By Dean Nordhielm
So you just got into business school. Congrats!
At this point you still have months before you actually begin classes. That seems like a lot of time, but it’s really not as long as you think, and you’ll have a lot more to do than you think. Here are the things I did (or wished I did) in the order I did them (or the order I wished I did them):
Go to admitted students weekend.
Most schools have a weekend to wine and dine admitted students in order to convince them that their program is the one you should go to. Go to it. If you got into multiple schools, go to them all. This will be a great opportunity for you to learn about programs, network with fellow students (even ones who may be making the same tough decisions you are) and have a great time.
Decide on a program.
Everybody’s decision criteria is different, so I won’t offer any advice about choosing, but I will tell you that sending in the first deposit and knowing exactly where you’ll be in four to eight months is an awesome feeling.
Figure out where you’ll live.
You may want to do this in conjunction with admitted students weekend so that you can look at apartments, but either way, lock up a place to live (and/or finding roommates) before all of your classmates take all of the good apartments.
Decide what (if anything) you are doing between finishing work and business school.
If you always wanted to go on a trip to Europe (and you have the money), now’s the time. If you just want some time to spend at home with your spouse, now’s the time. Once you decide how late you’re working and what you’re doing, figure out when you will be telling your employer about going to business school (if you haven’t already).
Find networking / recruiting opportunities.
Once you get to school, you won’t have time to do all of the networking and recruiting events that you want to; now’s the chance to get a head start on those. Most industries have pre-MBA forums and some companies have specific events (maybe even scholarships) that you can apply to. Talk to first-year students if your school hasn’t shared an overwhelmingly long list of these with you yet.
Decide how you will be funding your MBA.
Unless you got a full ride, you’ll have to figure out how you will be paying for everything. I’d recommend looking into other sources besides traditional student loans as well; family loans, income from investments and your significant others’ salary can go a long way toward funding your education. If you are applying for traditional student loans, I would recommend speaking with your school’s financial aid office. They can likely share which lenders most of your peers use that are likely very competitive.
Complete your funding.
This will be an ongoing process that will take a few months and differ for each school, but the earlier you can get this finalized the better. Be prepared to make decisions like: How much should I take from each funding source? Am I willing to count on my other funding sources or are they just “nice to haves?” Do I want the lower interest private loans or the more flexible public loans? Do I want fixed or variable interest rates?
Complete any school-specific requirements.
I’m not sure what other schools were like, but Kellogg had a long list of everything they needed us to do before we started, from submitting medical records to signing up for classes to getting our computer set up. None of these (save the two described here separately) should take a ton of time, but together, there will be a lot to do, and trust me, once you get on campus you’d much rather be spending time with your classmates or joining clubs than filling out paperwork.
Do the online classes.
Most schools will have one or two pre-term classes. Trust me that you don’t want to have to deal with these when you’re at school. This includes any class waiver that you may want to apply for. I’d recommend seeking out some current students for advice if you are undecided on waivers.
Sign up for health insurance.
If you’re like me, you had health insurance through your employer. Since you won’t be employed, that insurance goes away. Your school likely has a plan, but it may be worth investigating other options, like joining your spouse’s insurance. If you’re stuck on your own for health insurance, anything besides the school’s health insurance plan will likely have to go through the healthcare.gov exchange, which requires that you are 60 days or less away from the end of your current coverage, so you can’t start this until about two months before you leave work.
Complete the move.
We’ve all moved before (though if you’re like me you’ve accumulated a lot of stuff since your last move), and it’s a pain. This should be your last step before beginning business school, though, so you’ll be able to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
I hope this is helpful. If there’s anything I missed or that you have questions about, feel free to let me know in the comments below.
First-year student Dean Nordhielm has had an amazing experience at Kellogg so far and wants to help incoming Kellogg students (as well as everyone else) make the most of their MBA experience.