Apply for Carlson Case Teams (2020-21)

MIS Case Students

Case Teams Tackle Challenging Business Problems

Competing against the best universities in the world to solve challenging real-life business problems! If that sounds like a great learning experience and a lot of fun, we want you to consider applying for a  Carlson Case Competition team. [Of course these Carlson teams usually travel - expense paid - to the competitions, but we are expecting the most prestigious competitions to be virtual in 2020-21).

We will select up to 8 students (1 - 2 teams) to represent the Carlson at fast-paced competitions focusing on international business requiring practical, actionable management solutions.

  • MIS-oriented competitions: We have sent teams to MIS competitions for over 12 years. This year we will compete at CaseIT (virtual, Vancouver, Canada) - the oldest and most well-known MIS case competition. 
  • Strategic, cross functional competitions: We may send one team to compete against top-tier universities in strategic, cross-functional competitions.  Last year our teams participated in Heavener International Case Competition (University of Florida) and Central European Case Competition (virtual, Budapest).

Our students are challenged to think deeply and present convincingly to groups of executives. And if that sounds ‘too abstract’, don’t worry. The cases are business cases needing strategic analysis and an action plan ("what can we do on Monday?"). We find that they are proxies for real-life situations in business, consulting, and entrepreneurship.

This is a great preparation for consulting:  our CSOM Case Team members have received offers from Deloitte, Boston Consulting, Bain and many other consulting firms.

Interested in learning more?

Case Introductory Seminar (optional): Was held on Sept 24.  You can review the video (be sure you are logged in with your UMN Zoom account) and the slides (although the voice over in the video has much of the detail)

  • We reviewed Carlson's case competition program, how to learn more, and application details.
  • A panel of Carlson Case Program alumni shared the impact of their case experience on their careers.

Case 101 Seminar (optional): Was held on Oct 8.  You can review the video (be sure you are logged in with your UMN Zoom account) and the slides (although the voice over in the video has much of the detail).

  • We reviewed how to read a case, how to prepare a presentation, and many best practices.

Application deadline: Wednesday, Oct 14 (midnight)

Case team tryouts: Saturday, October 24

  • You will obtain the case on Friday (October 23)
  • You will be assigned a 20-minute presentation slot between 8am and noon on Saturday (October 24)

Ready to apply?  Applications are due on October 14!

If you are ready, you'll want to:

  1. Review the application criteria (below),
  2. Review the 2020/21 draft schedule here
  3. Fill out the application (here) by the deadline

You will try out for the team on October 24 by presenting a case solution to a panel of corporate judges.

More information is available

If you have further questions, we would love to hear from you. You can contact faculty advisors Ken Reily ( and Corrie Fiedler (

Application Criteria

We envision Carlson teams that bring the strength of diversity in backgrounds, knowledge and interests. Thus the criteria are broad:

Personal characteristics

  • A competitive spirit and strong desire to represent Carlson in global competition.
  • Ability to compete in the competition events
  • Commitment to team practice and class attendance throughout both Fall and Spring semester. The class is scheduled about twice a month, usually at 7am on Friday mornings. Previous team members report that, outside of competitions, they average 2 – 3 hours/week.

Course co-requisites or prerequisites

  • CSOM students must meet JUST ONE of these requirements (though most of you will meet more than one)
    • Any major:  you must be taking (Fall 2020) - or have completed - i-Core 
    • MIS major or minor:  you must be taking (Fall 2020) - or have completed - IDSc 3001 
    • Business analytics minor:  you must be taking (Fall 2020) - or have completed - at least one class in the BA curriculum list
    • Special permission:  we occasionally give special permission to those who have not taken i-Core (usually transfer students)
  • Non CSOM students must meet this requirement
    • CSCI (CLA/CSE), CompENG (CSE), or ITI (CCPS) major:  you must have a declared management minor

Class Status

  • Your expected graduation date should be May 2021 through May 2023.

Availability (most, if not all, of the activities will be virtual)

  • You should be available and a registered UMN student both Fall 2020 and Spring 2021 terms.  Please contact us if you are going to be studying abroad - or otherwise out of the local area - during one of these terms.
  • You will register for IDSc 4491 (Independent Study, 1 credit) during Spring Term.  The course requires attendance at workshops and practice events.  Please review the tentative schedule (here) to ensure you are available to work productively with your team!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

The key question: 

For the last 12 years, team members have been able to travel. How valuable are virtual case competitions?  Last year our Budapest team had tickets and were (nearly) packed for Budapest, when all University travel was canceled, and the competition went 'virtual.' Our Budapest team said it best when we asked if they wanted to compete virtually:

