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B-School Life

An MBA Boot Camp, Without the Campers

An MBA Boot Camp, Without the Campers

Photograph by Grundy/Getty Images

For incoming MBA students who need to brush up on academics, or foreigners setting foot on American soil for the first time, a prep course can be invaluable.

Ivan Kerbel, a Wharton MBA grad and former director of career development at the Yale School of Management, hopes to bring together  incoming students from top business schools for an MBA boot camp called the MBA Summer Forum. The course, which can run as high as $4,500, prepares students for the academic rigors of the programs they’re about to start while giving them an opportunity to create an “elite MBA network,” he says.

In 2013, fewer than 50 students signed up—not the hundreds he was expecting—forcing Kerbel to scrap plans for the in-person course and replace it with an online “pilot program.”  The program was targeted to international students attending B-school on F-1 visas, which made it difficult for many to attend, said Kerbel, founder and CEO of Practice LLC, which runs the boot camp. The alternative was to get them a B-2 visitor’s visa, but that required more lead time.

“The time span between when students applied and were accepted to our program and the time required to secure B-2 visas was simply too short,” he said.

But Kerbel isn’t giving up. He hopes to offer  the in-person course at University of Washington in Seattle in July 2014.  The three-week course is broken down into three segments—academic, professional, and language and culture—and the cost (which includes housing and food) depends on how many segments you take: $2,500 for one, $3,500 for two, and $4,500 for all three.

For the academic portion of the program, students take online assessments to determine their skill levels, followed by coursework and a session with a coach to identify areas of weakness. Students also receive help developing career goals and understanding the American system of recruiting. For example, students learn about what networking is and the appropriate behavior when meeting with executives, says Kerbel. International students also learn about the basics of living in the United States, such as how to use a laundry machine.

At least one student says the program was appealing because it could give foreigners an edge in a highly competitive job hunt. Nivriti Jaie, an Indian, will be stepping on U.S. soil for the first time to attend the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management in the fall. She has been working for an American multinational and wants to learn more about the American approach to management. She knows she’ll have lots of competition when she arrives on campus in the fall if she wants to land an internship, and thinks the course will help.

“I realize that my actions for internship recruiting will have to start within the first month of setting foot on campus, leaving me with a very short ramp-up period,” she says. “The [boot camp's] career development and pre-MBA academic preparation options came as a solution to most of my worries.”

Join the discussion on the Bloomberg Businessweek Business School Forum, visit us on Facebook, and follow @BWbschools on Twitter.

Di Meglio is a reporter for in Fort Lee, N.J.

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