Decide Whether to Pursue a Pre-MBA Internship

This post originally appeared on Stacy’s “Strictly Business” MBA Blog on

The summer before business school is traditionally a blissful time to just hang out, travel, sleep in and generally savor the brief respite between your turbocharged job and the whirlwind that awaits once you set foot on campus.

While the vast majority of incoming MBA students still do spend the months leading up to school indulging in their favorite pastimes, the pre-MBA internship has become a growing trend among the recently admitted. Let’s take a look at what it is, who it’s for and why you should think about pursuing one – maybe.

What Is a Pre-MBA Internship?

A summer internship is the hallmark of the two-year MBA program, but a pre-MBA internship is one that is specifically targeted to professionals who will be heading to business school in the fall for a full-time program. Whether you’re interested in banking, private equity, venture capital, consulting, marketing, or nonprofits, there’s probably already a niche program with this group in mind.

These internships or “camps,” as they’re sometimes called, are short, usually ranging in duration from four to six weeks. Many companies have created intensive pre-MBA programs lasting no more than a few days.

If you know the industry you would like to pursue, begin tapping your fellow future students and the alumni network for leads, and check to see if the companies on your career target list offer these opportunities. Above all else, make sure the internship environment provides you with a chance to learn, not make coffee runs.

Who is Best Suited for a Pre-MBA Internship?

This type of internship is ideal for career switchers, who make up 38 percent of incoming students, according to the latest Prospective Students Survey Report published by the Graduate Management Admission Council. If you are switching fields, this short stint before your first year is like a test drive of a new area of interest and effectively gives you two summers to do an internship.

Use the experience to try out an industry or company and see if you love it and want to return the following summer, or move on to a new and different industry instead. The pre-MBA internship is brief, but it’s usually enough to confirm your interest so that you’re not wasting your precious summer internship doing something you’re not passionate about.

Why Should You Do a Pre-MBA Internship?

The obvious reason for pursuing a pre-MBA internship is that it allows you to build skills and gain experience in a new role or industry. It often feels like the recruiting starts as soon as you set foot on campus, so students should arrive on campus with a fairly clear idea of where they want to intern.

It can be challenging to persuade recruiters that you’re serious about the field and to take a chance on you if you have zero experience in their industry and only a few weeks of case studies and lectures to back you up. Having a bit of real-world exposure under your belt makes you that much more competitive and will give you more ammunition when you interview with recruiters for a summer internship.

When Should You Avoid a Pre-MBA Internship?

As I’ve said, most incoming students don’t pursue a pre-MBA internship. You already have a lot going on between sorting out your financial aid, budget and housing as well as finalizing projects at work.

From a purely financial point of view, it’s unlikely you would make as much money in the internship as at your current full-time job, so this might be the time to save your pennies before going to school and facing that steep MBA tuition.

On the other hand, many admitted students have spent the past few years with their nose to the grindstone, with little thought or time for a rejuvenating vacation. The summer before business school could be their last chance for some carefree fun and globe-trotting, and a necessary break to recharge and refill the tank before the intensity of the MBA program hits.

Ultimately, you are already admitted to the program so this is not about gaining favor with the admissions committee. It’s a personal decision about how you want to spend your free time.


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