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Five things you should do before starting your MBA

For newly-admitted MBAs, it’s nearly time to head back to the classroom. As business school grads told us previously, the work starts fast and can leave many clawing to catch up. It’s advisable then to put some effort in during the last few weeks of freedom before the madness begins. Here’s what you can do to prepare yourself as a soon-to-be first-year MBA.

Know the pillars

The best way to prepare yourself for business classes is by having a strong understanding of the tools you’ll use most – namely Microsoft Excel, said one recent MBA grad who asked for anonymity as his employer doesn’t allow media interviews. “Without being an Excel pro, you’ll be playing catch-up,” he said.

Many schools offer one- or two-week “camps” during August – instructional classes on math, statistics and finance that can freshen you up on some of the basics that you may not have been using at your job. “Do them and pay attention,” he said. They’ll also give you a head start on networking with people in your program.

Another MBA told us he took public speaking classes during the final weeks before starting school as he didn’t do too much presenting as a professional.

Update mentors, allies and potential employers

For MBAs, recruiting starts early. At NYU, for example, some consultants began recruiting for summer internships during the third week of September, one grad told us. So update your professional network on your status before you even get started, said Dan Bauer, CEO and founder of business school admissions consulting firm The MBA Exchange.

“These relationships will be increasingly important to you in the future, so solidify them now so you will remain on their radar screen over the next two years,” he said.

Study the school’s offerings

“Know everything there is to know about what the school offers and what you want to so when the madness ensues you’re ready and not overwhelmed,” said the NYU grad. This goes for core classes – which experts recommend you knock out during the first semester – as well as clubs and networking groups. They can be incredibly important. Everything fills up fast, and you’ll have other things to worry about when classes begin.

Sleep, exercise, and then sleep some more

“Once the bell rings at business school, your days and nights will be consumed by classes, presentations, receptions, and socializing with classmates,” Bauer said. “Arriving there fit and rested will make the first few weeks less exhausting and more enjoyable until you can gain some degree of control over your calendar.”

Bauer also recommends spending your final few weeks with family and friends. With nighttime commitments as well as day, along with studying on the weekends, you’re likely to see them less than you do now – even if you’re currently working long hours.Many MBAs underestimate the manic schedule, particularly during the first semester.

Save money

With the expense of an MBA and two years of lost salary, most students are losing out on hundreds of thousands of dollars – money they hope to make back with the leverage provided by a business degree. But in the short-term, all money is going out and none is coming in.

“It’s amazing how much money you’ll spend during those two years,” said the NYU MBA. Networking, especially early on in the program, often means going out for pricey dinners and drinks. Startup budgeting now – even if you are still working.

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