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.


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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  • Regie

    Fuqua’s reputation is spot-on. I visited the school during Fuqua Friday weekend and let me just say this – those kids sure know how to party. There was also a big basketball game over the weekend and everyone just went crazy. Students also seem to party really hard on Tuesday and Thursday nights. The SY kids were out of control. It’s a great school with excellent facilities and faculty. But they sure do know how to throw more than a few back!

  • RV

    The biggest complaints are about the career centers. It will be interesting to find out what schools can actually do to improve their career centers. Some schools have deep working partnerships with a few major companies, and those companies are the pipelines for jobs. Maybe the top MBA programs can get together and organize some type of collaborative job fair intended for those pursuing non-traditional fields. Thus the schools can consolidate their resources and students can benefit from this. Of course Harvard or Stanford may not want to team up with Cornell and Ross. But I think Ross and Cornell can work together and maybe find some common ground to help their students. They already have the consortium they can have some type of consortium career services — maybe they already do and I’m not aware — if so I apologize in advance.

  • Pino


  • Ross 11′ alum

    Michigan Ross has a very exclusive white centric culture that is not inclusive of international students or those who like to do things other than drink all day and actively seek morally questionable undergraduate females to have sexual intercourse with.

  • Animal Farm

    That’s almost every top b-school in the lower 48!

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