Graduate business coursework may look similar from program to program, but no two programs are exactly alike.
When you look through course materials from various schools, they may appear similar at first glance. Dive in a little deeper, and you will truly understand a program’s approach to business education. We suggest you look closely at each school’s curriculum (core courses and electives), registration process, and course selection.
The number of students in core courses is usually much higher than in electives. Find out whether a school balances out large class sizes with smaller student work groups and how you much access you will have to faculty. Other questions you should ask include:
- Can you be exempt from any required courses? If so, how will exemptions affect your program options?
- How much input will you have in how your courses are sequenced? This issue is important if you hope to take at least one elective in your concentration during your first year. Because core courses are generally prerequisites to other courses, sequencing has major implications for how quickly you can develop a specialty and compete for MBA internships.
- What does the school view as its strongest curricular attributes? Are there one or more specialty areas in which the program is well known?
Core courses form the necessary foundation for academic training in each key business function; they are typically taken at the start of your MBA studies.
Core courses in most MBA programs include:
- Human resources/organization management
- Statistics/quantitative methods
- Technology/information systems
- Business strategy
Electives allow you to develop a specialty, or concentration, and sharpen your area of expertise. As you look at electives, consider:
- How many electives are offered in your desired field of study? Are particular courses available when you want to take them?
- What is the average number of students enrolled in electives? How much access will you have to faculty?
- How are electives structured?
- Under what circumstances are courses canceled? How often does that occur?
- What are your options for concentrations of study? Are there any special topics, add-on concentrations, or emphases that you should pursue, given your goals?
- Do you need to declare a concentration? Can you get scheduling priority for courses in your concentration? Can you have more than one concentration?
- Is the curriculum flexible? Does it offer independent study? Can you take a course outside the business school but within the larger university and receive MBA credit?
- Can you transfer any credits from previous course work?
Registration and Course Selection
Each business school has a different process for managing registration and course selection. To make sure you get the classes you want, ask admissions officers the following questions:
- How does class scheduling and registration work—by open enrollment, a lottery system, or some other method? What are your chances of getting space in classes when you need them?
- When are course schedules finalized? Can you change your schedule? If so, how, when, and under what circumstances? How does “drop/add” work?
- What is a typical course load? Can you increase the number of courses beyond what is suggested for a term? What is the credit-hour limit per term, semester, and year?
- Will a course be canceled if it doesn’t meet a minimum enrollment number?
- Is there an academic advising system?
- Are course syllabi available before course registration deadlines?