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mba diary

Getting to know your fellow students before you arrive for your MBA program is recommended.Getty Images/iStockphoto

Aubrey Chapnick is an MBA student with a focus on finance and strategy at the University of British Columbia's Sauder School of Business in Vancouver. He previously worked as a consultant at the global leadership development firm Lee Hecht Harrison Knightsbridge and has further experience in business development, sales and project management. Currently, Aubrey is working as a capital markets rotational intern, focused in mining investment banking and Canadian consumer products/retail equity research. This is his second entry for MBA Diary.

Congrats, you are in! One of the hardest parts is over. You rocked the GMAT, wrote killer applications and interviewed well. Welcome to the family. Although I understand that the past few months have been hard, give yourselves a pat on the back for getting into business school. The real fun starts now.

As you prepare for your program to start, I wanted to follow up with my last piece on MBA culture and school rankings by sharing a few useful tips for incoming MBA students to be thinking about before all gets rolling in the fall. Having been in your position, I hope these tidbits can be of help and make your lives a bit easier amid the fervour and potential disarray you might be in for shortly.

Set expectations with family, friends, loved ones and yourself

What most people likely won't know prior to entering an MBA program is that it has a propensity to take over your entire life. With demanding assignments, networking events, coffee chats and socializing with your classmates, it's very easy for the program to engulf your entire consciousness and attention.

As such, before starting school, be sure to speak with those you have important relationships with about the demands of your program and the amount of your life it is going to take up. Your time with them will decrease.

This is especially important if you are going out of town for your program. It's vital to put in the upfront effort to keep and nurture your already existing relationships; otherwise, they will go by the wayside.

These kinds of skills will be especially important if you wish to get into the capital markets or management consulting after your degree. Be honest with those you care about and make them know how valuable your relationship is. Of additional importance, make sure you are honest and open with yourself in terms of goals, what will or won't do and what your personal limits are in terms of work-life balance, grades and so on. Setting these expectations at the start will help you stay on track and reduce the likelihood of burnout.

Connect with your school's ecosystem immediately

There are often a lot of ducks to line up before starting. Once you accept your offer, make sure you get to know the administrative staff at your school. They will be invaluable individuals throughout your initial uptake until you graduate.

Another important thing to do is get on LinkedIn and connect with current students and recent alumni of your program. Doing so will give you a sense of what is going on at your school and the immediate job market after graduation. It will also assist you to start building relationships throughout your school's community.

If your program is more than a year long, having second-year students know who you are can help open up opportunities to learn more and ultimately make you more successful. I'm thankful to have gotten to know a few of the second years in my program and those relationships have been very helpful throughout my experience.

Start a journal

There is much to be said about the power of writing down one's thoughts. Besides helping to bring personal clarity to your own life, writing down things makes you more likely to follow through on them.

Once starting your degree, you'll find that you barely have time to think about anything other than your next deadline and obligation. To get the most out of your MBA experience, it's important to get a sense of where you want to go and why you want to go there. As you take more classes and learn more about yourself, these things will become clearer; however it's important to take note of how you are feeling about your progression.

Doing so gives you greater confidence that you are on the right track and will also help you build a personal story to speak with potential employers about. A clear and succinct story will make you stand out in the job market, especially if you are changing careers.

A journal is a great way to make sense of and organize your thoughts. Ten or 15 minutes a day is all you need, and the dividends of doing so will pay off handsomely for you over the long term.

Until your start date, don't forget to have fun, enjoy the summer, tie up loose ends and continue meeting new people. In a few months' time, your life will be very different so enjoy your last few months and get excited for the awesome ride to come.

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