Harvard Business School vs. Stanford GSB

by John A. Byrne on

Harvard Business School’s Baker Library. Photo by John A. Byrne

Let’s just say it right out: Stanford and Harvard are the two best business schools in the world. In terms of prestige and status, you can’t do better than to win the coveted MBA letters from either Stanford or Harvard. So it’s not surprising that a large number of people who apply to Stanford also apply to Harvard and vice versa. When Harvard gets turned down by applicants it accepts (about 11% of those who gain an offer), more often than not the applicants go west to Stanford. The same is true when Stanford’s Graduate School of Business (known as GSB) is passed over by accepted applicants. They inevitably head for Harvard Business School.

Forget the persistent stereotypes about these powerhouse schools, that Stanford is the place for those who want to do a startup and Harvard is the the place for those who want to climb a more traditional corporate ladder to the top of a Fortune 500 company. That may have been true many years ago, but it’s not true now. There are some dramatic differences between these two MBA educational giants. Most notably:

Geography: This is an obvious point, but an important one. Stanford is in the heart of Silicon Valley on a campus dotted with massive palm trees that sway in the afternoon breezes. In the winter months, when Harvard students are bundled up and trudging through ice and snow, Stanford MBAs might still be wearing shorts. The Stanford campus is located between San Jose and San Francisco, which is about a 45-minute drive away. The Harvard Business School, of course, is in Boston, one of the world’s most dynamic and inviting cities. Fenway Park, home of the Boston Red Sox, is just minutes away. So is world-class arts and culture of all kinds. But the winter months can be brutal in New England so the east-west difference is a big one.

Size: With about 390 students per class, Stanford pretty much guarantees that almost every student knows each other. A Stanford class is less than half that of Harvard which has the largest MBA enrollment of any top school in the world. Total full-time MBA enrollment at Stanford is just 765, versus Harvard’s 1,837. It’s the difference between “intimate scale” and “large scale.”

Facilities: The campus of Stanford’s Graduate School of Business is small and compact: a complex of eight new, separate buildings created around three quadrangles opened in 2011 and a single residence hall. Harvard Business School, on the other hand, is like a university onto itself with 34 separate buildings on 40 acres of property along the Charles River. Harvard has its own state-of-the-art fitness center, a massive library, a new innovation lab, and a chapel. Strategy guru Michael Porter and his Institute for Strategy and Competitiveness even has his own building on campus. There is no other business school in the world that can even remotely match Harvard for its expansive classrooms and study halls. Stanford’s new Knight Management Center, named after Nike founder and Stanford alum Phil Knight who tossed in $100 million of the $345 million cost, has given the school modern, up-to-date, world-class facilities. The available square footage increased by 30% over the previous 280,000 sq. foot of space when Stanford lacked even a single classroom with windows (HBS boasts more than 1.5 million square foot of space).

Stanford now boasts 13 tiered classrooms, up from 11, 20 flat-floored classrooms, up from eight, and 70 breakout and study rooms, a huge improvement from 28 previously. The larger number of breakout rooms, in particular, have helped the school to more effectively deliver its new curriculum changes that emphasize smaller seminar-style courses. A new 600-seat auditorium replaces the previous 324-seat model. There also are eight 16-person seminar rooms, to allow for more intimate instruction, eight showers for MBA students who also can use the university athletic center next store, and an 870-car underground parking structure on a campus where parking was always an ordeal. But that still makes it 34 buildings to nine, if you’re counting.

Culture: When Harvard Business School opens its essay section inquiring about “your three most substantial accomplishments”, it’s not a leap to believe that Harvard – a bastion of higher overachievement – is signaling that “accomplishment”, past and future, is paramount. That Harvard people value getting things done comes through loud and clear. My favorite question on the Harvard application, though, is one of four optional essays, with a 400-word limit: “When you join the HBS Class of 2013, how will you introduce yourself to your new classmates?” This gets at the aspiring students’ sense of identity, and how they present themselves, and may shed light on how they might fit into a diverse group of students. The answer might also shed light on applicants’ anxiety about joining such a potent group.

Stanford Business School, on the other hand, starts by asking about values and aspirations: “What matters most to you, and why?” and then, more directly, “What are your career aspirations?” Hear, hear for directness. Not that Stanford is entirely focused on ideals; they also give applicants a choice among four other essay options, one of which inquires about experience on a high-performing team. As far as I could tell, Stanford was the only one of the top ten that didn’t specify the maximum number of words for their essays. It says something affirmative about the place that they trust applicants to use their own judgment about how much to write.

