Choosing The Right MBA Program

Youngme Moon teaches a case on Ikea at PEEK

Harvard Business School is synonymous with its case method teaching style. The case method presents students with a case where they place themselves in the shoes of the decision-maker to identify the problem and solution.

Like many business schools, Harvard has its own unique teaching style. Many MBA programs have employed the case method in classrooms to provide real-life examples of business dilemmas. For applicants, choosing the right teaching method can equate to the right business school. Ilana Kowarski, a reporter at U.S. News, recently discussed five points applicants should know when comparing teaching methods at various business schools.

“Certainly, the balance of case study vs. non-case study is an obvious first question,” Ryan Barba, general manager of admissions consulting at the Ready4 consulting firm in Boston, tells U.S. News. “But also, how much work is typically done independently vs. in group settings? How common are group projects, in other words?”

Learning style differs for everyone

Everyone thrives in different environments. At Harvard Business School, the case method revolves around heavy student participation.

“Class participation is so important to the learning model at HBS that 50 percent of a student’s grade in many courses is based on the quality of class participation,” according to Harvard Business School’s website. “This requires students and faculty to work closely together—another hallmark of the HBS experience.”

For applicants, Kowarski says, it’s important to understand which learning environment they will be successful in.

“Experts say outgoing students often thrive in case method courses and may be easily bored by lecture courses where they don’t have the option to participate,” she says. “On the flip side, experts say introverted students may dislike the pressure to talk in case method courses.”

Understand the skills required to achieve your career goals

Many MBA applicants choose to attend business school to make a career switch.

Scott Rostan

Scott Rostan is founder and CEO of Training The Street Inc., a company that provides technical job training to recent MBA grads. Rostan tells U.S. News that it’s important applicants find an MBA program that will train them in the skills lacking on their resumes.

For example, corporations in the U.S. seek salesmanship skills and insight — skills often taught in case method courses. Karthik Kannan is a professor of management and academic director for MBA programs at Purdue University’s Krannert School of Management. Kannan tells U.S. News that soft skills are often prioritized by U.S. corporations and applicants should understand these skills if they hope to become executives for U.S. companies.

Introductory courses vs. advanced courses

Each MBA program will have introductory courses and advanced courses available to students. For applicants, it’s important to consider class variety.

David Schein is director of graduate programs and associate professor at the University of St. Thomas – Houston’s Cameron School of Business. Schein tells U.S. News that introductory courses and advanced courses differ in the learning opportunities available to students.

“For early classes, straight lecture may be the best way to get students up to speed,” Schein says. “For more advanced classes, having the opportunity to work on real world cases and work in teams on projects provides a more in-depth learning experience.”

Data analytics & courses that go beyond the basics

Data is revolutionizing how industries operate and perform. Kannan tells U.S. News that it’s important for applicants to ask how a business school is incorporating data analytics in its courses.

Kannan says MBA students should take courses that teach data analytics through consulting projects for real companies. Ultimately, students should understand how to analyze large sets of data.

Look at what courses are unique to each business school

Each school will have a variety of professors from diverse fields. Kannan tells U.S. News that applicants should determine which schools have unique courses that differentiate them from other schools. Understanding what differentiates course work from each school, Kannan says, can help applicants determine which school will be the right fit to applicants’ goals.

Lyneir Richardson is a professor of entrepreneurship at Rutgers Business School and executive director of the Rutgers University Center for Urban Entrepreneurship. Richardson tells U.S. News that applicants should seek out faculty with real-world business experience.

“Professors who have battle scars and war wounds bring color commentary to the reading and assignments and are invaluable to students,” he says.

Sources: U.S. News, Harvard Business School

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