The Babson MBA – the Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Segio's Leone's Classic morality tale starring Clint Eastwood.

Segio's Leone's Classic morality tale starring Clint Eastwood.

 The Babson MBA in general, and the Babson Fast Track MBA  in particular, like most things, is a mix of the Good, the Bad and the Ugly. You can play a snippet of the song yourself to get in the mood for the rest of the column.  Ennio_Morricone-The_Good,_The_Bad_And_The_Ugly Try not to whistle out loud as you play the clip.

 First there’s the Good– There is plenty to choose from when selecting the good part of the Babson MBA. First and foremost you are studying with a great cohort of classmates – people working in a variety of industries, companies, and roles from all over the world. The professors are another strength as they really are in a class of their own because Babson purposefully chooses professors who have ongoing businesses and careers outside of the academic ivory tower. This provides a real world touchstone to all classes and lectures elevating the discussions from the normal theoretical perfect world scenarios to practical reality based solutions. Which is where most of us work.

Finally the intense entrepreneurial focus is intertwined throughout every case discussion, project and class. Whether it is finance, marketing, operations, sales or technology – an entrepreneur has to be comfortable with all of those disciplines and many more. And know when to bring each to bear on a business issue or problem. Whether it’s internally on a project within a company or as part of bootstrapping a new entrepreneurial venture – your chances for success are greatly enhanced when you both work hard and have the tools for that success.

Back to my classmates. One of the strengths of the Fast Track MBA is that the average work experience of my classmates was 8-10 years; with some having over 20 years of experience in their fields.  And they weren’t there just to get a ticket punched,  but rather they were there to learn practical and useful skills. This dramatically changed the MBA experience from a passive rote learning of facts and formulas to an engaged, passionate, dynamic learning environment incorporating experiences from real-life problems and challenges applicable both to startups and to projects within more mature organizations. 

Babson in general  attracts people who want to get things done, but the Fast Track program specifically attracts people who don’t have the time or patience to take two years off from the workforce to go back to college full-time. This lack of patience meant my cohort was pretty good at preventing anyone from dazzling them with powerpoint and baffling them with Bull***t style solutions. Once in a while when someone was babbling on a bit too long – a well-timed fake stage cough ala Val Kilmer in Topgun would signal to the speaker that no one was buying their load of …..compost. In reality this only happened a few times and was done with a smile. Usually asking pointed questions was the preferred method to cut through to the heart of an issue.  Click on video below for a perfect example of the stage cough technique.

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And now the Bad– First let it be said that there is nothing bad about the Babson MBA, but sometimes earning it wasn’t a lot of fun because you had to make sacrifices. I think I saw one movie in a theater during the two-year program and I pretty much gave up watching any television on a regular basis. The work is hard, you never have enough time.  As soon as you master one concept you move on to a new one, and then another one, and still more. All the while incorporating those new skills into both your classwork and in your professional work. The breakneck pace is intoxicating, but it does require supportive, understanding friends and family. I missed more than a few parties and get-togethers because I had a conference call or a study group session.

You just can’t sugarcoat it. If you want to earn your MBA by coasting through, then Babson isn’t the place for you. There are lots of other MBA programs where you can do just that. Entrepreneurship is hard work and Babson starts getting you ready for this hard work from day one. It forces you to work longer, harder, smarter and more efficiently. You quickly learn that the perfect becomes the enemy of the good because if you spend too much time making one thing perfect you’ve missed your chance to spend extra time on another assignment or on getting ahead or just catching up.  I’ll say it one more time, if you aren’t ready for the hard work, Babson probably isn’t the place for you.

And finally the Ugly– Name Recognition. Despite Babson’s continued plaudits and recognition for being a global leader in entrepreneurship, it sometimes seems that few people outside of the Northeast or those not tuned into the MBA rankings, have ever heard of Babson. This lack of name recognition is Babson’s biggest weakness by far, especially when you venture out of the Northeast.

Among people who zealously examine MBA rankings and the recruiters who hire actual MBA graduates, Babson’s strength is no surprise after 16 consecutive years as the #1 School in Entrepreneurship ahead of Stanford, Harvard, Wharton and the rest of the usual suspects. But among mid-career and senior professionals my mention of Babson would often elicit a blank stare equivalent to mentioning Safety School University or Slacker Community College. So you quickly learn to tout Babson’s strengths and explain entrepreneurship. Hopefully the addition of  Babson’s new Fast Track program in San Francisco and their continuing Portland, Oregon Fast Track MBA will begin improving name recognition on the West Coast and around the world.

