Undergrad Prep for MBA: Tips From the Dean –

How can I prepare for my MBA as an undergraduate business student?

Students who adopt an early educational game plan will have far greater academic success than their peers who give minimal thought to the process. The first step in formulating an academic strategy for success at the MBA level is asking questions such as the one posted here – as an undergraduate student, where should my focus be if planning to pursue a MBA after graduation? In response to this question, I have focused on three areas that I believe are essential for any undergraduate business student considering an MBA:

  1. Select your area of study with the endgame in mind. Although it is not uncommon for graduates to work in fields outside their areas of study, it is still very beneficial to think about the type of work you want to pursue, including where you ultimately see yourself within that profession. Only then can you truly have that honest conversation with yourself about (1) what it is going to take to achieve that personal goal and (2) if you are willing to make the initial commitment to maximize your chances for success. Think about it from the standpoint of working backwards or with the endgame in mind: first, by identifying the projected outcome and second, deciding on the best academic path that offers the highest potential for achieving your goal.
  2. Don’t settle on being ordinary. In undergraduate school, graduating students represent a wide arc in regards to academic achievement. Usually, where a student lands on the pendulum of academic success depends on their decision to pursue being ordinary or being extraordinary. When students are thinking with the endgame in mind, the only option is to pursue being extraordinary. Students should know that the minimum acceptable undergraduate GPA may fall short for acceptance into their preferred MBA program. Given the competitive nature of certain MBA programs, students want to increase their chances for acceptance by positioning themselves accordingly during their undergraduate tenure. Furthermore, the rigor of most MBA programs requires students to already be tailored with a set of core competencies that are essential for success at the higher degree level. Bottom line, ordinary won’t cut it, but the pursuit of extraordinary will substantially increase your chances for success.
  3. Tap into your professors’ knowledge and seek their advice as well as the advice from other university resources. A key resource for undergraduate students contemplating an MBA is their current business faculty. Most likely, the business faculty holds a MBA and probably has gone through the same self-examination when he or she was an undergraduate student. More importantly, your business faculty knows your academic work and knows you. As such, your professor may be best suited for a candid conversation about your MBA quest. If your MBA preference is at the same university where you are finishing your undergraduate studies, it is likely that your current professor may be the same faculty who will guide your MBA study, which makes the contact even more critical. Another important resource is your academic advisor who is trained to counsel students on matters relating to continuing education. There is an abundance of resources and assistance available to undergraduate students at their university that provides guidance for study at the next level. The student will be well served to tap into these resources early in their program to best position themselves for success at the MBA level.

Edited by Valerie Jones

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Dr. Arthur Lee Smith has more than 27 years of industry and business consulting experience. In addition to consulting companies on topics including business ethics, diversity in the workplace, and development of job training skills for the underserved, he has taught at several universities across the world. Smith has served as the dean for the School of Business and Technology Management at Northcentral University since July 2010. As dean, his primary responsibility is to oversee all business related academics for the undergraduate, master’s, and doctoral studies programs.