Are Business School Students Under Too Much Pressure?

Posted by: Louis Lavelle on March 31, 2010

Bloomberg is reporting today that the young man who leaped to his death from the Empire State Building yesterday was a Yale junior, Cameron Dabaghi. His death follows six suicides at Cornell since September, including three in the last six weeks.

In the immediate aftermath of the most recent deaths at Cornell, campus police there have posted officers at the bridges that span Ithaca’s famous gorges, and several other schools have begun taking precautions against a “suicide contagion.” The Harvard Crimson is reporting that University Health Services is educating students on how to help depressed peers. Boston University has undertaken similar efforts. And at the University of Pennsylvania, Bill Alexander, interim director of counseling and psychological services, told the Daily Pennsylvanian: “We are just checking and rechecking the system to make sure we don’t get rusty or complacent.”

All the recent deaths involved undergraduates, and the explanations offered by assorted experts have run the gamut, but one of the big ones was the high-pressure atmosphere of the Ivy League. True enough, I suppose, but it occurs to me that if any student group is subject to serious, debilitating pressure it’s not undergrads…it’s graduate students, particularly graduate business students.

Think about it. If you’re reading this blog you probably have shelled out something close to $300,000 for a top-notch education (including forgone salary) and you’re under intense pressure to find a job that will make it all worthwhile—a job that right now may be a figment of your imagination. When you entered your program, you were out of school for five years or more, and suddenly you’re knee-deep in advanced math, business jargon, and bad study habits. At some schools all the first years might stand around singing Kumbaya, but let’s face it, the atmosphere at many top schools (for jobs, internships, even classes) is one of intense, even cutthroat competition.

All of which raises the question: how do you deal with the pressure? Are mental health issues like depression—and yes, suicide—a big concern at business school? And is enough being done to help students? The suicides at Cornell are clearly a wake-up call. But what can be done to help students as they struggle with issues like these?

Reader Comments


March 31, 2010 7:34 PM

"’s not undergrads…it’s graduate students, particularly graduate business students."


For Undergraduates, the competition is intense as well.
Work hard, get the GPA, attend every campus networking event you can, write the resume, submit the application, miss class to attend the night before presentation from a company on campus, miss class to show up for a campus interview or take the telephone interview with the behavioral analysis questions and get the auto reject letter 72 hours later. No internship junior year summer? Yay! I can go to graduate school.

BTW, the poor guy from Yale was an Asian Studies major and weren't most of the Cornell suicides engineers?
Northwestern had a liberal arts college major die last week.

Yes, we're under pressure but so is everyone else.


March 31, 2010 9:17 PM

It seriously behooves these schools to offer (or dare I say even require) stress-reduction tools such as mindfulness-training/meditation, yoga, and other methods proven scientifically to help improve mental states, reduce stress, increase resiliency and clarity, and improve overall effectiveness. (For example, check out Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, which was first offered through the University of Massachusetts Medical Center about 30 years ago.) A Stanford MBA who thinks the next cutting edge in leadership and organizational development is better cultivating the mind/body connection, I am in the process of creating leadership-development curricula for adults and youth that address this need. Given our 24/7 wired culture and the greater challenges we all face economically, environmentally, and society, I think arming everyone with the skills to navigate turbulence, and to find internal peace and fundamental satisfaction that is not based on performance is critical. (Interestingly, through such practices, performance, effectiveness, EQ, and leadership presence are enhanced in a very organic way.)


March 31, 2010 10:33 PM

I agree the cost of education is causing way too much pressure. These kids are defeated before they leave the gate. Some parents put too much pressure on their kids also. So sad and unnecessary. Maybe these kids should go to trade schools and star their own businesses instead.


April 1, 2010 2:57 AM

If you get training through a right business school,then i don't think student will be under pressure.
Its my personal experience.
For get training through good business school,try :- Business Schools In Orlando

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