Monday, October 12, 2009

Dating in the MBA Program: Good idea, or recipe for disaster?

During the last year I have been able to meet with many prospective MBA students at Kelley. I really enjoy meeting with prospective students because it is fun to share my stories and experiences with them, as well as to learn a little about the person visiting. One questions that comes up fairly frequently is around dating within the MBA program. Given that it is a common topic, I figured I would include my two sense on this topic into my MBA blog. While I am currently single, I admit that I have some experience with this in this area!

Do Kelley students date within the program? The answer to this question is YES. Business School MBA Students by definition have a lot in common, whether it is their love of entrepreneurship or a desire to work internationally, and this can lead to students forming deep connections with their classmates. In addition, the average age of a Kelley student is 28, and about half of these students arrive in Bloomington single. MBA student life is very busy, but there is still time to hang-out and get to know your classmates. Sometimes this leads to a lasting relationship....

What happens if you date someone in the program and you break-up? This is where it can get messy. If you are dating someone in the program, odds are you have many common friends and that can make things more awkward if you break-up. In addition, each class at Kelley only has about 240 students, so it can be hard to avoid people if a relationship turns sour. However, there are some steps to take to minimize your chances of a break-up affecting your school work and friends:

  • Don't date people in your own class. As a 1st year MBA student I dated a 2nd year student. It worked out really well for us because we didn't have all the same friends, and we rarely had any classes together.
  • If you decide to date someone in your class, DO NOT date someone on your Core team. This is a recipe for disaster. The Core team consists of 4-5 people and you have to spend a ton of time with this group working on homework, projects and case competitions. No matter how much you like someone, it is inevitable that you will get into disagreements that will be awkward for your other team members and hurt your relationship.
  • Again, if you decide to date someone in your class, make sure they are not in your Academy. Each Academy only has about 20-50 members, and almost all Academies do some form of group consulting project. There is nothing worse than having to email your Academy director and tell them that you can't work with someone because you just broke-up with that person. You don't want to have to tell Dr. K, who runs one of the best entrepreneurship MBA programs in the country, that you recently hard your heart broken and can't work with a classmate.
Now I'm not trying to scare anyone away from potentially dating within an MBA program. Some people are against it, but many students find that "someone special" in the program. In fact, almost every year there are at least a pair of top MBA students who meet at Kelley and are married within a year after graduation. The key is to follow your heart, but almost make sure you are managing your reputation and your work-life balance. Your two years as an MBA student go by very quickly, and the most important thing is to make sure that your MBA experience lives up to your expectations.

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