The Worst Things MBAs Say About Their Own Schools

by John A. Byrne on

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.

CLASS OF 2012 COMPLAINTS REVEAL ISSUES AND CHALLENGES AT EVEN THE BEST BUSINESS SCHOOLS

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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  • Current Student

    I currently attend a top 5 MBA program and I will be the first to tell you that the criticisms that I read of my school here are completely true. That being said, I think what gets lost, especially in an article like this, is the unattainable level of expectation that the student body typically has for the school. Whether its through self delusion or bad information the whole idea that any school is a transcendent experience is somewhat overrated (maybe outside of being a Rhodes Scholar). No school is perfect, but the wealth of opportunities I have available to me now when I stop to think is pretty incredible. I say that because, I, like most students at these schools dont usually stop to think, you become jaded; oh I can meet with the former global head of McKinsey today, ehhh, oh, Goldman Sachs is inviting me to cocktails…I really just wanted to relax tonight. Just like anything in life people always look to the next and the better and you would be amazed how quickly people (myself included) forget that a scant few months ago these were chances I could have only dreamed of. On top of that you have the unrealistic crowd that wants to be CEO yesterday or go from working at a non-profit to USRE head for Carlyle right after graduation. Seeing it firsthand I agree, there are things to work on, none of these schools are the Taj Mahal, but make sure you dont lose sight of the opportunities that they do provide because you are too focused on what the dont. At the end of the day, many of classmates and professors are amazing but they are just normal people, if you think business school is anything but just that, a school, you will be sorely disappointed.

  • Current Student

    I missed my main point, take everything with a grain of salt and be realistic about what business school really is and what it can really do for you.

  • http://cheetarah1980.blogspot.com/ cheetarah1980

    Because of course some of those with melanin have nothing to offer besides that melanin.

  • Anon_Indian

    It is also worthwhile to look at how “Indian” Indians are at B-school. Most Indians are either born and brought up in US/UK or have studied in US/UK. Indians who have studied and worked in India are very few. This is just my observation from W and I could be completely wrong for other schools

  • http://twitter.com/moore_crouch Simon Moore-Crouch

    Hi Nala,

    I’m an Australian doing my MBA here at Duke Fuqua. As a first year I’ve loved every minute here at Duke. It was a huge decision to come here from Australia and I’d love to share my experiences with you.

    Let me know if you’d like to connect.

    Cheers,

    Simon

  • SaintsFanLSUGrad

    Simon,

    I read some of your tweets about your Fuqua experience and I urge P&Q readers to read your stream (by clicking on your handle that is linked to your twitter acc). Fantastic stuff! Anyone who reads your feed will truly understand what an awesome program Fuqua is. Good luck to you with your career in sports management. It’s refreshing to hear about people interested in careers outside the traditional fields. I met another Fuqua student in the field of sports management when I visited the campus — a grad from Oregon (??) and a former collegiate lacrosse player… My overall experience at Fuqua was fantastic and I’m in the process of applying in R2.

  • WhyHateOnUsWhites?

    I don’t see why people are hating on Ross? The world is run by white people and it’s good for these non-whites to understand who their boss ultimately is and understand what motivates them. The earlier they learn that the “master” is driven by sex and booze, the quicker they can break the glass ceiling of being data jocks and number crunchers. Don’t hate the player, hate the game. Stop blaming white males for their power, if you were born as one, you’d take advantage of it too.

    By the way, I am applying to Ross/Fuqua because of the all slutty undergrads and partying. Why not take advantage of morally questionable females? If I don’t, someone else will and besides, girls love sex as much as I do giving it to them. Let’s not pretend this is a one side transaction here.

    – Future Banker / MBB consultant

  • Jatin

    “I completely concur with you”.. Is that the best english you could write after studying at Fuqua??? Really??

  • Loco

    What about Kenan-Flagler? Faculty is awesome, you can have a great academic experience. On the other hand it is a little bit sad to see how students sacrifice academics for interview prep. At the end, all the alumni I have met are doing really well in all areas. Hopefully, they will increase the internationals intake, by the way, MOST of the Americans studying there are really smart and collaborative with international students.

