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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  • 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 application..now 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

    +1

  • 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!

  • Trevor

    Put ur name to this comment. I call ur BS. You clearly are bitter for some unrelated reason. International students are well received at Ross and are more than 30% of the class. Come on don’t hide behind your screen name. Let’s talk.

  • JJFren

    consortium is awesome! I love Ross career center they are fantastic! People who don’t get internships are asleep at the wheel and dont utilize the millions of resources.

  • ta

    Its a little dissapointing to read that a top 10 program like Fuqua lacks an healthy CMC…..and that it does not attract employers other than from healthcare….

  • TA

    I dont see what drinking and chasing tail has to do with quality of education and career management…..you could have 32 year old phd students doing the exact same thing…..hell walk around nyc theres tonnes of 40 something guys doing that…..white centric culture??? maybe?? so what….your job is to be a professional…network…work hard and try and land yourself a job…talk to other international students…yeah some white boys can be a lil fratty…so man up and be yourself…if you are your authentic self you will attract similar people…just cause you re in business school it does not mean you stop doing what is necessary to build a healthy social network

  • ta

    consortium apart i think its a numbers game….all this bullshit about 10% and 20% acceptance rates…i mean lets look at sheer numbers here

    HBS-900

    SGSB-400

    Wharton- 800

    Kellog-750

    Booth-600

    Duke – 600

    Tuck-300+

    Columbia-700

    Ross- 600

    Haas-500

    I mean these are massive numbers …plus theres another 10 odd quality programs with smaller but reasonably big numbers…

    There is only this much a CMC can do….what all schools across the board need to do is promote innovation and entreprenurship…unfortunately characterisitcs that make up successful innovators and entreprenuers often include perceived failure , a disorganized career path…..maverick thinking….different mindset people….whereas all the top b schools want are people with picture perfect resumes…this goes against the idea that innovation and creativity often comes not from a pampered all is good hunky dory save africa place…but from a deep disregard for rules and an even deeper sense of self and sometimes pain….they need to change their admission procedures…

  • DJ

    I can kind of understand. Some of my international section mates hated the B-school self proclaimed frat houses. They believed those people weren’t genuinely nice unless you were like them.

  • Pali

    it is really interesting thing about duke! giving that the average age is the highest among the top school, 29!

  • theKomodo

    Thanks for bringing these comments to my attention, John.

    @John and/or Louis (BW): I noticed that the comments only exist for certain schools, but not others e.g. Kellogg, Booth, and Darden don’t have any graduates’ comments listed in the school profile pages. Will they be added soon?

  • Guest

    Don’t forget “camp out weekend” where all the graduate students across Duke camp out to get basketball tickets. I visited the Monday after the camp out weekend and there weren’t a lot of student volunteers helping out with admissions events. I was told by a first year “Everyone’s recovering from the weekend.” Classy.

  • John A. Byrne

    The change to a new design format at BusinessWeek has delayed the publication of the comments. But more are being published each day.

  • NNW32

    John, when can we expect the aggregate rankings?

  • It_Wasn’t_Me

    Which is why Michigan is one of my top choices :)

    Seriously, people need to remember that an MBA is like a second chance to go back to college. You’re paying that much money and you’re giving up two years of salary, you NEED to enjoy it whether it be drinking, chasing tail, or what not. Once you head back to the working world, the expectation for you to perform is so much higher because you’ll more than likely be raking in 6 figures.

    Again, getting your MBA should be challenging AND FUN!

  • KFC

    I think the complaint was that it could attract more employers from other areas besides healthcare, not that it does not attract any to being with. But then again — it’s one persons view of things. Take these things with a grain of salt. You cannot make up your mind based on one individual’s experience.

  • KFC

    Don’t let that one guy get to you. See people come on an anonymous forum and post messages like that. Certainly it influences some..but most of the folks know that it’s one persons opinion and that it must be taken with a grain of salt.

  • KFC

    I thought it was going to be on Monday…can’t wait!

