The Worst Things MBAs Say About Their Own Schools

by John A. Byrne on Print Print

Every two years when BusinessWeek surveys the latest graduating class from the best business schools, it invites MBA students to provide open-ended comments about their business school experience.  And every two years, the students have served up candid comments, willing to share personal experiences, insights and opinions.

A sample of those comments are published by Bloomberg BusinessWeek in the online profiles of each of the schools. While the vast majority of remarks are quite favorable to each school, there are almost always graduates who want to see their schools address issues or perceived problems to make the full-time MBA program better. Over the years, the most common complaints have focused on the career services office. It’s rare when no graduates gripe about career placement—but it becomes a real sore point during a downturn.

Poets&Quants searched through the latest batch of remarks to find what an applicant would never discover in a school marketing brochure or website. As usual, there was plenty of constructive criticism and, perhaps, a few sour grapes. Each respondent is guaranteed anonymity so that every student is encouraged to provide a tell-it-like-it-is response. Many have legitimate gripes, given the high tuition and expectations they bring to the school. Some may have an axe to grind.

Whether fair or not, the comments do reveal challenges at schools that all applicants should at least be aware of. This is particularly true for schools that suffered a decline in the rankings this year. That’s because the comments shed light on why a school may have had a fall in student satisfaction, which accounts for 40% of the BusinessWeek ranking.


What are the most critical things the Class of 20121 had to say about their MBA experience?

At Columbia Business School, which had a five-place fall to a rank of 14th, MBA graduates complained about the uneven quality of teaching in the first-year core curriculum, the university resources devoted to the business school, the outreach by career services to companies other than consulting and banking, and the acceptance of ‘connected’ applicants. “Too many students are ‘sons of,’” claimed one MBA graduate. “They are plain dumb but got in because dad or mom wrote a big check to the school. This is not acceptable.”

A Duke MBA asserted that the students could be “a little too party-oriented and immature” which sometimes led to mediocre classroom discussions. “Faculty and staff could hold students even more accountable for not taking the academic portion of school seriously enough,” charged one member of Fuqua’s Class of 2012. “We should stop babying people and start really pushing people to be great.”

Several University of Michigan Ross School graduates thought that lax grading policies in classes led to a less-than-ideal learning environment. At New York University’s Stern School, several grads complained that the alumni network was not nearly involved in the school as it should be. And at least three grads bemoaned the poor quality of teaching at Wharton, especially in the core courses. And at INSEAD, one Class of 2012 graduate suggested that the school’s administration to take MBA courses to more effectively run the school.

What follows is a sample of some of the opinion at a few top schools:

Columbia Business School

“Less emphasis on finance would help recruit more mature and more interesting students. Career services should also expand its outreach to companies other than consulting and banking. Too many students are ‘sons-of.’ They are plain dumb but they got in because dad/mom wrote a big check to the School. This is not acceptable.”

“The school needs to improve its 1st year/core program. It could be better taught, especially for a school that is ranked so high on every ranking list.”

“I think an improvement could be made to the quality of teaching in the core courses. On top of that, sometimes I did not feel that overlapping topics and lessons across different courses were connected well. Maybe there should be more collaboration/communication between the departments and the professors.”

“Columbia really needs to invest more resources in the Business School. Part of that will be handled with a new campus, but I sense a disconnect between the priorities of the administration and the students. It has always been a battle for resources at Columbia. Luckily, I think the students themselves have made great strides in the last two years to make it a community that people really want to be part of. Columbia’s fratty culture isn’t for everyone, but I feel that there are more options of ways to get involved than there were when I first arrived.”

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  • AugustineThomas

    Americans are such babies they don’t even want to walk outside in the cold for a few minutes. :)

  • AugustineThomas

    (You would be considered white though and your first language is English, so your experience might not speak to that of non-Anglo students.)

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