When executive M.B.A. candidates are choosing a school, the students are often as much of a selling point as the professors.
In this year's Wall Street Journal survey, just over 78% of recent E.M.B.A. graduates said the perceived quality of classmates was an important factor in choosing a program. The chance to rub elbows with talented, well-connected classmates is crucial: As much as 50% of E.M.B.A. class work is done in team settings, and most classes are taught in a seminar style where students drive the discussion with insights from their lengthy experience in the business world.
Many respondents ended up pleased with their peers. Asked to rate their classmates' positive contribution to the learning experience on a scale of 1 to 10, the recent grads returned an average score of 8.89 and a median score of 8.84.
A Varied Class
For the most part, business-school admissions directors go out of their way to ensure that each incoming class has a variety of high-caliber students from different industries. Some schools, like Rutgers University, will wait-list applicants from professions that are overrepresented, even though they meet other qualifications to get in.
That's an asset in a fast-paced program where many students come in with specific backgrounds or specialties. William Zeuch, senior vice president of new-business development at OfficeMax Inc., quickly learned he would need to rely on his classmates as an E.M.B.A. student at Notre Dame University's Mendoza College of Business. He was weak in math and struggled in his accounting course. Eventually, Mr. Zeuch asked a classmate—a chief financial officer—for tutoring help.
"It's a humbling experience," says Mr. Zeuch, who will graduate in 2011. "When you're an executive, it's hard to ask somebody for help, but when you're in college you have to. You have no choice."
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