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3 Tips To Winning A Business School Case Competition

Organizers and participants in a major business school case competition tell you what you need to do to win


Tue May 14 2019

Success in a case competition can be what takes your business school experience from a good one to a great one. Whether you’re studying for an MBA or a business master’s, the chance to apply what you’ve learned in real time, for a real company, can be invaluable.

At the Kogod School of Business at American University, administrators have taken this message to heart, as they’ve been running their annual Kogod Case Competition for 26 years.


Andrew Toczydlowski is the director of student development and services at the school and works closely with all those involved in the competition.

For Andrew, what makes the case competition at Kogod unique is its format. While the final of the two rounds takes place on the school’s campus, the preliminary round is completely digital, open to students from any university around the world.

This year, the school partnered with Goodwill, the famous American non-profit organization.

“What surprises the students the most is the assistance they’re providing to a real company,” Andrew says. “For this one, it was real issues that Goodwill was actually facing, and Goodwill is going to implement some of [their] ideas.”

In such a big competition, however, it’s surely challenging for a team to stand out—how can students make sure that they make an impression, and even take home the top prize?

Here’s three steps to winning a business school case competition:

1. Create a well-rounded team

In Andrew’s experience, success starts with creating a well-rounded team.

Students at the Kogod School of Business are at an advantage here, as they come from a diversity of industry backgrounds and often enter in groups from their business classes. However, even individuals stand a fighting chance.

“Students can register as a team or as a ‘free agent,’” Andrew explains. “We have a free agent social which lets them meet and figure out how to form a strong team.

“Fun fact—our free agent team, without fail, places in the top three every year.”

When asked why he thinks this is, Andrew has a hunch: “A lot of the time, students will form teams with their friends,” he explains. “Free agents are coming from different programs and different life experiences—their teams are a lot more well-rounded.”


Evidently, stepping outside your usual group of colleagues can be of huge benefit. MBA student Emmy Prosko, one of the winners of this year’s competition, agrees.

Emmy comes from a background in the US military, and she met her teammates for the case competition on the MBA immersion in Beijing. One of the key takeaways for her was that working in a diverse group of people can make or break any business project.

“You have got to get the right people on the bus,” she advises. “What made the experience for me was the quality of the colleagues that I was interacting with—we had 20 years of combined business experience between us, and everyone was from a unique background so brought different skills to the table.”

2. Show that your ideas have value

The second key to a winning case, according to Emmy, is all about presentation.

“You can have all the functional knowledge in the world, but even with the best ideas, if you can’t convey the value of those ideas to others, [they’re useless],” she says. “Our team spent a considerable amount of our time preparing for the competition focusing on teamwork and how we were going to communicate this fantastic idea we had to the executives.”


Ronak Bhalla, a fellow Kogod case competition winner, has participated twice while studying for his bachelor’s degree in business administration, and he agrees that communication skills have been a key takeaway from the experience—not just when speaking to executives but also to his own team.

“Being able to talk with people in a company and tell them in a professional and personable way what they’re good at and what they can improve—that’s a great [learning] opportunity,” he says.

3. Be confident

Ultimately, however, success in a case competition seems to come down to one thing: confidence. That’s something that the Kogod School of Business aims to instill in its students from day one.

“Students need to take advantage of some of the offices and resources that they have [here], whether that’s our Center for Business Communications, our faculty, or their peers,” says Andrew.

For Emmy, too, this is the key.

“There are so many great ideas out there waiting to be tapped into that have potential, but we really had to believe in our mission and our idea and believe in each other as teammates,” she says.

“I think that our excitement about that idea came to life in the competition—that really was the competitive advantage for us.”

Student Reviews

Kogod School of Business - American University




On Campus

Clean and well maintained campus

I am completely enamored with this school. The entire student body is driven, inclusive, and highly intelligent. The decision to attend American University is not made haphazardly. Its close proximity to Washington DC, making it one of the most strategically located schools after Georgetown, means it's just a short train ride away. The campus is well-maintained, with mostly attractive buildings, although there are a few that are less appealing. Additionally, there are numerous excellent food options available. The wide range of clubs and organizations to join is remarkable. It is undeniably a school filled with immense passion.




On Campus

City life

I’m having a wonderful time at American University. I love that I can get to a big city and still feel like a traditional campus. Sincerely, it is a school that may require some adjusting to, but in the end, it is a very good school with numerous opportunities for its students. The atmosphere in AU is so great that it pushes you in a positive way and offers every opportunity you could want.




On Campus

Amazing helpful professors

American College is an incredible school with astounding teachers. Best professors I could have asked for at an amazing school. My opinion is that American University's professors are its greatest asset. They are extremely intelligent and always eager to assist their students. They go above and beyond in their classes to make sure that their students do their best.




On Campus

AU Review

The workload is quite high and AU is definitely not an "easy" school. Students take their studies very seriously and can almost always find a group in the library, DAV, Starbucks or MGC. Courses can be quite ambitious if the right courses are offered and the admissions process can be confusing at times, but with the help of an advisor it is quite easy to navigate. The library can be crowded, and while it's not huge, there are plenty of other places to study on campus. The professors really want to help during office hours and interact with students. I've had good experiences with the professors and workload at AU, but it's an expensive city.




On Campus

Majoring in Political and International Relations

The instructors are unique and the classes can be boring at times. Check-in is stressful (but it is everywhere). The workload is what I expected. The most popular majors are international relations and political science




On Campus

I Love Being A Musical Theater Major

I love being a musical theater student, if you want to help behind the scenes, if you want to be an assistant director, if you want to be a director, if you want to write, you can do anything at this academy, very supportive, it's amazing, they are always there to help you. This is their working time. Even after the audition tells you what you did wrong, you can do better, or if you get picked, you know why they picked you, which is great




On Campus

AU's Business Model

Overall, there were a lot of good opportunities at UA, both in terms of course range and faculty. However, I had a few complete misfires. People who shouldn't have taught at all. Like all universities, AU's business model is to hire hands-on assistants so they don't have to pay them extra or perform well. They are signed and if that does not work, they are not hired any more. The problem with this is that you end up with people who are unqualified and bring their own agendas, biases that may or may not be based on research. Most of the professors were absolutely fantastic.




On Campus

AU - The Real Problem With Academics

Some teachers are amazing, some awful - typical of any school. But the real problem with AU is that many students don't care about academics as much as other things (eg, partying). The academics are really interrupted by the Greek life and the social life of the students. This makes it difficult for students interested in academics to get the most out of their school experience. Some students do not take classes seriously and do not respect teachers and other students. Courses and opportunities at UA are perfect for people who want to take advantage




On Campus

American University - The Best Place to Study

They know their stuff - I chose American University because the campus is beautiful and the biology program is relatively small. But after the first semester, I realized that all the professors, especially the people in the science department, are experts in their field. They are enthusiastic and helpful in lecturing; even the TAs who teach the labs are amazing and engaging.