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Guide to MBA Case Competitions

Chicago Booth's winning team from the 2015 Kellogg Biotech & Healthcare Case Competition

Chicago Booth’s winning team from the 2015 Kellogg Biotech & Healthcare Case Competition

There’s far more to an MBA case competition than the battle among students and schools. While there is plenty to be learned from working under the gun on a dreadfully tight deadline, there’s at least as much to be gained, career-wise, from participating an event that typically brings together dozens or hundreds of very bright, connected people, and highly engaged company representatives on the lookout for new talent.

Most case competitions follow a theme, which can vary from supply chain, to finance, to sustainability, to health care, to real estate. Some take place over a weekend; others are conducted in stages, over weeks. Some competitions are invitation-only, others are by application.

Aspen Institute Case Competition trophies

Aspen Institute Case Competition trophies

But while the focuses and formats of case competitions can vary quite widely, they all share a dual purpose: to advance students’ business skills, and to help students build connections that will aid in their career development. Many opportunities exist at each competition – often including organized networking events – to interact with peers from other schools, and representatives from sponsoring companies who often use their participation for recruiting.

And of course there’s the cash. Most of the top case competitions have first prize awards of $5,000 to $10,000, but the winning team’s take can go all the way up to $25,000.

Enter a case competition and while learning under extreme pressure, you may win thousands of dollars, make valuable contacts, experience the thrill of victory (or the agony of defeat), even line up a job: what’s not to like?

20 TOP BUSINESS SCHOOL CASE COMPETITIONS (alphabetical):

Aspen Institute Business & Society International MBA Case Competition

Finals, April 16-17, New York City

2014 winner: Laurier School of Business & Economics, Waterloo, Canada

Prize pool: approximately $35,000

Focus: intersection of corporate profitability and positive social and environmental impact

Open to: MBA students

Biopharma MBA Case Competition – Rutgers University

Annual, November

2014 winner: Rutgers

First prize: $6,000

Focus: real-world pharmaceutical industry problems

Open to: MBA students

BNY Mellon Katz Invitational Case Competition – University of Pittsburg Katz Graduate School of Business

Annual, January

2015 winner: University of Washington Foster School of Business

First prize (2015): $10,000

Focus: corporate social responsibility in the energy industry

Open to: MBA students