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Bloomberg BusinessWeek Rankings Data Reveal High Cost of MBA Networking

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While most who are contemplating an MBA at a leading business school are well aware of the steep costs of tuition and foregone earnings, the budget line item for “extras” is sometimes overlooked. Bloomberg BusinessWeek, as part of its annual ranking of full-time MBA programs, asked students from the Class of 2015 just what they spend on nonessential items. The findings? The more prestigious the school, the higher the cost of networking.

Harvard Business School (HBS), which was number one in Bloomberg BW’s most recent overall rankings, also topped the charts in terms of students’ median expenditure on nonessential items, at $16,290.

Median spend on extras by students at Stanford Graduate School of Business was second highest, also north of $15,000. The University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School and Columbia Business School weren’t far behind, at more than $14,000 each.

Bloomberg BW notes that it shifted this year from reporting average expenditure to median spend at each school, in part to “smooth out outliers (like that one charge-card happy student who goes on every school trip).”

Trips certainly account for a large share of the nonessential spending MBA students go in for. From the FIELD global immersion requirement for all HBS first-year students to NYU Stern’s Entertainment Media and Technology Association (EMTA) trek to Silicon Valley, it’s hard to find a leading business school today where group trips across the country or around the globe aren’t an integral part of the curriculum or the job search or both. There are also lots of non-academic travel opportunities as well, such as Kellogg Worldwide Experience & Service Trips (KWEST), which bring Kellogg MBAs together for social, sight-seeing and community service expeditions to places ranging from Malaysia to Chile to Turkey.

Professional clubs, too, which include annual membership fees, ticketed events and more, can also put a dent in business school students’ bank accounts. Of course, there are the arguably more frivolous club-related expenses as well, such as wine tasting with the Chicago Booth Wine Club or ski passes as part of membership in MIT Sloan’s Ski and Snowboarding Club.

Source: Bloomberg BusinessWeek
Source: Bloomberg BusinessWeek

But whether as part of a class-related consulting project in India, a job-scouting trek to visit CPG firms in Chicago or an expensive dinner at Per Se with CBS’s Gourmet Club, the network-building opportunities common to all of these activities can be a valuable part of the overall business school experience.

So, prospective MBA applicants targeting leading schools would do well to budget for expenses beyond tuition and fees. Still, there are ways to take part in valuable MBA networking opportunities without splurging at every turn.

CBS student Victor Eng secured his summer internship through a relationship forged with a CEO who came to one of this classes to speak. “There are lots of ways money isn’t a limiting factor in business school,” he told Bloomberg BW. “You just have to be more strategic than others about what you say yes to.”

Read the complete Bloomberg BW article.