Many of your MBA classmates will be coming from fields like accounting, Wall Street, and the financial services industry. They will possess strong analytical skills and will have familiarity with the financial tools used in business modeling and reporting. If you are coming from a different background, there may be some disparity in your skill set versus theirs. And since even the elite institutions support a culture of collaborative learning, it will be important that you can keep up and contribute to your courses. No matter your potential, if your basic skills are lacking, you may find yourself struggling.

Think about what it takes get into medical school. Students preparing for medical training are required to have studied organic chemistry, physics, and biology, to name a few. Yikes. Business school does not quite meet this standard for pre-admission proficiency, but you shouldn’t go in blind. After all, you don’t want to freak out when you hear the terms linear regression analysis and time value of money (TVM) on the daily.

Because it is in their best interest for every incoming student to be prepared for coursework, some business schools will strongly encourage new admits to get comfortable with TVM and other business concepts — particularly if they have never worked in accounting or finance. The good news? There are many ways to prepare for business school. And none of them involve biochemistry.

Follow These 5 Steps To Get MBA Ready:

  1. Consider taking the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) Essential Prep Program. You can purchase online study programs in finance, accounting, quant skills, and statistics. These cost about a few hundred dollars each, but do set you up for success..

  2. Opt to take a class in these subjects at your local community college, or in another online format (this is likely the more expensive option). If cost is an issue, or if you are unsure of the reputation of a program, reach out to your school for specific recommendations.

  3. If you are not already, take a class to become proficient in Microsoft Excel. Knowing Excel is essential to understanding the basics of managing a spreadsheet, performing financial operations, doing business planning, and performing analysis. It is the most essential tool for organizing, analyzing and presenting many common business concepts and ideas. There are lots of online and in-person programs that can get you up to speed on Excel, and even some that offer dedicated MBA Excel preparedness.

  4. MBA IQ – This program is a highly structured and comprehensive course of study designed to prepare incoming MBA students for confidence and success in their programs. Modules include Management and the Business Environment, Marketing and Operations, and Accounting and Finance.

  5. MBA Math – Similar to MBA IQ, this MBA preparedness program is specifically dedicated to those needing a math boost. Courses include Spreadsheets, Statistics, Accounting, Finance, and Economics.

The Bottom Line

Heading into business school with a core set of skills will be fundamental to your success. At minimum, you should make sure will be able to keep up with your coursework and your peers. Only you can determine where your knowledge gaps are. Some incoming MBA students might already be up-to-speed, or might only need to take a course or two. For others, a comprehensive immersion program will be the best way to build their confidence and functional skills.

A final note: Before purchasing a course or enrolling in a program, be sure to do you own research. Your best approach will probably be to contact the folks at your business school. They might even have free or discounted prep options available for incoming students. Since your school will understand exactly what you need to know for your first year, get their input on the best ways to get MBA ready.

Nedda Gilbert

Ms. Gilbert is a certified social worker and 30 year educational consultant with an interest in helping college-bound and graduate school students manage the process and stress of admissions effectively. She is one of the senior founding managers of the Princeton Review Test Preparation Company, and the author of The Princeton Review Guide to the Best Business Schools and another book, Business School Essays that Made a Difference (Random House). She is a guest contributor to Forbes Magazine on college and college life. Ms. Gilbert is also certified as a collaborative family law professional in New Jersey. She received her BA from the University of Pennsylvania and MS from Columbia University.