My Top 20 Favorite Tips for New MBA Students

by on April 9th, 2014

I recently came across a really great blog post from a former student at UCLA Anderson. He looked back on his time at b-school and compiled 108 tips for new MBA students. Some of the tips were common sense, some were school specific and some were total gems! I wanted to share the 20 that I appreciated the most. You can read the full list here.

1) Take a speed reading class (the less time it takes you to read all those cases, the more time you have for other priorities).

2) Waive 1-2 Classes for your first semester (the first fall semester can burn students out and it will give you more time to concentrate on recruiting and other priorities).

3) Buy Discounted Software from your school (most schools offer discounted software packages that can cost you hundreds more when you are no longer a student, stock up before leaving B-Schoolconversely, don’t purchase software prior to entering b-school if you can get it much cheaper (or even free) through school.)

I had planned and budgeted to buy Microsoft Office for a soon to be purchased new Apple laptopnot realizing this software is provided for free to new students!

4) Buy an External Monitor (laptop screens can be on the smaller size and you can easily set up an external monitor to work with your laptop, which will give you more space to do complicated spreadsheets. This will make you more efficient for these types of tasks.)

5) Unsubscribe from Spam email lists before school starts (he contends that email boxes will be flooded with important class and club informationhaving a lot of email come through that isn’t as important will just make your inbox less organized, more cluttered and more confusing.)

6) Submit online dropbox assignments early (since most documents can be overwritten each time a new draft is submitted, it makes sense to submit a first draft in case of technical issues closer to the deadline.)

7) Create a keyboard shortcut for your email address (B-school emails can sometimes be lengthy and the penalty for keying it incorrectly can mean someone can’t get in touch with you for something important, like recruiting. Having a shortcut will save a bit of time and will prevent this mistake.)

8) Set up Google News Alerts (having a daily alert for all the news related to the firms you are targeting for the recruiting process will give you a leg up in recruiting.)

I have already done this for a few of the companies I am interested in, and the benefits were immediate.

9) Keep a back-up recruiting kit in your locker (He writes, “keep a business casual outfit, an extra tie, your business school nametag, a padfolio, and a stack of business cards in your campus locker. If your locker is big enough, then you should consider leaving a formal outfit as well. (And if your school doesn’t offer lockers, then this advice probably doesn’t apply to you.) Anyway, having a backup kit in your locker gives you a chance to “Superman” into the proper outfit whenever you forget an important recruiting event. It can also save you if you forget to bring something to an interview.”)

I LOVE this idea and I am absolutely someone who would go crazy if I forgot to dress appropriately or be prepared for a recruiting opportunity!

10) If your GMAT score is above 700, put it on your resume (I believe this is standard for some industries, but probably good advice all around.)

11) Use a word frequency counter on your resume to avoid redundancy (I think a lot of people run into this when writing a resume.  Words like managed, led and analyzed get used very often on the typical B-School resume. Doing a check to make sure you aren’t redundant seems like a no-brainer.)

12) Use a Story Tracker to ensure coverage in interview answers (This is basically a tool where you can input your main stories against commonly asked questions to make sure you a.) have an answer to typical questions and b.) make sure you have multiple stories per category so you don’t accidentally only have one story to answer to two different behavioral questions.)

According to the blog, “Not having adequate “story coverage” is a problem that many students run into. For example, you might run into a situation where one of your favorite stories covers both “dealing with ambiguity” and “biggest mistake,” and your interviewer happens to ask both questions during the interview. Having at least two stories per core question category will greatly reduce the odds of drawing a blank.”

I again LOVE this. Also, this is something you can do before you ever get onto campus.

13) Create an interview preparation checklist (make sure you have everything you need for an interview and that you have done your due diligence. A checklist will ensure that you remember to shine your shoes, bring breath mints, and do proper research on your interviewer and company.)

14) Use Interview Stream (InterviewStream is an online service that lets you do mock interviews with yourself, essentially. You answer questions, record your answers and then review them for practice.)

I absolutely LOVE this tip, would have been so helpful and cheap during the MBA application process!

15) Don’t accept water or mints from the interviewer (people are nervous in interviews, having something they can fiddle with (like a water bottle or mint wrapper) absentmindedly can make them appear fidgety and less likable to the interviewer).

16) At networking events, hold your drink with your left hand (that way your right hand is nice, warm and dry for handshakesgenius!)

17) Work in teams at networking events (Come prepared with a strategy, then share all the information you geteveryone benefits.)

18) Become a Teaching Assistant (You get paid and get face time with a professorwhich can give you a leg up if you are looking to do an independent study project.)

I think this could also help with recruiting, as many professors in B-school have significant professional networks.

19) Bring a back-up calculator to exams (Common Sense: if your first calculator’s batteries die, you aren’t screwed!)

20) To make sure you are given proper class participation points, use the biases of primacy and recency (He contends that people tend to remember the first and last things you’ve said and similarly the first and last thing that is said in generali.e. a professor will remember the first person to say something and the last person to say something on a given topic. Make a point at the beginning or end of the discussion so your participation will count!)

Bonus Tips:

21) Apply basic business frameworks while reading a case (use the 3 C’s, the 4 P’s and Porter’s 5 forces while taking notes on a case – this will make sure you look organized and get the big picture of the case)

22) Use the No Name tag Trick (Hide or “forget” your name rage in classes where the professor does participation grades by memory. If the professor doesn’t remember your name, you probably aren’t doing well in terms of class participation.)

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