The Worst Things EMBA Students Say About Their Experiences

complaintEvery two years when Bloomberg BusinessWeek surveys the latest graduating class of Executive MBAs from the best business schools, it invites students to provide open-ended comments about their business school experience.  And every two years, the students serve up candid comments, willing to share personal experiences, insights and opinions.

A sample of those comments are published by Bloomberg BusinessWeek in the online profiles of each of the schools. While the vast majority of remarks are quite favorable to each school, there are almost always graduates who want to see their schools address issues or perceived problems to make the Executive MBA program better. Over the years, the most common complaints have focused on the career services office. It’s rare when no graduates gripe about career placement—but it becomes a real sore point among EMBAs who are paying top dollar for their degrees.

Poets&Quants searched through the latest batch of remarks to find what an applicant would never discover in a school marketing brochure or website. As usual, there was plenty of constructive criticism and, perhaps, a few sour grapes. Each respondent is guaranteed anonymity so that every student is encouraged to provide a tell-it-like-it-is response. Many have legitimate gripes, given the high tuition and expectations they bring to the school. Some may have an axe to grind.

Whether fair or not, the comments do reveal challenges at schools that all applicants should at least be aware of. That’s because the comments shed light on real student satisfaction. EMBA students pay hefty sums for these programs. So prospective applicants should have a full understanding of what they’re buying into when they go to a program. We chose a wide variety of schools with highly admired programs to give would-be applicants a sense of the things they may likely encounter.

CLASS OF 2012 COMPLAINTS REVEAL ISSUES AND CHALLENGES AT EVEN THE BEST BUSINESS SCHOOLS

What are the most critical things the Class of 20121 had to say about their MBA experience? A graduate of Wharton’s EMBA program, the most expensive MBA degree offering in the world, voiced a complaint that is not unusual among Executive MBA graduates: the failure of their employer to acknowledge their new degree. “I am back to work full-time in largely the same role as pre-EMBA — but I am not the same,” the Wharton graduate wrote. “The program’s biggest fault was that it didn’t totally prepare me for this awkward transition with my employer. I think the degree is a catalyst for professional change, whether originally intended or not. I wish I’d known that earlier.”

If you had the chance to sit down and talk privately with some of these grads, you might also hear complaints about the caliber of classmates or the lack of support from career management offices that are more geared to help full-time MBAs than executive students. In some cases, schools accepted students with much less work experience than expected and therefore less able to contribute in rigorous class discussions with more seasoned professionals. As one University of Michigan EMBA told BusinessWeek: “The only recommendations I would make is that they should strengthen the admissions process to filter out any individuals who weren’t at the same caliber as the majority of the class who were elite. Or do more to filter them out during the program.”

Far more frequently, however, the career development office that came in for criticism. “I would have appreciated a little more time dedicated to helping us figure out what other career paths existed,” explained a Columbia Business School EMBA student. “Many of us were actually looking to switch careers and it didn’t seem like the school was prepared for that.”

Here are the most critical things recent graduates said about their EMBA experiences:

University of Pennsylvania (Wharton)

“The career management service that is offered is understaffed and under resourced. As a result, most career opportunities are sourced primarily through the full time career management office. The school needs to do a better job at marketing the students’ level of expertise / seniority to companies and sourcing better job opportunities.”

“Many firms do not understand the value this education provides nor can they differentiate this program from the full time counterpart. This would be a service to both graduates and the program. Current career service has a format that does not take advantage of the trick experience of the student body therefore does not address its very different needs.”

“I am back to work full-time in largely the same role as pre-EMBA — but I am not the same. The program’s biggest fault was that it didn’t totally prepare me for this awkward transition with my employer. I think the degree is a catalyst for professional change, whether originally intended or not. I wish I’d known that earlier.”

“Some classmates were a little young (i.e. had not yet even completed seven years of work, let alone management experience) — Wharton should emphasize quality over quantity.”

“I would like to see more direct interaction between the business school and other programs within the university.”

“Certainly the food and lodging could use improvement. Also, there are many outside learning opportunities (such as Global Modular courses) that were additional charges — these should be available and covered by the cost of the program.”