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  • Deborah

    I would have mentioned Stanford’s expertise in social innovation (even had Public Management program back in ’80s, maybe earlier), ties to the Stanford d.school, deemphasis on grades and extremely collaborative culture.

  • http://poetsandquants.com/members/jbyrne/ John A. Byrne

    Deborah, you are so right. In fact, I fondly recall sitting down with James Thompson, who had been the director of Stanford’s Public Management Program, in the late 1980s and having a wonderful conversation with him about social enterprise. Back then, it was the only true rival to Yale University’s program in public service. For those who don’t know about it, the program was designed for MBAs interested in the public and non-profit sectors. When I first encountered the program in the late 1980s, more than 100 students sought PMP certificates which required three public management courses from among 20 electives in this area. I have another connection to this program: it was founded in 1971 by Arjay Miller, former president of Ford Motor Co., who was a central character in one of my books, The Whiz Kids. Miller, of course, became dean of the business school. Stanford was a pioneer in creating a way for MBAs who landed more lucrative summer internships to pledge to donate some of their earnings to help subsidize classmates who did their internships with non-profits. Stanford also was among the first schools to create a loan forgiveness program for students who took jobs in the public sector after graduation.

    At this year’s commencement, 86 of the graduating students walked off with PMP certificates, off from the peak year of 2004 when 134 were awarded PMPs but the highest number since 2006. Today, Stanford says the certificate requires a minimum of 16 PMP elective units, including an approved Economics course. Students may specialize in one of three areas — government, nonprofit management or socially responsible business. There’s also an annual public management initiative in which students explore a topic of social or environmental interest. Teams of students compete each spring to lead the following year’s initiative, with the winning team selecting a topic to explore in detail throughout the academic year. In 2009-10, students engaged in the question: “Debating Tomorrow: How will business change after the crisis?” The PMI topic for 2010-11 will be “Demystifying D.C.: Is America Ungovernable?”

    So thanks for reminding all of us Deborah.

  • Steve

    This is a thoughtful discussion of the merits of each school. It is, however, an issue that few MBA applicants will be in the enviable position of deciding.

    In my view, an even more thorough comparison would have a more detailed discussion about the usefulness of alumni networks. One primary reason I sought a top MBA was access to a network of people who could lend advice, job referrals, and with whom I could discuss ideas. Anecdotally, Stanford’s is reputed to be more passionate about helping out their fellow GSB alums, whereas HBS’s is more numerous and incomparably connected in the upper echelons of the business world. Perhaps John will have a chance to discuss that parameter if he ever revisits the topic.

    -Steve

  • http://poetsandquants.com/members/jbyrne/ John A. Byrne

    Very good point, Steve. It’s a very hard thing to fairly assess from the outside. Certainly, the greater percentage of alums who give back to their schools each year are far more likely to be deeply connected. That’s why I’m so high on the Tuck School network.

  • SS

    @Author – LOL, Quote from the article – “Stanford is the most selective business school in the world..” – did you bother to check facts ?
    Try the Indian Institute of Management (IIM) where the selection ratio for the MBA is more like 1200 (yes Twelve Hundred) to each seat, compared to 19:1 at Stanford per your own writing. Unless you think “World” = “California”, you should correct the article.

  • http://poetsandquants.com/members/jbyrne/ John A. Byrne

    Actually, you’re wrong. It’s more like 770 applicants to every one seat. So why do I think Stanford is still the most selective business school in the world? It’s because as good as the Indian Institute of Management is, the school really does not compare with Stanford on any level–global reputation and image, quality of students and faculty, and the value of the alumni network. With 99% of the students native Indians, there is no diversity whatsoever, and with the average age of a student at the very best IIM in Ahmedabad just 23, there is very limited work experience. None of the seven institutes are even acknowledged by The Financial Times’ global ranking, while The Economist ranks only one campus–Ahmedabad–at 85th, behind such institutions as Thunderbird in Arizona and the University of Queensland in Australia. The school also fails to make the non-U.S. rankings of BusinessWeek and Forbes. Just because there is a crowd of people wanting to get into a school, doesn’t make it the most selective. That is one criteria clearly, but more importantly, it’s the overall quality of the institution and the education it is offering students that truly matters.

