What’s in a 1st Year’s MBA Backpack?

I have come to the end of my first year as an MBA student at The University of Arizona and it has been a fun, exciting and at the same time challenging adventure. As a 2nd year MBA, I’ve had the pleasure to welcome some of the great MBA students who will be next year’s 1st year MBA’s. As a welcome gift, this post will be dedicated to you the incoming class at Eller MBA.

When I was first accepted to The University of Arizona Eller MBA, I remember searching the Internet looking for information on how to “survive the first year.” I don’t recall someone showing the actual contents of their backpack. Below, I will share with you the actual contents of my backpack during my first semester. My goal in sharing this information is to introduce you to the tools you will need for the MBA program and by learning this information early will help you be better prepared.

Survival Kit

Above is the contents of my backpack during my first semester as an Eller MBA student. Below I share with you details about each item. Click here to see an enlarged picture.

1. Laptop – A laptop with Microsoft Office is a necessity for a 1st year MBA. I use an Dell Latitude equipped with 2 batteries which will last about 7 hours. Laptops are allowed during many classes and a necessity for research and writing reports. Most students use a PC based laptop. In our class, there are several Apple users and they were able to do just as much as the PC users except for the Statistics course when advance features of Excel were required. However, I think those users were able to find a work around for this problem.

2. Name Plate – Eller MBA will give you a name plate to use during class. Most professors will require the use of the name plate. I recommend get in the habit of setting up the name plate as you enter class. The professors and your new fellow students will appreciate learning your name as you will appreciate learning theirs.

You will also get a name badge for wearing on your jacket or shirt to events. Keep this name badge in your backpack at all times because you will find yourself needing it often. I recommend you wear your name badge on the same side you shake hands. This will help the person shaking your hand to quickly see your name and avoid the awkward obvious glance to the other side.

3. Laptop Power Cable – A necessity in order to keep your laptop fully charged. I would recommend labeling your power cord with your name and phone number because many people have similar power supplies. Many of your classrooms will be equipped with power for each student.

4. USB Drive – Often you will need to give someone a file bigger than email will handle or you will need to make a presentation from the computer in the classrooms. A USB drive will come in handy for these moments.

5. Business Communications Books – Business Communications was one of my favorite courses (I will actually be the Graduate Assistant next year for this course and I look forward to working with each of you from the incoming class.) These books will be used during that course and will help you learn the skills necessary to communicate professionally.

6. Bottle Water and Snack – Classes will last from 2 hours to 3 hours and will often be 2 in a row. In your first semester, it is not uncommon to be at school from 7am until midnight. Having water and a snack will become a necessity. (I often carried my lunch which isn’t pictured here. I recommend a nice insulated type cooler with a freezer pack to keep your food fresh all day. Click here to see an example of an insulated cooler.)

7. MBA Directory (aka Face Book) – When I first was accepted to the MBA program, there was emails about scheduling photos for the face book. I actually thought admissions was referring to facebook.com and even created a facebook.com account. Click here to connect with me on facebook.com. Having a facebook.com account actually became essential because I learned a lot about my classmates and the chat feature comes in nice during class and while doing homework. But know that Eller MBA was actually referring to what is called an MBA Directory (nicknamed face book) which details information about your fellow students. I recommend keeping this face book with you at all times to help familiarize yourself with your classmates.

8. Sturdy Backpack – As you can see, your backpack will hold a lot of stuff. Be sure to get one large enough to hold all this stuff as well as protect your laptop.

9. Three Ring Binders – You see that I have three “3 inch” binders to hold my class handouts. I also carry a 1 inch binder with me which helps lighten the load. Several professors will handout notes and exercises during class. These notes are important because they are the equivalent to a textbook. Be sure to have 3 ring binders to hold and tabs to organize these handouts to make it easy for you to find when you need them.

10. Text Books – Unfortunately, MBA programs still use paper-based text books and many are expensive (why not digital based textbooks I don’t know). If the professor states a textbook is required, then be sure to get it. If you can order your textbooks online prior to class starting, you will be financially better off. You will learn that campus bookstores are a monopoly (you will learn more about monopolies in economics) and their prices are often much higher than competitive online bookstores such as amazon.com.

11. Mobile Phone – Having a reliable mobile phone is a must. I recommend a mobile phone with email, calendar and contacts because these will help you keep track of your schedule as well as be able to communicate with fellow classmates. I was surprised how many of my classmates don’t use text messaging but it is handy for communicating. I use a Treo 700w from Sprint but will be possibly upgrading to the iPhone from AT&T.

12. Sunglasses – Sunglasses in Arizona are a must. The sun here is beautiful but bright!

13. Thin Wallet – I use the Big Skinny wallet for keeping my student ID, money and pictures of my daughter. I like it because it is thin and doesn’t take much room. Click here to order one from Amazon.com.

Good luck in your first year as an Eller MBA and I look forward to seeing you on campus.

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  • Good stuff…. Heading to MBA school next year ans this blog was exactly what i was looking for!

  • Sometimes I really wish blogs had “like” butonts–because sometimes I don’t really have anything meaningful to say except that the post put a smile on my face. 🙂

  • Thanks Micky. I found this by searching for “things I wish I knew before starting my MBA”. Your post is unlike anything else I’ve found. =)

  • Nunchucks. Never got a chance to use ’em though. Oh, and hand sanitizer. Gotta stay healthy for those MONTHLY midterms/finals!

  • I found as the semester went on a good eraser to go with my pencil became key in our classes requiring math calculations. The University will supply you with a magnetic small name tag to wear on your garmets, keeping it in my backpack made it very easy to snap on for campus recruiting events. Many of us carried a wireless mouse for our laptops.

  • Caffeine, Headphones, and Business Cards

    Don’t forget Caffeine and Energy Drinks or Bars! Late nights will test your mind and body. Its best to have a few to stay alert during class. A small set of portable headphones also helps if you are at a computer lab and want to listen to an online lecture or just some music. If you are looking for an internship or job, you might want to carry your business cards with you too.

    Also, I agree with everything above except the laptop and financial calculator. I actually recommend not having a laptop because this might distract you from important information being brought up in class, … but its up to the individual student. A simple notebook will work for most applications. Plus, laptops are heavy. As for the financial calculator, It takes longer to learn the formulas on the financial calculator than it does to just do them by hand. The calculations are easy and the financial calculator is a one time use. Save the $80 and memorize the simple present value and future value formulas.

  • Good job, Micky. I hoped someone had told me the same thing before I came here last year. By the way, I suggest people who don’t have a financial calculator buy one. Otherwise, you have to calculate by hands in many classes (Finance, accounting…etc).

  • Great job, Micky! That looks very sharp. It may be too obvious to note in your blog, but the rooms are often very cold at Eller and sometimes it’s necessary to have a light jacket or sweatshirt for class even though it is hot outside.

  • Vishwanath

    Very useful post! I’m going to be attending the fulltime program this fall, looking forward to meeting you!!!

  • As far as laptops go:

    Don’t go out and buy a new one just to conform to whatever specs Eller recommends. Anything that can run Office, browse the internet during class (mute your speakers), and has decent battery life will be fine. There are plenty of AC adapters in the classrooms you’ll use. I’m still using a Thinkpad from 2004.

    As far as software goes:

    You will have access to several free Microsoft software packages (including OS’s, Project, Visio, SQL Server, Sharepoint, etc) through Eller’s partnership with MSFT.

    Pretty much the only piece of software you will need to grab is Office 07, which can be bought for cheap from http://www.theultimatesteal.com