After your application has been accepted, you may think that there is nothing left to prepare for your MBA besides packing your bags — but getting accepted is only the beginning.
Depending on whether you’ve chosen to enrol in an executive MBA programme or a full-time MBA programme in the Netherlands, you may be working alongside your studies or juggling a career, family and other professional and personal responsibilities. Dutch business school Nyenrode Business Universiteit outlines what to expect from an MBA programme, and how students can best prepare for the journey ahead.
Preparing for MBA programmes: the logistics
The first steps to prepare for your venture depends on the type of MBA programme you chose. A full-time MBA programme often lasts one year, meaning that you have a rigorous schedule of attending classes, at-home work and company visits, while a part-time executive MBA allows you to continue your regular job while studying. A full-time MBA student will have to live in or near the city in which the school is located — potentially requiring a move — while an EMBA student can simply travel when school is in session.
EMBA students are often mid-career individuals looking to enhance their managerial and overall business skills. While the programmes last two years to accommodate their busy lives, it can be overwhelming to spend a couple weekends or weeks away at varying intervals — especially for those who have young children or working spouses, or whose current positions are demanding.
A 2015 study showed that an increasing number of male and female MBA students are prioritising nonwork commitments (i.e. family) over career progression; business schools have responded by offering even more flexibility within the MBA, such as modular programmes that can better combine with a hectic home and office life. Make sure that you discuss the programme with your loved ones before enrolling, discussing together how you will communicate and manage responsibilities while you’re away.
Start to socialise before your MBA
Generally, MBA programmes are not that large, and you will be working alongside the same small group of classmates for the duration of the programme. If the school hosts a welcome party, meet and greet or orientation session, attend — you can start building relationships with not only your classmates, but faculty as well. Getting to know these people before the programme gets underway can be invaluable, especially if you are expected to work together; having a good rapport with faculty may help you after the programme is over. If you can’t attend these meetings beforehand, look online as your school may have social media groups to join.
You shouldn’t, however, forget about your contacts back at home. Full-time MBA student should ensure they keep in touch with former professors from undergraduate school as well as former classmates and employers, as those contacts could prove beneficial in the future. The easiest way to do so is freshening up your LinkedIn profile and adding forgotten contacts, or attending alumni gatherings when your schedule permits.
Financial preparation for MBA programmes
An executive MBA or full-time MBA programme is valuable, and often carries the price to match. Some programmes may offer more perks than others, such as accommodation and meals when travelling internationally for the programme, but others will encourage you to pay for your own way. Programmes that focus on international business may require students to travel frequently to locations in Asia or the Americas, though they often do not cover plane fare — these fluctuating expenses can be burdensome if not properly budgeted for.
While much is included in the tuition, it is important to ensure you budget in any expected extra expenses after the tuition is calculated in so that there are no financial surprises or hardships down the line. Check with your school to see if there are any scholarship opportunities or look into acquiring a loan beforehand, and plan out your budget for the duration of the programme. For full-time students, this budget will include housing, meals, transportation and other daily expenses.
Prepare academically for an MBA
Depending on how long you have been out of school, you may be in for a surprise when classes begin. MBA programmes are designed to be challenging, pushing students to their limits without much hand-holding. To ensure that you’re focusing on learning the important stuff — instead of struggling to catch up on your Excel skills — make sure you’ve updated your own knowledge.
Brush up on your maths skills, especially if you haven’t used them for a long time. Preparatory maths courses are available to MBA students, but there are plenty of resources online to practise relevant mathematical skills before you arrive at the school.
Business school will also require a lot of reading, and while you may be accustomed to reading the news every day and a book once in a while, it may be nothing compared to the amount of reading you are required to do as part of your programme. Start reading longer, more complex articles and books to exercise your reading comprehension and ability to read for long periods of time. Finally, computer skills will be integral, especially using spreadsheet and word processing software to create presentations and visualise projects.
Getting an MBA can be truly valuable for both professional and personal development, but it takes some preparation. To ensure you reap all the benefits of the programme, lay the social, mental and academic groundwork as early as possible.