Despite Babson’s success in marketing it’s entrepreneurial strengths, some of the overall name recognition problems are a result of Babson’s focus on entrepreneurship itself. After all Entrepreneurship is a 16-letter french word defined by wikipedia as:

Entrepreneurship is the act of being an entrepreneur, which is a French word meaning “one who undertakes an endeavor”. Entrepreneurs assemble resources including innovations, finance and business acumen in an effort to transform innovations into economic goods. This may result in new organizations or may be part of revitalizing mature organizations in response to a perceived opportunity. The most obvious form of entrepreneurship is that of starting new businesses; however, in recent years, the term has been extended to include social and political forms of entrepreneurial activity. 

As you can see it is not nearly as simple to explain as say an MBA in Finance, Marketing or Operations. However Babson’s reputation and name recognition are growing, especially among companies who hire people who have to be ready to work from day one. As one employer said to me – “A Babson MBA candidate is valuable to my company because they quickly pay for themselves, while  MBA candidates from more prestigious schools often take 6 or more months to adapt to the real world and begin earning their salary.” That’s a pretty strong endorsement of Babson’s entrepreneurial focus.

If you can’t tell, I couldn’t be happier with my decision to choose Babson in general and specifically the Fast Track program. You should also check out my MBA Tips for Babson students. What about you? What’s your experience like working with Babson MBAs or earning your Babson MBA?   -t

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  1. #1 by John Refford on 2009/12/02 - 12:03

    Nice review. Looking back on my MBA experience at Babson and being in the Fast Track, the Good outweighed the Ugly. One fellow grad said it best, “the two years goes by fast, but you FEEL it.”

  2. #2 by Binesh Prabhakar on 2010/03/24 - 12:42

    Good read! I was searching for more information about the Fast Track program. Glad that there is some student feedback out there.

    • #3 by Thom on 2010/03/28 - 11:56

      Binesh, thanks for taking the time to read my little blog. If you have any specific questions please don’t hesitate to contact me and I’ll try to answer them. As you can tell I’m a big fan of the program and I know it’s been a positive experience which has helped my career considerably.

  3. #4 by Prasanna Kasi on 2010/05/03 - 02:23

    Nice information on life as a Babsonian! I have done my share of research on this program. The more i read, the more I feel this to be the best fit for me. I am from Boston and I work as a project manager in information technology for a big bank. I am researching on enrolling in a part-time MBA program. I am hoping you can throw some light. My shortlisted ones so far have been Boston university, Bentley and Babson(lets assume for fun sake, I am offered to enroll in all the 3 !). Like many others, I am confused about the best fit. Sure, it is still MBA irrespective of the college and the 3 colleges have their strengths and weaknesses. But, I am trying to weigh in a lot of other factors as well : The core courses + choices of electives information, concentration choices, time taken to complete the program, requirement of GMAT, weightage on work experience + resume, weightage on undergraduate transcripts, proximity to my residence not necessarily in that order.
    I have some questions specifically on Babson fast track MBA.

    1) The school website says that GMAT is not required. But, what is the criteria that needs to be satisfied to get it waived ? Is it based on experience ? I have not taken the GMAT yet and was hoping there would be some program where it wont be required. My main constraint is the added time it would put in my GMAT prep etc and If i can avoid it, the better.
    2) Is there a certain minimum limit on the number of years of professional work experience required ? I know the average according to the website says 17 years. But, mine is 11 years and would this be an issue ?
    3) What is the weighting given to one’s resume?
    4) What is the weighting given to one’s undergraduate transcripts and grades ? I have a B.E. degree in Electronics from India(equivalent to B.S. here in US) from 11 years ago, but my grades and transcripts were not great. I have subsequently done well for myself professionally 11 years later , but is this something to be concerned about in their evaluation of my application?
    5) Are any other forms of achievements in professional career taken into account when deciding the admission ?
    6) Is the degree that is awarded at the end of the program mention any specifics about the fact that it is an evening and online program ?

