Concentrations are a funny thing: they are completely optional in most business schools. So, why should we choose one in the first place, and which one(s)? Particularly for prospective students, this may be a relevant question that could factor into the decision over which B-school to attend. Allow me to share some of my experiences to shed light on the topic.
I first pondered the subject after the first semester, when we became eligible to choose electives instead of only mandatory core classes. Fuqua being a big school, the elective options were a little overwhelming and I really did not know how to pick the “right” electives. That’s when I decided to use concentration requirements as a guideline. Given that I had gone into my MBA with the goal of doing corporate strategy later on, the strategy concentration seemed a natural choice for me. As I also had a general interest in financial analysis, that came easily as a second option.
A Shift in Focus
During the summer, I did an internship in strategy and operations. What I quickly realized was that the skills I most urgently needed (and applied every day) came from neither of the concentrations I had chosen, but from classes focused on decision sciences (for details, see my earlier blog about the internship). That was a key insight, and so I swapped strategy for decision sciences.
The latest (and certainly final) change in my plans occurred a few weeks ago. I realized that I would have all the requirements for my two concentrations fulfilled by the end of 2012, but still had one full semester to go. Again, I wasn’t sure how to select classes for the spring terms. Therefore, I went back to my initial development plan, something that we had all created at the beginning of the first year of our MBA. What I read there reminded me that I had vowed to take as many quantitative classes as I possibly could. So I decided on corporate finance because it’s a good complement to my financial analysis curriculum and also heavily quant-focused.
By the end of my MBA I will have tried 4 concentrations and settled on one pair. I’ve found the concentrations to be useful, especially for a career-changer without a relevant undergrad degree. But you don’t need to stress out about just choosing — or sticking with — one concentration. Just see them for what they are — useful signposts and learning opportunities.