Guide to Your First Year in an MBA Program

For many freshman students, enrolling in an MBA program can be overwhelming. The first year of any college or graduate level program is often considered to be the most challenging and most crucial. Some students go back to MBA school after years of working as a professional, while some students take up their MBA without having to leave their jobs. Since the first year of any program requires adjustment and familiarization, it is important for students to at least be well prepared.

Once you learn how to navigate through your first year in MBA school, being able to achieve that crucial sense of balance will be easier. As a graduate student, you will need to attend classes and lectures, compile your notes for easy reference, participate in discussions, complete your homework, attend campus-related activities, and finally, hunt for the right MBA internship program. This guide is aimed at helping you, the MBA student, prepare for your first year, so you can effectively manage your time, improve your study habits, and get the internship you want, in an industry that you prefer the most.

Surviving your first year

The first year of any MBA program is mainly about academics. Most business schools that offer a core curriculum expect their students to complete more than half of the required coursework during their first year in the program. You may choose to focus on one specialized field, such as accounting, entrepreneurship, human resources, or executive leadership, depending on which industry you see yourself working in once you finish your MBA program. Outlined below are some useful tips you can follow as an MBA freshman:

  • Remember that you need to focus on your academics first of all. A typical first semester will most likely include four core classes at the very least, with each class taking up about two hours. During your first year, you will most likely tackle on quantitative courses, so polishing on your quantitative skills beforehand will help a lot.
  • Participating in class will help you stand out and will surely help you get the notice of your professors. It is important, however, to do this in moderation. There is a huge difference between actively participating in class and coming off as more domineering than the rest of your fellow students. Coming to class prepared should always be one of your top priorities.
  • Networking is a must in any business school, and the best way to start networking is during your first year in business graduate school. This will help you establish connections early on. The earlier you start building relationships, the higher are your chances of actually developing connections with people who may very well be one of the key players in the industry you see yourself employed in, once you finish the program.
  • Stay up-to-date with what is happening in the business world by reading newspapers, periodicals, and checking out websites regularly. It is important to read up on past cases to study different managerial strategies, but taking note of present business settings will keep you fairly ahead as an MBA student.

Study tips for MBA freshmen thinking like an MBA graduate

As mentioned above, your first year at business scool or in any MBA program will heavily involve academics. This is why having a study plan will greatly help you in making the most out of your classes, lectures, case studies, and researches. From outlining your study notes to time management techniques, these study tips will have you thinking and acting like an MBA graduate several weeks or months into the program.

  • Discover your learning style or the studying style you are most comfortable in. Some students prefer studying during the wee hours of morning while some are able to concentrate better during the evenings. Whatever your style is, it is best to stick with it, because this is when your concentration is most likely at its peak.
  • Write down an outline of your notes and include the most important concepts or terms in the specific course you are currently tackling on. A study outline can give you a clearer idea on which parts of the course require more focus. Outlining helps you organize ideas and materials, whether they’re from your notebook or from a textbook.
  • One of the most well-known systems for studying is the SQ3R system. This is often employed by most MBA students, since it offers a more comprehensive studying approach. The SQ3R system stands for Survey, Question, Read, Recite, and Review.
  • Studying also requires excellent time management. You need to set aside enough time for studying and enough time for other pursuits. A calendar or organizer will help you plan your study time, so that your other priorities will not get in the way.

Tips and tricks for your summer MBA internship

After you’ve completed your MBA freshman year, you will need to start looking for summer MBA internship opportunities. This will help you find permanent employment with a company that you really admire, and in an industry you see yourself being actively a part of. These tricks and tips will help you secure a summer internship in a company of your preference, despite the myriad economic factors affecting hiring opportunities nowadays.

  1. Know which types of companies you want to work for. Prior to applying for your internship, make sure that you know which industry you want to work in, given your interests and your area of specialization.
  2. Get high grades. Most companies looking to hire interns will want to see excellent grades. If you can’t balance your academic life with extra-curricular activities, then choose to prioritize your academics.
  3. Send out applications early. There is a very good chance that other MBA freshmen are applying at the same company you intend to have your internship in, so submitting applications earlier will you give you a better head start.
  4. It is recommended that you scout for several options when it comes to your internships. However, sending out too many applications can be critical. Having too many choices can distract you from focusing on the companies better suited for you.
  5. Participate in networking events. Networking events allow you to get in contact with people who may be able to give you some opportunities for your summer internship. Through networking, you may be able to get in touch with professors, fellow students, MBA groups, or even alumni who can help you find the connections you need.
  6. Prepare for on-campus interviews. Some companies hold on-campus interviews whether for internships or full-time employment.

On-campus interviews survival guide

On-campus interviews are an excellent way for you to land the internship that you really want. However, there are more to these interviews than simply answering basic questions. In order to survive these on-campus interviews and to improve your chances of getting short-listed for certain positions, there are a few things you need to remember.

First, you need to be prepared to discuss about yourself–what your goals are, where you see yourself in the short-term and long-term, as well as why you have chosen to apply to the company for a summer internship. If you are not comfortable speaking about yourself and your accomplishments, a little practice can go a long way. Learning how to answer standard questions with confidence can help you during on-campus interviews.

It is also crucial for you to know about the company you are being interviewed for. You can easily research about a company through online means or through their websites. You can also find out about the latest updates on a company, especially if it is a publicly traded company. While you are not expected to know everything there is to know about the company, knowing some basic information is enough. This will show the interviewer your interest at becoming a part of the company or the industry.

Looking good during on-campus interviews is also a huge plus. First impressions are still crucial, and even more so during interviews where there are other applicants vying for the internship. A decent, corporate look almost always means serious business.

Using your MBA degree to get ahead

Without a doubt, completing your MBA program will open more employment opportunities for you and allow you to apply for top-management positions within your company. With all the adjustments needed during your first year, knowing what to reasonably expect from your MBA program and having the means to fulfill these expectations are both important. Going back to school after years in the professional world can be overwhelming at first, but there is nothing in MBA school you cannot prepare for.


Your MBA freshman year is the perfect time for you to get a good grip on your core courses, network with your professors and fellow students, join clubs and participate in discussions, and to start scouting for internship opportunities. An early start will allow you better chances of getting ahead, making your first year in an MBA program challenging but highly gratifying.

About Barbara Elliott, she has served in a number of leadership positions throughout his career including College Dean at three Universities and Tenured University Professor. Also she works as a blogger at Barbara is a frequent national and international presenter and author.

Leave a Comment

Scroll to Top