“Truisms” often deserve the designation because they’re so true. One of the most cliché truisms about MBA programs is that they are fantastic networking opportunities. Applicants may tire of hearing how great their classmates will be – and may even feel threatened by the idea.
When applying to business school, I encourage applicants should understand the positive implications of this truism, and actually take advantage of it.
I am graduating from a top-tier business school in May, and just have to marvel at the friends I’ve made in less than two years. Entrepreneurs focused on everything from urban air conditioning to bespoke suits for men. Family business operators coming from industries as diverse as Moroccan manure, Chinese bakeries, and Lebanese television. Olympic rowers, NHL defensemen, and Indian squash stars. And of course some of the more traditional business school students: sponsored Dutch strategy consultants and New York’s finest hedge fund analysts.
All told, I have met some of the most talented young people from over 50 countries, and learned more than I ever thought I would about cement, car insurance, microfinance in sub-Saharan Africa, and high-tech manufacturing, just to name a few of the more bizarre subjects. I know that in a moment’s notice over the next forty years of my career, I will be able to find a place to sleep in Bombay, Beijing, Lagos, or Zurich. And all told, these stories, these connections, these people have made the experience more than worth the cost of tuition at my school. Yes, folks – the truism is true.
So why does all this matter for applicants and business school admissions?
As this blog has repeated several times, an application is nothing more a story. A GMAT score is just one piece – albeit an important piece – of that story. Along these lines, think of admissions committees as anthologists. Their singular goal is to piece together the right collection of stories – borrowing from all different genres, locations, and characters. Compiling one thousand bankers would make for a boring story, despite their credentials, recommendations, and GMAT scores!
Knowing who applicants will meet at business school matters because MBA applicants must be a natural part of their incoming class “anthology.”
All too many applicants feel embarrassed for not having a brand name on their resume or a recommendation from a corporate director. From the outside, many incredibly interesting people balk at the idea of getting accepted to a marquee school because they aren’t coming from Goldman Sachs or BCG.