1. Begin exploring programs at various schools.
Business schools differ greatly. Points of difference are found in teaching approaches and concentrations offered. Some offer only general preparation while others have specific programs in areas, such as international management, accounting, or hospital administration. The Internet offers extensive information.
2. Begin thinking about preparing for the GMAT.
The best piece of advice I can give about the GMAT is prepare for it. Some students choose to study individually; others in a group; others in courses offered. It is a personal decision about the best approach, but the idea is that some study is a must. The time to take the GMAT is in the spring or summer after the junior year or in the fall of the senior year if applying to schools during the senior year. Otherwise, some thought should be given to taking the test before leaving Duke or soon after graduation since most schools will accept scores as long as they are reported, usually for five years. One advantage to taking the GMAT before leaving Duke is that you will still be in "student mode" and perhaps feel less anxiety about the GMAT than a student who has been away from the classroom for a couple of years..
3. Identify professors you may ask for recommendations.
If applying to business school directly or shortly after college, an academic recommendation may be necessary. It is important to have professors get to know you so that they can speak to your academic and intellectual promise as a graduate student in business. Try to arrange opportunities so that they may get to know you better. After work experience, only one - if any - recommendation from a professor may be required. Ask about the Appraisal/Recommendation Service offered by the Graduate Business School Advisor, especially in cases where professors may be retiring or leaving Duke for elsewhere.
4. Search for a summer work experience that will help you discover career alternatives and gain insight into the world of management.
The Career Center is a good place to begin. Also, check campus bulletin boards, ask professors, and follow leads from outside campus. A bit of initiative leads to untold possibilities. The Ventures Program offered during the school year (through the Career Center) is another way to test career options.
5. Register for courses that will provide a background for graduate business school.
Specifically, courses in basic accounting, computer science, microeconomics, mathematics, and statistics are essentials. Others in public speaking, logic, composition, management sciences, and foreign language will prove beneficial. Inquire about special options and the Markets and Management Studies Certificate in the Department of Sociology.