Profit & Ross: The Five Types Of Business Students

Have you ever wondered what types of people you’d run into in business school? I pondered this question when I applied to the business program. Now, as a senior, I can say that business school is made up of a wide range of people with diverse personalities and working styles – no different than any organization.

That’s not to say you won’t find certain patterns. After spending three-plus years at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, I’ve found a handful of different personas you’ll come across wherever you study. From galloping go-getters to caffeinated catalysts, here are the five people you’re certain to encounter as a business major.

1) The Dreamers & Schemers: This group is what makes business school worth it. They have ambitions that extend beyond themselves. They may not even end up in the business world. What makes them special is that they have the guts to go where others won’t. They are the trailblazers who are immortalized in Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken”:

“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.”

In life, you will meet people who genuinely want to help others. They care little for money and even less about fame. They solely focus on making an impact and go into academia, medical fields, or launch their own titles and businesses. Although business school has a tendency to bring these rare people together under one roof, it can sometimes feel like they are everywhere around you and yet sometimes nowhere near you. They are leaders even when no one believes in them and that’s what makes them special.

The Wintergarden at the Ross School of Business. Courtesy photo

2) The Pinball: Everyone in business school will find themselves running from meeting-to-meeting trying to get to their next destination. It’s the nature of business. You are on strict deadlines to collaborate with others and put in quality work.

However, the Pinball takes it to the next level. This is often because they are president of the running club, working two jobs, volunteering during the weekends, and taking a full load of credits on top of all those responsibilities. To maintain this extreme involvement, they will set up a schedule that requires them to run, bike, or hop in a car to get to their next meeting. Many times, their schedule has back-to-back obligations so they can fit everything into one day.

If you have ever gone to an arcade and played pinball, then you have a semblance of what these people do. They themselves transform into the pinball. Bouncing from one part of town to the other for meetings, it feels like they are trying to get a new high score or see lights flash as they zoom by.

There is a strategy to their game. They’re in it to win it. To do that, they must not waste a single minute.

3) Perfect Harmonists: Unlike the “Pinball”, the Perfect Harmonist is a cacophony of perfectly-timed meetings and decisions. They glide to their next meeting and are always calm, even when they’re facing encroaching deadlines. They know that the best work is done when everyone is in sync and have honed their skills on getting the best out of everybody by establishing roles within the group.

If you’re a music person, you know that tempo is what keeps a band in sync. In the business world, you don’t have tempo: You have people. What makes these people special is that they recognize they must be the conductor of the group. They have to keep everybody on the same page and create an agenda for the meetings to continue on the beat.

To do this, they employ cues that relate to people but bring everybody back in. They know when it is time to focus vs. when it is time to excuse the entire group. Their attention to detail is impeccable and they see what is going to happen before it does and adjusts for every moment. They are the conductor of perfect harmony.

4) Night Owls (Coffee Lovers): The Night Owl is often synonymous with the coffee lover. You might think of them as different, but they are one-in-the-same. You see, a night owl cannot be a night owl without being a coffee lover. For without the existence of one, the other could not exist. It is a yin and yang relationship, the yin being black like freshly brewed coffee and the yang being the sugar that you throw in to sweeten the taste.

A Night Owl will stay up until the crack of dawn attempting to read that one last article to be prepared for class. They push themselves to the brink of exhaustion and place a premium on marking their planners with check marks, symbolizing completion and a job well-done – all before their head drifts onto their pillow.

As the “Night Owl” falls into slumber, the coffee lover arises early. They know that the day is limited in hours, so they jump out of bed before the sun does. As they push towards their next goal, they grab a cup of coffee and run out the door.

Who can blame these two souls? They’re each stirring up trouble.

Max Garcia

5) The MBAs: There are undergraduates, the bright-eyed neophytes ready to spread their wings and then there are the MBAs, the hardened grad student warriors who have seen the world and come back to learn more. They possess a wealth of knowledge and are willing to provide it over a simple cup of coffee (Hear that, Night Owls). They are the ones who’ve been trusted by their employers to travel to Peru and Italy for million-dollar missions – or a reward for a job well done!

The word of an MBA is law. You know that they have seen things that you could not fathom. They have that same sense of wonder. Remember, they are back in school because they were in awe of one of their MBA peers’ command of complex financial or operational models. MBAs can share the tricks and tips on how to set yourself apart when you enter the workforce. I myself admire their tenacity to get after the ball and onto projects.

If you ever get the chance, pick their brains. Who knows: someday they may end up as your boss – or your business partner!

At Michigan Ross, you will meet these personas and many more. I myself have found that the MBAs to be the kindest people, always looking to help the younger generations transition into their workplace. The Night Owls will never disappoint you on their work ethic. Perfect Harmonists are leaders who make sure everyone in the group is comfortable. Finally, The Pinball offers unique perspectives due to their involvement in so many organizations

However, my personal favorite is The Dreamers & Schemers. Michigan Ross’s mission statement has been to “develop leaders who make a positive difference in the world.” These people are the epitome of this mission. They represent a future that re-shapes the environment, public policy, healthcare, education with an overall desire to help those around them. When I have met these people, I have always been impressed and inspired by their actions. They do so much for the community and yet always want to do more.

My friend Megan is one of the dreamers that I have been extremely lucky to know. She is one of the sweetest individuals you will ever meet; she constantly puts others ahead of herself. She became a Raoul Wallenberg fellow and is making an impact by going to Africa “to gain an understanding on how the mobile phones are used and whether they serve as resources to alleviate poverty.” Her impact and mission are extraordinary.

In the end, many people fall into categories that defy these five types – or even fit into more than one category at a time. Simply put, everyone has invented themselves through their own lives and are more than just these broad labels. As an individual proceeds forward, they will undoubtedly reinvent themselves. If you decide to come to business school, you won’t be disappointed with who you meet and who you become.

I’m Maximillian C. Garcia III, a young whippersnapper hailing from the small town of Rancho Cucamonga, California. I am majoring in Finance with a minor in Performance Arts Management at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business. My goal in life is to continuously explore my curiosity of the unknown. Finally, I fence the Sabre Blade on the Michigan Fencing Club to keep myself strategically growing and living up to learning about the unknown!


Questions about this article? Email us or leave a comment below.