Preparing for Graduate School

In the month before school starts, what can incoming MBA students do to prepare for the academic rigor of the program? 

Depending on how long it has been since their undergraduate courses, entering students could review marketing, management, accounting, finance, economics and math concepts (probably through the Internet and/or YouTube).  All entering student should go to the university library or their local library and do a basic search on some topics that interest them.  The search abilities have dramatically expanded over the past few years and their ability to search topics is critical to their success.

What can they do to prepare for the career search that awaits them? 

Apply every course (and course materials) to their present job or their anticipated job. Application of knowledge to the workplace is the key component to success for graduates.  They should also look for opportunities to take their course materials and use that knowledge to obtain certifications. Employers view certification in a very favorable light and they serve as indicators that potential employees have the knowledge and skill sets promoted in the position descriptions and on the applicant’s resume.

What is something that might surprise them about business school? Why? 

Graduate school is a little of an oxymoron – the student is a graduate but they are back in school.  It may surprise many incoming students that graduate level courses utilize the students’ background and knowledge in the engagement process.  No longer can students absorb knowledge delivered to them; they need to be active participants in the learning process.  As such, they need to be graduates to make the learning (school) process optimal.

What is your best advice to those heading into an MBA program in the fall? 

Put everything into every class.  This is their opportunity to interact with peers, colleagues and professionals that represent a wealth of knowledge in their chosen career path.  Engage with other students and the faculty to expand on ideas, theories and resources that will make them better managers.

Is there anything else you’d like them to know? If so, what? 

Always remember that are multiple solutions to problems.  A good solution might cause you to stop searching for the optimal solution.  As a manager, utilize quantitative and qualitative skills and strategies to find optimal solutions.  The more well-rounded problem solver is typically the most valued manager and leader.

Answers provided by Dr. Tim Swenson, CMA, provost and dean of The Graduate School at Sullivan University.

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