Returning to school after years of being in the workplace is no easy task; the worlds of business and academia certainly have their overlap, but the skills to succeed as a student can be quite different, and the transition isn’t always an easy one. If you want to maximize the investment you’ve made in your education, it’s important to prepare yourself for your upcoming time in business school.
Let’s look at a few tips that can help those heading back readjust to being a student and make the most of their business school experience.
Vacation While You Can
It might seem counter-intuitive, but one of the most common pieces of advice given to new admissions is to take a break while you can. Graduate level courses can be intense, and both the amount of work and the variety of assignments you’ll be given can make it hard to find time to relax. This, of course, goes double for anyone attempting a part-time degree program, as you’ll be working regularly in addition to the load of classes you’re taking, or those in accelerated programs without breaks.
Lowering your stress levels by taking some time off work before classes begin will help you to deal with the new people, new information, and high expectations you’ll soon be faced with.
Reading and Math are Critical
Once you know you’re accepted, you should begin reconditioning yourself to prepare for life in school. While classes will vary, many business school courses will require extensive reading, which may prove challenging for those who haven’t had the time to read more than emails or news articles since leaving college the first time. Begin reading short books on a regular basis to build the habit back up. Even fiction reading can be beneficial, so long as it’s long-form. On the other hand, if your job hasn’t involved much more than basic addition or subtraction, then dusting off your math skills might be advisable as well.
You may be required to take accounting or finance courses, which are likely to include a math component, or even actual math courses, depending on your entrance scores and prerequisites. Exercising these basic skills from your school days will make the transition back to the classroom a bit easier, and ensure that you aren’t left behind on the first day.
Choose a Concentration
Something else to consider while you get ready for the start of this business school journey is your intended area of focus. Many business degree programs offer concentrations in particular areas of business, ranging from entrepreneurship to healthcare to marketing. You may not be expected to choose a concentration immediately, but figuring it out early is almost always a good idea, as it will help you to avoid taking unnecessary courses that waste both time and money. How does your MBA align with your plans after graduation?
Choosing a concentration that focuses on your established skillset can be great for those simply looking to improve their expertise, while someone whose reason to attend business school is to change careers will want to consider their new focus carefully. Look over the list of common options and check with your university to find out about any more specialized concentrations that might bear relevance to you.
Meet Your Classmates
Lastly, you might want to look into connecting with your fellow students as soon as possible. Forming connections with other students isn’t just good for study groups, but may open up some new networking opportunities. Most MBA programs admit a fairly small number of students each year, and you may be sharing courses with the same cohort throughout your time in the program, so building a relationship early can help secure partners for group projects, find people with complementary skillsets, and simply offer a friend who’s on the same journey as you are. Both in-person orientations and meet-and-greets put on by the school and social media networks provide an opportunity to start making these contacts before classes even begin.
A return to the classroom will always take some adjusting, but if you can put these tips into action, things might start to look a little less daunting. By taking some time for yourself before classes begin, brushing up on the basics all schools require, choosing a concentration, and getting to know your classmates early, you’ll have everything in place to hit the ground running.