  • Arthur Dullsworthy

    John, selectivity is typically the ratio of admits to applications but can be something like the mean/median GMAT or GPA of accepted applicants. Any given ranking may include selectivity as one factor in assessing the relative merits of different schools, but selectivity does not incorporate rank information. Otherwise, you’d be going in a circle, i.e., basing rank on rank.

    You say: “Just because there is a crowd of people wanting to get into a school, doesn’t make it the most selective.” This is worrisome because it does. By definiton. “Global reputation and image, quality of students and faculty, and the value of the alumni network” have nothing to do with it.

    Try to be more precise.

  • http://poetsandquants.com/members/jbyrne/ John A. Byrne

    Arthur,

    As you say, selectivity is “typically” the ratio of admits to applications. I agree with that statement. But don’t think you can ignore the actual quality of the pool of applications. There is a tremendous amount of self-selection going on at Stanford and Harvard which is why the average GMAT score of their entire applicant pools is above 700. But I will try to be more precise. Thanks for weighing in.

    Best,
    John

  • http://poetsandquants.com/members/dvrsrikar/ srikar

    Hi John, new postings to an old post…hmmm:) your article provides an amazing insight into the ‘World’s Top 2 Programs’. Period.
    That said on a personal note I wish Harvard too had a program like Stanford’s MBA/MA(in Ed) because not only is US realizing the importance of education (especially primary education) but also are countries like India and China looking at education as a prominent factor to maintain their unprecedented growth rates.To make it a more organized sector and to build world class Education Companies the marriage of business + education management is the need of the hour! Though HGSE exists, it is a different school altogether-it essentially deals with the science of education. As for the other point on IIM v/s S/H/W – I will just say,”look at linkedin profiles or gather data from other sources; even after graduating from an IIM the majority again apply to H/S/W for a full fledged 2 year FT-MBA!” So, that’s self explanatory and a request to my fellow Indian applicants just in case you intend to compare-Do not!!

  • http://poetsandquants.com/members/jbyrne/ John A. Byrne

    Srikar, well said. This is no knock on the Indian Institute of Management. It is a great school and doing wonderful things. But it’s not in the same league as a Harvard or Stanford for a premium MBA experience.

  • http://otherscene.wordpress.com/ Prathamesh Shanbhag

    This article helped a lot! Thanks a lot P&Q

  • DD

    Hi John,
    Considering IIM’s value proposition, their selectivity is too good to be true. And that actually is the case.

    Almost every Indian who wants to go to a b-school appears for CAT (the Common Admission Test for MBA in India). The scores of this test are used by hundreds of b-schools in India. So its not that every student who appears for CAT is actually applying to IIM Ahemadabad.

    It is like calculating selectivity for Harvard and Stanford on the basis of how many people appeared for GMAT in that year.

  • SS

    @JohnAByrne
    (A) Quote re Indian Institutes – “None of the seven institutes are even acknowledged by The Financial Times’ global ranking” – That is a factually incorrect statement- IIM A is currently ranked #8 by FT for 2010 masters in management (http://rankings.ft.com/businessschoolrankings/masters-in-management)
    The MBA program at the Indian School of Business is #12 in the “Global MBA Rankings 2010″ http://rankings.ft.com/businessschoolrankings/global-mba-rankings
    (B) Quote ” the school really does not compare with Stanford on any level” – Global top 10 and does not compare??? really?? or are you inventing your own personal rankings?
    (C) Quote”There is a tremendous amount of self-selection going on at Stanford and Harvard which is why the average GMAT score of their entire applicant pools is above 700″ – did you bother to compare the self-selection at IIM? Or compare the admissions test at IIM with GMAT? The Indian admissions test is MUCH tougher than the GMAT. A Gmat score of 700(for international applicants) would be barely enough to be even considered for admission to the Indian Institutes.
    (D) Quote”I will try to be more precise” – appears to me that has not happened yet. You continue to still incorrectly state that “Stanford is the most selective business school in the world,” which is completely at odds with the facts. Plus, as Yodda might say to you, no such thing as “try” – either do or do not.
    Take some time to look around and check facts, the world is bigger than California (really).

  • Arthur Dullsworthy

    You know, I’d never consider getting an MBA in India (or even traveling there), but the facts speak for themselves. The IIMs ARE far more selective (and their standards higher) than the US brand name programs.