  • KFC

    Guys..Not that I want to promote anyone’s book, but I would recommend you all read Ahead of the Curve by Phillip Delves Bougton. It’s about his experience at Harvard Business School. It’s well written and has a lot of good descriptions about what a top MBA program is like. You will notice that there are some common themes that run across the top schools. There is a hard charging – drinking – partying culture. But then again — not everyone is a part of that. If that’s not your “cup of vodka” — then there are other things to do. But I hope people don’t take some sort of puritanical approach to their b-school experience. The programs are quite diverse and folks usually find groups and friendships that they are comfortable with.

  • DP

    My wife was abhorred by the immaturity see saw at Michigan and why I choose not to go there.

    While it’s fun to drink and party (we met in the Greek system as undergrads), she just saw a bunch of idiot 30 years olds wearing neon who acted cocky and arrogant. Michigan might not have the “preppy” East Coast snobbery, but it certainly has its share of fakes.

  • Midwest Applicant

    Totally bro!

    Sometimes you just want some 19 year piece of ass. It’s a nice side benefit going to Michigan because I hear MBA females across all school leave a lot to be desired.

  • Regie

    It’s part of what makes the “campus culture” there. I really liked it. It’s my top choice over Darden, Yale and Cornell.

  • BigHouse2007

    +1

  • Guest

    That book was a good read. Something to keep in mind was that Phillip Delves Bougton was a 32-year-old married journalist from Europe when he enrolled. HBS’s average age is 26, it shouldn’t be a surprise that successful young professionals like to go out and booze it up.

  • http://www.mbaover30.com/ MBA Over 30

    sounds kind of like 45-50 year old senior managers in Corporate America, except undergraduates are replaced with subordinates (like my slutty ex-boss who spent 20 years being community arse for staff-level managers before waking up at 40 and deciding that NOW she wanted people to respect her lol. What you are describing is not a lot different from what you will encounter after business school, ergo “exclusive, white centric culture” + heavy drinking + rampant sexual innuendo.

  • KFC

    That was precisely the reason why I mentioned it. He was married with a child during his MBA at Harvard. He made some excellent observations and put many things in perspective. On a un-related note, the HBS average age as reently gone up, correct? It’s closer to 28 these days, ins’t it?

  • Roger

    Ha ha ha ha! Hilarious post bro! I agree with you and in fact I worked for a boss that was ***exactly*** like that. She wanted us to respect her but her actions were unworthy of such respect including destroying the marraige of a senior exectuive (of course he was to blame as well — equally if not more). I think someone should write a good expose on what’s going on in corporate America. The hypocrisy is just unbelieveable. You will have CEOs talk about ethics and family values — but their actions will contradict everything they advocated. It’s unbelieveable. And when we point these things out — the critics will say — oh gee you guys are just taking things out of context or looking at isloated events and connecting dots. But in reality it is far worse than that. There is rampant hypocrisy, entitlement, nepotism, infidelity, sexism, racism, bigtory, prejudice in corporate America. B-schools for their part teach the token ethics and corporate responsibility / integrity class and wash their hands off this mess. Moreover, I find it completely ridiculous when people say how backward and illeterate our rural and urban communities are. I think at least there isn’t as much denial and inflated sense of self there. Respectfully,

  • Devon

    I agree with you Roger. I have always felt that some toothless confederate flag waving racist in Alabama is not the real racist and bigot. For the most part, he does not have any influence. The real racism, sexism and bigotry is found among the “entitled corporate elite”…yes, they will say all the right things and even donate millions to Darfur. But when it comes to their own hiring policies or making up their corporate board, it’s a different matter. In my opinion that type of prejudice is far far worse and actually impacts our socity. The toothless ignoramus in Alabama is not the problem.

  • Meg

    To think that you could become a future leader of a business and make hiring decisions makes me squirm.

