Paul Ollinger Says, “You Should Totally Get an MBA”

Sometimes, applying to business school can seem like such an uphill slog that you really need to disconnect from the process from time to time in order to recharge and remember that there are other people in your life that you’ve probably been neglecting, and other interesting things you could be doing in addition to brainstorming MBA essays and filling in data forms.

Paul Ollinger book coverIf you’re looking for something to occupy that down time, I cannot recommend highly enough the new book by Tuck School of Business grad Paul Ollinger, “You Should Totally Get an MBA: A Comedian’s Guide to Top U.S. Business Schools.” 

But don’t just take my word for it. Greg Coleman, President of Buzzfeed and an adjunct professor at NYU Stern School of Business, calls it, “A hilarious read and pretty damn solid advice for any young professional considering the MBA.”

Kerry Trainor, CEO of Vimeo, meanwhile, says “Paul’s writing is funny and sometimes bizarre, but he knows what he’s talking about. If you’re thinking about applying to business school, you have to read this book.”

Paul has generously allowed us to share excerpts from his book here on the blog, and I hope you’ll find it a welcome diversion…just don’t let the laughs totally derail your well-planned study schedule or writing sessions!


An MBA is the gateway to awesomeness. After you obtain this coveted degree, people who would otherwise think less of you will ask, “You have an MBA?” You will reply, “In fact I do.” They will then desire you physically, offer you a job and give you lots of money. Having—nay, being—an MBA will improve your life in ways you have never even considered.

Once you achieve MBA-ness, you will never again experience self-doubt, misunderstanding or halitosis. Young people will find you captivating. Auto mechanics will take you more seriously. Airline attendants will seat you early and bring you extra peanuts and unlimited Diet Sprites. Those lacking an MBA will view you as a sorcerer of business… not just as Master of Business Administration but as a Magical Business Animal…a Muscle-Bound Angel…a Much-Beloved Astronaut. For the MBA is not just a credential.

It is a portal to the best version of you, and without it you would be a less-complete human being. Earning an MBA is like eating every great business book ever written and living them as if they were your own flesh-and-blood. Once endowed with an MBA, you will awaken the giant within. You will be a great (not good) outlier. You will not sweat the small stuff. You will play liar’s poker with the smartest guys in the room and never fear the barbarians at the gate. And no one—NO ONE—will ever move your fucking cheese. Okay, I may be exaggerating. Just a tiny, little bit.

Said more accurately, I’m lying. I’m lying through my teastained teeth. (I just lied again—they’re not stained by tea, they’re stained by coffee, cheap merlot and gas station taquitos.) But I do believe in the MBA degree and experience, which—if done right—will earn you a whole mess o’ value. So let’s be clear:

An MBA will not give you…

  • Wisdom
  • Ambition
  • Sexual prowess
  • Tact (as I have just proven)

An MBA will give you…

  • Some very solid skills / knowledge
  • A great network/ some open doors
  • A prettier resume

Business school will not only teach you about business, it will teach you how to think about business. At top programs, you’ll meet great people who will broaden your thinking and raise your standards. And once finished with your studies, you will have at your disposal super-cool tools like the 2×2 Matrix for strategy, the 4 P’s for marketing and that one for finance that I forgot right after I got out of school.

Sure, you’ve been moderately successful in your career so far, but once you are outfitted with these powerful weapons, you will be an unstoppable business super-hero.

How Did You Get Here?

So it’s come to this. You have been out of college for two or three years. Perhaps even two or three times that. Work is going okay… maybe it’s even going great. But you want more. You want a change 17 you should totally get an mba of careers. You want to be on the fast track. Or maybe you just want to learn some cool buzzwords and how to make fancy charts.

Understandably, you’re thinking that business school might be for you. Before you rush on off and sign up for the GMAT or the GRE, let’s make sure that business school is right for you.

Peruse the list of qualifiers below and check all that apply:

  • My career is stalling.
  • I want to make more money.
  • I have exhausted all honest means of making a living.
  • I want to make more money.
  • I’m looking for a spouse who knows how to use Excel.
  • I want to make more money.
  • I heard MBAs make better lovers.
  • I want to make more money.
  • I’m 25, tending bar, blowing beer burps into the face of my future career. My dad recently took me aside for a “come-to-Jesus” discussion. He promised to pay for a GMAT prep course if I could contain the partying just long enough to get through it. He also reminded me that I made decent grades at Ithaca and if he knew I was going to be this kind of a deadbeat, he would have sent me to public school. So the beast within me awoke and declared: “I will make something of my life. I will be someone. I will get—and be—an MBA!”
  • I want to make more money.

If you answered YES to any (or half) of the questions above, then you should totally go to business school! On the other hand… Just as there are very good reasons for going to business school, there are also some pretty bad reasons for going to business school.

Given the time and money required to earn an MBA from a top program, anything less than a deep-burning commitment to get an MBA will not suffice. Here are some common excuses misguided people use to consider pursuing an MBA. You will find many of these on abandoned applications and in the files of mid-year drop-outs.

Please check all that apply:

  • Just broke up with my boo and am feeling totes sad.
  • Bored / Nothing better to do.
  • Will make Mom and/or Dad proud.
  • I have no idea what to do with my career.

If you checked any of the above, you need to check that gut. Why? Feeling sad is best remedied by writing a poem, doing yoga or taking up macramé. Sadness is nowhere near the career motivator that greed is. Come on! (Caveat here is that if being single opens you up to new life experiences and re-establishing yourself as an independent entity, then you’re better off without that loser.)

Bored / Nothing better to do: applying to business school isn’t fun—it’s a GIGANTIC pain in the ass. If you’re not totally fired up about the process, the admissions folks are going to smell stink all over your turd of an application. Do better!

Similarly, “Need to make Mom/Dad proud” won’t get you through…unless they’re paying your tuition, in which case, #1—Lucky you (jerk), and #2—Go for it.

Don’t know what to do with my career: we’ll discuss this one at length in Chapter 4. For the time being, keep that to yourself.

So, really, who should apply to business school? There’s no one answer. The typical applicant to a top U.S. business school has been out of school a few years, is in her mid-to-late 20’s. Her few years since undergrad (where she made good grades and was very involved) have provided “real world” work knowledge and some life lessons, but she’s hungry to accelerate her career and/or build her skillset so she can set out on her own.

Another applicant might have been in the Peace Corps or the Army, and is now looking to optimize his entry into the corporate world with the MBA credential, knowledge and network. Others are those with undergrad majors in Chemistry, English or Sociology who want to gain a mastery of business skills so that they can climb the management ladder.

Should you decide to go to business school, your classmates will come from a multitude of professions and countries all around the world. They will include not just bankers and consultants, but PhD’s, chefs, entrepreneurs, engineers, salespeople, sky-divers, jugglers, singers and—yes—even lawyers. You might go to school with an Olympic skier from Lake Tahoe, the son of a Korean billionaire or a woman who grew up in poverty in one of the poorest areas of Mexico City.

Whatever the resume, these applicants are looking for a way to take their careers to the next level. And they know that business school can be an amazing springboard to help them get there.


We’ll share additional excerpts from Paul’s new book in the weeks to come, so stay tuned for more hilarity and distractions from what you should actually be working on this summer!


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