    Your thoughts and response would be very much appreciated and helpful.

    • #5 by Thom on 2010/05/03 - 09:19

      Prasanna, thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Babson, Bentley and BU all have their strengths and weaknesses – I can’t speak to Bentley or BU since I don’t have any direct experience with them. I can, and will, speak to the strength and focus of Babson which is entrepreneurship. Whether you are a Full-time, Fast Track or Evening student – entrepreneurship is woven into every aspect of the program. I think this singular focus and strength is unique and compelling – and US News And World Report agrees having ranked Babson as the #1 MBA program in Entrepreneurship for 17 consecutive years ahead of Harvard, Stanford, Wharton, et al.

      There are differences between Babson’s programs – the Fast Track program is a two-year blended learning program with both online and on-campus components. It also is a cohort-based program where you’ll have the same classmates for the two years of the program. This is definitely a strength as it facilitates networking and building strong friendships. The evening program typically takes 3-4 years to complete, although it can be done quicker, but you don’t have a fixed group of classmates which can make it more difficult to network. Babson doesn’t make any distinction on your diploma as to which program you’ve completed – you’ll earn an MBA with the Babson name on the diploma. Obviously potential employers will ask which program you attended and again each program has it’s strong points. For me the Fast Track program was the only option because my work schedule required frequent travel – I don’t know your situation but the evening program does require you to attend most classes on weekday evenings.

      I took the GMAT and personally I think studying for and preparing for the GMAT is beneficial. If you aren’t willing to put the time into prepping for a single test, why do you think you’ll be ready to put in the hours needed to be successful in an MBA program. As to your admissions specific questions, I would suggest you contact the admissions office. They are very responsive and willing to anwer questions. I found them very helpful when I was going through the admissions process. Best of luck in your search for the right MBA program for you and please let me know if you have any more questions about Babson.

  4. #6 by Prasanna Kasi on 2010/05/03 - 12:00

    Thom, Thanks for responding. My work involves some bit of travel too. Working hard is nothing new to me and I do not shy away from it. I have taken a decision to enroll in an MBA program knowing that I have to put in the hard work. I wanted to know on the GMAT requirements of Babson fast track because if there is no weightage given to it, then I may be better served to utilize the time in other constructive avenues than preparing for it. In this case, it is a question of working smart than working hard. I will get in touch with the admission office for further questions pertaining to admission criteria.

    • #7 by Thom on 2010/05/03 - 12:58

      Prasanna, Working smarter is definitely the way to go – and if the GMAT isn’t a requirement then there’s no reason to take it. If travel is a regular work requirement, I’d give serious consideration to the Fast Track Program because it can accomodate a fair amount of travel – in fact I was traveling about 100-125 nights a year when I went through the program. Good luck and I’d be curious to know where you finally enroll.

  5. #8 by Sunny Cheung on 2010/08/15 - 16:18

    Hi Thom, as a prospective student in the San Francisco’s Fast Track program, I think you have explained both the pros & cons pretty well. After all my research, I am quite convinced that Babson is all about teaching entrepreneurship. I am a software engineer who is about to finish an online Masters degree at UIUC. We watch the videotaped lectures that professors deliver to their in-campus students. Aside from the lack of interactions with the professors and the students there, it basically worked out pretty well. I am wondering how the online learning in the Fast Track program works when there’s no corresponding in-campus students in the class.

    So it would be great if you can explain further (perhaps in another blog) how the online learning works in this Fast Track program. Do professors just videotape themselves (with no student there) and upload the lectures? The 2-min “Distance Learning” video on the Babson website doesn’t seem to do a good job in this. After watching it, I felt like it’s a rather static experience, where the professor would just update the readings, assignments and discussion questions each week, and then students just discuss on the newsgroup and submit their answers online. Sure there’s the face-to-face every 6 weeks, but I was afraid that’s not enough interactions with the professor for learning sake. Until I stumbled across your blog, which seems to suggest that the program is much more rigorous than I thought.

    I have already registered for a Visitor event but meanwhile, any further insights into the learning experience would be of great help. Thanks in advance!

  6. #9 by Janani on 2010/09/26 - 04:15

    Hi Thom, thanks for sharing your babson experience.I’m confused about the minimum work experience requirement for the full time mba in entrepreneurship.Could you pls clarify me on that? Thank you.

