Making the Grade? MBA Programs and Grade Non-Disclosure Policies
Master of Business Administration (MBA) programs around the country cultivate today’s students to become the pilots of economics and commerce in the world of tomorrow. In an effort to make the business school experience richer and more beneficial for these students, many top business schools have adopted Grade Non-Disclosure (GND) policies to refocus both students and recruiters away from grades and toward other aspects that many feel are more important and valuable. Read on to learn about what these Grade Non-Disclosure policies do, whether or not they’re effective, and the arguments for and against them.
What does a Grade Non-Disclosure policy do?
A Grade Non-Disclosure policy demands that students do not discuss their grades or GPA with recruiters until they have a full-time job offer; however, students are free to discuss any awards or honors, test scores, or undergraduate grades with recruiters. These GND policies are, as of now, only found in business schools, and only elite business schools at that. These policies also vary from school to school. At Harvard up until 2005, when its GND policy was repealed, for example, the school itself introduced and enforced the GND policy. At Wharton and Chicago Booth, the student body approves and imposes the policy upon themselves. Grade Non-Disclosure policies have their advocates and opponents, with school administrators usually favoring disclosure and students usually favoring non-disclosure. See an NYU parody video below about Grade Non-Disclosure policies for a lighter look.
What’s the argument in favor of Grade Non-Disclosure Policies?
Whether instituted by the school administration or the student body itself, advocates say Grade Non-Disclosure allows students to take more engaging and difficult classes without fear of the repercussions on their GPAs, while encouraging a more collaborative atmosphere and focus upon the more important aspects of business school. In a 2011 survey by the Graduate Management Admissions Council, the majority of business recruiters look primarily for applicants who demonstrate initiative, professionalism, motivation, integrity, creativity, efficiency, goal orientation, and adaptability with little emphasis on grades as a criteria for hiring.
Many business professionals note that the importance of business school lies in the networking and employment opportunities that arise from studying in such a setting, not in the receipt of a grade for a particular class. Because grades carry less importance in an MBA program, advocates of GND policies claim that under these policies students are allowed to take more engaging and challenging classes that broaden their intellectual horizons without worrying about taking low-level, GPA-boosting classes. These policies also enable recruiters to focus on the aspects of candidates that many feel truly reveal their real-world potential, such as awards, honors, extra-curricular activity, and other distinguishing factors.
Many institutions have quotas and maximum limits on As and Bs awarded and average GPAs, which fosters fierce competition between the relatively small number of MBA students for those top grades. GND policies eliminate the incentive for this bitter competition and instead promote an environment of collaboration, cooperation, and networking between students.
What’s the argument against Grade Non-Disclosure Policies?
While some opponents may agree that grades are not the sole purpose of a business school program, they do find that Grade Non-Disclosure policies entice students to forego preparing and working hard for classes, and only benefit students of elite business schools because of their name-brand education. A 2011 study by the National Bureau of Economic Research revealed that in the first four years after Wharton students instituted a GND policy, the time spent on academics dropped by 22percent with no patterns of change in the types of courses students were enrolling in. Other graduate students and faculty have noticed that under these policies students exhibit an increase in apathy and a decrease in motivation concerning their classes.
While seven of the top ten MBA programs in the country had GND policies, no schools ranked 20-50 among business schools had them. The reason why these policies only exist at elite schools, many opponents claim, is that by not divulging their GPAs, students at these schools are allowed to rest on the merits of their school’s name, and not upon their own academic achievement. Students in lower-ranked business programs do not have that luxury as the mere name of their institutions would not garner the same respect and prestige that would have an impact on a job interview.
Education is only as valuable as what you learn from it, even at the MBA level. The idea of Grade Non-Disclosure policies is that they help students to focus on learning rather than getting better grades than their peers. After all, the skills that they learn will be significantly more useful in the workforce than the ability to pinpoint and take easy classes. However, opponents of Grade Non-Disclosure policies argue that the policies incentivize students to not work as hard as they can. There’s also the argument that Grade Non-Disclosure policies hurt students who work very hard at lower-ranked schools. Given that there is no centralized MBA Grade Non-Disclosure program, it is likely that schools will continue to make the choices for themselves. For those looking at MBA programs, it’s an important facet of education to take into account.