Should You Go to B School? Recap of 1st Yr at Wharton
tl;dr — if you are interested in strengthening your credentials and are not strapped for cash, definitely consider b school; especially so if you’re also interested in career switching, want a 2 yr acceptable vacay, or will actually take advantage of all the b school resources. I recommend applying to new jobs and b school at the same to get a sense of your self worth / needs (lol jk your self worth isn’t tied to your job…)
- 2 B School or Not 2 B School?
- Is is Worth It?? <<CLICK HERE>> MAYBE SAVE $250K
How it starts: Should I go?
A decision most yuppies contemplate (if even for 1 ms) at some point in their career. The idea usually starts when you’re in the depths of despair with your current job and see no way out. JK, I’m sure some of us are born wanting to go to business school (hellooooo 2+2??!). Actually, I have no clue how I got the idea since I was relatively happy at my last job. I think it started when I began to meet more leadership at Accenture and hear about their MBA experiences. I also started interviewing for roles outside of consulting focused on healthcare, and quite a few of my interviewers had graduated from the Health Care Management program at Wharton.
Expectations of b school: What I wrote in my essays
I literally went through my old essays to see what I thought I would be getting from an MBA:
- Gain business expertise and industry knowledge from professors and student-run events such as the Health Care Conference
- Build my professional network (actually this is a reason people go to b school that you’re NOT really allowed to put in essays, or it’s poo-pooed)
- Use the entrepreneurship resources to test startup hypotheses and build my own digital health company
And while the above points are true to a certain extent, they are certainly not the main tenets that made up my experience this past year.
What actually happened: Pros and cons
Biggest Benefits of School
- Side Projects: I worked with 2 digital health startups and 1 VC firm last school year. The experiences were invaluable in building my network and giving me experience that helped me land my dream summer internship.
- Job ops: For better or worse, thousands of companies post jobs on b school job boards. To get these roles previously, I would have had to network for months/years or joined the company in another role and worked for years to switch divisions.
- Freedom to explore: I never thought I would be a technical person, but after taking one CS class my first semester, I actually applied for a dual masters degree in CS with the engineering school. Whatever you’re interested in (machine learning, starting a company, etc.), you can go gung ho deep and really explore it.
Biggest Downside of School
- Stress & Group-think: NO ONE WARNED ME ABOUT THIS. They just said “oh, you’ll be so busy”. I guess busy can be stressful but, like, the pressure in your first few weeks to make friends, pick classes, pick recruiting tracks, semi-start recruiting, etc. made it hands-down the most stressful time in my life. And I feel like I usually deal with stress well. Since you’re so stressed, you start considering social decisions and career decisions you wouldn’t otherwise. Irrational thoughts like “Omg should I do banking???” or “I guess everyone applies to that company so I will too” run through your mind.
- Not real life: You’re putting your career and personal life somewhat on hold in business school.
- Entry level forever: Maybe you’re not the bottomest of the bottom, but most post-MBA roles are some type of entry level role. For some students with significant pre-MBA experience, they may risk a lower position from where they started or being managed by people way younger than them. Not a big deal if it’s your dream job, but something to consider if you care about that stuff.
How to make your decision
Ultimately, I think you can’t go wrong with b school if:
- You Want to Build Credentials: This post isn’t long enough to discuss the pros/cons and value of credentials (e.g., name-brand school / job). However, if credentials are something you value and you want to strengthen that aspect of your resume, then a top business school is a great way to do that.
- You Are Not Cash Strapped: A lot of the “cons” of business school are compounded if you are really pressed for cash. This may cause group think to kick in and stop you from pursuing your passions and ultimately getting the career that you originally wanted from b school. Note: it may still be worth applying (esp since schools usually give out a lot of random scholarship money).
AND ONE OF THESE APPLIES TO YOU:
- You Will Actually Use All the Resources: I’m a firm believer that if you MAXIMIZE and use all the resources that you can while you’re at school, the monetary value equals or exceeds the tuition. This is a BIG IF. Are you pounding the pavement with your .edu address to learn from industry professionals or alumni willing to talk to you that otherwise wouldn’t give you time of day? Are you involved in school and building strong relationships with classmates and faculty? Do you use one of the marquee resources (e.g., entrepreneurship resources are heavily invested in by the university and their ability to help you develop an idea may be equivalent to equity you would’ve given away otherwise. On the flip side, if you are someone that doesn’t value these experiences (which are hard to quantify), b school might not be right 4 u)
- You Want a 2-yr Acceptable / Productive Vacation: Totally acceptable to go to business school for this. It actually can help you be more productive because you’re less pressured by group-think if you have a more relaxed attitude towards school (maybe you have a return offer or think you have a pretty good chance of getting to your next career). People that go to school for this reason usually also have a pretty stable financial situation too which also helps you only focus on and develop things you want to focus on that may have lower immediate financial ROI (e.g., soft / leadership skills, pet hobbies, personal stuff).
- You Have A Specific Career Switch In Mind: I think you can make almost any career switch happen with appropriate networking. But if you have multiple barriers to your next dream job (e.g., network, credentials, and location switch), business school may be a faster way to get what you want instead of first switching geography, then industry, then switching roles within industry, etc. over the course of potentially many many years. Also, I know people think business school is for networkers, but actually I think students that aren’t great networkers benefit and learn a lot because a network is automatically built in.
What can help make the decision:
- Talk to a bunch of people in your same position 2–3 years previous. Those that did and didn’t go to b school and get their perspective.
- Apply to jobs at the same time as applying to school and see what you’re lacking / needing to get the job you want.
Obviously since I’m in b school, I’m horribly biased. Would love to hear your thoughts!