Reactions to an offer of admission seems to universally include calls to loved ones, social media updates, a spendy dinner or two to celebrate, and some form of happy dance in the privacy of your home or office. Once the euphoria over your acceptance to the b-school of your dreams has subsided slightly, it’s time to refocus your energies to all of the big and little details that make up your admitted MBA student “To Do List.”
Give notice gracefully. If your supervisor already knew of and supported your plans to attend business school, sharing the great news of your admission won’t be awkward at all. However, if you had to keep the news quiet so as not to jeopardize your employment, now is the time to let your employer know that you’re leaving. You should explain your reasons, give plenty of notice, and offer to help train your replacement if applicable. Make every possible effort to leave on good terms in order to keep this part of your professional network intact.
Obtain financial aid/loans if needed. Schools are committed to working with both domestic and international students to find a solution to financing school through a combination of loans and scholarships. (At CommonBond, for example, MBA Student Loans start at 6.40% APR.) Contact your school’s financial aid office as soon as possible once accepted. These seasoned professionals have seen it all, and they will work hard to ensure admitted candidates can pay for the degree.
Set up a budget. Get your finances in order, avoid credit card debt, and save, save, save as much as you can in the months before school starts. Now is the time to forgo unnecessary purchases and live slightly below your means, if possible. Remember, your projected budget should factor in expenses beyond tuition and living costs, such as travel, student clubs, and those study abroad trips that greatly enrich the b-school experience.
Make housing arrangements. This aspect varies depending on the school. For example, at Harvard Business School, 80% of MBA students live on campus, and housing in residence halls is assigned by lottery. Other schools offer limited on-campus housing and refer new students to rental houses or apartment complexes nearby. You can visit apartments and houses throughout your new city during Welcome Weekend, and start the process early. Schools have strict deadlines for campus housing, so make sure to find out those important dates early on if you prefer to live on campus.
Brush up on quant skills. Business schools regularly report that a fair number of soon-to-be first-year students lack some basic quantitative skills. Review the course syllabus online and purchase textbooks in advance if you can. Many top MBA programs offer so-called “math camps” for accepted students during the summer as a refresher of critical concepts. If you have any weak spots in this area, sign up so that you’re ready to hit the ground running once school starts.
Consider a pre-MBA program. A growing number of admits are doing pre-MBA internships to explore a new field of interest, gain training insights, and begin networking with recruiters months before the formal recruiting process begins. Others participate in short, company-sponsored programs, such as the J.P. Morgan MBA Early Advantage Program or Google Student Veterans Summit. Still other admits take advantage of pre-term, non-academic travel programs, such as Kellogg Worldwide Experiences & Service Trips (KWEST), which unite more than 80% of incoming students through social, site-seeing and community service activities.
Reach out to fellow classmates. Schools often host receptions for admits where they can mingle and network with alumni and their fellow admits. Welcome Weekend is another prime opportunity to begin the process of connecting with your future cohort, and if you’ve followed the MBA forums, and blogs of MBA applicants, then you may already have a head start on building relationships with other admits.
Find out if your program hosts a Facebook group for your class, and if not, offer to help set one up. Business schools make it easy for classmates to get to know each other pre-term, so take advantage of these social opportunities, and you’ll arrive on campus feeling already at home.
Finally, enjoy some quiet time before things get crazy. Cross a few items off your bucket list, connect with family and friends you won’t see much of during the next two years, and dive into those hobbies and extracurriculars that made you a desirable, well-rounded candidate in the first place. The months leading up to the start of business school is an exciting time, a time that flies by in a flash. Knowing what to expect and laying the foundation for a smooth transition to student life will make your first year less stressful and even more rewarding.