Smart Questions To Ask MBA Alumni


Is Travel the New Networking in B-school?

$100,000 for tuition? Check. $50,000 for food and living expenses? Check. $15,000 for travel expenses?

Say what?

Ah, yes. You’re bound to forget a major expense when formulating your B-school budget. These days, travel is becoming as much part of the MBA experience as beer and case studies.

That shouldn’t be a surprise. For many, networking is just as important as academics in business school. But the travel – namely the type, amount, and cost of travel – has changed. As Stanford Professor Jeffrey Pfeffer observes, “The social aspects of business school have become more prominent over the last decade — there is no doubt about that, Students go to Vegas and take over a Southwest Airlines plane, they go to the Sundance movie festival, and some of them rent houses on Lake Tahoe.”

And that makes for some pretty hefty expenses, according to Jeremy Shinewald, founder of admissions consulting firm MBA Mission. “I would say that $5,000 total for two years is a low-to-moderate budget but is one that would still allow a student to experience significant social and academic travel opportunities.” He added that students can spend up to $30,000 on the high end as well.

For many, travel is an investment. Take Harvard’s Tech Media Club, for example. In January, the club sponsored a trip for 200 students to visit the Bay Area to learn about the tech industry. Here, they visited over 90 companies according to The New York Times, including Google and Facebook (along with a series of venture capital firms). According to Jinal Surti, a second year who helped organize the trip, some students eventually came away from the event with interviews and job offers. As Ming Min Hui, a Harvard first year, notes, “An M.B.A. is very different from a law or medical degree; the M.B.A. is designed for networking reasons.”

However, these trips are about more than jobs (or entertainment). For example, Samantha Joseph, a Sloan  alum, traveled to nine countries during her schooling, funding her sojourns by working as a teaching assistant. Joseph, who now oversees corporate responsibility and sustainability at Iron Mountain, believes travel gives students a broader perspective than they’d otherwise gain from reading and collaborating on projects. “If you want to be a global leader in any industry, it’s important to see how the business world works and runs in other countries.”

Whether trips are school-sponsored (or involve academic credits), they also forge bonds between students. At Kellogg, for example, first years can participate in week-long trips before they even set foot on campus. As a result, they have a built-in set of friends once classes begin (at a price tag of $2,100-$3,600, mind you).

Despite the extra expenses, business school students are uniquely positioned to take advantage of these excursions, according to The New York Times:

“As opposed to students in law or medical school, many enter business school with previous work experience in lucrative fields and may have substantial savings. Some M.B.A. candidates are in school on the dime of their companies, and have agreed to return to work in exchange for their tuition. Others come from very wealthy families and have trust funds.”

However, not all students see the benefit of racking up travel expenses on their MasterCards. At the University of Texas’ McCombs School of Business, Sean Pool decided to opt out of a ski trip to Utah, which would’ve added $1,000 or more to his debt. Despite missing the good times, he doesn’t regret his decision. “Networking is great, but it’s not the No. 1 reason to come to business school,” Pool tells The New York Times. “And if you are spending a lot of time, money, or resources doing it, you are probably doing it all wrong.”

Pool was true to his word, focusing instead on building relationships with potential employers. He starts an internship with an investment bank this summer.

Don’t Miss: Pre-MBA Traveling

Source: New York Times