Summer Before Business School: When and How to Quit Your Job? Then What?
What to Do With the Time Between Quitting Your Job and Starting School?
INSEAD’s Dawud gave himself two months before the start of the program. “I left the U.S. and moved to the Middle East for that period to visit family and friends and use the time to network and investigate new career paths,” he said. He’d originally planned to use the time to intern at a new company, but the timing didn’t work out for the companies he was interested in.
“Many of my classmates took more than two months; some took six or more to travel, intern at new companies or just to go on holiday,” he said. “For me personally, I would’ve loved to do some volunteer work or set up a full internship six months out (with a buffer between the end of the internship and start of INSEAD) however, I needed to strike a balance between taking time off and saving up for the upcoming year.”
Travel was also at the top on the list for several other students, but needing to balance that with reserving funds for school was a recurrent theme, too. Haas’s Scherer spent a few weeks traveling in Spain and Portugal, a game-time change of plans when a trip to Greece fell through. And Wharton’s Wollensack spent the four weeks she took off traveling to Peru and Mexico and spending time with friends and family, although she also stresses the importance of saving. “I would absolutely save more money for school,” she said. “There are so many expenses you can’t predict that come up.
Lee, meanwhile, stopped working full time in July but continued on a part-time basis until mid-August, giving herself just a couple of days off before heading to Stern. “I really loved my job, and so my desire to continue working with my team as long as possible was a big factor,” she said. “I also didn’t want to leave anyone hanging, so my sense of responsibility to the company was the second largest factor. Finally, I wanted to save as much money as I could, and so I figured I should work until the very last moment.”
Take More Time to Prep Academically
Looking back, Lee would definitely have stopped working earlier. “I was not well rested when school started,” she said. “I’d also been out of school for seven years, so I had to re-learn what it meant to be a student again, while also balancing recruiting and meeting all of my great classmates.” The first few weeks were a whirlwind that left her wishing she’d taken a little more time to prepare mentally for school. She also had a stack of leadership books she’d hoped to read but didn’t get to. “I was lucky enough to go to some great leadership-focused classes and talks while at school, though, so I guess it all worked out in the end!” she added.
Scherer, for her part, didn’t spend much time reviewing business concepts before heading to Haas, although she did think about it. “I definitely considered whether I should, especially coming into business school where I had very little business background,” she said. “I think I knew that no matter how hard I tried to get ahead of the curve I was going to get there and be a little bit overwhelmed.”
She did brush up some on economics in preparation for waiver exams, but that was about the extent of it. “I knew that I was going to get there and completely lose my free time, so I wanted time to make a serious dent in my for-fun reading list.” In the end, she doesn’t think she’s any worse off for not having done more, although she realizes her approach might not be the best for everyone. “My advice is to do what makes you feel comfortable—if you are going to be stressed out not having prepped in advance, go ahead and do that.”
While he wouldn’t drastically change how he spent his pre‒business school time, Dawud said he would have prepared a little more by brushing up on topics he hadn’t studied since college. “INSEAD is an extremely fast-paced program; you absolutely need to be ready to hit the ground running in all subjects,” he said. “I also would’ve tried to read a bit more; I read quite a bit but there’s very little time for reading outside of classwork and the news here.”