If someone plans to set up his/her own shop some day definitely, then is does it make sense for him/her to attend graduate school just so that he/she may have an awesome social network? Considering the hefty student loans that need to be repayed asap that accompany graduation....
Yes, it's foolish. People can disagree about how much value there is in a MBA, but that's not the point. You've identified two targets - being an entrepreneur and building out your network. Go straight for the jugular, not some round about way through school.
Want to build your network? Take half the money you would've spent on grad school and support yourself while you explore early business opportunities and network like mad.
It's quite simple. Want to build your network? Spend your time, money and energy networking in the right places. Going to school for networking only is like going grocery shopping every day hoping you'll meet your future spouse in the aisles.
Taking it to the extreme... take that money and throw massive parties, sponsor relevant meetups, make a $5k investment in a startup, etc.
[Source: I dropped out of school with only a few courses left to found my startup that became a VC backed Silicon Valley company.]
Short answer: yes, its a waste of money in the context of what you are asking, but there are caveats. You will have to decide what makes sense to you.
I don't like talking about myself much, but it might be useful to you so here it is. Excuse me if it comes off as bragging. I don't know how to talk about myself and avoid that appearance.
Let me lay down some of my personal timeline for you.
2007, May - Graduate K-State (EE)
2009, December - Start teaching myself Java so I can get a job at BugLabs
2010, May - Attend Big Omaha, affirm that I should be an entrepreneur
2010, Sept (I think) - Startup Organizer Summit in KC, meet tons of people
2010, October - Start curating KC edition of StartupDigest
2011, March - Start writing for Silicon Prairie News
2011, March - Attend SXSW for the first time
2011, August - Close on home sale, move into parents basement
2013, May - Attend Big Omaha 5, take shirt off on stage during Noah Kagan’s talk
I am an introvert. SXSW takes everything out of me emotionally within 48 hours. But I did grow up in a military family and I learned to meet people.
Over the course of the past 3 years, I have spent two of them intentionally going out of my way to meet people. I knew I needed to have a network but I didn't know anyone, so I went out and got it. I count lots of fellow entrepreneurs from all over the globe as friends (some of them are commenting and active here on Clarity). I have had 2 hour sitdowns with internet famous people to give me advice. Even what is seemingly random stuff, like the Noah Kagan Big Omaha talk, formed the basis for a relationship.
If you don't want or can't put in the time to do it the old fashioned way (pressing the flesh, as my sales mentor would say), then go to school. But you can get other things done during those two years and still end up with a kickass network if you want to.
If you want pointers about how to build relationships, or just more detail, feel free to schedule a call. Cheers!
Given the previous answers, I had to add my view. In my own case, I did an MBA late in life (I'd just turned 50). Now I teach part of the MBA programme at a management college.
Yes networking is a part of it, and I'm happy to introduce my students into my own network. But so too is the learning. Maybe the college where I work is unusual, but we put a big emphasis on entrepreneurial skills as a part of the MBA programme.
So it sort of depends on what you know now. If you need a thorough grounding in business, go get a Masters. Remember it doesn't have to be an MBA. An MSc in Management will cover much of the same ground, faster, and therefore at lower cost.
I've started two businesses without going to graduate school. I'm more of a hands-on learner, so I wanted to spend the two years actually starting a business rather than thinking about / learning about starting a business.
The caveat is that my first business was part of a franchise system. Working within their system ended up being like a hands-on MBA program for me, with the benefit that after two years I had a viable business instead of no business and lots of debt.
There are plenty of good reasons to go to graduate school. And people do come out of graduate school with a strong network. But that's not a good reason to go. Plenty of people who haven't been to graduate school have strong networks.
I recommend being clear about what you want to be doing, and determine if graduate school will help you get there faster.
If you want to further discuss how graduate school might (or might not) be in line with your goals, I'd be happy to set up a call.