  • Contrarian

    I want to share a contrarian opinion here and I hope people respond respectfully. I don’t see what the big advantage is with all this diversity and international community involvement. In fact, I would much prefer a school that did not have too much of these distractions. I don’t see the benefit to me because I did engineering in undergrad and grad with a lot of Asians and Indians in my class. I don’t think I learned anything from them and most of those groups formed cliques and rarely contributed to any class discussions; communication skills were poor. I’m sure they did not learn much from me either. Moreover, there was rampant cheating as well. So, what’s all this fuss about diversity and multiculturalism? I have traveled enough to have somewhat of a global perspective; but I don’t think having a bunch of Brazilians (just picking some ethnic group) is going to somehow add to my learning. It’s all some marketing gimmick in my opinion. Of course, I’m going to be accused of being a racist. But, I know I’m just making an observation based on my experience. Yes, engineering might be different but it still doesn’t change the fact that I think most of the people are blindly buying into this nonsense about leaning global perspectives etc etc.

  • http://www.mbaover30.com/ MBA Over 30

    I was an engineering major as well. Most of my professors were foreign (Indian, West/South African, Asian); I couldn’t understand half of what they said, and they thought I was a lazy American brat. And its just that kinds of ignorance and lack of understanding between each other that globally-focused programs help to fight against. I may not learn a whole lot from Suzy Ko (or maybe I will? Maybe she’s the most interesting person in my class), but knowing her on first name basis will surely bode well in my favor when I want an investment group that she is a part of 15 years from now to back some venture I’d like to do in the Pacific Rim; ijs.

  • tmc7852002

    Hence why this post is pretty useless.

  • Contrarian

    I accept this rationale 100%. It helps expand our network and opportunities. I can live with that. I just don’t buy the rest of the cabal. I was at an MBA event at a top school and the whole event got hijacked by a bunch of internationals (living now in the states) who wanted to know about salary and sponsorships, management consulting etc etc. We could hardly have a conversation about innovation or entrepreneurship or b-school curriculum or anything substantive. Even one of the Indians (or South Asian) I spoke to in attendance felt the conversation got totally sidetracked. It was equally interesting that he mentioned that there was a huge difference between the South Asians that were born here in the States and those that just migrated here in terms of outlook, etc. He was born here and he did not want to have anything to do with those who just migrated from his own country of origin. I was shocked at that type of racism. But he said there is rampant cheating and fabrication of credentials, etc. I was totally shocked..but he said this was the norm. And then another S.Asian American individual joined our group and he too said the same thing about applicants from South Asia! Of course, it’s stupid to paint with a broad brush and many work hard. This is a land of immigrants…but it’s hard to ignore some questionable aspects of this “international diversity”. I think we have enough ethnic and cultural diversity here in the States and I for one would like to see more African Americans, Latinos, Native Americans in Bschool and fewer Indians, Arabs and Chinese.

  • LongHornJoe

    Agree 100% with that last statement!

  • Miami Phil

    +1

  • http://www.mbaover30.com/ MBA Over 30

    I respect your opinion; it is intelligently laid out and makes sense. I can 100% see why someone would see this issue and agree with your perspective. On the cheating, though, is that any groups/cultures/ecosystems where a person’s value is tied to their performance will encourage cheating (i.e. steroids in athletics; the “smart” kids in any high school are usually the biggest cheaters….else they might jeopardize their 4.3 weight GPA and a shot at X university). And personally, I’m no less annoyed by entitled brats from the states who whine about “merit” when they’ve been practically ushered into every blue chip opportunity and prestige educational institution that they’ve ever attended.

