Pre-MBA summer events — boot camps, seminars, networking festivals — at which soon-to-be students are introduced to potential future employers (and vice versa) are now common practice for major consulting and banking recruiters, and a select number of other companies, as well. They are also becoming common practice for students planning to focus on those concentrations at major MBA programs.
It’s a simple calculation: Top talent gets scooped up quickly. Be the first to get to know someone, and your firm may be the one that lands the prize. Think of scouts for college athletics departments sitting in the stands at high school football games, taking notes not on senior quarterbacks but sophomores and juniors.
For the students themselves, the appeal seems obvious: Introduce yourself to potential employers, gain a better understanding of the MBA employment market and the differences among firms you might target. That knowledge puts you ahead of the game, and maybe helps you secure an early internship, whether in the summer before your first year or the summer after it. Inevitably, internships lead to full-time jobs.
PRE-MBA EVENTS ARE NOW AN ESSENTIAL PART OF THE MBA LANDSCAPE
The only part of the equation where there has been any objection: the schools. Some have urged: Let the students be non-students a little while longer before the grind of business school begins. But that resistance, sporadic as it always was, appears to be wavering. “It’s a good sign that companies are finding value in the MBAs and want to lock them down early,” reasons Sheryle Dirks, associate dean of the career management center at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business.
“There are pros and cons to this,” she adds. “It puts an onus on the company to have a thoughtful evaluation process and it puts pressure on students to make an early decision. On the other hand, students have a lot more time to devote to academics and clubs if they land a summer internship due to a pre-MBA program.”
Like it or not, pre-MBA events have now become an essential part of the MBA landscape, something schools are recognizing and business is taking advantage of, says Dan Bauer, chairman and founder of The MBA Exchange, an admissions and consulting services company. “I think industry gets the final vote,” he says. “In other words, if they didn’t offer the programs, and didn’t continue to offer the programs, that would mean there’s not enough interest and not enough quality and not enough value delivered — and that is simply not the case. And closing one’s eyes to it or disrespecting it before exploring it is I think short-sighted.”
PRE-MBA EVENTS FALL INTO THREE DISCRETE BUCKETS
There’s no denying that companies benefit from having the events, says Dominique Harris, a manager in A.T. Kearney’s Chicago office. But so do students. “As soon as you hit campus, you’re hit with the classes, you’re hit with a number of companies coming after you, and everything goes very, very quickly,” she says. “So it’s an early chance to maybe slow things down a little bit and help the students understand what consulting is and what it entails — and whether it is something that’s a fit for them and what they want to do with their summer.”
Pre-MBA summer employer events fall into three “buckets.” All are worth looking at. “Some are designed to award scholarships,” says Bauer. “Some of them are designed to attract diversity applicants, and so that would be somewhat limiting for those who are not diversity candidates themselves. Others are thinly veiled recruiting opportunities and tactics for the companies get the first shot at the cream of the crop, and that’s what they do. Most of them limit themselves to the top-tier schools, understandably, and so for those who are in second-tier schools, they’ll probably need to be a little more creative and a little more proactive in creating an opportunity for themselves, because the outreach from these companies tends to be toward the top-tier schools — top 10, top 15 is pretty much the cutoff.”
Leslie Parker, a partner in the San Francisco office of global consulting firm A.T. Kearney, a major recruiter of elite business school MBAs, agrees. A.T. Kearney’s Diversity Boot Camp, held this year in Chicago in mid-June, is one of 29 events organized in 2017 by 22 companies or associations. They run the gamut from efforts to attract so-called “diversity candidates” — under-represented minorities and women — to events oriented toward former members of the military. Some are more like career fairs; most are solely focused on establishing relationships between companies and individual MBAs.
MCKINSEY’S EMERGING SCHOLARS PROGRAM OPEN TO ONLY INCOMING STUDENTS AT 16 TOP SCHOOLS
Consulting firm Deloitte holds three events in June in Chicago, New York, and San Francisco. The one-day events offer “an early platform to introduce you to Deloitte Consulting,” at which participants learn about the firm from “office leaders” and get a chance to network with Deloitte professionals.
It’s much different from McKinsey’s Emerging Scholars program, which is basically a scholarship competition available to incoming MBAs at only 16 top-ranked business schools (see list of schools here). The program is a deep dive into the firm’s culture, problem-solving approach and assignments. Scholars are paired with mentors, visit one of McKinsey’s offices, meet consultants, and wrestle with some of the problems they work to solve. This year, applications for the program are due on May 18th, with scholars tapped by early July.
Many companies use pre-MBA events to court candidates from diverse backgrounds — in other words, minorities and women. Among those advertising “diversity summits” or similarly labeled events are Wells Fargo (Wells Fargo Securities MBA Diversity Summit), Bank of America (Bank of America Merrill Lynch MBA Diversity Fellowship Program), and Bain & Company (Bain Diversity Pre-MBA Program). JumpStart Advisory Group holds a pair of “diversity forums,” and both of JPMorgan Chase & Co.’s events — one for investment banking and the other for wealth management — seek “exceptional MBA students with cultural and diverse backgrounds and life experiences.” The banking giant also has events for LGBT and women candidates. Goldman Sachs has a diversity event and a women’s event.