What to do Before the MBA Starts

Namrata Kalia

The day I got  admitted to INSEAD is a day that still remains very vivid in my memory.

It was a Friday evening in May, and I was not expecting to hear from INSEAD for another five days at least. I was enjoying a quiet evening at home after a hectic week at work, when suddenly my phone lit up with a notification and my heart started beating a million miles an hour as I opened the email.


Reading the acceptance email put me in an unusual calm trance and my family was bewildered to see me deliver the news with virtually no reaction.

It’s been more than a year since I got that email, and I am still at a loss of words to explain what was going on inside my head at that moment. 

With the excitement of finally starting my MBA journey (it has been years in the making), I decided not to let the time I had in hand go to waste. This is what I did:

  • Supercharged my learnings at work - I used the remainder of my time at work to pursue projects that would help me develop new skill sets, work with teams I aspired to join post-MBA and network internally. I prioritised my personal learning and development the most in the months leading to my departure.
  • Thought about my priorities - Speaking to INSEAD and other MBA graduates, I realised that an MBA is all about time management and I will have dozens of opportunities to be a part of plethora of activities going on around me. Everyday I will have to make dozens of choices and the clearer my priorities are, the easier it will be for me to make these choices.
  • Did a few pre-MBA courses – Since I come from a non-finance background, I used this time to do some finance and accounting courses online so that I wouldn't be completely lost in classes.

Moving is always stressful and in my case, I was shifting to another continent! As I got closer to the start date, three to four months away from joining, I had to do many things to get ready for this move:

  • Getting the paperwork in order for the visa - You won’t realise how many documents the embassy needs to process your visa – from university transcripts and experience letters to even your income tax records.
  • Applying for student loan – This had to be one of the most daunting tasks (after the application essay of course). It took me months to compare different institutions (domestic and international) before finally signing my loan sanction letter.
  • Apartment hunting – I underestimated how difficult it is for international students to find housing. Since we cannot physically go and scout the area/house, we have to rely on brokers/landlords to share videos. Add onto this the language barrier one may face. My advice would be to start the search as early as possible.

Apart from all the administrative work, in my conversations, I understood that there are countless other things I need to do to be ready for school and get in the right mindset:

  • Get back to the academic mindset – After six years of corporate experience, I had lost the concentration to sit and study. I have been using this time to get back into the academic mindset and studying for my exit language exam.
  • Productivity and gadgets - Since every hour of every day is important, being efficient is critical to getting the most out of my experience. To be productive, I needed to have the right tools and technologies in place to help me get my work done. Deciding on which laptop/phone/tablet to pick for this journey led to some very interesting conversations with past and present students.
  • Shopping list – Needless to say, one needs to spend some time going through the wardrobe, making a list of what is needed and keeping an eye on the bargains.

Finally and above all, I have been making sure that I find time to relax before the MBA madness begins and spend quality time with my family before I move away.

Personally, I like to be over-prepared to ensure my transition is smooth. Use your judgement on what feels right to you and how would you like to prepare for the splendid journey ahead.