  • Harsh

    I’m Indian living in the states and I can tell you that the MBA admissions process is already stacked against us Indian applicants and top schools have a lot of choice in selecting candidates. Some of them may not be up to par, but many are highly motivated to succeed and contribute to classes. If you follow the gmat forums, many of the Indians are committed for years towards achieving a top MBA, including spending a year or more preparing for the GMAT. I find it really unfair how dismissive you are about an entire ethnic group. So we ask some questions about scholarships and placements — what’s so wrong about that? Isn’t that what these sessions are about? Unlike an average American MBA applicant, an average Indian applicant undertakes a HUGE risk by going to the US to pursue an MBA. The cost is quite staggering for even a typical upper-middle class family in India. I also think it’s a gross overstatement to suggest that we don’t contribute to the programs. Many of the professors and deans are of Indian origin (first and second generation). I will agree Indian applicants should improve communication and soft skills. But that is why MBA is a good incubator for advancing such skills. Also, maybe you have had some bad personal experiences with Indians…If so, I can tell you that it’s the exception not the norm. There are good and bad people in every ethnic group and stereotypes are not helpful towards growing our mutual understanding. If I based my impression of Americans by how my visa officer interacted with me, then I would conclude that all Americans are smug, condescending, elitist and lack compassion / respect / empathy for others. But I know this is not that case and that experience was an exception not the norm. Most I have met here are very decent, helpful, polite and friendly people.

  • Fabiano

    I am a current student at Duke and I don’t agree with the comments about our school.

    The student body itself is very diverse with 40% international students. You can find a lot of people with interesting backgrounds. The school has a really collaborative and friendly culture. We do have a lot of social events like Fuqua Friday, SY/FY mixers and orientation parties. A lot of these events became best memories of my first year at Fuqua. Most of my classmates work pretty hard. That’s how they land great consulting and banking offers.

    Regarding the CMC, they hired several new counselors this year and trying to provide students better career services. Based on my personal experiences, they areusually very responsive. They reached out to every student at the very beginning of last term and opened more walk-in hours to talk with us.

    Duke is really a strong brand in healthcare industry. But if you look at the employment report, the top hiring companies are usually from different industries such as consumer goods, high tech, consulting and banking. I would say there are more healthcare opportunities at Duke than other schools because we have a very good healthcare program.

    For the academic part, I wouldn’t complain because there are so many resources you can leverage. You can reach out to teammates to help you, set up appointments with TAs or tutors or attend review sessions. All the classes are videotaped and you can review everything even after class.

  • Contrarian

    I agree with you about “merit”. It’s a silly argument – as silly as our politicians who make this distinction between givers and takers. There is no way a guy like GW Bush gets in HBS without some help, and that is putting it generously. One of Mitt Romney’s sons got into Harvard a few years ago with a GMAT score of around 600; HBS would have been stupid not to take him given his connections and “pedigree”. The reason I mentioned cheating was because we are told by top bschools that we are getting top notch talent from around the world. But if the process is flawed and some people are conjuring up credentials — then it makes me question this claim. Furthermore, we are told that more URMs here don’t have the stats to get in. So my point is — how closely are we monitoring these standards? Are URMs here getting the shaft because of fraud? I would rather sit next to someone who might have a lower gmat and gpa but is honest, rather than someone who has conjured up credentials. Of course, this is painting with a broad brush and is unfair to many internationals who work extremely hard, if not harder that domestic students. But it makes me question the system we have in place. My own experience in undergrad and grad school at a solid mid-western state school (known for its football) was that there was a considerable amount of cheating from both domestic and international students. But in grad school I witnessed a whole different level of collaboration and cheating. Now I hear people are even conjuring up credentials and figuring out ways to game the background check. Pardon me for being slightly less than enthusiastic about this who international diversity cabal.

  • Contrarian

    @ed20a2f75c462c20464c98714d4ce214:disqus I have nothing against any group personally. I’m just advocating for more diversity among Americans. We have a multicultural society and I think we need to focus on providing opportunities to all Americans. I have done some urban outreach programs and I have been ashamed about and appalled at how we treat some of our own citizens. I think bschool would do well to provide more opportunities across the board. My criticism is that bschools tend to claim “diversity” by getting a bunch of people from a couple of countries is Asia. Schools claim they are 35% international, but out of that 85% are comprised of people from the two Asian giants. I don’t think it necessarily furthers diversity. There will always be a lot of applicants from India and China given the population and talent. But I’m advocating accepting fewer (lets say from 80 Indians to 60), and more domestic students. I know and understand the stat that more immigrants start companies here, especially in the technology sector. But I also know that the only way our urban populations will flourish is if we have more education and business opportunities there. My hope is that more Latinos and African Americans in b-school will eventually help make my country a better place for everyone. This is not meant as an affront to you by any means. As I said before, this is a land of immigrants. I’m sure you would look out for your fellow Indians before you did so for the rest of the world. I’m no different.

