It is difficult to delineate a business school’s culture, and yet, understanding the culture of each of the MBA programs you apply to is critical to choosing the school that is the best one for you.
The culture of an MBA program influences everything from the way students interact with one another to the interplay between students, professors, and the administration.
In the course of your business school selection process, you’ll want to carefully observe cultural dynamics in order to find a business school that meets your expectations.
In this article, we summarize three aspects of culture that tend to differ among the various MBA programs. As we will show through examples, when it comes to culture, “fit” is very subjective. The implication being that it is important for you to actively investigate culture to determine where you’ll fit best.
Degree of Customization
Some programs allow MBAs to tailor their learning experience, whereas other programs adopt a “we-know-best” attitude toward course selection. On the surface, the freedom to customize your academic experience would seem ideal. However, many believe that MBA students tend to learn as much or more from their classmates than from professors. Therefore, the “poets” in the class may be disappointed when all the “quant-jocks” place out of the finance courses and there is no one in the study group to teach them how to run the numbers. Equally, the quants may miss out on the unique learning experience of studying alongside their more poetic classmates. Therein lies the benefit of choosing a business school where all students, regardless of education or professional background, take the same courses in the first year.
Degree of Global Awareness
No matter what industry you work in after completing your MBA, chances are that your career will require an understanding of the global business environment. In recognition of this fact, many business schools teach the theory and practice of international business. The degree of global awareness at any one program is determined by the curriculum, the intentional perspective of course materials, and even the international composition of the student body. Your own career plans will determine how important it is for the MBA program you attend to be globally-aware. Certain careers will require a high-degree of international business mastery; whereas other careers will be confined to a single country or region. Therefore, you need to decide how important the MBA program’s global outlook is to you and then find a school that best matches your desire for an MBA experience with a global perspective.
Degree of Competition
The aspect of b-school culture that gets the most attention is the degree of competition between students. Will your fellow students go out of the way to promote your success or out of the way to promote their own? As with the other aspects of culture, this one too is a matter of degrees. It is important for you to decide what degree of competition on campus feels right to you. Everyone’s different; some students thrive on healthy competition whereas others learn best in the most supportive settings.
You may have heard some things about the culture of certain MBA programs – “that schools students are too competitive; that school’s administration is too rigid.” The important thing is to find out for yourself. We recommend that you visit campus, observe classes, and pay careful attention to how students, faculty, administration, and alumni interact. Your goal is to build a “cultural profile” of the business schools on your short list and decide which MBA programs have a culture that is the best fit for you.