I went to business school and loved every second of it. There was something amazing about being there. I learned about business, made some friends, and talked personal development constantly. I’m a sucker for articles like this, this, and this. Business school surrounded me with people who read the same articles, believed the same things, and encouraged each other to grow.
But man, what a complete waste of money. Just like law school. Except business school is constantly talked about in headlines like this, while law school is getting the pleasure of articles like this. I’d link to something about Med school as well, except for the fact there always has been a need for doctors, and there always will be too.
That doctors are needed is especially true as I’m writing this in 2020 during COVID.
While it’s not a provocative claim to make that law school sucks, it definitely is a bold statement to say that business school is also a waste of money. There’s a couple questions that arise right off the bat, written out below:
- Why is business school viewed as a good investment, while law school isn’t? (For starters, the business schools literally teach marketing! They better sell themselves better than a law school!)
- What makes business school a complete waste of money?
- What does that have to do with your personal development blog that is literally titled the Ten Minute MBA?
Business school is described as a good investment, but is it really if you want to be an entrepreneur?
The key word there is investment. Business school is described as the ultimate investment you can make in yourself. It’s honestly brilliant marketing from the business schools: when you phrase something as an investment, you are changing the criteria used to make a decision
As an investment, it all comes down to money. Of course, right? All investments are determined by their financial success, so why should an ‘investment’ in grad school be any different?
Money goes into tuition & living expenses, which is now approaching $200K+ for the two years, but money comes out in the form of a shiny diploma and a fast-tracked job that pays north of $100K. As you would have learned during your time at business school, that’s a 50% ROI (100K salary /200K in tuition) in year one. Holy shit! You are an investing machine.
If you do the math, you can see how it shakes out.
By the way, this is not to say people who go to business school are inherently money-driven. In fact, I found most people at business school to be there genuinely interested in their family above all else. The salary earned after business school was just their way of being able to help their family have the best possible life they could.
The only reason I’m working on a case study to make a ton of money is because I want to be able to be free to spend time with my family.
So why are other forms of schooling (law school) not considered a good investment?
The reason business school gets so much publicity is because it’s been framed as an ‘investment’ in yourself. It’s just a happy accident for the business schools that business schools are the best ‘investment’ from a grad school perspective. Check out the math below.
Same shit, longer time frame. Law School and med school just take more tuition, but the salary in your first year out of school is relatively similar from a financial perspective.
(Excuse the fact I’m ignoring PhD’s in AI and computer science…they’ll rule the world one day and they know it)
What makes business school a complete waste of money for entrepreneurs, then?
Business is a universal language
Here’s the dirty little secret that the Harvard Business Schools of the world don’t want you to know: business education is the same, everywhere.
Let’s think about accounting. Literally by definition, accounting rules are the exact same everywhere in the country. If an accounting class is different at one business school than all the others, everyone at that school will end up like this dude. You’re not going to learn some brilliant accounting rule at Harvard that nobody else knows.
What about finance? The mechanics of everything from the ROI calculation above, to a sophisticated LBO model, are the exact same everywhere. At it’s core, finance is just math. Can you imagine pitching investors who don’t understand ROI? That would suck, but everyone from New York to China to London can do the same math on ROI. Stock picking is the exact same. Bobby Axelrod insider-trading aside, everyone can look up the technicals of a stock in about 10 seconds and make an investment decision.
Or strategy? It’s a sexy buzzword, but is an MBA program really the best place to learn it? Brian Chesky of Airbnb is a personal hero and one of the top strategic thinkers in the business world. No MBA.
Steve Jobs definitely wasn’t either, yet his ‘blue colored text vs green colored text’ is one of the smartest strategic ploys of all time. Think about it: without even needing to be in the same country as someone, you can know what kind of phone they have. Talk about social proof!
Most of the material is available online
I love Goodwill Hunting for so many reasons, the famous bar scene among them. The line that everyone knows here is when Matt Damon gets the girl’s number and goes back to the pretentious shit with the line ‘How do you like them apples?’
There’s a better line hidden within this scene though, one that is completely accurate and not talked about at all. Matt Damon is schooling the pretentious shit and says: “You’re going to realize you dropped $150K on an education you could have gotten for a $1.50 in late charges from the public library.”
Here’s the thing: he’s 100% right.
We just talked about above how business is a universal language. But if you’re really curious about how, say, Harvard teaches finance, it’s possible to find online. What happened below literally took ~2 minutes to do.
First I Googled, with the objective of finding an introductory Harvard Finance class.
I clicked on the first result to see what it says, which brought me to this page:
I clicked the hyperlink with the syllabus, and downloaded it to my computer, which you can see on the bottom left. I was about ~30 seconds into my search right now, or roughly 0.000001% of the time it takes to prep for the GMAT, ace it, write essays, and then get into business school.
So within the syllabus, I scrolled down to here. This lists the required reading for the class and detailed the ‘exclusive calculator’ to be used for the exams. Yes, I know it’s required by the exam, but still. Do you have to call it the ‘exclusive’ calculator?
Then, I copy and pasted the information on the course textbook back into Google.
Google gave me no fewer than 182,000 ways to buy the book for the class.
So Matt Damon was right. You could go to business school, but remember business is a universal language. And if you really want to learn from the exact same source as Harvard, it’ll take you about a minute of searching and $19.99.
The grade non-disclosure
So business is the same everywhere & I can get the same material online, but what does that mean about the value of the diploma? If I can say I graduated with perfect grades from Harvard, shit, I’m in a great fucking spot, right? Companies, please line up with your six-figure offers.
Well, not really. Most top schools have something called ‘grade non-disclosure.’ The story told is that it prevents really talented individuals from looking like they are less than talented. Someone needs to graduate at the last place in the class, even from Harvard, but the business schools still want that last place graduate to get a sweet job.
In practice, business school is an excuse to drink and party. Back in business school, you could almost set your watch to it. No one in class this week? Oh, it’s clearly Oktoberfest and everyone is dressed up like this. Next week? Class trip to Vegas. Don’t forget about the ski trip the weekend after either!
Don’t get me wrong, those sound fun! But if you’re on the class trip to Vegas, grades are probably not your number one priority at the moment.
Find your tribe instead of getting an MBA to become an entrepreneur
So if business is a universal language that doesn’t require an MBA, you can get the material online and you aren’t looking for good grades, to go with your diploma, then isn’t an MBA is useless? Well, kinda.
Yes, I learned a lot at business school. But the point I’m trying to make here is that <1% of the learnings actually came from business school.
The learnings came from the people in the world that were doing everything they could to make a buck. The case studies of those who have been there and done that and successfully made it happen.
That’s why I’m writing this case study.