Biggest Myths About Your Favorite MBA Programs

In ancient times, myths were shared around a fire. They acted as a means to decipher the complex and mysterious. They also served as warnings for those who might flout cultural norms or question social structures. Alas, myths weren’t an overly reliable means to transmit knowledge. Over time, they would exaggerate or simplify the event or epiphany that sparked them.

Modern myths work the same way. In bringing people together, myths naturally idealize or vilify their subjects, eschewing nuance and rigor in equal measure. This dynamic often plays out in business school. Here, every common bias or generation-old impression seemingly becomes enshrined as fact. At the same time, the fire has been replaced by the message board, where peers trot out gut feelings as fact and experience.

By now, you’ve encountered some of the biggest myths. Ever hear that Columbia Business School is a “finance school”? Well, the percentage of finance hires there has fallen from 55% to 32% over the past decade. Of course, New Hampshire must be too far out of the way to draw recruiters, right? You won’t hear Tuck grads complaining. Their $157,821 average starting pay tops Chicago Booth, Northwestern Kellogg, and Columbia (among others). If you attend a state school, it is bound to be labeled as Party U, right? Well, the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan has been slapped with that tag, and even if true, it isn’t slowing them down: Michigan’s B-school is ranked in the top 10 in P&Q‘s 2018 composite ranking.


Does it hold up? That depends how you define a good time, says Nathan Stevens, a McKinsey hire and a member of Poets&Quants’ 2019 Best & Brightest MBAs. “The students and administration at Ross Michigan spend a huge amount of time and resources creating a strong community that illustrates the uniqueness of our classmates and pushes individuals to try new things,” he explains. “We have a good time because all the awesome events – from Diwali to Story Lab to MBgAy – are so anticipated, supported, and attended.”

Some myths may simply be misconceptions. At Stanford GSB, outsiders often assume the student body is comprised entirely of tech entrepreneurs, says John Ettinger. That perception is not entirely wrong. “We’ve done an admirable job weaning ourselves off of our Blockchain addiction,” he jokes. In the case of the University of Virginia’s Darden School, the myth about the school’s academic intensity – “the House Ravenclaw among MBA programs” – isn’t necessarily bad notes Allison Shimamoto, who is ticketed to BCG.

“Darden’s program is challenging, but it teaches you to synthesize what you’ve learned in various subjects, and apply them together to make more holistic and informed business decisions at a macro level. It also awards such a feeling of accomplishment when you complete the core!”

Each year – as part of the nomination process for “Best & Brightest MBAs” and “MBAs To Watch” – P&Q asks top business students to share the biggest myths about their program…and debunk them. From Chicago Booth’s nerds to UCLA Anderson’s beach bums, here are the myths that don’t pass real scrutiny say the MBA Class of 2019.

Myth: It is hard to get to know classmates at Wharton

Reality: With a class size of 850+ students, it’s easy to assume that Wharton is a big school with big events and a big social culture, which may make it harder to know classmates more intimately. My experience at Wharton has been the polar opposite. Starting as early as Welcome Weekend, Wharton hosts and encourages get-togethers, dinners, and social events in smaller groups of 6-8 classmates. In these settings, it’s far easier to stretch beyond one’s social comfort zone and befriend a wide variety of classmates. I have found the small group social events to be as frequent (and, many times, far more meaningful) as the larger, all-school functions. Moreover, I’m hugely appreciative that Wharton offers incredibly fun social events on both ends of the gregariousness spectrum.

Jibran Khan

We’re not all geeks and the culture is one that overvalues the academic component of business school. Now, I’m not saying we are going to win a social battle across the business schools. However, I was pleasantly surprised to find that academics, while an aspect of my business school experience, were just that, only a part of it. I’ve made great friends that I will know for years to come and have enjoyed learning so much from my classmates. The camaraderie, support, and good times that I have experienced have far surpassed my expectations.

Kaitlyn Desai

Myth: There isn’t much to do at Cornell or Ithaca.

Reality: If anything, there is too much to do during the MBA experience. Also, Ithaca is a self-sustaining, vibrant community. With Ithaca’s youngest-ever mayor (himself a Cornell alumnus) assuming office at the age of 25, the city is full of youthful energy—there are numerous events and activities happening all over. From live music series to apple festivals, I was pleasantly surprised over the summer to find that Ithaca thrives independently from the Cornell community.

Christina Chan

Myth: You’ll get lost in the crowd at Arizona State

Reality: While it is true that ASU has over 70,000 students, our full-time MBA program is relatively small, and we very much embody our motto “Where business is personal.” With a class size of roughly one hundred students, we quickly got to know each other at an individual level and continue to have great relationships outside of the classroom. My favorite activity is our weekly karaoke at the campus dive bar. On a typical Thursday night, you’ll find a group of 25+ MBAs belting out some classics!

Caitlin Styres

Myth: There isn’t much community at NYU Stern due to our location in New York City.

Reality: In actuality, this was most likely the furthest thing from the truth.  Within the walls of Stern, I have found an incredibly close-knit family where my peers are constantly each other’s biggest advocates. If anything, being in NYC has made each of us that much more aware of how much we want to develop the network at Stern and to ensure that we are making the most of our MBA experience. This incredible community is supplemented with everything that NYC has to offer and ensures that our days are never boring or repetitive.

Andrew Kwan

Fordham Gabelli School of Business Logo

Myth: You have to go to the Bronx to study at Fordham.

Reality: While we do have a beautiful campus in the Bronx, the Gabelli Graduate School is located in Manhattan near Lincoln Center. Being centrally located is extremely advantageous in comparison to other MBA programs, especially during the recruiting cycle for most firms.

Douglas J. Quimby, Jr.

Myth: Cambridge is pretentious and full of outdated rules.

Reality: While certain aspects of the school may be focused on traditions (such as the requirement to wear gowns at formals and to say a prayer in Latin before we may be seated to dine), most other aspects are inviting and encouraging for innovation. The school has so many ways for building relationships and networks that most MBAs have given up on having much downtime. Soon after arrival, you will be invited to so many interesting events such as seminars, debates, talks, socials, wine tastings, and more than you would wish for more time in a day. The cross-pollination of ideas at all these events ends up making the historic institution highly innovative because you’ll meet people from all fields of research.

Nana Mohan Zhou

Myth: IE is only known for entrepreneurship.

Reality: While the startup culture pervades every aspect of IE, I think that finance and technology could also be considered its strengths. We have a great M&A competition and a strong finance club, as well as a multitude of tech clubs, a university-wide tech conference, and proximity to Madrid’s tech ecosystem.

Alissa Warne


Go to next page for the biggest myths about the University of Chicago Booth, Yale SOM, Dartmouth Tuck, and INSEAD.

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