So you’ve finally made it on-campus and after all of those strenuous and nerve-wracking months applying to the MBA program of your dreams it’s time for you to kick up your feet and enjoy the two-year vacation that is business school. Since grades don’t matter you have nothing to worry about, right?
Except there is one small problem, for almost all MBA students this is not true. There has been a long held position that business school grades don’t matter, but any MBA alum will tell you this topic is a bit more complicated than it seems.
The basis of this discussion most likely stems from grade disclosure. Grade disclosure is the school specific policy in which students are “allowed” to share grades with recruiters. At some schools this policy is even voted on by the student body, which may surprise some who would assume most students would want the freedom of grade non-disclosure. Reasons some programs cite for disclosure include: maintaining academic commitment from students, distinguishing students in recruiting, and the perceived weakening of academic standards. These policies are not permanent at most schools, so make sure to stay updated on where your target school stands on the topic.
Now the term “allowed” should be taken with a grain of salt as the official policy and what actually happens can be quite different, especially when it comes to recruiters in specific industries. Some recruiters don’t always care to abide by official grade disclosure policies. In the recruiting process some of the biggest MBA feeder industries like consulting and finance are the most apt to request grades. This tends to be a more common request during the internship recruiting process, so for most students the 1st semester grades are the ones to pay the most attention to. Performance during this time can influence getting on a “closed list,” which is an invite only interview list for a particular recruiter. There are other factors like GMAT, work experience, and fit that influence the composition of this list, but for these competitive career tracks, your GPA will certainly factor in.
Another reason grades do matter is more personal in nature. Most MBA students are high achievers and tend to take personal stock in their own performance in the classroom. This nuance leads most students to realize that they will get out of the business school experience what they put into it.
For the few and far less altruistic, academic team assignments have become a big part of the MBA curriculum. In these situations, students work to collaborate on a class assignment, project, or deliverable and are often graded by their peers at the completion of the group work. This measure of accountability often keeps most students focused on not letting down their classmates and thus avoiding a negative reputation amongst their peers.
Attending business school is a transformative educational experience for most students. Whether your school has grade disclosure or not, or your recruiters demand it or not, make the most of your time in business school and take your academics seriously!
Dozie A. is a Veritas Prep Head Consultant for the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. His specialties include consulting, marketing, and low GPA/GMAT applicants. You can read more of his articles here.