  • SRoss

    Baby – I know you want me baby! CUM to Ross and be my 7 MAP project and I will show you some experiential learning.

  • david

    As a finance geek who went to ivy undergrad, it seems like i would be miserable at the super fratty cultures at fuqua, darden, ross.

  • SBV

    As a Ross International student and alum, I love that I was able to get a great job from the school and had the opportunity to meet a lot of wonderful people. On the other hand, there were a lot of classmates (mostly Caucasian) who were unfriendly, selfish, and condescending that it ruined my experience. I came into Ross thinking that people from all different backgrounds could unite and be friends. But what I found was that a group of “fratty” white people only acknowledged each other and this in turn made all the other people (East Indians, Chinese, Asian Americans, African Americans, Latin Americans, etc) who were not in that group, form their own racially divide groups. Ross has many subcultures where there is little interaction outside these unofficial social groups.

    As Devon stated, racism today is not direct. No one will call you an offensive name because it’s looked down upon. The racism is indirect. For instance, the “fratty” white kids would more vigorously help each prep for consulting case interviews, but if it was an international who had less than perfect English, they would merely only go through the motions. Ross is not as collaborative as it says it is. These people often ignored you when they passed by and only answered you with one word responses since they deem you weren’t worthy of their time. As a result, they wouldn’t include non-group members for their social events.

    The reason why Ross had to cancel it’s international loan guarantee doesn’t have to do with internationals not getting jobs, it’s that they disliked their Ross experience and feel no obligation to payback the school because they never felt like they were a part of it.

  • Guest

    I didn’t see that on the class profile, but I think you’re right…I’ve heard it’s in the 27-28 range like most other schools.

  • http://www.mbaover30.com/ MBA Over 30

    I actually somewhat expect this kind of culture at any non-Chicago mid-western school. I got accepted to Michigan’s graduate engineering program while in undergrad. Before I decided to forego the degree altogether, I immediately nixed Michigan after the KKK had a rally and march on their campus. Where I went to school, a group like that would never even have dared showing up…let alone in full regalia and marching throughout the campus.

  • LongHornJoe

    I’m not surprised by this either. But the problem is not just the white centric culture – everyone is to blame for this. Schools market the MBA as some type of multicultural global immersion exercise, but in reality people just form cliques and groups they are most comfortable with (and it’s usually along racial / ethnic lines). The Chinese stick in their groups and speak their own language. The African Americans hang-out together and so does every other group. So there is enough blame to go around. But I agree with your overall analysis and I think MBA programs should do more than just market their programs; they should actually make an effort to better integrate the students.

  • LongHornJoe

    It’s a bigger problem in the south, although I think UTA does a bit better than the rest. Everyone just forms groups they are comfortable with and everything flows from that. But I have always wondered if it was worse in the those elite north eastern schools? I think to some degree the California schools seem to have got it right with regard to a more integrated student body.

  • Anwar

    If you read many of the comments here, your view seems to be the exception not the norm. As an international student, I considered Ross, Fuqua, Darden, Cornell among others as some of my top choices. I’m seriously starting to reconsider my position and look at INSEAD, IMD etc. more closely. I thought American bschools were over all this racial discrimination stuff. I’m very discouraged to read these things. After all I don’t want to go and partake in higher education paying so much money only to be treated badly and discriminated against. I will not be paying for such indignity no matter what career opportunities are promised. Some things are not for sale.

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