  • Anon

    Having studied at both an IIT and Stanford, personally, if I had to hire someone for a quantitative job I would probably prefer someone from an IIM since H/S will admit students based on a bunch of parameters including diversity of the class, which filters out people with really strong quant skills but who are not that well rounded otherwise.
    For a job involving any of the softer skills like marketing/people management or requiring international work, on average, I would generally prefer someone from a US college since they would be well rounded. In some ways I think it’s like Caltech vs Harvard for undergrad.

    Regarding people from the IIMs doing a 2nd MBA in the US, the main reason seems to be to be able to find a good job in the US (it’s tougher to get a H1B for a managerial job since there is no shortage of MBAs) and to some extent, learning if the MBA was done fresh out of college (based on anecdotal evidence).

  • AC

    @SS
    This comparison of the selectivity of the IIM’s and GSB/Harvard is totally flawed.Every student who appears for CAT is being counted as applying to the IIM’s.The selectivity of the IIM’s and the selectivity of GSB/Harvard is totally different.Even one who gets 1%ile in CAT is considered as one who have applied to the IIM’s.But the same is not the case for GSB/Harvard.As John pointed out earlier that all the Stanford applicants have an average GMAT score of 700.So u can say that only a limited number of very good candidates apply to GSB/Harvard.So this comparison b/w the selectivity of IIM’s and GSB/Harvard is totally fragile and flawed.

  • shiva

    i personally feel that we are talking about schools which produce leaders not managers ;here discussion is going on gmat scores and gpa but see the selection procedure harvard and stanford or ISB gives u A application about different questions in order to find the true leadership qualities and ur potential and how u act in real situations and not just an entrance test and and an interview of ur accomplishments . Gmat is just a factor to show that u have an intellectual capacity for the rigor curriculum and simply these schools develops ur leadership qualities that are already there to a transformation for a better society. i had seen the CAT application which contains only of ur accomplishments and not any matter for producing leaders .personally if u are an indian try ISB than IIM after some experience ,u will be surely happy about it

  • niteen

    SS, you are getting caught up nitpicking the quantitative details about “selectivity” and are failing in spectacular form to see the bigger picture.

    in terms of a graduate business education, IIM is not even close to being on-par with Stanford or Harvard. all things being equal, if anyone was admitted to IIM, Stanford, or Harvard, i’m fairly positive, all things being equal, that they would opt for the latter two.

    also, application volume is not the sole indicator of selectivity. there are countless applicants who want to matriculate into stanford but don’t even bother applying because they know they won’t make the cut. you know, because standord is so SELECTIVE in its admissions.

  • http://nairaditya.blogspot.com Aditya Nair

    Niteen,
    I agree with you. One can hardly compare Harvard/Stanford and the IIMs. There are many reasons why.
    1. Like you said, if an applicant gets into all 3 institutes, as long as they can raise money for the education, there is not doubt that none would choose the IIMs.
    2. The IIM selectivity calculation assumes whoever writes the CAT applies to IIM. Though it may be true that anyone who takes the CAT aspires for the IIMs, it can also be similarly assumed that anyone taking the GMAT aspires to be in Harvard/Stanford. Otherwise, the basis for comparison itself is skewed.
    3. Selectivity may ensure quality education, but being more selective does not mean that the college offers better education. More people apply to IIM only because
    a. many of them do not know about Bschools abroad
    b. many do not want to spend that much money on an MBA
    c. Its a ticket for all engineers disillusioned with their field to move to
    another field. I really doubt one can get into Harvard/Stanford with just that
    motivation.
    and not because IIMs are better than all the Bschools in the world

  • The dog chaser

    It’s interesting that whenever a topic comes up, we always see one or two very lovely Indian friends coming out to remind us that stuff is just as good or better in India… Ok, ok, please, we’ve all learned that by now…

  • Rich

    I really don’t get the point of the discussion debate. How can IIM be more selective when everyone at IIM will attend Stanford given the chance and probably no one at Stanford will attend IIM even if it’s free. Okay maybe not this extreme but you get the point.

  • Jon

    I find it odd that these two schools are without a doubt (per this website and article) the best two business schools, yet Businessweek is given the most weight in the P&Q rankings. I understand the statement that the Businessweek rankings are the most “influential” rankings, but I think this shows that they are not the most accurate rankings and therefore should be a given less weight than the USNews rankings which Correctly ranks HS, 1 and 1.

