Let's face it, when it comes to academics, the MBA is on the bottom of the totem pole of graduate degrees. Unlike in other graduate degree programs, where your place in the class and performance in the classroom have significant bearing on your placement after graduation, in an MBA program grades are almost secondary. It may be difficult to finish at the top of an MBA class, but it is damn near impossible to fail out of one. Many top MBA programs have grade non-disclosure policies, meaning that Student A who gets C's and Student B who gets A's will be the same in the eyes of potential employers. Other programs give pass/fail grades. At Carlson, the grading scheme is set up so that the median GPA of core classes will be 3.33, or a B+. What? Finishing in the middle of the class will automatically get you a B+? Call me crazy, but I always thought that finishing in the middle of the class makes one average, and last time I checked C=average.
Check out this video that underlines my point:
In defense of the MBA, one of the reasons that academics aren't emphasized is that in order to be admitted to an MBA program, students must have achieved a certain level of success in their professional lives. The MBA is the only graduate degree that I can think of that actually requires applicants to have work experience in order to be accepted. In essence, MBA students have already "proven themselves" before they even step foot into the classroom, lessening the need to validate aptitude through grades.
If grades aren't emphasized in an MBA program, then what is? Networking and recruiting. Attending networking and recruiting events is just as necessary as going to class. In fact, it may be even more important given that grades are given a diminished role. At first glance, it may seem like an MBA is really a $100,000 schmoozefest with classes sporadically sprinkled here and there as a bonus. This isn't totally the case, but after researching MBA programs and talking to MBA students, I've learned that academics take a back seat to making those all-important connections in the business community.
Networking....sounds like a dirty word, doesn't it? Its like socializing, but with an agenda. Whenever I think of networking, the most negative scenario comes to mind. First of all, I picture a room full of insurance-salesman type guys--the kind of guys that call you their "best buddy" after meeting you for the first time and are always ready with a cheesy one liner in the wings. They are all standing there in ridiculously expensive clothes drinking the most expensive liquor with big fake smiles on their faces, laughing a bit too hard at jokes that aren't funny and discussing their golf scores while throwing around business cards like shurikens. Next to them are standing the female versions, who are just so uber-excited about everything. To be honest, I equated the words "networking event" with a simply nauseating situation: people acting fake and using each other in order to make more money or to land a better job. I think I would rather have a Doberman gnaw off my left foot than attend an event like that.
You can imagine my apprehension as I accepted the invitation to attend the first Carlson "meet and greet" that was held yesterday. I thought, "Oh god, here we go. Let the schmoozing begin." I already had a plan devised that would allow me to make an early exit, but I was pleasantly surprised when I discovered that my classmates are a diverse group of down to earth, well-rounded people that I could see myself enjoying spending time with. The event was to be held from 5-7 PM and instead of sneaking out the back door at 6:30, I was having such a good time that I didn't want to leave at 7! Actually, I think I was the only one that left at 7. Everyone else stayed behind to continue drinking and socializing, but I told my wife that I would be home at 7:30 and being the good husband that I am, I was home at 7:30. Oh well, there will be plenty of other opportunities to hang out with my classmates, as we are going to be spending the next 2 years together.
If this is considered networking, then maybe it isn't as bad as I thought it would be.