Berkeley Haas | Ms. Midwest Startup
GRE 328, GPA 3.51
Stanford GSB | Mr. S.N. Bose Scholar
GMAT 770, GPA 3.84
Berkeley Haas | Ms. Jill Of All Trades
GRE 314, GPA 3.36
Wharton | Mr. Big 4
GMAT 770, GPA 8/10
Kellogg | Mr. Indian Globetrotter
GMAT 750, GPA 4.0
Stanford GSB | Mr. MBB
GMAT 740, GPA 3.95
Wharton | Mr. Swing Big
GRE N/A, GPA 3.1
Stanford GSB | Mr. Big Brother
GRE 329, GPA 3.2
Harvard | Mr. Low GPA Product Manager
GMAT 780, GPA 3.1
Kenan-Flagler | Ms. Nonprofit Admin
GMAT 620, GPA 3.3
Kenan-Flagler | Mr. Top Three
GRE 310, GPA 2.7
Kenan-Flagler | Ms. Big Pharma
GRE 318, GPA 3.3
Ross | Mr. NCAA to MBB
GMAT 710, GPA 3.2
Kellogg | Mr. 770 Dreamer
GMAT 770, GPA 8.77/10
Tepper | Mr. Tech Strategist
GRE 313, GPA 3.0
Stanford GSB | Mr. JD To MBA
GRE 326, GPA 3.01
Duke Fuqua | Mr. Musician To Consultant
GMAT 710, GPA 1.6
Harvard | Mr. Bangladeshi Analyst
GMAT 690, GPA 3.31
MIT Sloan | Mr. Generic Nerd
GMAT 720, GPA 3.72
Darden | Mr. Military Vet
GMAT 680, GPA 3.5
Duke Fuqua | Ms. ELS
GRE 318, GPA 3.8
Wharton | Mr. Investment Banking
GMAT 750, GPA 3.1
MIT Sloan | Mr. International Impact
GRE 326, GPA 3.5
Wharton | Ms. Product Manager
GMAT 730, GPA 3.4
Chicago Booth | Mr. Indian O&G EPC
GMAT 730, GPA 3.75
Chicago Booth | Mr. US Army Veteran
GMAT 710, GPA 3.7
Stanford GSB | Mr. Techie Teacher
GMAT 760, GPA 3.80

Is the MBA the Degree for Slackers?

A controversial story claiming that business has become the default major for undergraduate slackers is gaining some resonance with MBA graduates and B-school profs who say there are similar problems in graduate business education.

The story, “The Default Major: Skating Through B-School,” is a collaboration between The New York Times and The Chronicle of Higher Education. It reports that business majors spend less time preparing for class than do students in any other broad field. Quoting from a new book, “Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses,” the article also claims that business majors had the weakest gains during the first two years of college on a national test of writing and reasoning skills.

And when business students take the GMAT, according to the book, they score lower than students in every other major. The story also attacks the large number of group assignments in business schools as a way for students to avoid doing much work.

While the entire article deals with undergraduate business education, the comments the story is attracting on the New York Times’ website shows that the criticism has hit a chord with MBA graduates as well.


Writes a reader from Seattle who claims to have a Wharton MBA: “All of the problems mentioned in this article were rampant in my program, along with one not mentioned: cheating. I vividly recall an advanced accounting exam whose answers were passed around the night before. I’ve often thought about that exam when reading about the financial collapse.

“As for group projects, after a disastrous experience replete with free-riding, I gave up on my group and did the rest of the ‘group’ projects alone. It was lonely, but it was better than having my work stolen.

“To be perfectly blunt about it, I saw more effort, honesty, and curiosity in my parochial elementary school than I did at Wharton. I don’t regret the MBA – it paid well. But there is a material level of fraud in even the ‘elite’ programs. Caveat emptor.”

The Wharton MBA basher was not the only critic. Another reader, identifying himself as ‘Mark’ from Boston, claimed that his MBA class “was mostly composed of people who had been in the real world and it was required for them to have had relevant business experience. But it was the same story. We had our upper 10 percent who were driven and then pretty much everyone else. There were only two people who didn’t get the degree (and shouldn’t have) but I can’t imagine most of the rest in any sort of leadership position.”

Mark, who said he was a science major undergrad with a master’s in computer science as well as an MBA, said he also taught as an adjunct professor for 22 years. “I can tell you that the business students are, always, the least interested in learning, and the most mediocre students I have,” he wrote.


The reader also had less than positive things to say about the group work in his MBA program. “We, too, used the group way of doing things, except in my group we literally kicked someone out for not doing their share. We were, however, the only ones that did and the person found a home elsewhere and went on to graduate.

“That being said, I like to think that these people all get washed out in the real world, but I think that’s wishful thinking for the most part. I follow most of my classmates and some of these types are either hanging on somewhere (probably by getting others to do the work and taking the credit as in school) or, more interestingly, not going anywhere…But I think the serious problem is at the administrative level because these people should be failed out of the programs and they’re not. At least 30 percent of my MBA class should have exited but didn’t because they were worth $85,000 (in tuition) for the two years.”


A recent law school graduate told the Times that her boyfriend is currently enrolled in a Top 10 MBA program. “Over the past year, I have proof-read his various groups’ papers for spelling, grammar, etc. and have been blown away at his fellow students’ inability to compose even simple sentences or papers with basic organization,” she wrote. “When I mentioned this fact to some friends recently, including a girl who had recently graduated from the same MBA program last spring, she said: ‘They grade us on our ideas–NOT on our ability to write.’ At a top ten business school? My law professors seemed perfectly capable of grading us on both.”

Also wading into the debate stirred up by the article are business school professors who largely reaffirm the story’s criticisms. One person describing himself as a B-school teacher at a “large state university,” wrote that “business majors do not want to read or truly try to master their subjects. I believe many students major in business subjects because they’ve heard they can get a job.

About The Author

John A. Byrne is the founder and editor-in-chief of C-Change Media, publishers of Poets&Quants and four other higher education websites. He has authored or co-authored more than ten books, including two New York Times bestsellers. John is the former executive editor of Businessweek, editor-in-chief of Businessweek. com, editor-in-chief of Fast Company, and the creator of the first regularly published rankings of business schools. As the co-founder of CentreCourt MBA Festivals, he hopes to meet you at the next MBA event in-person or online.