  • Toro

    The day care center in my current employer has 50 children for every available seat, therefore it’s more selective than Stanford MBA! The fact has spoken, Stanford is not selective at all according to my employer’s day care center. I like how IIM’s website actually states something to this nature comparing itself to all the top MBA programs.

  • nsf

    @jbyrne:

    Running the numbers, HBS’ published yield rates seem inconsistent with the % admitted and # matriculating while Stanford’s are consistent. Is it possible that HBS is including waitlist acceptances in the yield calculation but not the admit rate?

    My calculations are below (assumed the GSB ’11 yield rate was the same as ’12):

    HBS ’12 HBS ’11 GSB ’12 GSB ’11
    # Applied 9524 9093 7204 7535
    % Admit 11.2% 12.2% 6.8% 6.5%
    % Yield 89% 89% 79% 79%

    # Matriculating:
    Implied 949 987 387 387
    Actual 903 937 389 385

  • Venkat

    I do not see any ground to compare IIMs with the likes of Harvard or Whartons or Stanford. What in the heaven are we doing…… Are we saying that by comparing IIMs with these schools that we are any where near to them. Nope, atleast not today or in next 4 to 5 years. If IIMs need to be globally competitive, they should stop listening to HRD ministry first, next open the school for global faculty and scrap the CAT selection process. Instead intake should be through GMAT transcripts, past academic / career achievements and personal interview. Get the international students to study and keep the lecture to just 10% of class hours. Rest should be experimental learning, case modules, market research, selective analysis of informed content & scrutiny of what is taught and what is learned. Now tell me are we there any where near. We need to go a distance before we can dream of this.

  • kd

    I am an MBA from IIM, and I know it is very hard to get admitted to the top IIMs; it’s equally hard to get an admission to top IITs as well. So the student bodies at the top IIMs and IITs are really very good. But having said that, I don’t think it is even fair to compare IIT/IIMs with HYPSM – the Indian Institutes do not even come anywhere closer. In terms of the intellectual abilities of the student bodies, may be they are somewhat comparable to the top colleges in the US, more so with the US colleges ranked in the top 10-15 than top 5 – but in terms of the faculty, resources, placement, research, global prestige and many other factors, the Indian Institutes are far behind – IMHO.

  • http://none Ah there you go IIMS VS HARS AND STANS!

    let us cut to the chase! In terms of quant ability IIM STUDENTS are no 1 hands down and all the other institutes in the world are ordered to hold the candle to them( no american,russian,chinese,jap any body can come close). you have to study 16 hours per day for one year to have a decent chance of passing CAT! The same thing cannot be said to a GRE OR a GMAT exam.
    IIMS teach pure text book knowledge nothing more nothing less.
    But when it comes to leadership, outside the box thinking, holistic over all leadership,managerial hands down training the HYPSM are head and shoulders above IIMS( let us say 20 years at least). The IIMS funding is 0.0001% of harvard endowment( may be like 10 million compared to billions of all these schools). So we cant compare ( the glamour and glitz don’t exist here! Only the cold days of new england can match the hardship endured at iit’s and iims).
    None of the IIMS institutions have noble laureates while harvard and stanfords are studded with them!
    IIMS tution in modern era with residencial facility is hardly 10k compared to 150k plus it takes to graduate from these schools.
    Most of the indians don’t even know all the elite schools in the world despite being admitted to iims.
    So while IIMS produce top class mba grads who can give you the financial profile of the company in 3 hours and not 3 quarters. HYSP..M can give you managers who can help build next generation big firms. Both are needed to make it happen!
    If IIMS start thinking globally which is happening these days with their executive programs charging in the range of 50k they are soon catching up with the best in the west( ah that scenario is scary, the class has more than 60% international audience!).
    And the recent financial ranking proves that ( salary offered is 175k for iims having spent 10k to get a degree at the age of 23 is a stupendous bargain than going broke to get HYPSM and be broke till you hit 35!).
    considering these variables IIMS students are talented better than hars and stands but they are not well rounded.

    So they will have to travel further to the land which created MBAS to become the full product and change the game!
    I hold 2 masters from both the countries and I know what is cooking!
    I rest my case!

