It can’t have been so long ago that the first time you really knew anything about your new classmates was the first day of the MBA course (or induction week). However, in this age of Facebook it’s been quite interesting observing the level of communication that has sprung up between the students before most of us have even met.
SBS does actually have it’s own intranet, iSBS, to which you are given access after you have accepted your offer and paid your deposit. The iSBS is a bit like something from a user experience designer’s worst nightmare, but there is a discussion forum of sorts in there. The most important link in there was to the Facebook and Google Groups that had been set up by a couple of the students that had been admitted in the first rounds.
I was a bit surprised to see anything other than Facebook being used, but I duly signed up for both the groups. It’s actually very interesting to see that the Google Group is far more active than the Facebook group. I’m not entirely certain why that is. It could be that there are some particularly active people in the Google Group that aren’t on Facebook (the 1%ers of the 90/9/1 rule). In my case I find the Google Group a bit easier to access from work, basically because it doesn’t look like you are messing around on Facebook! I do wonder how widespread use of Google Groups is – I’d never really used it before – and how it compares to all the Facebook groups.
Another interesting factor with this early interactions is the normal use of Facebook. Although I have only met a couple of the incoming students already, I am friends with nearly 50 of them on Facebook although there are 178 members of the group at the time of writing. I actually sat there for quite a few weeks with 35 Facebook friend invites pending. It kind of felt a little odd to me to invite all these strangers in to what is meant to be a fairly personal space on the Internet.
However, I also don’t want to be Steve – “that oddball who doesn’t add people on Facebook” – so I caved in to the imaginary peer pressure and added everyone. I have to admit that I have put most of the people, other than those I have already met or chatted with frequently, on to a specific “MBA list”. I expect 99% of people who use Facebook don’t bother with different privacy settings for their lists (Zuckerburg actually said as much recently). There’s barely any difference (so please don’t be insulted if you’re reading this!), but it’s more for the principal. Once I meet people and get to know them better I will open up full access (ooh you privileged people!), which I think basically means you will get to see my phone number on my profile!
Although I joke about it here, I think there’s interesting parallels to children’s experiences with Facebook, where peer pressure to add people to Facebook, means that what should be a private space is opened up to hundreds of people who the child barely knows. When I was a kid I probably only knew a few dozen people, but if you’re 14 years old today and only have a few dozen friends on your Facebook you probably look a bit sad. If someone my age feels some kind of pressure to add people then how can a kid resist?
As well as the Facebook and Google groups, one enterprising fellow set up a Google Docs spreadsheet where everyone could add their profile, which includes qualifications, work experience, current job function, post-MBA goal etc. It makes for fascinating reading and means that you essentially know loads of details about a large number of the students before you’ve even met them. I might have done it slightly differently – the data includes ‘relationship status’ and GMAT score, which I think is unnecessary. The relationship status feels a bit like the dating column and with regards to GMAT scores, well, it doesn’t really matter other than to satisfy curiosity – which I am as guilty of as the next person. However, we all start as equals on this course so GMAT score doesn’t matter. (I have to admit I was tempted to put my score as 820 – “yes, even the GMAC people didn’t think it was possible but I beat the system!*”)
Interestingly, there is an average GMAT calculation at the bottom of the spreadsheet. It currently stands at 717, which is pretty high and certainly higher than the previous reported average of (I think) 680-690. However, this is a clear example of selection bias – when you’ve got the braniacs putting down their 790 scores, it’s quite reasonable that the students with lower scores will not want to publicly put themselves up for comparison. Indeed quite a few students have left the GMAT field field blank. I expect that the real GMAT average will be close to the previous year’s.
I wonder what the average would be if I went and upped my GMAT score to 8,000. Hmmm….
Anyway, this pre-MBA communication has been very valuable. Not only have I got to know a number of students in advance, it’s also made up for some of the inadequacies of the iSBS. There have more than a couple of occasions where I, or other students, have only found out about some important event (such as the flippin’ start date!) thanks to interactions in the Google Group.