  • WTFisupwithRoss?

    What’s the deal with Ross being full of fratty, self centered white folks who only care about those like them? I hope it’s not as bad as it seems.

  • maximus

    Racist, baseless and ignorant… If you attended an MBA program you certainly didn’t add much value to the intellectual makeup, aside for your backward ideas…

  • popo

    The best ice cream is BR..

  • MBAapplicant

    I can’t believe how hostile and racist Ross is. I guess I will substitute UCLA for them.

  • DQ

    You seriously don’t think this kind of environment exists in the business world? If anything its worse. If you can’t deal with it an environment designed to be inviting in inclusive, how the hell are you going to do it in an adversarial negotiation during a competitive bid? You don’t think customers can act immature?

    If anything, you should take this environment as something of a learning opportunity. The same can be said for those “fratty” guys as well. They ought to be invested in learning how other people and other cultures do business. But what ought not do it whine and act like it’s some kind of knock against the school. All that is immaterial to what you learn there. You don’t want to participate, don”t.

  • DQ

    As if the original posters don’t understand the fundamental hypocrisy of decrying “all whites” being unfriendly towards all “non-whites.”

    I agree with your assessment. The fratty culture is the domain of the BBAs. They’re the most visible group in the school, so perhaps that hypocrisy truly is left unnoticed by many.

  • RossMBA1

    I’m a current MBA1 at Ross and I think there is a very diverse mix of people here. Are there people that want to relive (or have for the first time) their greek days from undergrad: yes. Are there also lots of people who don’t drink: yes. There are people from all different backgrounds with varying interests and how they define fun. On the self-centered side, people have been more selfless and helpful at Ross than anywhere I can think of, some self-centered is the exact opposite of what I have seen. Personally I’ve had a blast here so far and don’t see any of the issues mentioned in the comments here.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=25503923 Bruce Vann

    This is sort of true. This definitely happens at my school but the thing is since the MBA program is so freakishly intense at my school, though people hang out in their cliques we’re all helpful to one another and very comfortable stepping out of our comfort zone to build deeper relationships with people who are not like us. For instance, I’m an American Black and I love hanging out with Indians because I learn so much from their life stories. They’re so different from my own. And there are several other folks who do this at my school too.

  • Michigan Native
  • Michigan Native

  • AdamT

    I work for P&G and recruit Ross and Fuqua students and they are some of the best. Visit a school before believing the crap that other people write. Poets and quants is a great website, but some of the comments on here that are negative are definitely NOT representative of the truth.

  • AdamT

    I’m at Ross and love it. I am married, have children, and don’t drink. Many of my classmates drink and have fun, but that’s not a problem or distraction. I love how much diversity in thought, ethnicity and nationality there is at the school. I feel welcome by all and have have a wonderful experience. I chose Ross above, and held offers from Fuqua, Kellogg, Kelley and Haas. The people are some of the most friendly, genuine and smart of all I’ve ever met.

  • MBA1

    Whoops, that comment below is from me I meant to address AdamT but put it in the wrong spot. Cheers. Go Blue!

  • itsagoodlife

    FYI – at Harvard 25% of students get 1’s, 70% get 2’s and 5% get 3’s. It’s pretty lax/easy to me. I know it’s crazy but I chose Darden over Harvard because of that. It’s easy there, but lots of students I talked to didn’t like it. I also loved Ross but my family lives on east coast and I wanted to be closed to them. Fuqua is also a great school and seemed like a good fit too. I’d say if you are interested in a school, don’t judge it based on reading these comments. I had heard some negative things about Darden but when I visited and met people I loved it. I’m so glad I am here.

  • RossGrad

    Ross is full of cliches….if you pick the wrong one, life at Ross blows.

  • http://twitter.com/moore_crouch Simon Moore-Crouch

    Thanks mate, appreciate the words.