  • no better quants than IIMS !

    quants in iims are best in the world by long distance!
    there is no room for poets there. The entrance exam math is insane! So mostly engineers get there!

    The talent with numbers seem to be believed and no the top schools of the the world( whose class runs a muck with indians for last decade and half acknowledge it( it is a like a shoalin temple!)

    But iims schools don’t have facility of a stan or har or any top 50 schools in usa by any stretch of imagination as indicated by my previous post!
    students come from extremely humble and economically impoverished background!

    But situation is changing quick and fast just like china( the executive mba now costs 55k, so they are getting there!).
    Having said all that CAT is not the toughest dog in the town! The indian civil service is the biggest, toughest,hardest,scathing exam around.
    you get 4 chances for glory with nearly half mil competing for just 1k seats( so one in 500 has a chance!). And the candidates here are both quants and poets and folks are not casual takers! In india all exams are insanely tough and point of ridiculous and awe compared to western countries( there are very few schools offering top education, hence a dog fight! situation is changing as I speak by the way!)

    But to become word beaters still they have to travel to stan/har/mit/yale.. to get vaccinated by the acknowledged elite to rule the world( citi ceo,pepsi ceo, some deans of top institutes are indians. So they are getting there!).
    you see, IIMS get top jobs but not noble prizes!
    Dig sanjay’s point?

  • Stanley

    You do a disservice to the GSB. It just unveiled its new campus.

  • http://poetsandquants.com/members/jbyrne/ John A. Byrne

    Stanley,

    Not at all. You’re reading an analysis that was written long before the new campus was opened. We’ve done significant coverage of it here: Stanford’s New Ambitious $345 Million Campus and Stanford: New Campus To Increase Yield

  • Stanley

    True you have written about GSB’s campus, but for the purpose of this (undated) comparison you do the school a disservice. Just sayin’
    On another note, I wish you’d date your posts.

  • MBA2011

    @jbyrne Would love to see a B-School Smackdown that includes INSEAD!! How about Wharton or HBS vs. Insead?

  • http://poetsandquants.com/members/jbyrne/ John A. Byrne

    MBA2011,

    I completely agree. Just need to get around to it. We recently did an interview with INSEAD Dean Dipak Jain which we’ll be running early next week.

  • Jason

    Hi John

    I was wondering what are good reasons to choose Harvard over Stanford? Ignoring things like alumni network, brand name and geography, what are things that intrinsic to the program. I think the case method is great, but do you have thoughts on others.

  • http://poetsandquants.com/members/jbyrne/ John A. Byrne

    Jason,

    It’s hard to ignore things like the alumni network, brand name, geography, weather, and case method because those are pretty big things. The much larger size of the class and the faculty at Harvard offer significant differences–you will get to meet more classmates, graduate into a much larger network of alums, and the larger faculty means more class choices. Overall, Harvard’s resources are simply extraordinary if not breathtaking. Next to Harvard, even the new beautiful Stanford campus seems small. One big issue on the curriculum: Stanford has adjusted it so that if you are well versed in certain subject areas you can take advanced courses. Harvard is still a cohort program where every incoming student takes all the same classes in the first year. The plus on the Harvard side is you really get to bond with your classmates. The plus on the Stanford side is that you won’t be going over material you already know. Hope this helps.

  • Jason

    Yes it does. It just feels rather greedy/shallow to use alumni network or weather when explaining why you chose a school (although important factors in your mind).

    Thanks John.

  • MikeG

    John,

    Very nice analysis. Really appreciate that you include the full statistics you cite. As a quantitative analysis geek myself, and former McKinsey consultant with a Stanford MBA, I would suggest a minor tweak to your ranking graphs: reverse the y-axis scales so that 1 is at the top. Then the higher-ranking school will be visually higher as well.

  • http://poetsandquants.com/members/jbyrne/ John A. Byrne

    Thanks Mike. Great idea.

  • Yahonnan

    @Jason “It just feels rather greedy/shallow to use alumni network … when explaining why you chose a school ”

    The primary reasons for doing a MBA are
    1. Networking
    2. Branding

    Why on earth would you ignore the alumni network when choosing a MBA program.
    Here is a clue: the actual content of your MBA program is largely irrelevant.
    It is all about the brand and the networking opportunities.
    On the two parameters that actually matter, HBS reigns supreme.