    • #10 by Thom on 2010/09/26 - 08:31

      Janani, thank you for reading the blog. As to the work requirements I can’t really speak to the specifics of a situation because I’m not part of the Babson admissions process. I’m merely a very satisified alum of the school. In general it is a good rule of thumb to have 4-5 years of full-time work experience before you begin getting your MBA. There are always exceptions and exceptional situations, but in general students who don’t have that requisite work experience don’t get as much out to fhe program, nor do they offer as much insight to their classmates. The second part is what is often over-looked.

      In a good MBA program you’ll learn just as much, if not more, from your classmates as you will from the professors. I attended Babson’s Fast Track MBA, a two-year hybrid learning program designed for working professionals. We attended classes on-campus and also completed work online finishing in 2 years all the while working full-time. The average work experience for my cohort was around 10 years, with some having as little as 5 years and some more than 20. Every situation is different and I’d encourage you to contact Babson’s graduate admissions office and discuss your situation with them. Good luck.

  7. #11 by Jenny on 2011/03/15 - 13:55

    I’m doing the Fast Track program now (currently midway through ABL2-A) and you hit on just about everything. Phew…. only 13 months to go. Feels like an ultra-marathon. Are we there yet?!

    • #12 by Thom on 2011/03/15 - 14:38

      Jenny, this is actually when they kick it up a notch. I found ABL-3 the hardest part of the program. Sort of like Heartbreak Hill at the Boston Marathon. But it really is worth it. Really.

  8. #13 by Priya on 2011/03/30 - 16:17

    Hi Thom,
    This is a great post. I was looking at Babson’s part time program when the college sent me a mail regarding their fast track program.
    This further confused me because this program can be completed faster than the part time program. However, can you let me know if this is an accepted program? what degree is awarded upon completion of this program. I plan to continue working in the same company even after my MBA.. so I’m not really looking at major jump. But, all in all.. how would you rate the program.

    Any help is appreciated.

    • #14 by Thom on 2011/03/30 - 22:00

      Priya, thanks for reading the blog. Both programs have their strengths. I think the Fast Track program is perfect for someone who is ready to work hard and wants to finish their MBA as soon as possible and is prepared to make sacrifices to make that happen. The Part-time program is great but my work schedule just didn’t allow me to commit to being on campus one or two nights a week for 3 or 4 years, so for me Fast Track was ideal. The degree is the Babson MBA – Babson doesn’t award “executive degrees” or “online degrees” Babson graduates are Babson graduates. As to changing roles or companies, I know quite a few people from my cohort who stayed with the same company but the MBA opened up new opportunities within their existing company. Hope this helped. If you have specific questions I’ll be glad to try and answer them. Good luck.

  9. #15 by James C on 2011/05/09 - 19:44


    Thank you so much for this post, I am currently in the process of narrowing down schools and trying to find a suitable part-time or executive mba program. I’m definitely leaning towards the babson fast track, I understand the hard work that will need to go into it… on average how many hours per week would you say you spent on class work?

    • #16 by Thom on 2011/05/18 - 18:28

      James, thanks for stopping by and reading the blog. I’d say the average weekly workload varied between 15-20 per week. Some weeks more, some weeks less. And it also varied by student – I found the IT operations portions much easier than the Finance portions. Luckily for the most part you can choose when to spend the time – I usually spent an hour or two studying each evening during the week with Saturdays and Sundays my big days for studying. But everyone develops a strategy that works best for them. Good luck and let me know if you have any more questions. Thanks, Thom

  10. #17 by Asha on 2011/06/02 - 13:59

    Hi Thom,
    Very Nice Blog! I have got admitted to Babson Fast track MBA . I am excited about the opportunity, but i have few questions, can you please help to answer those with your wide experience.
    1. MBA is more about networking, how much face to face networking time student have in the overall fast track program.
    2. My concern is sometime online courses doesn’t help you to get the real knowledge. Do you think the Babson online courses are extensive enough to give you the in depth knowledge you need.
    3. How is the interaction with your professor when you are taking a online course. How much of a help is provided to you in terms of professor time.
    4. What is the curriculum when you meet face to face every 6 weeks.

