12 Best Things to Do the Summer Before Your MBA Program Starts

by   |  August 11, 2014

BeachWhat to Do the Summer Before Your MBA Program Starts . . . ?


Many MBA admits take it easy the summer before starting their MBA studies.   Resting and enjoying your summer is one of the best ways to ensure you have energy at the start of classes. Additionally, there are many things you can do to make your life a bit easier that fateful first semester.

The 3 Essential Things – The Best Ways to Spend Your Time Pre-MBA

There are only three tasks that I recommend to every incoming MBA student.   While you will have some time to figure these things out, the summer is the best time to get them under your belt.

1) Do Some Deep Soul-Searching

If you do nothing else all summer aside from self-reflection, your time will be well-spent.   Knowing who you are, what you represent, what you strive for and what kind of work interests you is a huge advantage in the job search.

Learn what your limits are, too.   Many MBA programs are designed to give you more work than you can possibly handle.   Learning to be strategic, capitalizing on your strengths and not harping too much on your weaknesses will help you survive your crazy first year in B-school.

I could write a book on what kinds of soul-searching exercises you could do. I’ll leave that as material for future posts. For now, just work on discovering what you’re passionate about. Identify what industries, job functions, and roles and companies interest you most.

2) Brush-up on the Fundamentals

If you studied business as an undergrad, you may not feel that review is necessary. However, if you have a liberal arts or other “non-traditional” background, familiarizing yourself with the concepts you’ll study as an MBA will make your classroom experience less painful.

Pick up a copy of The Ten Day MBA and start familiarizing yourself with the material. This book is an easy read and can be a helpful reference when you revisit these subjects in school.

Consider taking accounting, statistics or corporate finance classes if you don’t have working experience in these subjects.   If your MBA school offers pre-matriculate courses, take advantage.

3) Take Charge of Your Health

One point that gets overlooked too often is taking care of one’s health.   Now is the time to get your eating and exercise habits under control.   Enjoy a well-balanced diet full of nutrients to enrich that brilliant brain of yours.   Establish a workout routine that is rejuvenating and not unrealistic to maintain during school.

Preparing for your MBA program is a great idea, but take care not to burn out.   Pace yourself and make sure to get plenty of sleep.   You will perform better by taking care of your body and mind well before school starts.

9 Other Things You Can Do (if You’re an Over Achiever)


This next list of suggestions will speak to those who like to go “above and beyond” to get a let-up on the competition.   Don’t feel like you’re a failure if you don’t do all these things.

Apply for Pre-MBA Summer Opportunities

Once you have an idea of what kinds of companies and job functions interest you, start looking around for pre-summer opportunities.   Many high-profile companies have special programs for incoming MBA students.   Since competition is increasingly stiff, it’s a good idea to apply to as many of these programs as you can find.

Your school may have additional suggestions.   Many of the deadlines are in early May, so apply as early as possible.   (This is just another incentive for applicants to apply to MBA school in Round 1 or Round 2.)

Take on a Volunteer Project

Volunteering is a great way to get inspired, explore your passions and possible career options.   Not to mention, it helps remind you that there’s a whole world outside of your own head that’s important to stay connected to.

NetImpact.org is a great resource for MBA students seeking volunteer opportunities.   This organization focuses on impact-driven careers, and provides a list of Projects for Good to keep incoming MBAs busy over the summer.   This was how I found out about Green Impact Campaign, which turned out to be one of the most rewarding volunteer projects I’ve done.

March 2014 135Polish Your Resume

Polishing the resume is an endless task.   It takes many drafts before coming up with that illusive “good enough” resume.   Get advice from anyone who is willing to look it over.   Friends, family members, and especially people in the industry can offer great tips.

Define Your Interests

You may already know what industry or job function you want to pursue post-MBA.   If so, you are ahead of the game.   If not, don’t panic.   You’ll have time to explore your options during school.   But the more you can eliminate options that don’t suit you, the better shape you’ll be in once recruiting starts.

Many career tests can help you determine what your interest are, if you don’t know already.   CareerLeader is a well-respected resource.  Anything you can do to gain self-awareness is good.

Start Writing Your STAR Stories

Most companies will ask you the same types of questions.   Though the wording will vary, the essence of these questions is the same:

How have you demonstrated leadership in the past?

How have you exceeded expectations in previous work settings?

What is a significant failure you’ve had in your career?

Once you identify what these questions are, you can start composing your “STAR” stories.   Star is an acronym that stands for “Situation, Task, Actions, Results”.   There are many articles you can Google to learn more about what this means and how to craft your stories.

Glassdoor.com is a great resource for learning about the kinds of questions you can expect from a company’s interview.   Which leads nicely into my next point of advice.

Pick Your Top 10 Companies to Target

Start making a list of your “target companies”, or the companies you would really like to work for after your MBA.   If you don’t know this yet, you will have some time to figure it out.   However, the more work you do in this area, the less stressed out you will be during school.

Write Some Cover Letters

Start making a list of your “target companies”, or the companies you would really like to work for after your MBA.   If you don’t know this yet, you will have some time to figure it out.   However, the more work you do in this area, the less stressed out you will be during school.

Once you know a handful of definite “Plan A” companies, start drafting cover letters.   The basic formula for what to include in a cover letter is this:

Dear Company,

You’re Great. I’m Great.

We’d Be Great Together. Please Interview Me.

[Your Impressive, Professional Signature]

You’ll have time to refine these in the fall, but getting a head start is a smashing idea.

Start Networking

Perhaps the best thing you can do is start talking to people in the industry.   The “informational interview” is a powerful tool.   Tell people you are an MBA student exploring careers, and there’s nothing that would please you more than to listen to that person talk about his or herself for 30 minutes.   You will learn more from talking with working professionals than you ever could from lectures or presentations on different job opportunities.

Prepare for Interviews

In addition to composing your STAR stories, you should prepare answers to standard interview questions, such as:

  • What are your long-term / short-term career goals?
  • Why do you want to go into this industry or job function?
  • What draws you to this company or specific opportunity?


Look for Little “Speaking” Moments

Practice presenting and speaking in public as often as possible.   Do mock interviews with trusted friends and family members.   You may think this sounds boring, but trust me: they will be endlessly amused.

More on: Business, Changing the World, Insights, MBA
About the Author:

Mimi West is a consummate entrepreneur, brand and marketing expert. This retired opera singer and Founder of My Dream Teacher is now pursuing her MBA at the University of Virginia Darden School of Business Administration. You can follower her on Twitter: @MimiGuynnWest.
Publshed: August 11, 2014  | 
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