Adventures In Business School: What’s The Deal With All The Happy Hours?

Happy Hour

They look like a fun group

Ever wonder what it’s like to be a business school student? An incoming first year can tell you from her point of view.

I’ve been invited to no less than 10 happy hours in the last month, and I haven’t even set foot in a classroom yet. Some have been organized by fellow incoming classmates, some are school sponsored and some invites came from current students asking us to join in their long-standing weekly happy hour tradition. On Saturday night, a group of incoming students, who now communicate via a number of city-specific email chains and Facebook pages, decided to get together and hang out just because the next planned happy hour was too far away. I’m pretty sure I could find a fellow student or five to hang out with every night from now until orientation starts in August, if I wanted to. Then the school-sponsored happy hours will kick in and I might be able to stop paying for my own drinks. I mean, there’s a reason business school students have achieved the reputation for doing nothing but drinking and traveling for two years straight.

In fact, according to a study published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, drinking is not something that is unique to b school students. Other grad students, like those studying social service, also partake in regular happy hours. But, the study shows, female business school students drank more than female social services students. I’m not exactly sure what can account for that discrepancy, but I do know there are more than enough opportunities to drink your face off with your classmates.

Leaving behind the whole question of whether or not I should drink my face off with people I’ve just met, my question is: how much time should I be spending with my fellow classmates before we get split into the inevitable clusters and learning groups?

I’m pretty sure the answer is, “As much time as you want.” But, I’m still working full-time. And sometimes — who am I kidding, most of the time — all I want to do when I leave work is go home and put on some sweatpants and order take out. The enthusiasm of my fellow classmates is overwhelming. I’m excited to start school and meet them and become friends and learn new things and network — but I’m not sure I’m ready yet. I’m still in full-time-work mode, not quite on to business-school-party-all-the-time mode. I envy these fellow students who have the energy to meet and greet, often several times a week. They send emails, post on community message boards, plan to meet up and travel together abroad and have already started friendships that will likely last them through school and beyond. And it all started with a casual happy hour.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not one to pass up a chance to drink. And in my years in the workforce I’ve gotten used to networking over a cocktail or three and inviting and meeting colleagues, potential employers and sources for drinks. These pre-school happy hours won’t prepare me for the drink-filled life of business school to come; my alcohol tolerance is all ready to go. At this point, I’m more concerned with meeting new people and learning things that many of my fellow students who are coming off of careers in finance and consulting already know. Like how to create a pivot table in Excel.

While these happy hours are a great opportunity to meet new people, part of me would much rather do that one-on-one or at least at a place that doesn’t require me to shout over loud music and jostle for a position at a bar in a after-work crowd. But with all the excitement and frequent invites for these types of get-togethers, I’m starting to feel like the only one who feels this way.

I feel pretty confident I will get more excited about happy hours as my first day of school approaches. I’m about three and a half months out now, and my feelings have already shifted from “I can’t even think about this yet,” to “All of these people seem to be friends already — have I missed out?” I’m pretty sure all that’s left for me to do is just go to one of these events and introduce myself.

Should I just dive in already?

(Photo: Stocklite/Shutterstock.com)

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