The MBA Experience: Reflections from Alumni


The MBA Experience: Reflections from Alumni

March 4 2024 By The MBA Exchange
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Although the fortunate few thousand MBA candidates admitted to top-10 business schools each year have varied professional, academic, and personal backgrounds, they share at least one common trait – high expectations! By investing in and attending a rigorous, respected MBA program, these individuals seek to dramatically enrich their lives and substantially elevate their careers. According to satisfaction surveys, b-school students are generally content with the value they receive during their MBA programs. However, it’s only years after graduation that grads can objectively assess where and how their original expectations were met or exceeded.

To help future b-school applicants better understand the immediate and enduring benefits of earning an MBA, we sought feedback from admissions consultants at The MBA Exchange, a team of outstanding professionals who attended the world’s best business schools and now help others do the same. We asked them to reflect on their own past and present in answering:

How Did Your MBA Education Exceed Expectations?

“The high energy and passion of my peers exhibited through intellectual, and spirited class conversations, and the ability to play hard, and work hard!”

–Pauline, Wharton MBA

“The ability to get out of your own “bubble” and meet amazing people from all over the globe doing incredible things and changing the world is incredibly inspiring and life-altering.”

–Brooke, Kellogg MBA

“My network from Stanford has enabled me to get in front of almost any potential investor or business partner in order to grow our business. The Stanford network has been transformational for my career development.”

–Nick, Stanford MBA

“As a confirmed ‘poet’ entering b-school, I expected to feel at least somewhat out of place there — but found a community I value deeply to this day.”

–Jessica, Columbia MBA

“I didn’t expect to be a part of such a rich alumni network that has been very beneficial in connecting me with opportunities throughout my post-MBA career.”

–Miklos, Columbia MBA

“It was more holistic than I expected.  Prior to business school, I assumed my time would be solely devoted to attending classes and studying.  I didn’t realize how much of my education would take place outside of the classroom – whether it be group projects, trips, networking events or social gatherings.”

–Maria, Harvard MBA

“I was continually amazed by the breadth of prior experiences of my classmates and the learning opportunities that afforded me – I got the inside scoop on being a Marine, heard the highs and lows of serial entrepreneurs who had both failed and succeeded, and came to appreciate the daily grind of being a pharmaceutical sales rep.”

–Caryn, Kellogg MBA

“I arrived at business school with a clear vision of what I wanted to accomplish, however, I was pleasantly surprised by how many new passions, ideas, and genuine friendships I walked away with, gifts which I attribute to the diversity of my classmates and their willingness to teach, learn, and grow together.”

–Daniel, Yale MBA

“The constant learning and growth from building relationships with my classmates.”

–Alina, Stanford MBA

“It is well known that one meets exceptionally talented people at B school but INSEAD exceeded expectations as most folks one met at school were not only supremely talented but also humble and friendly. They took their work very seriously but didn’t take themselves seriously.”


“The network I’ve developed. Tuck is known for its strong network, but to become a part of it and the support, kindness and generosity that are ingrained in it is something I could never have imagined.”

–Jessica, Tuck MBA

“The people were incredibly down-to-earth, in addition to being smart and hard working. Also, the hands-on experiences were so much richer than I could have expected, augmenting classroom study and relationships made during school.”

–Cheryl, MIT MBA

“The education easily set me up for immediate success, but the network and friendships are irreplaceable.”

–Shamus, Kellogg MBA

“Before my MBA, I considered myself quite international (I am half Spanish half Korean and I speak 5 languages), however, when I met my classmates at INSEAD, the diversity and globalism of the crowd far exceeded my expectations, and made me feel just average.”


“One thing that really surprised me and was honestly a bit intimidating at first was how everyone had so much…pedigree. I was surrounded by people who came from Stanford, Columbia, Yale, McKinsey, Google, and Goldman Sachs. However, I soon found that I was just as smart as they were, and pedigree doesn’t always correlate with performance.”

