What to do the summer before your graduate business program

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So you were accepted into the graduate business program of your dreams? Step one is clearly to celebrate because even being accepted is an achievement. But what comes next?

You could relax and soak up summer sunshine before the term begins. Or you could work tons of overtime and plan a destination wedding that will take place mere weeks before the program starts — that’s what I did, and I wouldn’t recommend it.

Since you still have a couple of months before sitting down for your first class, I thought I would provide my suggestions for how to best fill the summer before your MBA:

Read, read, read

My most important piece of advice would be to start reading the assigned material now.

Some of the textbooks that you will need for the first term are probably listed on your university bookstore website already, and others will be posted in the course syllabus. Buy them as soon as you know what they are. Read them as soon as you get your hands on them.

I am not suggesting that you memorize anything, but start skimming so that when you are assigned to read five chapters in one week, you already have a basic overview of the concepts.

The same goes for any Harvard Business Cases and other reading materials once you are given access to your courses — early familiarity will pay off in the long run.

Consider your place in the universe

I am inherently uninterested in soul searching, but when admitted to my MBA program, I started considering my purpose in life. If answering that question sounds overwhelming or hippy-dippy, then the following advice is especially intended for you:

Start small by considering your strengths and weaknesses, then move on to thinking about what activities and tasks make your skills shine, and what feels risky or scary. You don’t need to have all of the answers, or even the ability to articulate these ideas, but starting to think it all over will give you the foundation for when you are asked to discuss “your purpose” in class and your motivations for applying to future internships and jobs.

Review the basics

While we’re on the subject of strengths and weaknesses, consider if there are any hard skills that you need to brush up on. I would hone in on Microsoft Excel, public speaking skills, research strategies, mathematics and writing skills.

If you don’t know how to use Excel, or you would describe your knowledge as “basic,” take a refresher course. Do some self-study in any areas that might be rusty in, make you nervous, or you tested poorly in on the GRE/GMAT.

You don’t need to be a Toastmaster or math wizard before you walk into your first class, but it is easier to brush up on your technical skills before your homework starts rolling in.

Schedule your program around your life

My final advice is about creating a structure for yourself. Entering a graduate business program does not necessitate a chaotic, stressful life, but it can be difficult to figure out how to balance your commitments.

If you’re able, try to create a schedule that incorporates dedicated time for your classes, studying, working, your family, your friends and self-care. Those last three will be incredibly necessary for your mental, physical and emotional health, and should not be sacrificed. If you have a set schedule for sleep, your favorite exercise and hobbies, date nights, and time with family and friends, you will be much less likely to blow them off.

If you set yourself up for success over the summer, your fall term will be that much easier. While I struggled through accounting my first term because I am not quantitatively graceful, and I always felt like I had more to read than hours in the day, I not only survived but thrived in my first year in an MBA program, and you will too!


Rebecca Freedman has a paralegal background and graduated with an MBA in 2016. She is applying her creative and analytical talents to a career in digital marketing and communications.



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