Students enrolled in full time MBA programs in the US, enter during the fall of their first year. Midway through the fall term, attention by the students is focused on hunting for a summer internship that will begin about mid-June of the following calendar year.
When the students return from their summer internships, for the second year, they must adjust to the classroom routine as well as hunt for a full time position. Increasingly, offers of full time employment by large companies are confined to those who interned with them during the summer. In other words, if you did not intern with well known company X in the summer, the chances that you will receive an offer of full time employment from X is small. Apparently, getting smaller each year. The absence of a summer internship reduces the probability of getting full time employment at the second year to practically zero.
Now lets speculate. Assume that the correlation between a summer internship and a subsequent offer of employment by the same firm is close to 1. Assume also, that most students in the program wish to be employed by a large, name brand firm. Under these conditions, the summer internship becomes vital. Consider now the timeline that would face the typical student.
When they go into interview for a summer internship, they have had roughly 10 weeks of course work spread over 4 to 5 courses. Once the internship has been secured, everything is plain sailing. Three questions arise.
1) What purpose does the course work taken between January and June of the first academic year serve? The student has already secured the internship!
2) When the student returns at the end of the summer and has done well, full time employment is assured. What purpose does the second year of the program serve?
3) In the roughly 10 weeks of the fall when the student is still hunting for an internship, can a school really have an impact on a student?
Now, focus on the school. Helping its students secure a summer internship becomes vital. So, how does a school support a student in this? Ensuring they have the knowledge to impress at the interview. Of course they should know Finance, Accounting and Marketing. What about Strategy? Leadership? But to understand some of this don’t they need to know some economics? As many spend they summer internships analyzing data, shouldn’t they be exposed to statistics? How is this to be done in 10 weeks? Start earlier. In fact at Kellogg we begin about 2 weeks before the start of the regular academic year for the University. Wharton starts `early’ as well. Other schools are revising their core curriculum in order to stuff more into the first 10 weeks so that their students are prepared for the interviews.
Under the stark assumptions I laid out above, it would seem that in about 5 years schools will be faced with a stark choice.
a) If we believe that the course work and experiences that a 2 year program offer are valuable we will have to start earlier.
b) If we don’t, then we should shrink our programs to 10 weeks, have the University spin us off as a private company that offers placement and interview preparation services.