Summer Before Business School: When and How to Quit Your Job? Then What?
What Do Schools Recommend the Summer Before Business School?
Are the various approaches these students have taken in line with what business schools think will best prepare them for the demands of the MBA? Largely, yes.
Stacey Rudnick, who heads career services for UT Austin’s McCombs School of Business, notesd that letting your employers know well in advance that you’ll be leaving can actually offer other advantages. “What a perfect opportunity this presents to start talking to people at your current company about your future goals,” she told Clear Admit. “Go to your company’s marketing department and explain that you are headed off to business school and really interested in a career in marketing. Utilize the resources at your disposal to learn as much as you can about your future career path.”
She also urged prospective students to read the business press. “When you start an MBA program, you are going to go from reading a lot of email, which is very short, to reading long cases for class,” she said. “Reading the business press will help you get your business vocabulary back up if it is not already sharp and will be important in preparing you to digest huge amounts of information in a really short period of time.”
Luke Kreinberg, associate director of the Haas Career Management Group, stressedthe importance of a clean exit. “Make sure that you have a clean closure at your place of employment and leave on a good note if at all possible,” he said. Not only does it maintain valuable relationships down the line, he finds that the person leaving the job is better off when he or she leaves things at a good handing-off point. “It really shifts how someone approaches the next challenge, whatever that is,” he said.
Rudnick reminded incoming students that the first semester of any MBA program is very academically challenging—and this is especially true if you don’t come from a strong math, accounting or statistics background. “If you are coming from a liberal arts educational background there is a lot that can be hard to digest, so anything you can do to better prepare yourself before you hit the first semester is a good idea,” she said.
But she’s also a big proponent of taking a break between work and school. “Give yourself some time to recharge, to get acclimated to the city before orientation or just to relax, because things are going to get very intense very quickly.”
What Approach Are This Year’s Admits Taking?
Though some are still in the throes of making precisely these decisions, we know from exchanges on Reddit what a handful of next year’s first-year MBA students are planning to do with the time before they start. Some of this year’s first years have also chimed in with advice based on what they did—or wish they’d done.
Needing to balance taking time off to travel with staying at work to save up as much as possible for school was a recurring theme in the Reddit threads. A current first-year student urged those who could to travel, writing, “I worked until two weeks before all of the orientation activities began. If you have the means, I know everyone who traveled beforehand really enjoyed that.”
“I’m sticking around work through June and [will] leave sometime in July,” wrote another. “I want to travel a bit and have time to prepare [for] the move to school but I also want to continue getting paid. Now if I had gotten a hefty scholarship or even a full ride? I’d be gone before the end of February.”
Another poster on the same thread did get a hefty scholarship—covering 90 percent of the cost—which prompted a change from the original plan of working through early June and then traveling and relocating cross-country. “Now I’m leaving in April and travelling until orientation in early August,” the poster wrote. “Seems like a lot of time off, but I’m unmarried/childless and have plenty of money saved that I was going to put to school. I never took a gap between school and work and have been full-time at the same company now for five years. Feels like I’ve earned it.”
And another first-year student shared having worked until about a month before orientation and then traveling for a few weeks. “It was honestly more than enough time to recharge and I needed the money,” the poster wrote. But many classmates without financial constraints quit as early as April—though mid- to late-May was more common—and traveled the entire summer. “For those people, they had fantastic experiences and made great bonds as well. Some of them seemed to feel it was a bit ‘too long’ and were very antsy after 90 days of no structure, but I don’t think any of them would trade it for the world.”
Oh, I’m Just Going to Squeeze in a Wedding
For two of the people we talked to last year, major life events also factored into the summer before business school. Haas grad Sneha Sheth (MBA ’16) quit her consulting job at Dalberg Global Development Advisors at the beginning of July, giving herself just under two months to plan and shop for her wedding, travel and move. “It was a really interesting time in my life,” she recalled with a laugh.
Sheth’s path to business school sounds strikingly similar to Natalie Neilson’s plans. Neilson started at Wharton last fall, leaving a consulting role e quit in mid-July, got married a week later, and then started school a week after that, she told us.
No Single Path to Business School
In summary, it seems like there’s no one “right” way to spend that summer before business school. That said, key tidbits of prevailing wisdom emerged from our many conversations with current and future students, as well as representatives from the schools themselves.
Our takeaways: Travel if you can, but remember to balance your need for adventure with your need for money for the two years ahead. Brush up on your math skills—especially if you’re several years out of school and/or from a liberal arts background—and familiarize yourself with the business press. Give your employer as much notice as possible, not only to maintain good relationships when you leave but also to network within your company and learn more about potential post-MBA career paths.
Finally, more than anything else, the message current students shared with us was that they wished they’d given themselves more time than they did—whether to travel, to squeeze in a wedding, to catch up on reading or to catch up on sleep. Because by all accounts, when you get to school it’s like drinking from a fire hose the moment you set foot on campus.