A Master's degree can be a hugely valuable investment. You’ll develop your business knowledge, get the chance to network with other professionals, and gain a variety of career opportunities—all in just a year or two.
More than 85% of business school alumni say that graduate business education increased their employability. But master’s degrees are also challenging. They’re often highly intensive, and it can be hard to get to grips with your program and new academic lifestyle.
Preparing in advance before your business school adventure can increase your chances of success on your program. Here are five things masters students say you should do before you begin your degree…
1. Speak with alumni to find your ideal program
Deciding to do a master’s degree is just the first step; next, you’ll have to choose the right program based on your interests and professional aspirations.
To increase your chances of finding the ideal program, speak with alumni from your prospective schools before applying. You’ll get first-hand information about what the program is like and how it prepared alumni for their current careers.
“Go on LinkedIn and search for people who were on the program, or especially those people who are currently in the program,” suggests Julia Thin, a Master in Management student at the National University of Singapore Business School. “That’s the best way to get answers.”
2. Apply for scholarships to ease the financial strain
Unlocking the various benefits you'll gain from a business master's doesn't come cheap, but scholarships can lessen the financial strain and give you more freedom to enjoy your studies.
If you’re interested in applying for scholarships, it’s good to prepare early. Check business school websites for the details of scholarships or funding assistance available, and read the conditions of the scholarships carefully—some scholarships won’t cover the entire duration of your program.
Pamela Mendoza received a scholarship for her Master in Management at emlyon Business School. However, she later found out that it would only cover the first year of her two-year program.
“They told me I could get a scholarship for the second year but I didn’t really investigate further,” she says. “In the end it wasn’t that easy.”
3. When choosing accommodation, consider your hobbies and interests
During your business master’s, you’ll have to live in a new place for at least a year. Choosing where you live is a huge decision, that can impact your experience.
Chenhao Lu, a Master in Management student at ESMT Berlin, advises student to prepare well. “Do a little bit of research, don’t just randomly pick anywhere,” he says.
Consider your priorities and interests when it comes to accommodation, such as how far away you want to be from campus and what local amenities you would like. This will be your home for a while, so you want to choose accommodation that suits you.
4. If you’re an international student, research your new culture before moving
Moving to a different country is exciting, but don’t underestimate how much time it could take to adjust to a new culture. Even if your master’s program is in English, you might find that it takes a while for you to get used to a new lifestyle, language, or even the weather.
When Shashank Verma moved to France to study at EDHEC Business School, he didn’t anticipate the culture shock he would experience.
“I had some wrong assumptions about being able to get by in English,” he says. “That’s one of the biggest difficulties for international students.”
He advises international students to do some research about the country they are moving to in advance. A great way to do this is by discussing your worries with alumni who also started off as international students.
5. Practice time management
To take full advantage of your master's degree, you’ll want to immerse yourself in every opportunity available. This includes taking the chance to network, bond with your peers, and join clubs and societies. But balancing all of this can be a challenge—especially while you study an intensive program.
“You’re always on the move, always trying to keep up with your assignments,” explains Caitlin Harshberger, who studies MS Information Systems at Indiana University Kelley School of Business. “I had to learn [time management] really fast because otherwise little things you forget to do turn into big things.”
Establish a system for time management early on, preferably before you’ve even arrived on campus. For Caitlin, this meant using a reminders app on her phone and a shared calendar with her classmates to keep on top of group work and deadlines.
Taking these five steps to prepare ensures that, when you arrive at business school to start the next exciting chapter in your life, you can focus on seizing the variety of opportunities available without unnecessary stress.
Your degree will fly by, so the more preparation you do before you start, the more you can make the most of your experience.