Academic honors

For a more personal take on how academic honors impacted students both in and out of school, we interviewed Scott and Yuri, two Booth alums who were Siebel Scholars.

We asked them the following questions:

  • How did these honors impact your school experience?
  • How have these honors impacted your career?
  • Should MBA students pursue academic honors?

Before you read on, keep these things in mind:

  • Both had distinctly different career paths and experiences. In the decade since they’ve graduated, Scott has been a consultant with Booz & Company, where he focuses on oil and gas strategy; Yuri has moved around a bit, developing an expertise in fleet strategy which has most recently brought him to the Bristow Group in Houston.
  • Neither of them went to school consciously pursuing academic honors, but both wanted to achieve good grades and get a great education.
  • They were both already academically inclined before entering b-school.
  • They saw an opportunity cost to achieving academic honors,  acknowledging that they came at the expense of something else in business school.

How did these honors impact your school experience?

  • Scott: It was a distinguishing factor in recruiting – employers are keen to understand if you’re an academic achiever, and since there are a small number of people with this distinction, it’s a good credential. Consulting puts a pretty heavy premium on your academic record, so my experience was positive. Many professional services careers (consulting, banking, investment management) emphasize academics.
  • Yuri: I don’t think the Siebel Scholarship brand is that well known, but it does prove to people that you’re a pretty smart person. The opportunity cost to me was my social life (although I was engaged, then married, so I was in a different place). Also, I did not focus on career opportunities as much as I could have, because I was so invested in my studies.

How have these honors impacted your career?

  • Scott: The main way I leverage it now is in my resume/bio for proposals, since I’m continually evaluated by people who don’t know me. Now that I’ve been doing this for 10 years, it’s mostly about my work – but this honor is an additional credential and part of my brand.
  • Yuri: I got pretty involved in the Siebel Foundation activities and met some pretty cool people – luminaries in their field. I organized an event for the Foundation, and that went very well. When I was looking for my current job, I connected with the Siebel network – it didn’t end up leading to my current position, but it’s good to know I have that network there.

Should MBA students pursue academic honors?

  • Scott: There are a lot of ways to distinguish yourself in your job search, and it becomes a decision of where you want to put in your time. I chased it partially because of that distinguishing factor. Also, I’m just a big nerd! I’ve always been academically inclined, so I enjoyed it. If you don’t have that inclination, it may be better to find another way to distinguish yourself.
  • Yuri: If you’re not already academically inclined, the opportunity cost would be much greater. Some people just want to enjoy their time in school, so this might be much harder for them to achieve.