Going to Business School with a Family (Part Two: Opportunities)

This is Part Two of an article. Read Part One here.

When pediatrician Dr. Wilhelmina Hernandez and her boyfriend were considering B-school, she was already an established doctor, and they were situated on the East Coast.

“We met in Boston, and at the time, and I was living in New York City. In thinking about Business School, my boyfriend had already focused on a school with an outdoor lifestyle; it was better for him. I have a background in health care and could work anywhere, so I was very comfortable with Northern or Southern California. We were looking at both Berkeley and Anderson at UCLA. We’re both outdoorsy, so southern California was the better fit. Visiting the schools really made a difference for me as a partner. With that, I could really understand the culture of the school. At Anderson, they were very welcoming. I met the people in the Joint Ventures Club for partners and they really made me comfortable. They were the ones who let me know what Anderson is all about. I wasn’t anticipating that there would be such a welcoming group of significant others. And knowing that I would be supported and not alone made a big difference. We picked Anderson. Being here, I definitely don’t feel alone. It’s really a big deal to leave family and friends and your life behind. You won’t think it will be, but it is. The Anderson network gets you connected and networking pretty easily so you don’t feel alone. Part of what I’ve loved about being here is traveling with the Anderson crew. They are so diverse, I have gotten to know really interesting people. It’s even more diverse than it was in medical school, and it’s been a wonderful surprise.”

Open membership

Here’s who B-Schools consider eligible partners: boyfriends, girlfriends, fiancées, spouses, domestic partners, and those in any kind of domestic relationship. You need not “qualify” as a partner, nor do you have to be living at the school. You can be in a relationship “remotely” and just be an occasional visitor. No need to apply. Everyone is welcome.

Now that you know you belong, here’s a sampling of what you’ll find:

An orientation program for students, partners and families

Many schools offer a pre-term orientation for students and their partners/families to mingle, learn of school resources, and acclimate to the new location.

At the Kellogg School, all incoming students go through a comprehensive orientation program called KWEST, a community-building, volunteer trip that provides new students an opportunity to become acquainted with each other. The cleverly titled “Joint Ventures” are invited to attend KWEST trips with their incoming student partner. Recognizing that students with children have different needs, the school has a stand-alone club for wee ones and their parents called Kellogg Kids.

Dedicated partner clubs

Like the “Joint Ventures” at Kellogg and the “Better Half” organization at Columbia’s MBA Program, dedicated partner clubs are a feature of life in business school. At the University of North Carolina's Kenan-Flagler School of Business, “Kenan Connection” members usher newbies in with hands-on support, providing a valued buddy system utilized at many programs.

Partner clubs are your one-stop source for help with lifestyle needs such as medical care, childcare, and housing; they can be your ticket into an active student life. Their offerings are wide and varied: book clubs, coffee meets, networking parties, wine tastings, galas, sporting events, dining, and more. It should be noted that not all partner clubs are equally robust. But depending on where you matriculate, the events offered by these organizations can be never-ending. Your social calendar at B-School will likely be full. You may find yourself in black tie attire more frequently than you thought possible.

Career support for partners

Call any MBA admissions office and chances are you’ll be directed to an admissions representative who also happens to be the partner of a current student. It’s not uncommon for B-Schools to put hardworking partners to work within the academic community and often in MBA admissions. Although not all schools have a formal process for helping a partner find work, both the Partner Clubs and Student Life offices at MBA programs typically offer some kind of assistance and may have listings of job openings. It’s important to let the MBA admissions office know you want to work. They may network on your behalf. For international students, or those who are unable to find a paid position, the school can be helpful in setting up meaningful volunteer positions.

Couples and family housing

Most schools offer married and family housing. This is typical for all married students of any discipline. For example, at Dartmouth, the recently renovated residences at Sachem Village with a state-of-the-art playground house all married students, not just B-Schoolers. Similarly, at Harvard, married students in B-school can opt to live in nearby high rises in Soldiers Field, but they do so with families from other programs. Stanford University’s B- School is one of the few that provides family housing exclusively for B-School students. It’s important to research how a school divvies up its married housing and what’s available elsewhere. At Kenan-Flagler, the most preferred couples housing is not associated with the school. It’s in nicer residences in nearby Charlotte.

Want to know more? Read Part Three: Considerations.