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.