Get To Know Your Classmates Early:
Moving to Chicago a few weeks early helps you get situated and acquainted with the city. Chicago summers are glorious, and there are festivals every weekend. It’s important to take advantage of things like that so you’ll have fond memories of the city to look back on during the endless winter. There are student events that happen in the weeks before school: parties, happy hours, boat tours, etc. It’s a good way to get to know your classmates before school and before people start stressing out. Check out http://chicago.metromix.com, which has a list of festivals going on throughout the summer.
Random Walks are also a great way to get to know other first years and also some second years. This is a fantastic way to get to know a core group of people before school starts.
If you’ve never had accounting, or just don’t remember it, the week-long pre-MBA Accounting Class is invaluable. The course covers half of the actual accounting course during the week, and it definitely makes the transition to class easier not having to worry about accounting for the first few weeks. Nevertheless, if you find yourself having to choose between going on a Random Walk or taking the pre-MBA Accounting, go on a Random Walk. It will pay off more in networking and friendships in the long run.
Start transitioning and learning the business lingo. For economics and the business world in general, read the Wall Street Journal. If you want to brush up on accounting, try The Accounting Game: Basic Accounting Fresh from the Lemonade Stand. It looks like a kid’s book, but it does a great job breaking down accounting concepts. If you are interested in consulting or corporate strategy, pick up a copy of Victor Cheng's Case Interview Secrets and read through a little bit of it. It is dry and you won’t understand a lot of it, but reading it once will plant the seed for later on. Military may also request Victor Cheng's interview preparation material for free at: www.caseinterview.com/military-vets-management-consulting.
Sit down with the course guide, understand the curriculum, and mark down any professors or classes that stick out to you. Plot an initial curriculum taking into account required courses and what you want to get out of your "Booth Experience." This is a daunting task, but it ends up being a lot easier than you think.
3 vs 4 Classes in Fall Quarter:
Most people who take four classes in the fall will tell you it’s really not that bad. People make a big deal about the transition back to school, but most military folks have pretty good time management skills and can handle it well. Sure, you’re busy, but you’re busy going to fun events and happy hours. If you have ever been deployed or been to the field, you will be more than prepared for school. Most of the veterans will tell you that even with four classes and recruiting, they have more free time than they have had in years.
The majority of people coming to school have absolutely no idea what they want to do post-MBA. This is especially true for military folks. While school does afford you plenty of opportunities to learn more about different careers through job panels (either alumni or second year students talking about previous jobs or internship experiences), lunch and learns, corporate presentations, and also learning from your classmates, you can really help yourself out by doing some up-front research and zeroing in on at least certain areas that you’d like to investigate. The better prepared you are, the more focused your search can be and the more in depth it will be as well (this also frees up time for everything from networking to homework to TNDC).
If you are interested in a particular company and would like to follow it, put a GoogleAlert on the company to get information whenever it comes out. These can provide talking points when you talk to folks at the companies.
Career Services Website – although it is a little bit unwieldy, there is a ton of useful information on there, from internship surveys to datamonitor reports on companies.
Vault’s MBA Career Bible – This book is a comprehensive list of possible industries and functions, but is not especially illuminating. Try to read it at a library instead of buying it.
Vault.com – This is a valuable resource that people don’t use enough. You will get free access as soon as you are admitted to Chicago Booth, so use it to look at different firms – the employee surveys and snapshot guides – to get the themes and overall perspectives about companies. This is a bit more focused, but it helps flush things out and learn more about the companies within an industry, and what the people working there think about their particular company.
You’ll re-do your resume a million times. But a good source of bullets and examples is in the resume database on the career services website. Take a look at other veterans' resumes for examples on how to frame your own experiences.
Do Something Creative or Different:
A big issue with all military folks is breaking through the military stereotype. Most people think military candidates are automatons with zero creativity. This makes it especially hard to get jobs in media or marketing. Find ways to work on the creativity portion of your resume so you can stand out. Design webpages, volunteer with a non-profit, or volunteer at a local business to build experience – do something resume-worthy outside the military if you get a chance.
Reach Out and Build Your Network:
Start reaching out to veterans in different industries to ask them about their jobs and advice for business school, etc. You can do a search through the community directory for Chicago Booth veterans. Start early and stay in touch. These guys can help you out a lot. You may feel uncomfortable contacting them, but quite honestly they love talking to students and by contacting them this early, you are able to genuinely show interest without begging for a job.
Use your undergrad alumni databases as well – it helps to have something in common (i.e., look for other veterans) but even if you just have your school in common, contact them. Join your local alumni organization to stay in touch with people and to build local contacts.
Service Academy graduates should join Service Academy Business Resource Directory (iSABRD), which is a joint alumni database for all the Service Academies. You should also join LinkedIn and the service academy organizations on there. Finally, you should join your local service academy alumni organization (in Chicago, The West Point Society of Chicago brings all the service academies under one umbrella – they have events every couple months and it’s a good place to make contacts).