Pay to Play in Business School

Business School is not just about the degree but about the experience, which means students shell out tens of thousands of dollars above and beyond tuition, whether they have the money or not. Are the extracurricular activities worth going (further) into debt for?

In many M.B.A. programs, lifestyle experiences are gaining on academic ones in importance, as seen in much busier evening and weekend schedules of bars, parties and trips, says Jeremy Shinewald, founder of mbaMission, an M.B.A. admissions consulting firm based in New York. “My father went to business school a generation ago as a married 25-year-old, and I can assure you he has no stories of jetting off to Vegas for the weekend,” says Mr. Shinewald, who is 38.

The trips usually aren’t free, often adding a shadow budget to an already expensive M.B.A. “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,” says Mr. Shinewald, whose firm works with M.B.A. applicants. At the high end, $20,000 to $30,000 for two years is not uncommon, he says.

Some of the trips are vacations, excuses sponsored by Rolex for the rich, or proto-rich, to have fun. Still, even those are bonding-experiences; those trips, and the others that are more straightforwardly career-oriented, alike help students network with each other and with future employers. So plenty of students suck up the costs, thinking of them as an “investment.”

In 2003, Mr. Caballero, then a second-year student at the Sloan School of Management at M.I.T., received internship offers from Intel and Cisco Systems after leading a career trek to Silicon Valley. “I got interviews at firms, and I certainly feel more comfortable reaching out to the people I went on the career trek with for favors than the average classmate,” says Mr. Caballero, 36, now vice president for programming at the nonprofit Venture for America, based in New York.

Did you try B-school? Was this your experience? Or is it emblematic of why you’d rather get Rubella than an MBA?



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