After reading CompBanker and TheGrind's excellent posts on their b-school experiences, I feel an obligation to chime in. There probably isn't too much that I can say here that is something you guys haven't heard before, but nonetheless I am hoping it will be helpful for applicants and prospectives alike.
I'm one of the older people at my school, in my early 30's. I was a former trader who also worked on a couple of startups and consulting ventures and went back to school in hopes of. Particularly, I am very , portfolio construction, and multi-asset strategies. I just wrapped up my first year at a top finance heavy program: Wharton/Columbia/Booth/Sloan. (Sorry, don't want to get too specific). I am currently interning in the /alternative space.
This topic has been beaten to death, but I will reiterate some of what I have seen. Recruiting in general has been fairly robust, and people with realistic expectations who put in the effort have no problem getting internship or full-time jobs. Consulting is absolutely on fire, and a lot of my classmates are into tech and startups, thus following the MBA trend towards this space. In finance, very few want banking unless it's a last resort or they have never worked in finance before. Pretty much most of my finance classmates are gunning for private equity or on the public side, long-short equity or special situations/event driven hedge funds. The competition for these jobs is VERY keen, and the amount of work they put into stock pitches and interviews is astounding. Even then, given how few seats there are at these funds, most of them will not get their top choices. In general though, most people are pretty happy with their offers. If you are not interested in an OCR-dependent path such as consulting, banking, general management, for example, you will have to do a lot of legwork on your own. Career services isn't that helpful beyond generalities since the people who work there aren't too knowledgeable about the intricate details of various industries and firms. On the plus side, alums have been very helpful and surprisingly responsive to my inquiries. Multiple alums who I cold e-mailed agreed to meet for coffee and share advice and thoughts.
I think the primary reasons why it's fun is because we are not working and are around others who are eager to party and do stuff. There is no shortage of activities, travelling, parties, dinners, etc. And if you so choose you can pack your calendar. However, it gets tiresome after a while, and after going out relentlessly I toned things down and had no problem staying in. The people are overall pretty cool and chill, but many of the relationships you form are sort of shallow and based on mutual professional interests. In this sense they are not as deep as the friendships I formed earlier in my life. Dating wise, there is plenty of hooking up, but most of the attractive girls are taken. If they are single, you have to move fast or else they will be taken by a classmate by the first or second week of classes. Due to slim pickings, I've resorted to meeting girls outside of class, whether it's through mixers with other grad programs at the university, random cold approaches, or online dating. Among girls at the other less prestigious programs, the MBA prestige definitely helps, but outside of school, it's not an advantage.
Caliber of Students
There are plenty of really talented people who did cool stuff and worked at great companies. In terms of breadth of accomplishments and backgrounds, I have been pretty impressed. I have learned a lot from them during class discussions, and as someone with a limited set of experiences it has been humbling. If you are only wowed by pure brainpower, though, b-school won't impress you much. This is not to say that they are not smart, but rather, I have met very few (maybe a handful ) whom I would consider brilliant or intellectually superior to me. This stands in sharp contrast to college where I met genuine geniuses and those whose brains were just operating on a different level from mine. A couple of additional notes here are worth mentioning. The rich international students really bring down the caliber of the student body, and it is clear that they only got in because of their family wealth. Many of them blow off school work, skip classes days at a time, and simply don't give a fuck. This really bothered me initially, but I have come to deal with the BS nature of MBA admissions. Also, this is politically incorrect, but there is a gap between men and women in terms of caliber of resumes and analytical horsepower. This has been evident numerous times during classes with a quantitative bent; it's something that I have talked about with my male classmates, but given the PC climate none of us would dare utter this in public.
This has easily been the most disappointing aspect of my experience. The core curriculum is a dreadful joke. Ostensibly its purpose is to make sure that all the students are on the same page and leave school with a basic business toolkit. Although this mission is laudable, the execution is awful. Most of the teachers are bad, the classes are either too theoretical or totally lacking in analytical rigor. For example, my microecon class did not even use derivatives, which I found laughable. And macro was more an overview of something you would read in Financial Times than a serious look into the global economy. Strategy and Marketing were so bad that I felt that my IQ took a hit just by being in the classroom. The finance electives, however, have been a lot better, and I look forward to taking more of them in the coming year. My school offers a plethora of courses that interest me: derivatives, Asset Management, debt markets, credit markets, factor investing, behavioral finance, quantitative finance, and more. So as a finance geek, the electives are an intellectual buffet of sorts.
Feel free to comment or ask me questions, but given my schedule it may take a while to respond.