What’s a Babson MBA Worth?


Weigh your decision carefully when choosing your MBA program.

Will a Babson MBA be worth it? I don’t know whether it will be worth it for you, but I do know the Babson Fast Track MBA was absolutely worth it for me. It was worth the substantial financial investment. It was worth the countless hours of studying and work. It was worth the sacrifices, both my own as well as those made by my family.

Babson’s strength comes from its deep entrepreneurial roots that provide the foundation around which the Babson MBA experience is built. This inculcates every required class and every elective class. Entrepreneurship becomes a lens which focuses your mind and efforts to provide a clear vision and framework from which to view and solve business issues.

Of course your mileage may vary. If you go to Babson thinking that you’ll pony up some coin, read a few books, dissect a few cases, listen to some lectures and walk out with a golden-ticket to fortune and the answers to every business problem under the sun, then you are sorely mistaken and will be greatly disappointed. Babson won’t spoon-feed you what you need to learn. Like the famous “Message to Garcia”, they’ll tell you what you need to accomplish, but you have to be the one to figure out how to do it.

This is done on purpose because part of the learning process is learning for yourself. They don’t break everything down in into nice, little bite-size chunks easily digestible for your studying pleasure that you’ll be able to regurgitate and parrot back to your professors. The goal of an MBA is not to pass a test, but to prepare you for the challenges and rigors of your career. This is graduate school after all and, like life, graduate school isn’t black-and-white with nice, neat simple-to-solve problems.  There is ambiguity, doubt and multiple “right” answers. You get an assignment and then you have to do the work, and part of that work is learning not only what must be done, but how it should be done. The process by which you arrive at your resulting answer is as almost  important as your final product.

That’s not to say that the professors and instructors aren’t available to help you – they absolutely are and I say this based on personal experience. I had problems in a few classes and the professors very patiently helped me grasp what turned out in the end to be simple concepts. But before I asked for help, I had done everything I could in trying to understand those concepts.  I’ll say it again, the MBA is a graduate degree, not a short, simple trade school program designed to teach you how to drive an 18-wheeler in 5-short-weeks. The professors won’t teach you basic arithmetic or how to use Excel and they won’t coddle you. If you don’t prepare for and do the work required, don’t expect them to pat your head and coo ‘it’s okay and everything will be alright’. Deadlines matter, schedules change and nothing is ever forever unchanging and written in stone.  Just like in the business world.

Think carefully before deciding on a school. I chose Babson.

Everyone approaches choosing the school for their MBA differently. I knew that the opportunity cost of a traditional full-time,  two-year program just couldn’t be justified for me. I already had a mortgage, a family and needed to maintain healthcare coverage for my family. So financially it just didn’t add up. This reduced my choices to the following options: part-time, executive and on-line MBA programs. But my work responsibilities at the time required extensive weekday travel, so a traditional part-time program requiring regular mid-week night-time attendance wasn’t going to work either.

This left just executive MBAs and online MBAs. I found the rigor of the purely on-line programs lacking – both in quality and reputation. Not too mention that part of the value of your MBA is the relationships that you create with your cohort of classmates. So for me the executive programs became the only solution. I looked at several programs and came to the realization that Babson’s Fast Track MBA combining traditional classroom-based teaching and lectures was the perfect fit. And Babson’s position as the #1 MBA Program for Entrepreneurship for 16 consecutive years ahead of Stanford, Wharton and Harvard et al, definitely helped make my choice an easy one.

Babson’s Fast Track MBA program is a highly structured program lasting 104 weeks, or two years. The first week of class is the initial one-week residency kickoff held on campus. Additional on-campus classes are held roughly every 6 weeks on Fridays and Saturdays which means that you only have to be away from work roughly 8-10 weekdays a year.  In the intervening weeks, classes are conducted online through discussion boards, conference calls, webinars, presentations, and other internet-based technologies. I averaged roughly 20-25 hours a week on schoolwork – typically spending a good chunk of time every Saturday and Sunday each week on schoolwork and then 1-2 hours, or more if needed, each night during the week. This was on top of my work responsibilities of 50-60+ hours a week.

My schedule was pretty typical – but there were people in my class who worked insane hours (80 or 90 hours plus for months on end) and somehow managed to excel in school. We also had classmates fly in from Asia and Europe for classes because their job responsibilities had changed during the program. One key concept I learned early on – is that the lack of a need for sleep can be a long-term sustainable competitive advantage. Also trying to learn new concepts with a sleep deficit is a liability that should be avoided whenever possible. Starbucks became a frequent destination for myself and many of my classmates.

Aside from the workload, get comfortable with the torrid pace – it moves fast and you have to embrace that speed or get left behind. As one of my salty old Chief Petty Officers from the Navy used to say: “if you can’t keep up, take notes.” Speaking of the military, I used part of my GI Bill to pay for school and Babson made the process very simple. If you are a veteran of the Navy, or for that matter any branch of the military, even if you were only a Marine, (just kidding, couldn’t resist a little inter-service dig – Go Navy!) you should seriously consider Babson. The new GI Bill is even better and Babson should be on your short list of schools to visit.

There is a difference between constructive, actionable criticism and gossip. Think about that in the context of gathering info for your B-school decision.

Now before you dismiss my writing as a classic puff piece, I’ll be the first to say Babson isn’t perfect and has room for improvement. All of the usual complaints exist there, as they do at most business schools: “career services didn’t find me a job with a $50K signing bonus”; “such and such company doesn’t recruit here”; “I thought the test was a timed test and now it’s a full-week take home test”…..boo hoo. Cry me a river. I’m just not sympathetic to a lot of the whining about how hard B-school is – because it is supposed to be hard, if it wasn’t, how much would it be worth? 

