Admissions Blog

Bloomberg: The High Cost of Networking at Business School

By 19th November 2015 February 3rd, 2018 No Comments

Source: Bloomberg Business

by Sarah Grant
Nov 18, 2015

For Victor Eng, a former Goldman Sachs investment banker in his first year at Columbia Business School, it was demoralizing to see his bank account diminish three months into the school year.

“There’s something psychologically negative about it,” he said. But, he added, spending more than his budget allows is a hard habit to break at business school. The typical Columbia student spends $14,400 per year on nonessential items, according to research by Bloomberg. At Harvard Business School, the MBA program where the median spending on extras is highest, that number was $16,290.

As part of Bloomberg’s ranking of the best full-time MBA programs, we surveyed 9,119 students from the class of 2015 and asked, among other things, how much they spent on basic necessities, school, and extra items. Their answers gave us a sense of where the typical B-school student’s money goes while they’re studying and whether that varies among schools.

Columbia students who join the wine club or the gourmet club go to the priciest New York City eateries, said Eng. Professional clubs, of which Eng is a member of five, offer valuable networking opportunities with companies and typically charge a few hundred dollars in annual membership fees, plus the price of ticketed events, he said.

Then there are the trips. Students at Columbia and other schools use school breaks to travel the world. At Columbia, the Chazen Institute of International Business offers a miscellany of study tours that feature networking opportunities with foreign officials and access to such countries as Cuba.

With B-school networking events often linked to eating, drinking, and traveling well, the line between socializing and seizing career-making opportunities can blur. It’s clear, though, that spending a lot during your MBA program won’t hurt you: The B-schools where students burn though the most discretionary cash are also the ones that graduate students with the highest starting salaries, according to Bloomberg data.

Last year, we reported what students spent on average, instead of the median number. Students at the Wharton School, which topped the list last year, still have a relatively high average level of spending on non-necessities, at $17,717. By that measure they are second only to Stanford students, who spent the most on average, at $18,553. Looking at median numbers, as we did this year, can help smooth out outliers (like that one charge-card happy student who goes on every school trip), and give a different picture of what students spend.

Austin Fang, a former developer studying for his MBA at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business, said becoming a student again was an adjustment, “especially when you’ve earned an income for the last five years.” Fang is footing the bill for grad school himself, so he is trying to keep his spending down. At Booth, the average student spends $12,000 per year on extras, our data show. Most students don’t spend frivolously, he said. “There are definitely a lot of people who come from finance backgrounds and from affluent families, but no one’s going out every night and buying bottle service,” said Fang. “It seems that everyone is cognizant that we’re not making money right now.” He regrets missing out on a cruise around Lake Michigan earlier this fall, which he skipped because of the cost, but he shrugs it off. “There were other nonticketed events to attend that night.”

Business school doesn’t necessarily impose a culture of big spending, said Fang, but there are instances when students are compelled to spend more on expensive, last-minute flights or hotel rooms for professional “treks” that occur throughout the year. The treks—weeklong student trips to tour companies and to swap business cards in other cities—aren’t required for getting an internship, but they are widely attended, he said. Students have to apply to go on the treks, and many don’t know until the last minute that they’ve been accepted. “There are also recreational trips during Thanksgiving and Christmas break, and those are more extravagant,” said Fang, who is planning to go home for the holidays instead.

Of course, success out of B-school isn’t solely dependent on appearing—and splurging—at the right events. Eng, the Columbia student, said he scored a media industry internship almost immediately, without spending a dime outside the classroom. “I was lucky enough to be in the class where my professor invited the head of the company where I currently intern to speak,” he said. “There are lots of ways money isn’t a limiting factor in business school. You just have to be more strategic than others about what you say yes to.”