This article is written for the prospective MBA who wants to ensure that they enjoy a fantastic academic experience in business school.
When it comes to exciting learning opportunities, not all business schools are created equally.
Read this article before embarking on your school research efforts so that you will be ready to ask questions that will help you to identify the MBA programs that have the best learning environment for you.
The questions you want to answer include:
- Which business schools’ academic principles most appeal to you?
- Which curriculum design will best match your academic needs?
- What differentiates the learning experience of each business school from others?
Which business schools’ academic principles most appeal to you?
The academic principles of an MBA program serve as the blueprint for your academic experience; they underpin how the program is built and how it functions. Harvard Business School, for example, believes the case study is the best way to teach MBAs. By contrast, Chicago Booth combines cases and lectures in the classroom.
A program’s academic principles will shape your day-to-day classroom experience. When choosing business schools for your short list, think about what you hope to learn during your MBA and how you learn best. For example, if you have an undergraduate degree in business and are already well-versed in business basics, then a case study program like Harvard’s might be perfect for you. On other hand, if you studied French Existentialist Poetry and have been working in a web design firm for three years, you might be better off at a business school that teaches theory first and practice second.
Which curriculum design will best match your academic needs?
Curriculum design is another factor to consider when choosing a business school. As is the case with academic principles, the curriculum designs of certain programs suit some students better than others. Let’s compare HBS and Chicago again because these two programs have designed their curriculums quite differently. HBS has a required curriculum in the first year. That means that the “quant jocks” take the first year Finance course along with the poets. By comparison, Chicago Booth has a flexible curriculum that allows first years to place out of subjects they’ve already mastered.
One key to selecting the best MBA programs for you from an academic standpoint is to weigh the pros and cons of each program’s curriculum design relative to your specific background and learning needs.
What differentiates the learning experience of each business school from others?
These days businesses must innovate to survive and so must business schools. Many MBA programs have made creative changes to their program offerings to set themselves apart and ensure that their students are well prepared for their future careers. Michigan Ross, for example, offers a number of action-based learning experiences for its students to complement what MBAs learn in the classroom with real-world management experience. Another example of a novel learning experience is HBS’s new FIELD (Field Immersion Experiences for Leadership Development) course. In the FIELD course, students work in small groups on site at a real company or organization.
Take a closer at the unique learning experiences that are offered at the business schools on your target list. These innovative programs are aimed squarely at critics who say that business schools must adapt to the rapidly changing needs of today’s organizations to avoid becoming obsolete. In your school research, identify the schools that are evolving their academic experience in ways that appeal most to you.
Pursuing an MBA represent a significant investment of time and money, and you want to be sure that the academic principles, curriculum design, and unique learning experiences of the business schools you apply to are a solid match for your learning objectives and developmental needs. Start by spending time on each school’s admissions web site and then, for the schools that peak your interest, conduct informational interviews with current students to dig deeper into their academic experience. Diligent research when choosing a business school will ensure that the MBA programs you apply to will have the best learning environment for you.