As the class of 2014 prepares to start business school, incoming MBA students—who know what's involved in preparing for college—are surely aware that they will need to pack things such as socks, underwear, some basic eating utensils, computers, and cellphone chargers.
But some of the other items that experts say are must-haves for b-school students may catch some new students by surprise. Here are four of their recommendations:
1. Stationery: "A handwritten thank-you note is a low cost, high impact business tool, which will allow ... MBAs to stand out in a very positive way from their competition," says Jodi Smith, president and owner of Mannersmith Etiquette Consulting in Marblehead, Mass., and the author of The Etiquette Book: A Complete Guide to Modern Manners.
Having appropriate stationery and envelopes nearby is essential for MBA students, who will be meeting and networking with professors, recruiters, managers, and CEOs who come to campus as guest speakers, says Smith.
[Check out a packing list for college students, parents.]
A thank you note is not only "a token of appreciation in an increasingly entitled world," but it also underscores the writer's appreciation of "the importance of interpersonal skills and the appropriate behaviors for particular interactions," adds Smith, who has worked with the MBA programs at Harvard, MIT—Sloan, Dartmouth—Tuck, Cornell—Johnson, UPenn—Wharton, and UT Austin—McCombs.
2. Automatic PowerPoint remote: MBA students do a lot of public speaking, and if they don't already know their way around PowerPoint like the back of their hand, they soon will. One accessory incoming b-school students ought to arrive with on campus is an automatic remote that allows them to roam the room while delivering a talk with a slide show.
No one ever thinks to bring a slide remote, notes Stephen Charko, a Toronto-based consultant who holds an MBA from McMaster University in Ontario.
"But having it sets your presentation apart—now you do not have to stand behind the podium—and everyone becomes envious," he says. "It is also good for lending out and making new friends."
3. Professional attire: MBA students know that they will need to dress appropriately, but they might not realize how many outfits they will need, says Scott Shrum, director of admissions research at the consultancy Veritas Prep (which writes a medical school admissions blog for U.S. News).
Incoming b-school students should be sure to have multiple suits and dress shirts, so they can go for a week without going to the dry cleaner, according to Shrum.
"The job interviews won't start for first-year students as soon as class starts in the fall, but once they do, they will come in bunches, and can seem unrelenting," he says, noting that many tailors set up "trunk shows" at b-schools, which can be good places to get "relatively inexpensive and good quality business wear."
[Read 5 interview mistakes that MBA applicants should avoid.]
4. Laptop accessories: MBA students are sure to know that a laptop is a necessity, but they may not think to pack a couple of accessories, according to Shrum, of Veritas Prep.
Computers that have removable batteries—mostly PCs rather than Macs—are sure to be "limping along by the students' second year," says Shrum, which is why coming prepared with a second battery is vital.
And another critical accessory, Shrum says, is a laptop locking cable.
"Students don't need to lock their laptops in class, but if they're in the cafeteria or library, it is highly recommended," he says. "Laptops—and increasingly tablets and the like—get swiped on a surprisingly regular basis. Even on the nicest campuses in the best cities, you can practically set your watch to the reminder E-mails that business school administrators send to their students, starting with 'A reminder to secure your belongings in public spaces…'"
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