NYU Stern | Mr. Honor Roll Student
GRE 320, GPA 3.1
Harvard | Mr. Big 4 Auditor
GMAT 740, GPA 3.55
Georgetown McDonough | Mr. Automotive Project Manager
GMAT 680, GPA 3.5
Stanford GSB | Mr. Airline Developer
GMAT 710 (planning a retake), GPA 3.48
Tuck | Mr. First Gen Student
GMAT 740, GPA 3.0
Harvard | Mr. First Gen Consultant
GMAT 710, GPA 4.0 (First Class Honours)
Stanford GSB | Mr. JD Explorer
GRE 340, GPA 3.5
Stanford GSB | Ms. Healthtech Venture
GMAT 720, GPA 3.5
Chicago Booth | Mr. Bank AVP
GRE 322, GPA 3.22
UCLA Anderson | Ms. Apparel Entrepreneur
GMAT 690, GPA 3.2
MIT Sloan | Mr. AI & Robotics
GMAT 750, GPA 3.7
Tuck | Mr. Liberal Arts Military
GMAT 680, GPA 2.9
Stanford GSB | Mr. Social Entrepreneur
GRE 328, GPA 3.0
Wharton | Mr. Industry Switch
GMAT 760, GPA 3.95
Stanford GSB | Mr. Irish Consultant
GMAT 710, GPA 3.7
McCombs School of Business | Mr. Marine Executive Officer
GRE 322, GPA 3.28
Harvard | Ms. Developing Markets
GMAT 780, GPA 3.63
Harvard | Mr. Policy Player
GMAT 750, GPA 3.4
Wharton | Mr. Future Non-Profit
GMAT 720, GPA 8/10
Duke Fuqua | Mr. Tough Guy
GMAT 680, GPA 3.3
Harvard | Mr. CPPIB Strategy
GRE 329 (Q169 V160), GPA 3.6
Harvard | Mr. Defense Engineer
GMAT 730, GPA 3.6
Chicago Booth | Mr. Unilever To MBB
GRE 308, GPA 3.8
Kellogg | Mr. Double Whammy
GMAT 730, GPA 7.1/10
Stanford GSB | Mr. Infantry Officer
GRE 320, GPA 3.7
McCombs School of Business | Mr. Ernst & Young
GMAT 600 (hopeful estimate), GPA 3.86
Kellogg | Mr. Engineer Volunteer
GMAT 710, GPA 3.8

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.