Saturday, October 20, 2007

B-School academics

How would you react when you walk out of an examination hall with no idea whatsoever if you did well or not? I had my marketing final today and was rather bewildered when I walked out of the exam half hour early. This post is not a rant about how well or badly I am doing academically. It is about a certain train of thought I have been mulling over for a while now that came to a sort of culmination today.

What is the right approach to academics in an MBA program? Is there a right approach at all? Taking the issue of grades - Most people come to B-School to advance their careers or to find their calling in life. In my opinion, grades are not the deciding factor for success or failure of such pursuits. With heavy student support for grade non-disclosure policy, no employer really asks for grades or uses them to decide whether to make an offer to students. That said, it is really easy to stay near the mean grade at a place like Wharton. It is going from B to A that takes all the time and effort. The worth attached to that effort varies from person to person. For some it might be effortless, for others good grades might be a way of validating their mastery over a subject, for others it could be a mere ego trip. What is important to realize here is that it is a personal choice and endless comparison of grades with fellow students (trust me it happens even in grad school, even in B-School!) is a criminal waste of time and energy.

Coming back to the approach to academics, this is how I look at it. I believe it does me a world of good to measure my academic performance by how much I have learned, how much of new knowledge I have imbibed over the duration of the course. A mere number or a letter says nothing to me about how much of say, economics, I know after six weeks in a microeconomics course. Can I talk eloquently about what I learned in class, can I apply the concepts to real life situations? I would much rather answer in the affirmative to these questions. I know I am on the right track when I see the warranty card of my new iPod Touch and wonder what expensing method Apple might use to estimate the warranty expenses they are likely to incur. Or when I think about "price discrimination" when I choose two-day shipping on Amazon. I might sound like a geek, but I maintain that an MBA is all about application of the concepts you learn. I expect an MBA to change the way I think about the things I observe and I am extremely glad that at a most rudimentary level, it seems to be happening to me.

I guess I can now go to sleep, nonchalant that
in the larger scheme of life today's Marketing exam and Monday's Economics exam and Tuesday's Statistics exam are all inconsequential!