8 Academic Planning Tips for New MBA Students

My two years of business school have officially come to an end, and while I’m very happy with the end result, there are definitely a few things I wish I would have planned better.  Many students choose to walk into their MBA programs like a chicken with its head cut off; they expect to make decisions as the need arises.  But given how quickly these two years pass, it’s obviously better to come into business school with a plan.

Academic Planning

Below are my recommendations for planning out your two years in business school.  While there are several things you can’t control about your MBA experience, these are definitely things you should already be thinking about.

Return to Index | 108 Tips for New MBA Students

Find a Dentist and Doctor Early

This seems pretty obvious but it’s surprising how many people don’t see their health professionals during their MBA careers.  Most schools will automatically enroll you into their campus health insurance program, so you should be getting good health coverage at a decent rate.  It’s also probably charged as a portion of your tuition, so you’re pretty much already paying for it.

The main reason people neglect to get health checkups is that they get too busy during fall quarter.  Students arrive on campus and are typically in a rush to settle in before the quarter starts.  But before you know it, you’ll be writing resumes and cover letters, attending networking events, and studying for midterms and finals.  When all of these obligations start to pile up, it’s hard to carve out time to go see your doctor, especially if you think you’re in good health already.  I personally procrastinated for six months before I finally saw a doctor or dentist.

The trick to not falling into this trap is to get it out of the way early.  Before you start juggling your academic and recruiting priorities, go to your health insurance provider’s website and find a doctor and dentist under your plan.  Then setup the appointments – it’s that easy.  The administrative work you need to complete is a pain, but getting this done will ensure that you don’t face more serious health problems in the future.

Use a Homework Tracker

Given the busy schedule and overlapping priorities, forgetting an important task is something that can easily happen during your MBA career.  If you miss an assignment for one of your core courses, it could easily drop your grade.  If it’s a resume drop deadline that you forget, you’ve obviously squandered your chances at working for that company.  Needless to say, any small mistake you make could easily have significant ramifications on your MBA career.

To prevent myself from simply forgetting an important deadline, I created a spreadsheet tracker to manage all of the my tasks and responsibilities.  It’s basically a fancy spreadsheet that allows you to track your academic assignments alongside your recruiting commitments.  At the very least, you should use some sort of task management system during your MBA career; with the difficulty of the core MBA courses and the competitiveness of MBA recruiting, you don’t have any latitude for stupid mistakes.

Travel Abroad

Your two years in business school are probably the last opportunity you’ll have to do significant overseas travel.  I personally don’t consider myself much of a traveler, but over my two years I was able to see:

  • Thailand
  • Japan
  • Hawaii, New York, and Las Vegas
  • Mexico
  • The Dominican Republic
  • London, Amsterdam, Germany, Austria, Italy, Switzerland, France

If you’re going into a field such as consulting or investment banking, you should consider business school as your last gasp of freedom.  Now when I’m working in a conference room at two in the morning, eating take out while I finish a PowerPoint deck, I’ll have something to reminisce about so I don’t get too depressed.  Just make sure to use a travel checklist so you don’t forget to bring anything.

Take a Speed Reading Class

One thing that surprises most MBA students is the amount of required readings for MBA coursework.  For any given class, you’ll be reading several Harvard Business School cases and / or several chapters from a textbook.  If all you had to do was complete readings, business school would be easy.  Obviously you’ll need to balance your academic work with all of your recruiting and extracurricular activities.  Therefore, it makes sense to be as efficient as possible.

Taking a speed reading class is one of the best ways to improve your efficiency as a business school student.  You don’t have to get to the point where you’re reading a 1,000 words per minute, but any increase in your reading speed will directly translate into more time for other activities.

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