Tips to Stand Out in Your MBA Class

group mapping out problem

You've got your graduate school acceptance letter, so take a second to celebrate! Once you pat yourself on the back, however, it's time to think through how to make the most of your opportunity. You want to be a standout student.

Here are five of our favorite ways to put yourself in a position to shine both in the classroom now and in the boardroom later.

1. Double Down on Dedication

This idea sounds simple enough. You're ready to make an extensive commitment or you wouldn't have spent time filling out applications, finding financing, and gathering transcripts.

The effort it takes to get into an MBA program isn't enough to guarantee success once you arrive, though. The techniques you used to succeed as an undergraduate won't necessarily work in graduate school either.

To fully commit to your studies now, you'll need to be more organized than ever, particularly if you're juggling a job and family in addition to grad school. Commit time on the front end to figure out a strategy for success, and it will pay off as your workload piles up.

2. Be Honest with Yourself

Introspection can lead to better results in almost any area of your life, and conquering business school is no exception. Before your first semester, do some soul-searching to identify your strengths and weaknesses and prepare to overcome any obstacles to your success in school.

If you've had problems with procrastination, set up systems that will help you stay on track. If you tend to struggle in group projects, whether because you take on too much or because you hold yourself back, create a personal improvement plan.

Equip yourself with ways to stay focused that work for you. Use your strengths to your advantage and develop a plan of attack for situations where you tend to get in your own way, and your entire MBA experience will go much smoother.

3. Improve Your Communications Skills

It's no secret. To succeed in both business school and the business world, you need to have excellent communications skills. In graduate school and beyond, you'll write far more than you did as an undergraduate. You'll write memos and make presentations. You'll make pitches to groups large and small. You have to be able to communicate the great ideas you come up with in an engaging and convincing way, or no one will buy into them.

If your school offers writing labs, take advantage of them. For example, the Ashford Writing Center is available 24-7 to answer any writing-related question, from the proper way to write a thesis statement to how to clarify a complex argument. If you don't have access to a writing lab, look to a friend or mentor with strong communication skills for advice, or explore the many writing resources available online.

Equally important as your writing skills will be your networking and persuasion skills. Practice speaking up in front of other people, whether you're crafting a winning argument or re-telling a great story. Wherever you notice gaps in your communication skills, shore them up now.

4. Master the Technology

There are a few executives who still print their own documents, edit them with a red pen, and have an assistant make the actual changes. Their days are numbered. Up-and-coming executives and leaders know they need to learn the tools of modern business to stay ahead of the curve, attract innovative talent, and compete in a technologically advanced market.

You don't need to be a database pro, but you should be able to find and interpret the numbers you want. You don't need to know how to write code, but you should be comfortable learning to use a new app or online business tool – especially if you intend on collaborating globally.

You'll need many of these same technological skills to succeed in graduate school, where more and more classes include online components and your ability to effectively use big data to identify business trends will be tantamount to your success.

5. Take Advantage of Your Status

One MBA student points out a hidden benefit of grad school is the ability to "play the MBA card" and gain access to anything that you otherwise wouldn't be granted, from data to conferences. Take advantage of these benefits now, because you won't have them later.

You will already be very busy as a student, but taking full advantage of the additional perks available to you as an MBA candidate will give you a leg up on your peers. You may meet a seasoned professional at a conference or networking event who helps add the final polish to your capstone project, or you could learn a key piece of information that inspires your next pursuit through your school's subscription to industry publications.

Access to supplemental learning is also an opportunity to explore career options outside of your curriculum and figure out what you really want to do once you earn your degree.

Although pursuing your MBA is not quite the same as working in the business world, many of the skills you need to get the most out of your Master's degree transition nicely from the classroom to the boardroom. Taking time to develop your commitment, self-knowledge, communication, technological capabilities, and thirst for new knowledge and experiences will benefit you now and long after you earn your degree.

 

Written by Ashford University staff.

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