    Thanks for you help

    • #18 by Thom on 2011/06/02 - 16:59

      Asha, thanks for reading the blog and for the compliments. Let me answer your questions in order.
      1. While networking is part of an MBA, and an important one at that, it isn’t the only thing. Babson’s Fast Track program definitely creates the opportunity to network. Each class is admitted as a cohort of students, everyone goes through the program together and the face-to-face time, combined with study groups, online forums, and other tools definitely allow to you to network. More importantly the Babson MBA also has rigor so that in addition to building a strong network you are also building the skills to take advantage of that network.

      2. The Babson MBA isn’t an online MBA. It’s an MBA. It is a MBA with a blended delivery model – some in-person, some online – but don’t worry, Babson’s curriculum will challenge you and prepare you for whatever you want to do. Don’t focus on the delivery model. Personally I think the Babson delivery model more closely resembles today’s professional world than a “traditional two-year MBA”.

      3. The professors were super responsive and willing to help you. The same professors run both the online portions of the course and the face-to-face portions. While I always received help when I asked my professors, I didn’t start with them. This is a graduate degree after all and professors aren’t supposed to spoonfeed you the knowledge in easily digestable bites. You are expected to preapre properly, seek help among your classmates and then ask the professors.
      4. The curriculum for the face-to-face sessions tends to focus more on case study and classroom discussion and group presentations based on work during the previous weeks of online work. There isn’t as much of the traditional lecture model with a professor lecturing for two hours straight.

      Hope that helped. If there is anything else you want to know, just ask and I’ll be glad to help. Thanks, Thom

  11. #19 by Michael on 2011/06/14 - 10:03

    Hi Tom,

    I really enjoyed your blog. I’m writing to you with a few questions, hoping you could give me some insight. I’m based in New York and I have my own business. I got into the Fast Track Program at Babson. I feel that I am very knowledgable about the products I’m selling but not about everything else that has to do with running a successful business. I have been in business for over 8 years and I’m still a one man operation. I’d like to learn how to expend my business, how to invest better in my business, hire the right people, market better, make the right decisions, recognize and learn how to grab the right opportunies, ect. I know that there are also a lot of enterpreneurship programs on line, seminars and lectures on line and in the area. Could you please tell me, in your estimation, whether Babson MBA is the right choice for someone in my situation. I will be covering the tuition myself and before I commit myself I would like to know if it’s the best choice for me. How different is it from taking an enterpreneurship course, seminar, ect. I also have a family with two young children, so going to school will mean less time with them.
    Thank you in advance for your help.

  12. #20 by Softy on 2011/07/06 - 00:59

    My concern is sometime online courses doesn’t help you to get the real knowledge. Do you think the Babson online courses are extensive enough to give you the in depth knowledge you need.How different is it from taking an enterpreneurship course, seminar, ect. I also have a family with two young children, so going to school will mean less time with them.Anyway, thanks for sharing this with us.

    • #21 by Thom on 2011/08/10 - 08:48

      Softy, I can only speak to the quality of Babson’s courses. Babson’s program isn’t an “on-line” course, it is an MBA program with both classroom components and online components. What separates Babson’s approach is the fact that the class starts and finishes the two-year program as a cohort which means you get to know your classmates very well. In addition unlike many online programs you are part of a study group with group assignments and responsibilities – this small working group mimics in many ways the small teams you often find yourself assigned to in the workplace.

      As to your other question – I can’t advise you on whether or not the significant investment in money, and in time (away from the family), will be worth it for you, but for me it was. And because Babson interleaves Entrepreneurship throughout the program you get to experience the full gamut of entrepreneurial thought and action – not just the easy and exciting parts. Getting an MBA is a very different commitment from taking a course or a weekend seminar – All I can say is unless you know an MBA is what you are looking for or need an MBA for your professional and personal aspirations, I would not recommend pursuing one. If you are on the fence about getting an MBA before you even start then it’s probably not the right thing for you to do. But if you KNOW you need an MBA then Babson is a great place to get one and the Fast Track program is a great fit for working professionals. Good luck.

  13. #22 by Dan on 2011/10/19 - 11:43

    Great article. It’s a lot of money to spend and I want to be certain that I am going back for the right reasons. In your opinion, what was the biggest reason that you went back; and secondly, what was the best thing that you got out of the program?

