Before I came to Darden, a friend of mine who was graduating warned me.
“Don’t expect to meet a boyfriend at Darden,” she said. “All the good ones are taken and the rest of them are reliving their undergrad years.”
She was right. Many of the good ones – guys and gals – are married, engaged or in committed relationships. And many of the rest – guys and gals – are reliving their undergrad years. Which isn’t a bad thing. I was just looking for a guy who could be more than an awesome beer pong partner.
So it still surprises me a little that I’ve met a wonderful guy at Darden. And, in honor of Valentine’s Day, I thought I should write about dating at Darden. Not so much about my relationship, but what it’s like to date inside the b-school bubble, a place that’s one part high school, one part workplace and one part pressure cooker.
Here, collected from other Darden daters, are the warnings, and benefits, of dating at b-school:
Hook ups abound: We students are under stress, away from friends and family and looking to relax. We’re surrounded by lots of smart, scintillating people — and drinking a fair bit of alcohol. So, yes, hook ups happen. And they don’t always result in dates, much less relationships.
Gossip Girl has nothing on us: If you hook up, people will talk. If you hook up a lot, people will talk a lot. And since the Darden bubble is a small one, sooner or later everyone is in everyone else’s business.
Taken people don’t always act taken: Sometimes people with boyfriends, girlfriends, fiancés or spouses act single. Most folks are faithful, but the tasteless joke is that MBA stands for “Married But Available.”
Secrecy is paramount: If you make it over these relationship hurdles and find yourself dating a fellow student, you have a new problem: keeping it a secret. Just like dating at the office, you don’t want to broadcast your new relationship until it’s a sure thing. That means seeing the person you’re dating in class and at social events and playing it cool.
Competing in love: Darden is a collaborative place but that doesn’t mean people don’t feel the pressure to perform. Class contributions, exam grades and especially internship offers are all ways we measure how well we’re doing. And if you’re doing great and your significant other is struggling, that can create some real strain.
Scheduling romance: Darden’s has a reputation for working its students hard. That means finding time for romance often requires Ninja Microsoft Outlook skills and the ability to find romance in reading cases together.
The warnings are harsh, but the benefits are pretty awesome…
Great dating pool: I joke with my boyfriend that Darden screened him for me. His admission meant I already knew he was smart, ambitious, well-educated and a good fit for Darden’s collegial, collaborative culture. Once I found out he had a sense of humor, I was hooked. I don’t think Type-A personalities will find a more robust dating pool than b-school.
Update: A male classmate pointed out to me that the robust dating pool is all a matter of perspective. At Darden, only 29 percent of the first-year class are women. So the guys might find getting a date a little more difficult.
No explanations required: Having your significant other at Darden means you never have to explain why you spent three hours on a spreadsheet, why you’re reading cases on a Friday night or why you’re dressed up in a silly costume for a Darden Cup event. They just get it. And they’re right there with you.
Lots o’ support: In this pressure cooker environment, it’s great to have someone you can let down your defenses with.
For another take on dating in b-school, check out this post by my classmate and friend Julie.