–Sonny, Booth MBA

The reflections above illustrate the amazing value proposition of an MBA education. For future applicants, it’s crucial to understand how they can maximize their chances of gaining admission to a top-tier business school. After understanding how an MBA education can exceed expectations, it’s important to explore what makes a business school your “dream” MBA program. Each applicant’s criteria will vary, but hearing why others chose their schools can offer valuable insights.

Why Did You Choose to Attend Your Business School vs. Other Schools?

“I chose Wharton largely due to its stellar global reputation; I spent a semester abroad at IESE in Barcelona, and the summer after graduation traveled with the African Business Club on a tour that included stops in Senegal, Ghana, and Zimbabwe.”

– Pauline

“There were three primary reasons I choose to attend Tuck: 1) Its reputation that it would provide a stellar graduate education which would prepare me to excel in any field; 2) The amazing network – this includes alumni, students, professors, and administrators; 3) My gut. I attended the admitted students weekend and had recently attended another. I just felt most at home at Tuck. When I left, I knew it was an experience I couldn’t walk away from – and so I didn’t.”

– Jessica

“Columbia had the perfect combination of academic notability and cultural fit.”

– Shamus

“Kellogg‘s collaborative culture had great appeal, as did the fact that Kellogg interviewed every applicant in an attempt to gauge personability.”

– Jeff

“Stanford is one of the world’s leading institutions for innovation and entrepreneurship. The campus culture is unparalleled in terms of providing a nurturing, yet rigorous, environment for growth. Given my personal learning style and passion for startups, it was a natural fit for pursuing my MBA.”

– Nick

“I visited several schools and Columbia just felt like home. I really connected with all the students and professors that I interacted with on campus.”

– Miklos

“I chose Kellogg for three essential reasons: 1) The strength and flexibility of the healthcare program allowed me to customize my life sciences and biotechnology educational experience, 2) I wanted to pursue my MBA in a major city that was new and different, and 3) Achieving both an MBA and an engineering masters degree (MEM) via the MMM program was extraordinarily compelling and differentiating.”

– Caryn

“INSEAD is the most international program and was known to produce entrepreneurs. Both these factors were very attractive for me.”

– Deepak

“As a non-traditional candidate, I sought a top-tier school (Yale) that not only viewed my background and unique perspective as an asset to the program but one where I could develop a broad skill-set within a collaborative, inquisitive, and vibrant community of like-minded individuals.”

– Daniel

“I wanted to be in an environment where people have the courage and conviction to change the status quo, so I chose Stanford to make my bold career transition to entrepreneurship in the social impact sector.”

– Alina

“The collaborative, friendly culture and idyllic outdoor setting of Tuck made it a perfect fit for my personality and lifestyle.”

– Steve

“I knew at MIT I would have the best opportunity to grow my budding tech career. I also just felt at home when I visited campus and really wanted to be part of the community.”

– Cheryl

“I was a New Yorker through and through, and a (Columbia) undergrad alum — so the admissions process felt easy and natural (and was successful!)”

– Jessica

“Chicago became a no-brainer for me: My family lived 45 minutes away in the Chicago suburbs, and I would be able to visit regularly; Booth offered me a 40% scholarship; and Booth’s brand was as strong as any other school to which I had applied.”

– Sonny

“The alumni I met from my chosen b-school Wharton were smart, engaging and down-to-earth.”

– Susie

“INSEAD offered the perfect mix of top brand (consistently ranked within the top 5), quick ROI (10-month program), global experience (dual-campus France/Singapore + Exchange with Wharton/Kellogg), and diversity (+70 nationalities and no predominant national group).”

– Alex


An MBA from a top business school offers much more than academic rigor. It provides a holistic educational experience, diverse and global networking opportunities, and personal growth that often surpasses initial expectations. Future MBA applicants should consider all these insights and reflections to understand the profound impact an MBA can have on their careers and lives.

So, if you’re a potential applicant, now is the time to discover how you can maximize your chances for acceptance and which programs are ideal for you. The MBA Exchange is here to help you. Start with a free, expert evaluation of your current candidacy. Only then, can you begin to set realistic expectations and chart the best path toward admission to your dream business school.