MBA School 101
What Happens in Business School Stays in Business School.
Business schools—and particularly top-tier business schools—are elite social clubs. You may not have come from a privileged background, but by the time you graduate you'll fit right in with Wall Street bigwigs and corporate titans. In fact, it will seem like you always belonged.
That transformation in self perception is the most fascinating part of MBA school—and it happens very quickly. By the end of your first semester you'll be well on your way.
At its core, business school is about perception. What's taught at top-tier programs differs very little from what's taught at less prestigious schools. The difference lies in how recruiters perceive students and how students perceive themselves. Recruiters believe that students who get into exceptional programs must be exceptional people. They must be smarter than other people, more capable, more valuable. That's why those students get paid so much more than do students from lesser programs. The great irony of the elite business school world is that the value it adds to a student's life comes not from any special skills taught by the university, but from simply being admitted to the school. Business school is about brand name, not curriculum.
In other words, I add more value to the careers of my students by helping them into Harvard, Stanford and Wharton than the universities do by actually educating them. Sad, but true.
B-School Social Scene
The business school social scene can be summarized in three words: Travel, Alcohol, Sex.
Travel: This is the area of social interaction that has changed the most over the last decade. Elite business schools have become exclusive travel clubs through which classmates tour exotic lands and compete for travel bragging rights. Sounds far fetched for a group of 20-somethings without any income, but the cost is often rolled into students loans. Many students tap their financial aid packages to finance weekend jaunts to Istanbul.
Alcohol: You'd think that by the time students start B-school at age 27 they'd be past the irresponsible drinking stage. I certainly thought they would, but I was wrong. More irresponsible drinking takes place in B-school than in undergrad institutions. It's shocking, but maybe it explains the third social activity.
Sex: Frankly, there should be a lot more sex in B-school than there was in the undergrad years. I'm happy to confirm that it's true. But given the rate of unplanned pregnancy among MBAs (much higher than at the undergrad level), it appears that four or five years in the "real world" has taught students very little about birth control. Way too many of my students are graduating from B-school with a baby in tow.
B-School Work Ethic
There came a point in time when business schools figured out that students were not happy unless they were worked very hard.
This is an important part of the elite b-school mystique. Students figure they must be special if they're being pushed so hard and are expected to survive.
Most of the hard work takes place in the first semester. After that, other priorities take over. Recruiters come to campus and start snooping around for "new meat." (That's what they call you behind your back.) In the second semester, the academic component of business school slows down and the recruitment portion takes off. You'll find yourself at receptions thrown by Bain, the Boston Consulting Group and Goldman Sachs. If you make it past the initial screening process you'll be invited to expensive dinners paid for by these firms. And if you make it past that stage you'll be flown out to company headquarters (or group headquarters), where you'll be interviewed by management for an internship position. The second semester is dominated by airplanes, not books.
All of this takes time, of course, and that means that school work has to take a back seat. After the first semester, your classroom work often slows significantly, as professors are forced to accommodate your time constraints.
And the pattern is usually repeated during the second year, though with slight variation. By that time, students have become much more savvy about both B-school and the recruitment process, and waste less time on both.
The current dynamic is distorted, of course, because of the recession, but as job offers increase we're starting to fall back into the usual pattern.
Business School Basics
More than 250,000 people take the GMAT annually .
There are 428 accredited graduate schools of
business in the U.S.
The Graduate Management Admissions Council
(GMAC) is the 'governing body' of business school.
I tried to buy the domain MBA.COM when it went up for auction, but those bastards at GMAC used your GMAT fees to outbid me!
The average GMAT score for all test takers worldwide is 539.
The average GMAT test taker takes the exam 1.4 times
MBA admissions is countercyclical; when the economy goes down, the number of MBA applicants goes up.
The GMAT is used by over 4,700 graduate management programs at more than 1,900 schools.