Choosing Classes

A Method to the Madness?

Sometimes, I get so invested in my extra-curricular duties and my career search that it seems as though the ‘school’ aspect of business school becomes an afterthought. I deeply regret this. Ideally, I’d spend much more time reading and doing group work. After all, we do have top-rated faculty in virtually every department. But due to circumstance beyond my control, I’ve long neglected to put as much time into school work as I’d like.

My hope was that it was going to change this year. Anyone can get a little tied up during the first year, but my aim was to correct that during Round 2, lest I walk away from Durham without feeling academically satisfied. But what exactly does that entail anyway? Which classes are the best classes to take? Everyone has his own opinion on how to select a schedule, and as course registration is upon us, I couldn’t help but reflect on how I’ve chosen courses in the past. There are a few methods I’d like to explore.

  1. Concentration Based: I’m pretty sure when I stepped on campus for the first time over a year ago, everyone had a too-rigidly-defined idea about what job they preferred, and which concentration was going to get them there. Then, we went through interviews without being asked about our concentrations, and all of a sudden, they didn’t seem so important anymore. I must say I’ve been guilty of this. I’m one of the many erstwhile dual-focus Finance Concentration folks at Fuqua. It seemed like a great idea, and I legitimately intended to go through with it, but having a finance background (kind of), it began to seem redundant (and, who are we kidding, time consuming, too). But I definitely took my fair share of courses in pursuit of it, and some were highly worthwhile, with significance way beyond anything I could articulate in a 30-minute interview.
  2. Because of the Professor: I know every business school has some metric that shows that they have the best faculty in the world, but we have BloombergBusinessweek in our corner, so it’s official. And those professors who get the most acclaim typically also have the longest wait lists come registration time, even if it is some obscure discipline that may have little relevance for your career. The great part about this (aside from the professor) is that there’s an attraction from students across a wide array of career tracks and backgrounds, so the class is a bit more diverse. I can’t say I’ve taken this approach too often, but perhaps I should have.
  3. An Interesting Subject: I came back to school, in part, to stretch my mind because it’s so difficult to do so in the workplace. This is probably the approach I choose most often. Some courses have such appealing names that it’s hard to say no. I took a course called Irrational Choices this term without even looking at the professor or the course description, or certainly the syllabus. Looking back on it, the decision seems impulsive, but this is my MO, and in this case, it worked. It’s been a tremendous class so far, the type of rich, interactive experience that all classes should aspire to. (Check out the online course listing for more.)
  4. Sleep Schedule: I’m a little bit of an early bird, and get sleepy by the late afternoon, so I like to find 8 am courses. I guess professors don’t like early classes any more than students do, as I seem to have trouble finding these sometimes. There’s definitely at least one class that I took solely because it was at 8 am on Tuesday and Friday. Surprisingly, it actually worked out pretty well, though I still attribute that to coincidence.
Mike Ferguson

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Daytime MBA, Class of 2012. Find out more about me...

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