Last fall, my firm, Practice MBA, launched a survey of current MBAs and MBA alumni regarding their experiences both prior to and during business school – the programs most represented in the survey are Chicago Booth, Columbia, Harvard, Kellogg, Stanford, Wharton, and Yale SOM – and found that 40.0% of those polled worked with a graduate admissions consultant or with a GMAT/GRE test prep service as part of their efforts to gain admission.
In addition, 19.9% or respondents said they had participated in one or more formal, pre-MBA programs or courses of study after being admitted to business school and before arriving on campus.
While it was not surprising to discover that more than a third of incoming MBAs are coached on at least some portion of the MBA application process, the fact that close to a fifth of all rising MBAs then go on to pursue additional coursework or other types of pre-MBA programs and activities is, I think, newsworthy. (An equally impressive 14.7% of respondents said they undertook an individual pre-MBA internship, defined as “pre-MBA work experience related to your admission to business school.”)
WHAT ONE-FIFTH OF RISING MBAS DO BEFORE THEY SHOW UP ON CAMPUS
If these numbers represent increasing trends, as I think they do, it’s not inconceivable that in the coming years, and barring a significant shift in the demand curve for an MBA education, a majority of all new MBAs will have leveraged some form of admissions consulting service, and over a third will be actively enrolled in pre-MBA programs designed to facilitate or enhance some element of their business school experience.
if you’re a newly-admitted MBA about to enter school as a member of the class of 2016, and you don’t have any plans between now and the start of school, other than to take time off to recharge your batteries, you may be curious to know what one fifth of your classmates will be up to during the coming months prior to ‘day one’ of classes.
The answer is a range of programs that can, at times, be difficult to categorize simply because so many have become hybridized, offering components of industry exposure, academic preparation, professional development, travel adventure, and support for underrepresented minority students and women MBA candidates.
PRE-MBA PROGRAMS TO CONSIDER
For students who intend to go beyond obtaining the required academic course materials and MBA core course textbooks in advance, for individual summer pre-reading (not a bad idea), here is a useful, if not quite mutually exclusive and collectively exhaustive, breakdown of the different types of pre-MBA programs, with select examples:
Single Company-Sponsored – J.P. Morgan MBA Early Advantage Program, McKinsey Emerging MBA Scholars Program, Proctor & Gamble Marketing / Brand Management MBA Summer Camp
Diversity, Affinity-Based – Credit Suisse MBA LGBT Open Perspectives, Forté Foundation Financial Services FAST Track and MBA Women’s Leadership Conferences, Google Student Veterans Summit, Robert Toigo Fellowship / MBA Catapult
Academic Prep and/or International Student Focused – ChaseDream Pre-MBA Career Forum (China-based), The Practice MBA Summer Forum
Travel-Oriented – Chicago Booth ‘Random Walk’ trips, Columbia Pre-MBA World Tour (student-organized), Kellogg Worldwide Experiences and Service Trips (KWEST), Practice MBA-NOLS Wilderness Skills Course
Self-Guided, Online Tutorials – Coursera, Khan Academy, MBA Math, Wall Street Prep
Self–Initiated, Pre-MBA Internship – individual internships of varying scope and duration (generally limited to exclude traditional MBA employer organizations or internships for international students)
Hybrid Programs (combinations of the above) – Bain & Company Diversity Pre-MBA Program, Goldman Sachs MBA Camp for Black, Hispanic, and Native American Students, JumpStart MBA Brand Management and Marketing Diversity Forum, Morgan Stanley MBA Early Insights Program