To commemorate the start of 2017, we’re revisiting a post from last year: The Five People You Meet in Business School. That article was a lighthearted look at some common MBA personas that our users encounter every day at business school, and it seemed to resonate with enough readers that we decided to do it again. What you’ll find below is a list of five more MBA personas intended to entertain and illuminate, a not-so-serious look at on-campus life at top MBA programs.
Of course, as we stated last year, each human (even if they are studying for their MBA) is unique and can’t be condensed into crude categorizations like those you’ll find below. The classes at top MBA programs are a diverse collection of extraordinarily talented and accomplished individuals, and one of the greatest values of the MBA degree is the opportunity it offers to become acquainted with your fellow students.
With that out of the way, here are five (more) people will definitely meet when you go to business school:
The Professor That Gets Mistaken For A Student
If you think getting into a top business school as a student is hard, try applying for a job as a professor. Just getting a Ph.D. requires something like 47 years of schooling, and that’s before you enter a job market with just a handful of open positions each year. Despite these obstacles (and a tenure system that encourages more “established” faculty to hold on to their jobs indefinitely), a few youngsters join the ranks as faculty at top MBA programs each year – just take a look at P&Q’s 40 under 40 list for some of the most impressive examples. This is generally good news for students, as recent Ph.D. recipients tend to be more relatable and more up-to-date on the latest research in their fields. But with hundreds of new faces arriving on campus each year in the form of incoming students, adding a baby-faced young instructor to the mix can be a little confusing for those trying to distinguish students from faculty. The lesson here: whether you’re a student in a different cohort, a member of the staff, or a fellow professor who doesn’t bother to keep track of their newer colleagues, it’s usually best not to assume too much about unfamiliar faces on campus.
- Casually mentions recently attended concerts during class to establish street cred
- Joins student pick-up basketball games at the gym, tries too hard
- Carries briefcase received as Ph.D. graduation present from parents
- Generally much better at teaching than many more senior professors
In 25 years:
- Best-case scenario: Dean That Gets Mistaken For A Student
- Most likely scenario: Professor That Gets Mistaken For A Student’s Parent
- Worst-case scenario: Professor That Gets Mistaken For A Student’s Grandparent
The Actual Adult
The easiest way to understand how social life works at many top MBA programs is to think of it like high school: gathering together a few hundred young people and having them interact directly on a daily basis produces a lot of the same social dynamics whether it’s in 11th grade or at Harvard Business School. And while most of your classmates will be notably more mature than the average high schooler, they will also have embraced adulthood with widely varying degrees of enthusiasm. With the average age range for full-time MBAs (27-28) matching up perfectly with the average age at first marriage (27 for women, 29 for men) in the United States, business school is also where plenty of students start to settle down. But a select few, the Actual Adults, will arrive on campus fully and completely settled down, an even-keeled, levelheaded model of adulthood.
- Married with at least one child; 75% chance of having additional child during business school
- Children are adorable and well-behaved and go to an award-winning daycare
- Has an album called “Engagement Photos” on their Facebook profile
In 25 years:
- Best-case scenario: Kids go to business school in building named for family
- Most likely scenario: Kids go to law school or medical school
- Worst-case scenario: Kids drop out of school to focus on auditioning for the 37th season of “The Voice”.
Class participation can be a significant determinant of academic success at a lot of top business schools, and some students take that obligation very seriously. There are certain piercing insights that simply cannot be kept private, and this student has those sorts of insights at least 2-3 times during each class. Typically a favorite of professors, who mistake rabid participation with genuine enthusiasm for their given focus areas, the over-talker often attracts the ire of their fellow students, but knows that most of the class is secretly relieved to have someone else do the talking.
- Just will not shut up sometimes
- Impervious to negative body language and other social cues from classmates
- Will win an academic award voted on by faculty
In 25 years:
- Best-case scenario: Best-selling author of how-to book on public speaking
- Most likely scenario: Local talk radio show host
- Worst-case scenario: In prison after literally talking someone to death
As the public face of the business school, the dean is first and foremost a politician. And like most politicians, the dean is polite and inoffensive and skilled at small talk. The dean appears in the lives of his or her constituents every year or so to give an inspiring (and highly scripted) public address, and spends the rest of his or her time asking wealthy people for money. The dean rarely teaches anymore, and when they do their only class is a 12-person reading seminar offered once every other year. The dean is a “thought leader”, which means they have a blog and use Twitter. The dean is very, very important.
- Smiles a little bit too much
- Claims not to be driven by rankings, constantly touts improvements in ranking during tenure
- Frequently uses words like “disruption” and “paradigm” and “innovation”
In 25 years:
- Best-case scenario: 25-time Poets & Quants Dean of the Year
- Most likely scenario: 1-time Poets & Quants Dean of the Year
- Worst-case scenario: 0-time Poets & Quants Dean of the Year
The Travel Junkie
MBAs tend to be a pretty-well traveled group, and you’re likely to meet classmates who have been all over the world. And with “international business” becoming more redundant by the year, there will be plenty of time for you to hear about these international experiences, both in and out of class. Moreover, business schools offer plenty of fresh opportunities for international travel throughout the two years of the typical full-time MBA program. For some of your classmates, travel is less a hobby than it is a lifestyle, and they will view these potential trips less as an elective and more as non-negotiable way to satisfy their wanderlust. Having already established their cosmopolitan status by conspicuously mentioning each and every one of their previous destinations during class discussion, the Travel Junkie wants you to know: they’ve been there, done that.
- Uses fair-trade backpack handmade by Peruvian orphans
- Always carries passport to be prepared for spontaneous international travel
- Joins all international student clubs
In 25 years:
- Best-case scenario: Nicolas Berggruen (AKA the Homeless Billionaire)
- Most likely scenario: Living and working abroad
- Worst-case scenario: Sitting in North Korean jail after ill-advised “backpacking” trip
Zach Mayo is the chief operating officer of Relish, an online platform that helps master’s-level business school students connect directly with corporate recruiters.