I am looking at Duke, Virginia, Cornell, Tuck, etc. Can someone tell me how these schools measure in terms of atmosphere? Some more cut-throat than others, some more superficial than others? I don't want to be in an environment full of people who think they're superior human-beings because they worked for X consulting company or X private equity firm for the last 4 years.
Also, can you wear shorts and sport a beard at any of these schools without people thinking you're a hippie or do you have to go to a west coast school for that?
Dude, I think your worries are a bit unfounded. You can sport whatever you want. A couple things to remember.
1.) This is not college. Everyone is presumable at least a few years out of school and thus should be slightly more evolved than your typical college sophomore.
2.) Admissions offices know how to pick a class. They are trying to get as diverse a group of students are they can find. Darden is not going to fill its class southern frat boys. That's not to say you won't find ex frat boys in bschool, it just means that there are plenty of other folks to hang out with too.
3.) Competition at bschool is not as fierce as in other professional programs. When you go to law school or med school, your future most definitely rests on how you do academically. Business school, not so much. In fact most schools have a grade nondisclosure policy. What this means is that your success or failure in landing that dream job with Apple has nothing to do with how everyone else is doing, and everything to do with how you do in your interview and during recruiting. Furthermore, not everyone is completing for the same thing. In law school you are pretty much pitted against the entire class for the prime associate and clerk jobs. In med school, you are competing for residency. In bschool, you are really only competing with that slice of your class that is interested in the same thing you are.
Keep in mind though, knowing your audience is key. There will be companies on campus recruiting almost daily. You never really know who you will meet and when you are going to meet them. The last thing you want to is stumble into the CEO of name that Fortune 500 company looking like you just finished a gig with your Greatful Dead cover band.