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What I Wish I Knew: Consortium MBAs Share Learned Advice on Preparing for Business School

You’ve taken the GMAT, written your essays, gotten letters of recommendation and submitted your complete MBA applications. Now it’s time to sit back and take it easy while you anxiously await decisions. 

But, if you thought this was supposed to be a time of rest and relaxation, think again. Take it from current MBAs, there is always more you could be doing to prepare — even if you don’t yet know whether you got in or what schools you got into. 

We recently surveyed Consortium MBA students to find out what they wish they had known going into their MBA program and what may have made their transition to business school easier. Are there classes or trainings they would have taken? Books they would have read? Things they would have thought more deeply about, researched or planned? What could have better prepared them for the rigor of their MBA?

Reflecting on their transition, the following Consortium members share a variety of insights regarding what they might have done differently if they had the chance. For most, at the top of the list was taking the time to ponder what they truly want. 

What is one thing you wish you had known going into business school that would have made the transition easier?

“I wish I had known how rigorous and demanding the fall of my first year would be. As someone transitioning from the nonprofit sector with a liberal arts background, I would have benefited from taking accounting so that I had greater familiarity with course content prior to school. However, the most helpful thing I could have done to make my transition simpler was to have a very clear vision for recruiting. Business school is all about prioritization. Taking the time to reflect on what you will prioritize at school, recruiting or otherwise, will pay off greatly.”
— Natalia Alvarez, Class of 2020, Dartmouth College Tuck School of Business

“School is a lot more self-guided than I thought. The resources will be there for you to take advantage of and succeed, but you have to come with some semblance of a plan, or else time will fly, and you won’t get to make the best of your MBA experience.”
— Baron Munoz, Class of 2021, Cornell University’s SC Johnson College of Business

“I thought I had all summer to relax and have some free time before business school started. I was gravely mistaken. I spent the summer preparing for interviews, preparing my pitch and my STAR stories, which helped me immensely during the Orientation Program & Career Forum. I am grateful to have done that because I walked away from OP with two summer internship offers. As stressful as it was, it felt great to get a head start on recruiting. With that being said, I wish I would have spent more time brushing up on my quant skills so that the refresh wouldn’t happen as I was trying to learn the new content being taught in finance, accounting and statistics; spend some time reviewing but don’t stress out about it.”
— Gloria Escobar, Class of 2021, Rice University’s Jones Graduate School of Business

“[I wish I had understood] how rigorous the first year — particularly the first semester — would be. It is demanding academically, professionally and socially. Go in with a positive attitude and prepared to work. I personally suggest taking minimal time off so that you are in great working shape and ready to handle it all.”
— Michael Vilardo, Class of 2021, UCLA Anderson School of Management

“Do as much as you can to narrow down the field of focus you have regarding your career and companies — which can be done in a number of ways, including research and informational interviews. Doing this prior to starting business school will help you narrow down your search and make it much more focused. You will also stress less about figuring it out during school, which is difficult as there are an overwhelming amount of choices to make and limitations on time and energy. Don’t think about it from an applications perspective, but rather from a realistic perspective of what your true goal is with business school. That is what I wish I spent more time on prior to beginning my program.”
— Wakefield Li, Class of 2021, University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business

“The program moves incredibly fast and the biggest challenge is prioritization. It is important to make sure you know yourself and, ultimately, how to prioritize recruitment, school assignments, etc.”
— Adam Tomasiello, Class of 2020, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Kenan-Flagler Business School

“After you get in, you become overwhelmed with a sense of accomplishment. Your friends and family might even praise you as being the one who’s going places. Just don’t forget that when you arrive on campus, you’ll be met with many other geniuses who are either as smart as or smarter than you.”
— Jason Hernandez, Class of 2020, Carnegie Mellon University’s Tepper School of Business

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