Personally I know that Babson’s career services office was a great help for me, not only with resume editing and cover letter help, but also with interview preparation and practice. I never had the expectation that getting an MBA meant people would be beating down my door to hire me and pay me massive amounts of money  – although I will admit that I hadn’t planned on graduating in the midst of the worst economic climate since WWII.

Now constructive criticism aimed at making the program better and stronger is absolutely essential and needs to be encouraged. Personally I’d like to see the program add more material from current events and rely less on the traditional case-based method of teaching. Reading a 10-year-old or even a 5-year-old case felt very strange to me because the market dynamics and economic conditions have changed so much in a short time. I’d like to see some longitudinal business history taught to help compare and contrast what’s happening today with events in the past and to get a broader context on which to base new ideas for today’s challenges. I’d prefer to see more service-based business cases and less retail/white goods cases. I’d like to see Babson strengthen their internal entrepreneurial focus for people who want to bring their entrepreneurial spirit to bear within a corporation as opposed to starting their own company – especially since much of my cohort weren’t planning on starting our own businesses in the near future.

And Babson has a problem that plagues many good business schools – it’s what happens when you fill a room with highly ambitious, intelligent people who all want to be the alpha leader. A fair number of those leaders-to-be seem to just want to hear themselves talk, especially for the first few months while jostling for perceived alpha status. Each cohort of students has to determine how to handle this for themselves with guidance and supervision from the professors of course.

My cohort didn’t have much tolerance for windbags and blowhards. We weren’t above cutting people off when they begin to wander off topic or were repeating themselves. And I don’t know this for a fact, but it seemed to my classmates that the professors also learned who had something to contribute on a regular basis and who just liked to hear themselves talk. But you know what – this is also something that happens in the workplace as well – and if you can’t figure out how to deal with those afflicted by verbal diarrhea in a supportive academic environment, how can you expect to solve it in the workplace?

Work. You’ll notice I’ve mentioned work again and again. With a few rare exceptions successful entrepreneurs all have one common characteristic – a relentless drive and determination to do the work necessary to build a company or get a product or service out the door. If you want to earn a Babson MBA you can’t shirk from work – if you rely on your teammates to do work without contributing your fair share, you’ll fall behind and fail to get much out of the program. As a boxer in college, the main reason I ended my boxing career undefeated was because I put in the hours and put the hard work into training for my matches. I wasn’t the fastest or the strongest, but I knew how to work hard. That skill served me well in the Navy and again at Babson.

Earning your MBA is much like training for any sport – the hours and effort you put forth while in school will help determine your success after you leave the program. I was specifically told that my Babson MBA, coupled with many other things, was a key factor that helped me stand out relative to other candidates when I was recruited for, interviewed at, and accepted a position with Microsoft.

I can’t speak for everyone, but all cliches aside, for me the Babson MBA really was priceless. Only you will know what the Babson MBA will be worth for you. -t

Here are some other posts on my experience at Babson:

The Importance of Teamwork  

Advice for Incoming Babson MBA Students 

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

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  1. #1 by Deep on 2010/04/11 - 23:31

    Good Post. Thank you

  2. #2 by Sean on 2010/04/28 - 08:53

    After reading your post, I have a question: Did you actually go to Babson?

    • #3 by Thom on 2010/04/28 - 09:45

      Sean, thanks for stopping by and reading my post. To answer your question – yes I went to Babson from Sep ’06 to Sep ’08. I was in the Fast Track Program and I graduated with Honors. What I learned at Babson and what I learned from my cohort of classmates has been instrumental in advancing my career. If you have specific questions about Babson, I would be glad to try and answer them. Good luck.

  3. #4 by KW on 2011/04/18 - 23:36

    Hi Thom,

    I like your article very much because it is honest. It’s a refreshing feel compared to the marketing I get when I’m searching for information. Your articles inspires me.

    I’m working on my GMAT preparation. I’m willing to do what is necessary to achieve the score I need. You understand hard work and sounds to me also know how to do it efficiently. I’m wondering if you could give me some pointers how you prepared?

    Cheers,
    KW

  4. #5 by Adam Huang on 2012/06/25 - 13:04

    Hi Thom,

    I was wondering if the fast track program and the evening program for the mba is different?

    Adam

    • #6 by Thom on 2012/12/15 - 11:29

      Adam, yes the evening program is a part-time program, while the Fast Track program is a cohort based program. Typically it takes a student roughly 3-4 years to finish their MBA in the part-time program, although some students are able to complete it in two years. The Fast Track program is a fixed length program with a very controlled schedule and timeline requiring a commitment to the program and you go through the program with the same 80-90 students. The Part-time program allows students to step away from for a semester if work or family commitments won’t allow for taking classes, this option isn’t really available for the Fast Track program.

      I know people who found value in both programs – I’d recommend speaking with the admissions office to see which might be a better fit for your situation. Good luck.

  5. #7 by Geetha Rajan on 2013/07/31 - 00:24

    Hi Thom,
    It’s a great blog – gives a lot of “real” insights into the program. I am curious about the opportunity for getting hired on-campus recruitments. Can you share some experiences on how the career services helped you?

    • #8 by Thom on 2013/08/05 - 10:27

      Geetha, I can’t speak specifically to the on-campus hiring because I wasn’t looking to get hired from campus because the jobs I was most interested were mid-career jobs rather than entry-level post MBA jobs. That being said, I found the career services office very helpful. I used them for a variety of things – mock interviews, networking introductions, resume feedback, and advice. My recommendation is to reach out directly to the admissions office and ask them that question. Good luck.

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