Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Choosing an MBA Program (2)

After deciding what you want from the MBA, consider the business school's pedagogy, of which there are two approaches. Everyone is familiar with the lecture method where you (plan to) do the assigned readings, attend the lecture, and practice the skills. The case study method tries to present real life situations for students to analyze and discuss in class. Theoretically, the students' discussion is the focus of the class and the professor's role is that of facilitator.

Lectures require the discipline to attend class and keep up with the readings, and the stress comes at exam time. Cases build the discipline into the curriculum. Class participation comprises between 30 to 50 percent of a course's grade, making inadequate preparation fatal. The workload can be overwhelming - preparing three cases per night tends to equal nine to ten hours of homework; the stress is daily with the chance of being called on to explain your quantitative analysis while 59 classmates watch you sweat. The pay-off is during exams when you might as well go to the movies because there is no value - and I cannot overemphasize this point - in studying for a case exam.

Neither method is necessarily superior and each should probably be employed as necessary depending on the subject being taught. I'd look for programs that blend the two approaches because either in its extreme becomes tiresome. This is particularly true for cases because, Harvard aside, it's hard find professors who can teach them properly.

With the major considerations out of the way, there are a host of additional factors including program length, placement strength, alumni network, physical facilities, and location. Take at least a year to apply and kick the tires on at least four programs.

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