Why Business School?

Last week I was hanging outside on a bench, getting some work done and enjoying another beautiful day on campus. As the day wore on, I was approached by a stranger as I was starting to pack up my things.

“Hey – do you go to school here?”
“I’m a prospective student, and I just wanted to know….why did you come here? I know it’s a great business school, but what drew you besides that?”

It was a good question, and I appreciated his guts to walk up to a random person on campus to quiz them about their life choices.

Over the past year, a lot of friends and friends of friends have asked my why I went to bschool. It’s a question that weighs heavily on a lot of people’s minds, especially as they get 3-5 years of work experience and start thinking if the opportunity cost of 2 years in school is worth it.

I looked back at the stranger, and related that a year ago I wasn’t 100% sure about bschool, or HBS. I want to start a company, and there is no MBA required for that. I went to undergrad business school, and have been interested in this stuff pretty much forever (I started investing in stocks when I was 11). So, it was unclear what I’d learn in the classroom…I also found myself talking about HBS’s insane track record of developing CEOs and entrepreneurs, the great people you’ll meet, and the power of the brand.

When people ask me if they should attend business school, the answer usually comes down to this: If you want to live your life around happiness, then you should go. People told me it’d be the best 2 years of my life. I didn’t really believe them, but it’s been pretty darn close so far. The people are great, classes are fun (and I hate school, generally speaking), and you get unparalleled opportunities to interact with people who are running companies, top investors, etc – every day of the week and in small group settings.

This is not to mention the people you get to spend time with in and out of class. I remember pinching myself one day last year when I realized I’d worked out with two Navy SEALS in the morning, and negotiated against two people who’d won the national championship in debate that same afternoon. The resumes are impressive, but the character of the people and insanely friendly atmosphere make it just plain fun. When I came back from my summer internship this fall, I’d forgotten how warm and fuzzy being on campus makes you feel – it’s just awesome (and yes, I’ve clearly had a bit of the cool-aid here).

So, happiness is at an all time high (which is what I think we should all be optimizing our lives around anyways). And, if you’re in the majority, b school will have a positive ROI for your career as well – with very few exceptions. Not too shabby.

I’m not sure if the stranger internalized what I said or not. I respected his lack of satisfaction with the mean salaries, GMAT scores, and rankings that you can find on the internet. I appreciated his desire to dig deeper, and hope he found what he was looking for.