculars will help you with networking and provide something to talk about in your interviews.
The intense nature of the business school experience bonds students and makes it a wonderful place to make lifelong friends. As you build your network, make sure to reach out to people around you and see how you can help them as well.
Remember that your classmates and the classes above and below you are all members of this priceless network. Always keep in mind that you may network with any of these people down the line.
4. Failure is OK and even encouraged: You may be starting business school with a crystal-clear vision of your career goals, but if you’re paying upward of $60,000 a year in tuition, why not use this time to explore new options?
Go to diverse corporate presentations, take courses in unfamiliar subjects or interview with a company outside of your industry. You may be surprised at how your interests shift and grow.
The first year of an MBA program is like a learning laboratory, and an ideal time to take risks, challenge yourself and find out where your weaknesses are. You will also have the freedom to explore areas that would be impossible with a day job, as business school is a safe environment for trying out the most audacious ideas.
Failure is one of the best learning tools, so don’t be afraid to flop. Many of the most successful entrepreneurs only became so after overcoming multiple adversities. Not only will the experience make you more resilient, it will allow you to evolve and know what not to do next time.