MBA Students: types and personalities

It's been more than two years since I graduated from the University of Michigan with an MBA degree. Since then, I had a chance to live and work in North Carolina, New Jersey and finally return to New York, NY. Over the course of this journey, I met a lot of peers bearing the same degree: from the places ranging from the University of Iowa to the University of Pennsylvania and Harvard. Because business schools, in general, seek out people with similar backgrounds and goals, it becomes relatively easy to range all of them and put into buckets. If you are easily harassed and/or think that all people, races, skin colors, citizenships and pedigrees in this country are created equal, this is a good place to start dispelling the myths.

Chinese/Indian folks that need to stay here

After being in the top 1% of their respective class (BA in Engineering or Computer Science), they were hired to the local office of Barclays or Goldman Sachs or Tata Consultancy Services (for Chinese folks it will be HSBC or China International Capital Corp.) and worked their asses off to make it to the US. Indians are never shy to express their opinions during seminars and do it with an excessive amount of confidence, which should be geared towards working on reducing the accent (it's not a secret that white middle-aged managers who often come on campus to conduct interviews are sick of hearing never-ending soft Ls and the 'vee' instead of the 'w' sound). Chinese are usually much quieter, work together on individual home assignments and never close WeChat on their smartphones.
Unless these students are really smart or have connections that JP Morgan can potentially leverage, they often end up in not-that-sexy corporations (example: Discover, Sears, Microsoft) that tend to apply for H1b visas (it's not clear if the current president will change things), move to the suburbs bringing as many family members as possible and start hitting the olfactory nerves of the neighbors with curry or pig's ears.

White from the Midwest

They went to a second-tier school (Kentucky, Kansas, Arizona, Emory), did well academically, played sports and finally were hired by a Big4 company. Obviously, they played varsity football and acknowledged that this sport taught them discipline. Usually, they don't go any further than Chicago (I like telling a joke here in NYC: try to go out in Chicago and find a bar without ESPN on), assuming that the East Coast is too noisy and costly (they met their partners in the junior class of high school and are about to marry now). An idea about business school comes for two reasons: either looking for a post-school salary increase or because they start suspecting that there is life beyond Michigan, Minnesota, and Ohio. If they are lucky enough to get a scholarship (either from school or their employer), they cautiously start hanging out with good-east-coast-family peers (see below about them), but still don't travel further than Canada or Mexico during the break.
This is a bread-and-butter of every business school: these guys (and gals) won't have any problems with employment because English is their first language, they don't require sponsorship and won't go after almost-impossible-to-get-in VC funds in Silicon Valley. As a result, placement ratings won't get hit, while freshly minted MBAs will sincerely believe that this is the only possible life track (and that there are no bars on this planet that lack TVs with a Gonzaga-Vanderbilt game on).

Diversity candidates

Companies need employees of color, military, and LGBTQ candidates. Business schools have a lot to offer. The most successful 'oppressed' candidates get in with the GMAT score of 640 when the median is 710. They learn that they have been accepted months before the early decision is made and they are invited to participate in pre-school internships. It means that they do the work undergraduates are usually hired for, network all day long and, most likely, secure a spot for another next year's summer. A couple of bulge bracket banks love veterans so much that they run a dedicated program for them during which explain how many financial statements are out there (sic! Those people will advise on your merger only two years later; right now they only know how the energy systems of nuclear submarines are set up, not very helpful for situations when you need to refinance $800MM in short-term debt).
Supporters of such initiatives will say that those people are smart and hard-working. In some instances, you have to be clever and knowledgeable, I'll fend it off. A lot of them become high-performing employees, but it would happen later. Now, if you get one on a group project, you'll undercount one member but will have an extra horse power.

Ex-professional athletes

In most cases, you can add them to the category above, but I want to exercise a right to put them separately. In my experience, those folks are nice: their soft skills are already above average (assuming they are coming from a somehow commercial discipline where you are supposed to work on public), while their ability to focus is truly unprecedented. The sky is the limit for them: from consulting to entrepreneurship (which is probably the best career track for them).


They just go on vacation, or is it still called business-school? Tuition is not a problem (either a firm pays or they get a scholarship, thanks to a 750+ GMAT score). An educational workload? After numerous all-nighters advising Walmart in AR, your accounting classes feel like a joke. They will go through the curriculum with ease, while time usually allocated to recruiting (remember, they are going back to the Big3 firms as associates) will be spent in bars and night clubs. They will act like kids that lived with their parents all their lives and now are allowed to throw a party. After graduation, though, they will hop back in their suits and will be telling you what to do, because you are a part of the leadership program and a senior financial analyst, while they are well-respected consulting professionals.

Good East Coast families

06831? 06840? The most expensive zip codes in CT.
Phillips Academy? Exeter? St Paul's school? Best private schools in the country.
Brown? Princeton? Yale? No need to comment.

Don't ask them about Skulls and Bones, they will laugh at you. Don't expect to find them on campus from Friday to Monday morning, they will be chilling in Cote d'Azur or Aspen instead. Being born with a golden spoon is the best excuse for being arrogant or a jerk. At the same time, it's a huge load they carry on the shoulders from the day of birth. Their last names open doors in which you will never be allowed to knock. If the Boston accent really existed in 2017, they would be using it.
They will greet you in the halls, but you'll never become friends. However, you can always ask to introduce you to a VP of their dad's fund - don't be shy.
Do you like these types of people? Head to Harvard, Columbia, Wharton and Booth. Want to avoid such folks? Focus on MIT, Kellogg, Ross or Berkeley.

Study for the sake of the process

Nerds make their way even to business schools. Most likely, those will be first generation Americans of Chinese descent. For undergrad, they went to hardcore schools (John Hopkins, for instance, or UCLA's Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science), worked for SpaceX or an analytical team of the consulting firm and decided that they are lacking some up-to-date skills. So, instead of a PhD, they start pursuing an MBA. A 760 GMAT is a solid start, however, a lot of them fail during interviews. Why? Because instead of learning R, nerds should be learning how to be compassionate and likable. At the end of the day, people want to work with people, not with calculators. After graduation, this cast doesn't go to very fancy firms. If a bank or Uber needs a scientist, they will hire a scientist, not an MBA. If a consulting firm looks for consultants, they want someone who won't push clients away with an unnecessarily sophisticated lingo and thick glasses.

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