What to Do the Summer Before You Start Your MBA

Author: Rebecca Freedman
Posted: July 22, 2015

So you were accepted into the Portland State MBA program? Step one is clearly to celebrate, because even being accepted into this powerful masters program is an achievement. But what comes next?

You could relax and soak up summer sunshine before the term begins. You could also work tons of overtime hours and plan a destination wedding that will take place mere weeks before the program starts; that’s what I did, and I wouldn’t recommend it.

Since incoming students still have a couple of months before sitting down in their first class session, I thought I would provide my two cents on how to fill your summer.

Read, read, read

My most important piece of advice would be to start reading assigned material now.

Some of the textbooks that you will need for the first term are identifiable through the Portland State Bookstore website already, others will be posted in the next month; buy them as soon as you know what they are. Read them as soon as you get your hands on them.

I am not suggesting that memorize anything, but start skimming so that when you are assigned to read five chapters in one week, you already have a basic understanding of the concepts.

The same plan goes for the Harvard Business Cases and other reading materials once you are given access to your courses on D2L.

Consider your place in the universe

I am inherently uninterested in soul searching, but upon entering the MBA program, I was faced with this question: What is your purpose in life? If answering this sounds overwhelming or too hippy-dippy, then the following advice is especially intended for you.

Start small by considering your strengths and weaknesses, then move on to thinking about what activities make you shine, and what feels risky or scary. You don’t need to have all of the answers, or even the ability to verbalize these ideas, but starting to mull it all over will lead to less shock when you are asked to discuss ‘your purpose’ in class.

Review the basics

While on the subject of strengths and weaknesses, consider if there are any hard skills that you need to brush up on. I would hone in on Microsoft Excel, presentation/public speaking skills, research, mathematics, and writing skills.

If you don’t know how to use Excel, or you would describe your knowledge as “basic,” take the refresher course that Portland State offers in September very seriously. Do some self-study in any areas that might be rusty, make you nervous, or in which you tested poorly on the GRE or GMAT.

You don’t need to be a Toastmaster or math wizard before you walk into your first class, but it is much easier to do a quick brush up on skills before you pile on your MBA homework.

Schedule the MBA around your life

My final advice is about creating structure for yourself. Entering an MBA does not necessitate a chaotic, stressful life, but it can be difficult to figure out how to stay in control.

If you are able, try to create a schedule that incorporates your class time, study time, work time (if needed), relationship time (for family and friends), and self-time. The last two will be incredibly necessary for your mental, physical, and emotional health, and should not be sacrificed in the face of too much homework. If you have a set schedule for sleep, your favorite exercise and hobbies, date nights, and/or time with family and friends, you will be much less likely to blow them off.

Hopefully it is clear that none of this advice is intended to scare or intimidate you. While I struggled through accounting because I am not quantitatively graceful, and always felt like I had more to read than hours in the day, I still survived my first year in the MBA program and am looking forward to the Fall term.

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Rebecca Freedman is a second year MBA student at Portland State and is spending her summer interning at LifeMap of Cambia Health Solutions, applying her creative and analytical talents to their website redesign. Rebecca is pivoting from a paralegal background into a career in digital marketing and communications. You can connect with Rebecca on LinkedIn and prospective students may also contact her through the Graduate Business Programs Ambassador Portal.