Accounting Help for Non-Traditional MBA Students

by   |  July 15, 2014
Accounting Help for Non-Traditional MBA Students

These (mostly) free accounting resources are extremely helpful for MBA students who have never taken accounting before.

Accounting can be one of the most painful MBA subjects for non-traditional MBA candidates, or those who have had limited or no exposure to accounting. As a non-traditional applicant myself, I have had to learn accounting prior to starting business school.

I have some great resources that would be helpful to share with others like me. I have provided links below to these in addition to my accounting notes, which you can access here.

Read The Ten Day MBA

This extremely helpful book is well-written and gives a great overview of all the subjects covered in MBA school, including accounting.   Author Steven Silbiger does a great job of explaining things in plain English rather than “accountant speak”.   I recommend reading the chapter on accounting before and after checking out other resources.

I began my accounting studies with this chapter.   It helped me gain a big-picture view of what accounting is all about.   I reviewed the chapter after finishing an online accounting course and it helped to fill in all the holes of said course.

Take a Pre-Matriculate Accounting Class

All the resources listed below are best taken as supplements to some kind of pre-matriculate accounting class. As MBA programs are embracing diversity of background in their applicants, they realize that many qualified applicants will not have had previous exposure to accounting. As such an increasing number of said programs are offering pre-matriculate accounting classes to incoming MBA students.

See if your school offers some kind of accounting class for non-traditional MBA students. UVA Darden offers an online course as well as a three-day on-grounds accounting intensive, both of which I am taking advantage.

Harvard Online Publishing offers an accounting class that some MBA programs require their students to take prior to starting business school.

Check with your school and see what they offer or recommend.

Take Wharton’s Introduction to Financial Accounting Class on Coursera

This free online course is a great supplement or replacement if your school doesn’t offer a pre-MBA accounting class. The disadvantage of this course is that it isn’t accessible on demand. It’s only offered at certain times that may not work with your schedule. For this reason, I have not taken this course, despite my desire and intention to do so.

Scour through Accounting Coach

Accounting is perhaps the most helpful free accounting resource out there.   This free website offers fantastic teaching and review of accounting principles. You can learn new material, take quizzes, and even fill out crossword puzzles to test your knowledge of accounting.

Visit the Khan Academy Accounting and Financial Statements Page

This arsenal of free educational videos devotes a brief section to accounting and financial statements. The section is a good resource for grasping the basics of accounting and for visualizing a few concepts that can be confusing for many students.

Khan Academy videos in general are more entertaining than most others you will find on dry subjects like accounting. You can take short quizzes and answer as many 5-question increments as you like. It’s fun because you earn points as you get correct answers. The accompanying congratulatory animations make you feel special.

Another benefit of Khan Academy’s approach is that it tracks your progress to an extent. If there are certain types of questions you get wrong, the program will recommend you review those points.   You can do practice questions around those weak areas to help you improve.

Read Investing Reports

If you have a financial advisor or if you do trading on your own, you should receive financial reports in the mail at least twice a year. I invest with Vanguard, Invesco and the Neilson Financial Group, and receive these reports regularly.

Take some time to read through these investing reports. Among the various graphs, charts and tables, you’ll find comparative balance sheets and cash flow statements. Read these and identify the different parts as if they were exercises for an accounting homework assignment.

Read Your Favorite Company’s Reports

It stands to reason that in order to understand theory, you need to attach it to some real-world application. Corporate websites are a great way for accounting students to do just that.

Every public company issues its financial statements on the corporate website. These are invaluable sources of information for investors and struggling accounting students alike.

Visit the websites of your favorite companies and have a heyday reading their financial reports. See what connections you can make from your boring accounting class to the exciting real world.

Compare Notes with Friends

If you have friends who have kept their accounting notes, you should absolutely take a look at them. It’s quite possible that they explain a term or concept in a new way that helps you grasp it better.

Sometimes professional types who write accounting courses aren’t the best at explaining concepts in plain English. Students who have had to learn from the ground-up are often keys to unlocking meaning behind the jargon.

You can access my accounting notes here.

More on: Business, MBA, Strategies
About the Author:

Mimi West is a consummate entrepreneur, brand and marketing expert. This retired opera singer and Founder of My Dream Teacher is now pursuing her MBA at the University of Virginia Darden School of Business Administration. You can follower her on Twitter: @MimiGuynnWest.
Publshed: July 15, 2014  | 
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