Being an MBA student is an incredible time. There are industry leaders and field experts giving lectures on every topic under the sun. There are more student group events than days in a week. There are weekend trips to faraway places. And there’s so much more.
One of the most important parts of the MBA experience is the classes. I found that there’s plenty of information about what courses are available, what they cover, and what students need to take to graduate. But, what isn’t clear from the start is the best way to pick those classes to make the most of the business school experience.
To put things in perspective, my school offers around 180 distinct MBA courses per year even though a standard course load is only 10 courses. It’s a two-year program, which means that the typical student only has the option to take just over 10% of the courses offered! On top of that, in more typical programs than mine the first year’s courses are the same for everyone, so there is even less flexibility. But regardless of how a curriculum works, course selection is always a stressful process.
When I arrived at orientation, I heard varying advice from different academic advisors, myriad opinions from second-year students, and smart but inexperienced musings from people as inexperienced as I was. Of course, every professor enthusiastically recommended that I sign up for his or her class. Just about every reasonable set of courses for my first quarter was what I “should” do according to at least one person, so it was really on me to narrow it down (but I guess I really couldn’t go wrong!).
My background before school was as a quantitative analyst in the investment management industry, so as a numbers person, I came to business school wanting to fill my huge training gaps in areas like marketing, organizational behavior, and entrepreneurship. However, as I progressed through my first year, my views on what I should be trying to get out of this once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity matured, and I started to think more deeply about which courses I should be taking.
I came up with a set of questions that I hope will help you to make better class choices. It’s not meant to be an exhaustive guide to course selection, and is mostly a reflection of what I wish people had told me before I started my MBA. But don’t forget that the decision to get an MBA is highly personal and so should the choices of courses be. I hope these questions leave you feeling eMPOWERed (yes, I just did that)!
So, here we go:
Do you have some other considerations that you think should have been incorporated above? Have a personal story to share that you think others would benefit from knowing? We’d love to hear your thoughts, so be in touch!
Amit Patel, CFA, was a summer 2017 intern at MPOWER Financing from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. Before school, he spent over five years as an investment analyst in the investment management industry.
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