Margaret Heffernan, CEO, author and noted business lecturer, has some blunt advice for today’s MBA students:  “You’re not there for the grades: you’re there for the learning.”  For American students, this can be quite a mental shift.  Over the past couple of decades, American schools have focused on testing and grades to measure achievement.  Colleges and universities have seen average GPAs rise significantly.

Perhaps it is not surprising that many MBA students hyper-focus on their grades.  After all, habits are hard to break:  students have to earn excellent grades in high school to gain acceptance into top universities, and undergraduate grades play a role in the MBA admissions process.  As Heffernan notes in her blog, however, MBA grades are not a major concern for most employers.

For those of you considering applying to an MBA program, Heffernan’s advice is sound:  know why you’re pursuing an MBA and what you expect to get out of the experience.  Professors and employers may not fully agree with her assertion that grades are unimportant; however, I like the fact that she focuses on outcomes rather than grades.  Students need to take charge of their education, think critically in their classes, and not be afraid to challenge established ideas.  Memorization of facts is not enough to earn an MBA; students need to think strategically and synthesize data.  Employers are looking for energetic, confident graduates with leadership potential.  Simply graduating with a 4.0 isn’t going to cut it in today’s business world.

Professors, employers, students, and prospective students–what do you think about Heffernan’s point of view?