  • Striving to hbs

    @john. As one of commenting friends stated that iim grads are from impoverished backgrounds.. Well money makes the big issue to think of hbs.. students from india cannot afford 70 lakhs INR for an mba program.. Does hbs offers financial aids for their programs? If so, will they offer loan for the entire fees?

  • Interesting

    Here’s how I see it. One school is more likely to produce a Steve Jobs than a George Bush.

  • MBA Aspirant 2012

    Nice article series this is John!

    HBS and Stan are very different in their philosophies and culture (as also indicated by their admission essays). One gets to know that when one starts researching.

    In India and the China, the population is so high that everything is competitive from the day you are born, getting to pre-school, getting to school, getting to college, getting to post-grad college, finding a good flat to live in and so on. Comparison and competition starts right from the day you can walk (even before that actually.. ohh, my son can walk in 6 months, oh.. my daughter can speak all the english alphabets in 10 months and shit). So a comparison to foreign schools or other things cannot be on the same basis.

    Said that, it’s only sensible to make the best of the opportunities one gets.

    Also someone mentioned that Indians are always there to comment on every article: well, this again is a population mismatch thing :P !

  • Rohit Beri

    Hi John,

    Would love to see a comparison between Sloan Fellow Program offered by MIT Sloan, Stanford GSB and LBS.

    Poets and Quants in my opinion is the best site I have come across on Business Schools.

    Thanks & Regards,
    Rohit

  • Abhinav

    to all those making the comparison b/w IIMs, HBS, GSB… just wanted to point out some interesting facts.

    1. IIM Calcutta – the first IIM, was setup in collaboration with MIT Sloan, Paul Samuelson was part of the core team too.
    2. IIM Ahmedabad was setup in collaboration with HBS which is why even today IIM A follows the CASE method. So much for those who termed the knowledge gained here ‘bookish’ or someth to that effect.
    3. No, ‘impoverished’ people are not the applicant pool of the IIMs.
    4. The ROI on an MBA at an IIM or for that matter most schools in India is much much better than the ROI abroad specially in the US.
    5. The Common Admission Test (CAT) is conducted BY THE IIMs. While most schools accept CAT scores, one has to apply to them seperately. This is equivalent to HBS/GSB conducting GMAT and accepting your application by default if you ranked at the 99.7th percentile or higher in GMAT and you have a good academic record.
    6. Lastly and most importantly, once one has made the cut through CAT (by getting a 99+ percentile), some schools, not all, require one to answer a few Qs much like the essays one has for HBS/GSB/Most Global MBAs. These questions will be evaulated and finally only those students, from the top 1 percentile, with the best profiles will be selected. Therefore, a 99+ percentile is only a prerequisite – after that you have regular parameters GD/PI/Essay/Work Ex/Academic record evaluated before acceptance :)

    Dont intend to spark off another debate here. Just presenting facts for your benefit. PS: If I had to choose between IIM A/B/C or GSB/HBS/Wharton, I would pick one of these IIMs because the ROI is much much better, faster. Cheers :)

  • Nando

    Hi John,

    I’m from Brazil and I am thinking about applying for a full time MBA at Havard, Stanford, Berkeley or Tuck.

    I’m currently working as a senior consultant at Ernst & Young.

    I started to work for EY three years ago as a full time consultant and recently I had my second promotion to Senior Consultant.

    I have a 3.2 GPA and a GMAT score of 680. I know that’s not a good GPA but I had to work 6 hours a day during my business administration course and there wasn’t much time to study.

    During my first year of undergraduation I have worked for the Junior company at the university. Also, throughout my business administration course I was invited by the university to teach finance in extra classes to other students. I gave these extra classes for a year and a half

    I’d like to know if I have a chance to get in into at least one of these schools. I’m 24 and I think I should apply for the first round in october 2012.

    Please let me know what you think.

    Thanks,

    Nando

  • mr. architect goes to b school

    Great smackdowns…can you do Harvard vs Wharton. Also a real estate focused one that covers real estate programs like at H/W/C/NYU.

