How Important Are Grades In MBA – Amol Aranke, IIM Bangalore

In India, the story of grades begins as early as in primary school. Let’s look at the story of Raju. An innocent little kid hailing from a middle-class family who have huge expectations of him. Raju is in his primary school and has just realized the joy of having friends and how much fun it is to play with them. But, before he knows it, he is burdened by the society with this huge responsibility; get good grades this year or else your life will be reduced to one of misery.

With little knowledge of how the world works, poor Raju cuts down on his playing time so that he can study. He is promised the carrot that if he does well this year, he can play more the next year. But much to Raju’s bemusement, the year in which he can just do what he loves remains elusive. Very soon, Raju reaches the extremely vital 10th grade. His parents promise him that if he works hard this year, the rest of his life is taken care of. With the dream of finally living the life that he has always wanted to, Raju sacrifices his entire fun-time and scores a 95% in 10th grade. He is on top of the world. Among the most intelligent people of his generation; or at least he is made to feel so. Raju now looks forward to the rest of his life. All these years have finally paid off. Finally, he can do what he really loves.

Unfortunately, there is an unpleasant shock awaiting him.

The expectations from him have just shot up like a rocket. After all, one of the most intelligent minds of his generation has to do extremely well in the 12th grade so that he gets into an IIT. He is brainwashed by almost everyone around him of how important it is to get into an IIT. Raju is also told about the salary packages he will get after completing his engineering from IIT. Burdened by these innumerable expectations, Raju works extremely hard and gets into an IIT, the best engineering college in the country.

When he is just about to graduate from this IIT and start his lavish life that was promised to him, Raju is informed about these new set of magical institutions which miraculously double your salary in just a couple of years! The IIMs. Raju has had enough of these unexpected surprises. He finally wants to stop living in this delusional world. He wants to stop postponing the life he has always dreamt of living. But he is now promised that this is the last step in the journey. In fact, he is promised that all he has to do is to get into an IIM. The magical institution will take care of the rest. So Raju works very hard and scores a 99.95%ile in CAT to get into one of the top IIMs. Finally! He can just relax for a couple of years and then live the life that has been promised to him since childhood. All his hard work has finally paid off, he feels.

Among the top 1% of the minds in the country, Raju reaches this prestigious MBA college. And to his horror, he realizes that he has to work hard yet again to get good grades! Or else, he won’t get a good placement! He won’t be able to live his dream life. Raju is deeply frustrated. He is convinced that his entire life was a delusion. He is never going to be able to live the life he dreamt off. His dream has been shattered!

Most of you would be able to relate to at least some part of Raju or his life thus far. And I am sure you will be able to strongly resonate with the rat race to get that 4-pointer and to top the class in your MBA college. After a lifetime of extremely hard work and intense competition, very few of us get a chance to study at one of these prestigious institutes. But unfortunately, although a lot of things change with time, it is very difficult to change the mentality we have developed over all these years. The biggest mistake we can make is to treat the 2 years of MBA as the rest of our academic life. This reminds me of a very important statement made by one of my professors at IIMB,” the day you are out of this place, no one is going to see what your grade is. What everyone will see is how you carry yourself. How you talk!”

There are a lot of students who focus purely on grades throughout the 2 years. They take courses for scoring a better grade, they sacrifice on social activities so that they can study, they form project groups in a way that their grade won’t get affected, and the list goes on and on. Amidst all this, what is sacrificed is knowledge and learning. This might sound like “globe”, but MBA has a lot to offer and it can change you as a person, only if you allow it to.

What we must remember is that every person who reaches an IIM has already done enough in life to be in the top 1% in the country. It is too narrow a thinking to worry about grades and placements when at an IIM. What we must look for is – what value are we adding? Are we transforming into a new, better person? Are we becoming the best version of ourselves? Even if the answer to these questions is a “maybe”, then we are doing something wrong. It is time to change the approach.

I will leave you with the following thought, “Comfort zone is an amazing place. But nothing great ever grows there!”

Amol Aranake

Chartered Accountant May 2016 IIM Bangalore PGP 2017-19