    Thanks again, it’s tough to find resources like this on specific MBA programs.

  14. #23 by scott on 2012/11/20 - 16:36

    Can you speak more specifically to the SF cohort.

    How is brand recognition with Bay area financial services companies?

    I am looking to make a career transition from engineering to finance. What percent of the class would you say currently work at a bank or investment firm? How many career changers to finance do you see? How many people are interested in other areas aside of entrepreneurship, or or only partially interested in it but want to concentrate on say finance or marketing?

    I am particularly interested in investment management and want to pursue a SF Bay Area MBA. Note I am also going for the CFA.

    What sort of acceptance rate is there for the SF program?

    Are the electives limited in the SF program. I see electives can be “on campus” , but that is a no go.

    • #24 by Thom on 2012/12/15 - 11:12

      Scott, sorry it’s taken me so long to reply. I can’t speak the SF program in detail since it began after I graduated and while I worked for San Jose based companies for almost 9 years, I haven’t worked in the Valley since Babson started the San Francisco cohort. What I will say is that Babson’s strength is in the program and the content – if name recognition is among the more important factors for you there are obviously schools with higher brand recognition. That being said if you want a strong program that’ll give you a broad-based entrepreneurial education I think Babson is a great program. And I think it fits very well with the Valley’s entrepreneurial ethos.

      Given your focus on investment management and pursuing a CFA – I’m not sure Babson is the best fit. While there are many Babson alums in Financial services – the program is not a quant program designed to crank out number crunchers. It is a balanced program focusing on building and growing a business – either as a start-up or within an existing company. My recommendation is to contact the graduate admissions office with your program specific questions – they would be best positioned to answer them. Good luck wherever you choose to go to school.

  15. #25 by Addi on 2013/05/11 - 05:28

    Hi Thom,

    great article and interesting comments. According to your experience, is Babson a good MBA for career in consulting? Is the Mba open to international students?
    Many thanks in advance for your help,

    • #26 by Thom on 2013/05/28 - 08:49

      Addi, I think the Babson MBA is good for many things, consulting included. The entrepreneurial focus combines breadth of knowledge with a bias towards action and decision making. And Babson is definitely open to international students – I’d say 25% to 30% of my class received their undergraduate degree from a college or university outside the United States.

      My recommendations as always is to contact the admissions office. They are better equipped to answer your questions. Good luck in your studies no matter where you choose to go.

  16. #27 by fernando on 2013/08/04 - 11:44

    Hi Thom,

    Thank you for helping us. I´ve checked that most of mba´s have similar subjects such as finance, marketing, entrepreneurship, strategy management, etc. However, what makes MBA Babson different regarding others MBA´s? Are there any different concept or dinamism to rank Babson in the top?

    • #28 by Thom on 2013/08/05 - 09:54

      I think the reason entrepreneurship is so strong at Babson is because it’s interwoven into all aspects of the program from day one. It isn’t a class per se but rather a mindset. And it’s applicable whether you want to start a company or you want to be entrepreneurial from within an existing company. There is a rather strong bias towards action and iteration rather than spending time in analysis paralysis. Given a choice I think actually doing something is almost always better than thinking about doing something.

  17. #29 by Neeti on 2015/02/09 - 14:32

    Hi Thom,
    Thanks for the great post and continued conversation. I was wondering what your thoughts are now about the blended learning MBA at Babson in terms of recognition. While it continues to be ranked high, i’m concerned about how the brand is seen outside northeast. Also what are your thoughts about the online MBA program at Kelley school of business vs. Babson’s program?

    • #30 by Thom on 2015/02/25 - 21:57

      Neeti, thanks for stopping by and checking out the blog. I think recognition is growing for Babson – it’s strength is obviously in the Northeast but increasingly it is making noise and getting recognized nationally and internationally for the great entrepreneurial training it provides. As comfortable as we’ve become living and learning online, I think Babson’s blended learning provides critical in-person opportunities for networking and interaction. The combination of the two I think better reflects the business world we live in now – where you spend time in person and online with your customers, co-workers and suppliers. I can’t speak to Kelley – either from a strengths or weaknesses perspective, but I can speak to Babson. I’m glad I went, it has served me well and I’d probably chose it again.

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