Guide To Pre-MBA Camps & Programs

Bain consultants gathered to talk about solutions


The key thing to remember about pre-MBA festivals, Bauer says, is that the ideal participant is someone who is interested in trying a new industry, and who wants to know before business school whether that is the right industry for them. The beltway to do that is with a pre-MBA internship. That’s what many are seeking.

Dan Bauer, founder of The MBA Exchange

“They realize that they basically have one shot taking the traditional path, and that would be the summer internship that happens between the first and second years of business school,” says Bauer, whose company is co-sponsoring the 2017 Poets&Quants PreMBA Networking Festival May 11-12. “That’s the traditional way to do an internship, to sample it and be sampled, is one way to look at it. Especially those who are looking for an industry change, or a functional change, they realize two things: One is, they may not have the qualifications or the background to get one of those internships — understandably, some firms are looking for a background in the industry, in other words they’re trying to manage their own risk as well. And so somebody who has already worked in management consulting or someone who has at least worked in an industry where that management consulting firm has a major practice area, they’re going be a lower-risk individual to give the internship to. It’s a safer bet in the eyes of the company because that person is not so much sampling, more so advancing, and is therefore more likely to do well in the internship and to be interested and available and responsive if offered a full-time job.

“That’s one reality that many incoming MBA applicants realize. The second is, they may not have the options they want. There will be stiff competition for the best opportunities. There’s a limited number and those companies are recruiting at other schools as well — and so as much as (students) may want a particular industry or company to be their summer internship between years one and two, that may not happen. So those are the two realities that may prompt someone to look for a pre-MBA internship before they enroll.”


Besides eagerness to pivot in one’s career, there’s another good reason to seek a pre-MBA internship: boredom. That is, after being accepted to B-school in the spring, admits often have a lot of time on their hands. For round 1 admits it can be as much as eight months before the first class of the fall.

“Even in the case of second-round applicant, they’re looking at five months before they matriculate,” Bauer says, “and that’s down time. They can either stay in a lame-duck job and not get the plum assignments and have people planning their going-away party for August, or they can blow several thousand dollars on an exotic trip that would be very enjoyable but would not be very resume-enhancing. So when all those factors converge, you’ve got somebody who would be very interested in, and benefit from, doing a pre-MBA internship in the summer before they matriculate.

“It’s a way to maximize their time and enhance their professional profile at the same time.”


As for the idea that it’s too soon, that students-to-be should remain so as long as possible? short-sighted, says Bauer, whose company launched a program this year offering career advisory services for MBA admits. Fifteen are considering the program and their pre-MBA internship options, he says, and the majority of those are planning to attend the May networking festival he co-sponsors with Poets&Quants. Another indicator that resistance is fading: That event is co-sponsored by two elite schools, Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business and New York University’s Stern School of Business.

“I’m generalizing here,” Bauer says, “but a common reaction from the schools has been, ‘We want a clean slate when someone starts in our program. Our career services staff is here to help them and that’s what we want to do.’ The thinking is that it could be premature for someone to take an internship like this. Whether that’s a turf issue or whether that’s really enlightened insight about career development is a question.

“But our feeling is, why not offer the opportunity? For many people this makes a lot of sense, and there’s really no downside to it. I don’t see any reason not to do it for someone who feels it would be added to their professional profile and they would learn something and make good use of the time.

“An applicant who has a vision for what he or she wants to do or at least explore, why not give them an additional shot with even less risk and no constraints compared to the summer internship. I think it’s a great option for people to consider — again, no downside. No risk. Why not?”

CentreCourt MBA Festival: London, New York, San Francisco


Visit in the offices of A. T. Kearney, ABInBev, Accenture Strategy, Amazon, American Express, Bain & Co., Boston Consulting Group, CommonBond, Deloitte, Deutsche Bank USA, General Electric, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan, L’Oreal, McKinsey & Co., Pwc and more

(See the next two pages for a list of preMBA events hosted by major firms and companies around the country this spring and summer.)