What to learn during MBA
In the classroom, most programs provide flexibility once you complete a core curriculum that consists of general business disciplines (marketing, operations, organizational behavior, strategy, corporate finance, financial accounting, managerial accounting, economics, statistics). Once the core is under your belt—or sometimes in parallel with core courses—you can choose from a broad assortment of electives. Some programs have formalized majors or concentrations that you can put on a resume.
Some of the greatest learning opportunities come via other classmates. That is precisely why b-schools place so much emphasis on diversity in the classroom, because it really does have an impact on the learning environment.
Good professors bring out the depth of experience in the classroom while bad ones drone on about their ivory tower research that you’ll never use in the real world. Choose great professors when possible, and you will learn more. Outside of the classroom, there are plenty of learning opportunities from clubs to internships to special projects with local businesses and non-profits. Again, it comes down to how you want to spend your time. Being president of your class and running a large club means you probably won’t be valedictorian.
At the end of the day, you choose to go to b-school when you believe the improved career opportunities will make up for the cost of school and 2 years of lost income. Academic learning is one reason you are there, but it is not the only reason (and arguably not the most important reason). Figure out what you want out of the program, and then prioritize accordingly.
You will be learning constantly if you have the right mentality (you could learn more in 1 hour at a bar with the right classmates than in a bad class).
Finally, don’t neglect the relational aspects of business school. You have the opportunity to develop incredibly deep friendships in a short amount of time. Enjoy that experience, and remember that your friends will go on to do interesting things all over the world. That network is not to be taken lightly, and you’ll never develop it if you’re stuck in a book the whole time.