    There is a small but passionate group of us at Fuqua looking to build our sports management careers and there’s a great media, sports and entertainment club on campus which opens up opportunities for us.

    Good luck with your R2 application. Keep me posted on how you go and if you have any other questions about Fuqua, Duke or Durham.

  • bluemints

    that generalization cannot be accurate and the remark is rude and in bad taste

  • yuku

    A serious mature professional wouldn’t make an immature ill informed sweeping generalization like the one you just made. Your comments on this website are a liability for your school Insead.

  • Jason

    Well Said and Go Blue!

  • Jason

    SBV-that’s terrible! I’m an MBA 1 here at ross (Caucasian) and I can assure you that our section is not like this. In fact, I really do not see this in other sections either. I will bring it up to RSA and the other student organizations though. To provide a counter point, we all pitch in for section dues informally, and my wife and I (with our 4 children) had the international students over to our house for thanksgiving where we cooked a full thanksgiving meal for them. I organized a trip to the monster jam monster truck show at Ford Field where all of our Russian exchange students came with my son and I. I’ve been in groups with my Chinese classmates who I have tremendous respect from. I see your incident as isolated and I can assure you that your experience is the exception and not the rule. I wish you all the best and as a an alum-GO BLUE!

  • Dukie

    Clearly the person who made the Duke MBA comment is probably an outcast at the school. Every school has partiers. Really? Go visit other top 10 business schools and tell me how “great” classroom discussions are. Moot point, really. Duke rocks!

  • Dukie

    Jatin, try applying to IIT Bombay. My guess is you would get flat out rejected. English is probably not Pratap’s first language…

  • ND

    Notre Dame > Michigan. But not talking about graduate business school…mich is prob a tad better…just in every other way…..oh!!! :)

    Go Irish!!

  • RossisAwesome

    I agree with you. This moron has made this stupid comments about Ross on pretty much every article found on PandQ. Michigan is one of the most liberal schools out there and that culture applies to Ross as well. He/She is actually quite respectful in this post usually just calls Ross flat out racist. Oh and I spent 4 years getting my undergrad degree at umich so trust me, I know what happens there. The only downside of Ross is the Michigan weather which can get pretty cold. You cant go wrong with Michigan and unless the offer is from HSWBTK, I’d say go to umich!

    Go Blue!

  • MichiganGrad08

    WHen was this. I was at Michigan from 04 to 08 and do not recall anything like this. My Michigan experience was very inclusive (fratty white kids aside because you know kid from India etc) but that happens everywhere so one cant blame michigan for that but I had a healthy group of friends hailing from several parts of the world.

  • Michigangrad08

    I agree with everything except the cheating part. If you see someone being dishonest, have the moral courage to confront them and if they do not cease then report them to the appropriate authorities. As a US born Indian, undergrad engineer. I do know that cheating is a problem amongst S Asians and other Asians (Korean, Chinese, Taiwanese etc.) who were born and raised there but there was an equal number of extremely smart students as well. The Singaporeans single handedly did unspeakable things to the grading curve. And that said it isnt as if the local kids are pure and upright. I noticed several violations of the honor code by white fratty kids as well. I had the president of a very white social fraternity admit to me about the existence of test banks maintained in his frat houses that had tests from atleast half the classes offered at michigan. Bottom line, dont do it and dont tolerate it either.

  • MichiganGrad08

    I think this is a fairly common problem at Harvard, Wharton and Columbia as well. It comes with the territory.

  • Ross

    Dude, you are not a RossGrad and stop pretending to be one. You know how I know, because RossGrads know the difference between cliches and cliques.

  • Tropical Ross

    As international student from a country where you can plant coconut tree at your backyard, I found Ann Arbor’s fall is poetic and the winter is pretty actually. And it wouldn’t matter that much cause you will have (heated) indoor classes anyway.

  • RacismBlows

    Ross is still full of racism. Don’t let the scenery fool you.

  • ICallBS

    Yeah right

  • 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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