  1. "Our team decided that we would love to participate in the Virtual Case Competition. My teammates and I joined the team to gain valuable experience and to improve ourselves. [This experience] has helped us to learn more about ourselves and taught us to seek continuous self-improvement. The trip to Budapest was a bonus that would act as a culmination to our time together. Missing that opportunity saddens us but it is by no means a deal-breaker for us."
  3. Our virtual teams continue to compete virtually against the best universities in the world, and against teams whose members go on to careers at top-tier consulting firms.
  • And, frankly, as Work From Home continues, being able to present virtually as a coherent team is a great skill.
  1. How hard is it to make the team? We emphasize a well-rounded team with team member strengths in: finance, strategy, MIS, marketing, operations, governance and/or analytics.  We value your management skills - from Sophomore through Senior - and your strong teamwork skills.  There is no typical year, but in general maybe about 35-40% of those who try out make a team on their first try.  
  2. What is the most common student concern? Carlson students worry about the time commitment.  And, frankly, this is tough to address.  We are challenging ourselves against not only our US-peer universities (Indiana, Arizona, UT (Austin)), but top-tier global universities.  Our students find year-after-year, that they were somewhat underprepared.  So we look for students who are motivated to balance their time commitment against a desire to test themselves against the best.
  3. What is the second most common student concern? Carlson students worry that their knowledge and presentation skills are not yet refined.  Don't worry, this is an area in which we can help you during our workshops and practice rounds.  In fact, we have had i-Core (and IDSc 3001) students on our team every year. 
  4. Is a high GPA required? No. As long as you are not on academic probation, we welcome your application.
  5. I’ve never done a case before, can I still apply? Yes, definitely. There are a variety of resources available to you.
    • See the sections below: How do I learn more? and Practice using the 2016 case.
    • Attend Case 101 workshop
  6. Are international students welcome? Yes.  Our international students have been key players on our CSOM teams since 2010. 
  7. Can I request my team/destination? No.  In an effort to make sure that each team is balanced and well-positioned to succeed, our corporate judges place students on teams for which they qualify and to achieve the best fit.
  8. This is a real class. How are grades determined? Results matter, thus your team’s placing in your global competition is key.  In addition, we take your attendance, preparation, and participation in the workshops and other events very seriously.
  9. Even virtual competitions are expensive.  What will this cost me? Our sponsors pay for your registration fees.
  10. If I make the team, what dates do I need to block out?  This is a moving target since we are now (September 2020) in the midst of accepting competition invitations.  You can find the most current schedule here when it is finalized.
  11. Do I try out by myself or with a team? You’ll try out by yourself.  Don’t worry!  We have seminars and practice material available (see details below).
  12. Is this an ‘approved' University activity?  No, this does not have the same status as, say, a varsity athletic team. You will need to work with your professors to make sure they support your absence for your presentation days. Once you are placed on a team, we’ll work with you about communicating with your professor.

Practice Using the 2016 Tryout Case!

Want to practice and see some successful tryout presentations?  We have posted the 2015/2016 tryout case and a variety of student tryout slides. In order to get the most out of this we recommend you first orient yourself to the case:

  1. Purchase and read the Maersk case (it costs $8.95, and we want to remind you that this is copyright protected).
  2. Download and read the supplemental material
  3. Brainstorm (by yourself) a very high level solution to the case
  4. Jot down the type of analysis you are going to use (e.g., how are you going to convince your judges that your solution is a great solution)

Now review six winning presentations from academic year 2015/2016 tryouts and pay attention to:

  1. The opportunity statement.  Only Student A and D nail this part of their presentation
  2. Timing of the solution.  Each student ensures that we hear their solution within the first 2 minutes of their presentation.
  3. The solution specificity. Each student (except maybe Student F) is crystal clear about their recommendation.
  4. The difference among solutions.  Student A is about employee engagement; Students B and D are about technology; Student C is about expansion into the Baltic; Student F is about advocacy. These are all great solutions.
  5. The depth and specificity of the analysis (competitor analysis, case study, technical overview, project plan, financial analysis). Here is where you show your skills …. Students A & D emphasized financial return, Students B and C build their stories with data

Please remember that this is an art, not a science:

  • You are just seeing slides. Most of these students provided more analysis in their voice over and then Q&A took them deeper.
  • The quality of these six presentations varies a lot (slide quality, amount of analysis, solution creativity). None of them is meant to be a ‘perfect slide set’.
  • We were weak on both technical and financial focus during 2015/2016.  We always hope to see more.

Build Your Skills

Joining a Carlson Case Team Benefits Your Career

Carlson Case Team Competes at CIBCC (Thailand)

Carlson Case Team Travels to CIBCC (Thailand), May 2017