Confessions of burned-out MBA students: 3 people share what it was like to attend business school during the pandemic


“I was often concerned with how I would accomplish all that was being asked of me at work and within my program,” said Whitney Walter, who completed her MBA at Florida State University in December.

The pandemic took many MBA students from generally stressed to past the point of burnout. Psychotherapist Jonathan Alpert, who works with many students, says they’re a “hot mess.” Three students shared their experiences, from struggling to keep visas to not sleeping for days. See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Jonathan Alpert, a Manhattan-based psychotherapist who’s been a performance coach for more than 15 years, works with many MBA students and graduates on burnout. He told Insider that anxiety seems to be at an all-time high.

Jonathan Alpert.

“Basically, Wall Street folks and MBA students are a hot mess – and getting hotter these days,” Alpert said. “I am seeing B-school students and MBA holders feeling hopeless about their futures.”

Unlike some students who were out of work due to the pandemic and saw graduate school as a solid Plan B, others who committed to business school before COVID-19 found their high hopes and ambitions shattered, leaving them “anxious and trying to reinvent themselves,” he said.

The most common complaint Alpert’s been hearing is difficulty with sleep.

“Many people have trouble sleeping, and others fall asleep fine but wake before their intended wake time,” Alpert said. “They wake, check their messages, and think about what their future will look like – all of which is incompatible with rest and calm.” But he’s also noticed an increase in substance abuse, particularly with alcohol and marijuana.

“People use both to numb up and deal with their anxiety and stress,” Alpert said. “The problem with this approach is the pot or alcohol only makes things go away temporarily.”

Whether shifting to all-virtual learning or having networking events shut down or working longer hours with no relief, MBA candidates