Tips for Surviving and Thriving in Your MBA Program

If you’ve been out in the working world for a while—and you should be if you are going after an MBA—returning to the classroom can be an adjustment. This is a critical juncture in your career, and it’s important that you hit the ground running and get as much out of the program as you can.

How Will You Pay?

There are a few routes for funding an MBA. Your employer might contribute toward the costs, or you may have savings. Ideally, you’ll be able to focus entirely on school without having to work, but this is not always possible. Still, arranging your finances so that you can think about school instead of worrying about money is important. You can take out a mix of federal and private student loans. For private loans, in addition to traditional sources, such as banks and credit unions, you can often find online lenders who offer low interest rates and repayment plans.

Take Advantage of Your Time

Being in an MBA program puts you in a unique situation to access a number of different opportunities. On-campus recruitment means that major companies will be around to give you a sense of what working with them would be like, but you shouldn’t stop there. Extracurricular activities and clubs can give you more information and experience. Explaining to people that you are an MBA student can often lead to access you might not otherwise have to informational interviews, conferences and data. In addition to the networking opportunities offered by your peers and professors, try meeting people at seminars and even cold contacting via LinkedIn or other methods. This is a time to be bold.


You need to strike a balance between learning as much as you can and not losing sight of your ultimate goals. One way you might approach this is allowing yourself to take a broader view in your first year that you narrow in your second to hone in on what you see yourself doing after you complete your degree. Having a long-term goal in mind can also be important because an MBA program can start to feel like too much of a good thing, with an overwhelming number of opportunities that can make you feel stressed out instead of excited if you aren’t sure where you want to be in five or ten years.


With all these opportunities and your driving ambition, it can be easy to make your graduate program the center of your life, but ironically, this might actually be the quickest path to burnout. Prioritize your studies without making them the be-all and end-all of your existence. Balance them with something that you can enjoy and that re-energizes you. For many people, this might be some type of physical activity, such as running or yoga, or it might be cooking or refinishing old furniture. In general, you should make an effort to continue pursuing your outside interests and maintaining the relationships you had prior to entering your MBA programs. Your family and friends who have cheered you on up to this point can be valuable sources of support and perspective during this exciting, challenging period.

10 thoughts on “Tips for Surviving and Thriving in Your MBA Program”

  1. How lovely to think you can do an MBA in King’s College Chapel.

    Time for York Minster to compete, I think.

  2. Hasn’t the world got enough overcredentialised* cnuts without encouraging more?

    * The spellcheck offers ‘vice-presidential’, not liking overcredentialised. Pence? Biden? Quayle?

  3. I met several MBAs in the course of my career, the better ones were those who had been sent to do an MBA by their employers as part of their route to the top.
    Apart from those, one successful one had inherited a business and his MBA gave him the ability to bullshit investors into financing an expansion-by-takeover-of-lower-rated-companies (until he ran out of local businesses he could buy and then eps growth went negative); another nearly ruined my then-employer, then bankrupted one(or was it two) competitors before hitting it big the third (or fourth) time round with another competing company whose more moral employees defected.
    My cynical view is that MBAs teach one about marketing, especially marketing oneself.

  4. PPE is already the equivalent of Land Economy. A parking spot for dim, connected rugger players.
    MBA is next.

  5. @ philip
    It wasn’t in my time. I don’t recall any of the rugger players I knew taking PPE – there was one Featherweight Boxer, a bit too small to play Hooker, and a seriously bright lad; most of the rugger players I knew read Law.
    I did have a very low opinion of PPE after one of my group decided after one year when he got a low-middle 2nd in Mods to switch from Maths to Physics, then at the end of his second year, switched from Physics to PPE and got a degree in PPE after one year’s work. He was quite bright (Maths Scholar) but even so a degree on one year’s work?

  6. Bloke in North Dorset

    I was having a beer with a client who became a good friend one evening and mentioned I was thinking about doing an OU MBA. he said He didn’t think I needed to and as he’d built 2 successful paging companies and was in the process of building a successful GSM network in India I too that as a complement.

    At the end of the project he presented me with a book called the 10 Day MBA with the hand written inscription of “This is all you need to succeed”.

    This was at the time management consultancies were throwing young MBAs at all sorts of problems and failing spectacularly because they hadn’t the obligatory 10 years industrial experience first.

  7. Have consultancies stopped doing that, BiND?

    (I’m a decade plus out of that loop, I’m pleased to say – but it would be good news if they had.)

  8. @dearieme
    At least it’s not an MBA from The ‘Church’ of Scientology

    As for the Advertorial, replace MBA with Degree and it’s same spiel

  9. Bloke in North Dorset


    I saw this happen in Telecoms in the ‘90s and early 2000s. I was working for a small technical, engineering and operations consultancy and we had our own clients. We then started to get hire by management consultants as the face when they were bidding for work but would then get sidelined as projects were flooded with young business analysts.

    Eventually clients cottoned on to the point that we were bought by ADL and some of our competitors were bought by other management consultancies. Those clients argued that they could afford their own BAs if they needed them.

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