I am surrounded by amazing and brilliant people at the Haas School of Business. During class, I never cease to be amazed by how quick my classmates are, how well they understand the concepts, and how they are able to ask nuanced and substantial questions. Some of them are even able to sprinkle in cohort jokes, such as saying "I'm kind of a big deal" in a question to the professor. The sheer, humbling ability of my class mates made me start thinking about what it takes to be a Haas MBA and what prospective students should be doing today to get ready.
What makes my classmates so effective is that they aren't just smart, they are knowledgeable. If you want to be an MBA, start getting to know your industries and areas of interest. And I mean really get to know them. Knowing that Facebook is one of the hottest companies in the Bay Area isn't going to surprise anyone here but understanding how Facebook Credits works just might. Hint, it is going to be a billion dollar business. Knowing a lot about the areas you are truly interested in is going to show in your club activities, chats with class mates, and even your class discussions.
You are also going to want to be a fan of business in general, because you are going to be living and breathing this stuff for 20 months. Start reading the Economist, Wall Street Journal, and niche blogs dedicated to your areas of interest. Revel in the dynamics of business, learn more about business heroes like Warren Buffett, and come up with a list of companies you really respect. You should be comfortable commenting on vague or esoteric business questions because in a short amount of time, your boss is going to be looking to you for the answers.
The single most important thing you can do right now is to know yourself. When you get to the MBA program of your choice, you are going to be under a constant barrage of great opportunities. You will not have enough time to do even a fraction of them. So you need to figure out what your objectives are and how to fulfill them. Don't create a project plan for the next two years (I'm looking at you consultants). Instead be flexible and know your top 2 or 3 goals and how you want to meet them. If you know yourself, you're going to have a great time during your MBA and you'll come out ahead on the other side.
Brian Guenther also writes at his personal blog, www.digitalerudite.com, on topics ranging from technology to marketing. He can also be found on Twitter (@bguenther).