If you had the chance to visit a business school campus and ask current MBA students what the experience is really like what would they tell you?
Pretty much what you are about to read. These comments were gathered off the most recent surveys of MBAs in the Class of 2014 by Bloomberg Businessweek for its latest ranking of the best full-time MBA programs. Each questionnaire has an open area for students to make whatever additional comments they please. Businessweek editors select ten comments from students in each of the school’s latest graduating classes and publishes them in the school profile section. It’s a great resource for applicants and can be found here.
MBA students always have both good and bad things to say about their MBA experiences. But what most strikes you when you read through all the comments is how overwhelmingly positive they are. Few students at top MBA programs have serious reservations about their programs. They are a highly satisfied lot, a fact consistently reaffirmed by surveys of students by the Graduate Management Admission Council.
THE MOST POSITIVE COMMENTS CENTER AROUND THE QUALITY OF THE CLASSMATES
What tends to get the most praise? Students often marvel at the quality and diversity of their classmates and how much they learn from them. Classmates are typically described as bright, thoughtful, hard working and fun. At one school after another, the most common traits are how collaborative and supportive fellow students are with both the classroom work and the job search. Many graduating MBAs reflect on what a truly transformative experience their graduate education was for them.
Sure, there are gripes. But they tend to be about career placement, particularly in years when the economy is in recession. Given the robust recovery in the MBA job market, with salaries and job offers near record highs, you see far fewer complaints about career management centers this year. Instead, the reservations have shifted somewhat, depending on the school. They can range from complaints about the quality of the teaching in an MBA program to the lack of real community at a school.
At Harvard Business School, there were some complaints about the size of the place and how the inclusiveness of the first year broke down in the second. At Stanford, there were some issues with the overwhelming emphasis in the culture on entrepreneurship. And at Chicago Booth, one MBA had negative things to say about the “commuting culture” of the school. “The distance between the school and where the majority of students live means that socialization is often deeply focused on ‘frosty beverages’ and academic life is not highly valued outside the walls of the Harper Center,” the graduate told Businessweek.
More often than not, the complaints are rarely serious deficiencies but rather things a few MBAs would try to change if they could to make their programs better.
Here’s a sample of some of the more insightful observations by the Class of 2014.
Harvard Business School
“HBS offers incredible academics, brand, networking, facilities and the like. That is unquestionable. However, the social experience at HBS is unparalleled. It is so intense and fast-paced that it fast forwards and accelerates your personal development by a few years. Coming out of HBS, I am more centered, balanced, focused, tolerant, thoughtful, ethical, and articulate. I also met some of my best friends here, had some of the greatest memories with them and traveled the world. Thank you HBS.”
“The downside to the case method is that HBS is terrible at teaching quantitative skills. I had to go to the Khan Academy and Wikipedia to even begin to understand what was going on.”
“There are so many people, it’s hard to build a tight-knit community, and the general all-inclusiveness of first year somewhat disintegrated in the second year.”
Stanford Graduate School of Business
“What I like: The people are high caliber but also genuinely nice, very open and accepting, the size of the class, the closeness (spiritually and physically) to Silicon Valley and the tech industry, and the leadership learning opportunities. Other things that stood out are the GSB facilities and the opportunities within the university–outside the business school.”
“There is too much focus on starting your own company and not enough on a professional job search.”
“There is an overwhelming emphasis on entrepreneurial career tracks, to the point of over 50% of the class starting companies by the end of the second year.”
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