What Business School Is Really Like

Harvard Business School

Harvard Business School

Sparsh Agarwal / Harvard Business School

Sparsh Agarwal, worked at JPMorgan, Microsoft, and Bing.com before being accepted at Harvard Business School. And his experience was very similar to that of OpsDude. In his latest Linkedin column, Agarwal summarizes his biggest lessons after a semester at Harvard.

Like many, Agarwal learned the value of time management. He too experienced feeling overwhelmed from the start, stretching himself thin as he attempted to immerse himself in everything. “However,” he adds, “it did not take me long to realize that I did not and in fact could not do everything that b-school has to offer. One thing you can be sure of is that you will never be short of options and might also experience a healthy dose of FOMO [Fear of Missing Out].” Academics were also less stressful once he understood that most students earned the average grade (“and no one will bother to ask” about their grades). As a result, he declares, “you study because you want to.”

Agarwal also confesses that he underestimated his learning curve. “I would spend a good hour or two each day reading various tech blogs and news. This gave me a somewhat false confidence that I understood the intricacies of business, at least when it comes to technology. Within my first month at HBS, I regretted not having done the much popular business minor in undergrad. Everything seemed new and if I can admit, difficult — Financial Reporting and Control (FRC), Finance, Operations etc.” Once he found  his stride, Agarwal, like most first-years, thrived. “Even though it’s been a short 4 months, I feel I have a new vocabulary to analyze businesses and potential opportunities.”

Sparsh Agarwal

Sparsh Agarwal

At the same time, he admits to being intimidated by his cohort of “93 incredibly bright peers” who were experts in fields where he wasn’t. But that quickly turned into a real benefit. “While no doubt, HBS is full of type A personalities,” Agarwal writes, “I am pleasantly surprised with how collaborative and friendly most people are, especially within the section experience…Within a few short months, Section H has become like an extended family for me and I have no doubt that most of these are friendships that will last a lifetime.”

Masterz57 / Cornell Johnson School of Management

Inspired by OpsDude, a second year Cornell Johnson student named Masterz57 chimed in on his experiences at Cornell for Wall Street Oasis. Originally a consultant, Masterz57 was looking to break into corporate strategy. However, the firms he targeted required an MBA.

While Mastersz57 never explains what drew him to Cornell, he immediately points out the pluses and minuses of living in Ithaca, New York. In the winter, it gets cold (think “-5 with wind chill”) and its location can be a downside (“it’s in the middle of nowhere”). He adds, however, that the city has great restaurants and transportation, and is only a four hour drive from New York City. Even more, the small town atmosphere is conducive to building deeper relationships with his peers.

“For better or worse,” he writes, “all of us are trapped here in Ithaca most of the time. We all have class in the same building and we all go to (mostly) the same bars. Because of this, I know each of my 275 classmates well enough to stop and have a conversation with them. By the end of your time here, unless you are a hermit, you will know every one of your classmates at least well enough to say hi. I view this as a major advantage of Johnson and it spreads to the alumni as well.”

He also regards the student body as “collaborative,” “extremely friendly,” and “not super competitive,” even pointing out that “those who are haughty/stand-offish have actually been publicly called out on it.” While Cornell is an Ivy League program, he points out that only 10% of the program’s feeders were Ivies.

Despite seemingly being cut off from the rest of the world, the campus maintains a thriving social life in Masterz57’s view. “We’re b-school students, and drinking is definitely up there on the agenda items for us. Given that we share Ithaca with Cornell undergrads, most bars are some mix of ugrad/grad students…There are also a lot of other grad schools to mix with, and we spend a decent amount of time with Law and Vet School students…there are always events of some sort going on.”

A mild surprise? Grades matter at Cornell, at least for consulting and investment banking, says Masterz57. After completing their core courses, first years spend spring semester in immersion, a semester focused on one specialization like marketing or corporate finance. However, the second year is spent on electives. In particular, Masterz57 appreciates that he can take a fourth of his credits from other Cornell schools. “Cornell is the biggest Ivy League university,” he writes, “and it shows in the amazing variety of courses you can take at places like the Hotel School, Industrial & Labor Relations, Urban Planning, Law, or a million other disciplines.”

“Whatever you’re interests are outside of b-school, you can find a class here to pursue it.”


Sources: Linkedin, Wall Street Oasis (Kellogg), Wall Street Oasis (Cornell)

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