  • Anupam

    @Abinav, IIMs are definitely the best in India but there can never be any questions of drawing parallels between the IIMs and atleast the top 50 B schools in the world.People don’t choose to do an MBA for it’s ROI.
    The reasons why so many people in india want to get into the IIMs for their MBAs :-
    1–they don’t have much information regarding the b schools abroad .
    2–and even if they do they are not willing to spend that much on an MBA abroad.
    If ROI mattered so much for people then no one would attend Harvard,Stanford and the biggies like them,everyone would have come to india to study at IIMs.And yes money is a key factor why Indians prefer IIMs over MBAs abroad,it’s because people start thinking about the expenses and the ROI that leads them to IIMs.which puts forth the fact that indeed the impoverished lot form the applicants’ pool.
    People at the top 50 b schools have on an average 4 to 5 years of work experience in diverse fields.The interations,exposure,networks and the contacts they make at those places is gonna help them more in their corporate career than the MBA degree itself.
    Whereas a typical class at the IIMs has 70 % engineers and the rest non-engineers with little or no experience.You can scale the magnitude of differen es between the ‘great’ IIMs and the best out there .
    On a personal note,I feel sorry for your perception of an MBA as you seem to have gone for the IIMs just for the sake of ROI .
    And for your 3rd point, your perception represents that of a typical youth in India aspiring for a low cost MBA ready to compromise the quality of an MBA by studying in an IIM.

  • Gopal

    While it is easy to make such bold and sweeping statements about the youth in India and the lack of knowledge they possess about the world of MBAs out there is it equally easy to ignore the fact that 62.5% of all the Professionally run (non family owned) large enterprises are headed by IIM A alums alone? Does their success not signify the relative irrelevance of the diversity angle.
    Ok the previous one was just to be a little provocative since the tone of the response seemed that way.
    Let me start off by saying that MBA whether we like it or not is a career move decision, whether vertically or sideways or diagonally but a career move. And careers that get build depend on the opportunities that a school is able to provide. Independent observers one after the other keep saying that it is easier for someone to land a job at GS or Mck out of IIM A,B or C than any other bschool in the world.
    If the MBA as a life changing diverse opportunity was the criteria why do all well established Bschools talk about starting salaries and break them up into every single possible dimension of function role geography and dedicate more than 3/4th of their brochures to that?
    Why would the industry not just Indian industry but all the global want to recruit from IIMs for their global operations?
    We can keep talking about all the dimensions along which Harvard and Stanford and IIMs are different but I hardly find any merit in the sweeping statements you make about the choices students at IIM make. That actually is going along a tangent to what the workplace and industry is signalling with its actions.

    Gopal

  • John

    That’d be like an HBS fanboy mentioning Bill Gates or Zuckerberg to desperately try to associate them with HBS.

    Actually… no, it’d be nothing like that, ’cause at least Bill Gates and Zuckerberg went to Harvard. Steve Jobs is not associated with Stanford in any way, let alone with GSB. 

  • Abhinav

    @Anupam, agree with points
    1 & 2. note in point 2 you have spoken of willingness to spend. ability to
    spend and willingness to spend are two very different things and somewhere in
    your post you have failed to recognize that difference. i may have the money to
    spend on something but i hesitate to do so because I don’t think it is worth my
    money.

    Maybe our definitions of ‘impoverished’ differ. I’d say half the Indian MBA
    applicant pool would have  1-2 years work experience and earn between 3 –
    5 lakhs per annum and the rest would be fresh graduates. the guys that make
    about 4 lakhs per annum in the software industry in India, get paid about
    $60,000 for doing the same job for the same company in the US owing to higher
    living costs among other things. if you consider them impoverished then I rest
    my case. It is your opinion vs mine on a subjective term.

    Agree with you on the experience, diversity, exposure fronts. Disagree with the
    contacts, networks bit and if you do a little more research i know you will
    come around on this one.

    there is a reason the best consulting firms, finance firms among others recruit
    from IIMs – specially A,B & C. the IIMs cater to a different market than
    Bschools abroad. its demand and supply man. if corporates didnt want guys with
    low or no work ex, Indian bschools would have made a drastic change to the
    criteria a long time ago. the fact is that they do.

    please dont feel sorry for my perception Anupam. it is indeed well thought out,
    though my posts dont do complete justice to my research. i will definitely
    apprise you should the need for another ‘personal note’ arise.

    maybe you should broaden your mindset – you need to understand that the markets
    being catered to by bschools abroad and bschools in India are very
    different.  at present, the Indian market suits me just fine. were I 5
    years older, the same size wouldn’t fit me anymore. think about it :) cheers

     

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