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To Pre-MBA Boot Camp or Not? How to Spend Your Summer Before Business School 

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It used to be that you got into business school, gave notice at your job, maybe spent some time backpacking through some faraway part of the world, and then showed up on campus ready to start your next chapter. Today, though, recruiters who are eager to meet with promising members of the Class of 2019 host dozens of pre-MBA boot camps and other networking events over the summer. And that can leave those who don’t take part at risk of feeling left behind on the first day of school.

Summer Pre-MBA Events: What You Need to Know

If you think boot camps are just for soldiers, and summer camps are just for kids, think again. Though most prevalent in the finance and consulting industries, events are on the rise that provide opportunities for companies to meet face to face with incoming first-year MBA students months before classes begin. Tech firms like Google and CPG firms like Nestlé and Proctor & Gamble are joining the likes of Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan, Bain and McKinsey, offering their own meet-and-greets in a bid to connect with top talent as early as possible.

In addition to soirees put on by companies themselves, groups like the Forté Foundation, Management Leadership for Tomorrow (MLT), and Reaching Out MBA (ROMBA) also host events designed to offer early networking opportunities to women and underrepresented minorities. These events are part of the groups’ missions to increase opportunities for women and minorities in business school and beyond. Several individual companies—largely in consulting and finance, though not exclusively—also offer separate diversity events, hoping to forge early relationships with incoming first-year MBA students who are women, minorities, or members of other select groups.

Of course, providing a forum that brings recruiters and students together also presents a money-making opportunity. Recognizing this, Poets & Quants last spring launched its own Pre-MBA Networking Festival, inviting MBA recruiters to sign on as sponsors and soon-to-be MBA students to pay $250 per person to attend. In a similar vein, executive search firm Jump Start Advisory Group runs a series of two-and-a-half-day diversity forums—one on brand management and marketing and another on financial services and consulting. Admitted MBA students who apply and are accepted to the Jump Start Diversity Forums get a comprehensive introduction to their chosen industries, while corporate recruiters get early access to diverse prospective students. Another offering, CPG Camp, is an online marketing boot camp that promises to help participants hone critical skill sets for the competitive consumer packaged goods (CPG) industry, with top CPG Campers guaranteed resume reviews or interviews with leading recruiters.

All told, the events run the gamut from informal introductory open houses to industry-specific and multi-industry career fairs. In addition, many companies also offer deep-dive, multi-day camps designed to give participants a chance to experience first-hand just what their culture and industry is like while making valuable early connections. Though the vast majority of these opportunities are reserved for diversity candidates—women, underrepresented minorities, members of the LGBTQ community, veterans—some are open to all soon-to-be MBA students headed to leading business schools in the fall.

This guide is designed to provide you with an overview of the landscape so you can narrow your focus to the events most suited to you. Our list begins with opportunities that are open to all prospective first-year MBA students interested in learning more about specific industries. Subsequent sections highlight opportunities for URMs, women, LGBTQ students and veterans respectively. Excluded from this list are numerous highly-selective fellowship opportunities—which in general offer a generous monetary award to be applied toward first-year tuition, a guaranteed summer internship with the employer, and a tentative full-time position. We will feature those in a separate upcoming article.