“Yeah, I don’t really care how well I did. I don’t think anyone does. I can just make it up on the final exam.” These were the words I overhead during a conversation the other day. They were in reference to a midterm exam I had just walked out of. The midterm was pretty difficult, not only because the material for the class was hard but also because time to study was much more limited than normal, as right now, we’re right in the middle of recruiting season.
But don’t be fooled. This conversation is not as unique as it sounds. The trade-off between grades and other activities has long been an important discussion in business school. Both because grades have never been the sole focus of school and because in the winter quarter, priorities start to change, and recruiting becomes the main priority. But that must leave you wonder … so how important are grades at Kellogg?
On one hand, many people agree that grades don’t matter all that much. After all, most employers rarely ask you to submit grades and even if they do, it’s only one data point along with your resume, background, interview skills, and prior experiences, not only on campus but also before Kellogg. On the other hand, most people here are used to doing well academically, so still want to do as well as possible. Similarly, you do get a sense of personal satisfaction from doing well in a class, especially if you enjoyed the subject matter or liked the professor.
From experience, I’ll say that figuring out the right balance can be tough. You have limited time to do everything and you have to start choosing. Choosing if you have to miss a class, and if so when. Choosing how many jobs to go after. And choosing how many classes you can handle, which is likely dependent on your recruiting needs.
This process will be especially difficult for those that end up having to go through with recruiting for longer than the average student. They have less time for a longer period of time, have to make more tradeoff decisions, have to engage more overall energy in the search process, and miss out on the traditional parts of graduate school, and business school, that are supposed to be more fun.
Fortunately, the administration knows this takes place every year. Some professors allow you more flexible schedules and allow you to come in and out of class if you have an interview looming. Already, two of my professors have noted that alternative arrangements for class can be made if an interview conflicts with the class time. Likewise, alternative arrangements can at times be made to take midterms if there is a real conflict and you let the professor know in advance.
Despite this, professors still face the challenge of keeping students interested. For better or worse, we are incented with grades. We are also incented because we can enroll in electives which are more fun and interesting. And some classes make participation a larger part of the process of the process. For most though, this doesn’t necessarily change their mindset, because students won’t spend all their time studying at the expense of getting a job. In the end, everyone figures out the balance that works for them, and they do their best to make it all work.
It will be interesting to see how the pulse at Kellogg changes as the recruiting season moves on and more and more people start to accept summer jobs. Good luck if you’re also going through the recruiting process.