Insights from MBA Students on Campus…a Dose of Hope to Close Out 2020

As the first semester of ‘business school in a pandemic’ comes to a close, we reached out to our past clients who are currently on campus to see what things have really been like. They graciously provided insights on everything from virtual classes to Zoom interviews to the MBA social scene and, while nothing about this year has been ‘normal’, their experiences strike a surprisingly positive tone. Here’s what we learned.

Are Virtual Classes Really Worth the Price Tag?

While many bemoaned that it was hard to stay focused on virtual classes, the overwhelming view was that schools have gone above and beyond to adapt their offerings to the current environment. Some even mentioned benefits like the ability to screen share and see the professor more clearly than they would have been able to in a large classroom. 

Another benefit several noted was the lack of commute time and how this makes scheduling recruiting-related appointments easier. Being able to watch recorded lectures also solves the problem (and it’s a big one, trust me) of having to miss class when interviews overlap.  

Ok, but MBAs Needs Jobs After School, Are Companies Hiring?

The topic of recruiting provided some interesting insights. First years are just beginning their internship search journey and the vast majority shared that, while companies may have scaled back, they are still hiring. Those targeting tech internships (roughly one-third of respondents) are particularly optimistic, with several opining that companies are hiring just as much as before the pandemic.  

The sentiment was echoed by second years, the vast majority of who completed internships this summer despite the ‘unique’ circumstances. Perhaps most interestingly, nearly all respondents who completed internships have offers to return and, by and large, plan to accept them.

Anecdotally, from my time at Kellogg and as a corporate recruiter of MBAs after business school, the latter two of these observations are unusually high. In my experience, people often recruited again as second years, even with offers in hand, just to see what else was out there; it’s likely that people are being a little more conservative on this front given the current environment. It’s also possible that because internships were virtual, it was hard to get a true sense of what working at the company would be like, making it difficult for people to conclude one way or the other if that path was right for them. It might be hard to walk away from something that you haven’t given a true go.

Networking (and Socializing) is Such an Important Part of Business School, is it Still Happening?

While there are exceptions to every rule, responsible socializing is occurring on campus. Respondents shared that they were forming more meaningful connections with their peers because they were doing things like taking walks around campus, as opposed to gathering in large groups for ‘booze cruises’.

That said, many did note a sense of isolation and some shared that cliques had formed more readily due to limits on the sizes of groups that could get together. And, no getting around it, there’s an inherent awkwardness to meeting people for the first time in a virtual format.  

Looking Forward

It goes without saying that this year has been immensely challenging for everyone – layer quitting your job, moving to a new city, and returning to life as student on top of it and it’s enough to make your head spin. That said, MBAs are an innovative, optimistic bunch and seem to be rolling with the punches quite well.

Fingers (and toes) crossed, things should be returning to normal next year so those applying now may have many of these challenges behind them. Even so, it’s hard to imagine anyone (or any organization) will exit this period in exactly the same mindset with which they entered it. Here’s hoping that some of the positives (schools adapting to meet the needs of students, a focus on truly getting to know our peers) may just stick around.

We at Vantage Point wish you a happy, healthy holiday season and hope that the coming year serves as the light at the end of the very dark tunnel that was 2020!