Top Feeder Colleges to Harvard B-School

by John A. Byrne on Print Print

Perhaps the best way to get into Harvard Business School is to already have studied at Harvard University. And if you didn’t have the opportunity to collect an undergraduate degree from Harvard, then it would probably help greatly if you went to Stanford, Penn, Yale, or Columbia University.

At the very least, those prestigious institutions are the top five feeder colleges for HBS’s incoming Class of 2013, according to an analysis of Facebook profiles by PoetsandQuants. Harvard undergrads make up an estimated 9.4% of the class with an estimated 86 MBA candidates out of an incoming class of 918 students. Together, all five schools account for 26.7% of the entire class.

As our earlier analysis of Wharton’s incoming class showed (see Top 25 Feeder Schools for Wharton), it’s an impressive group with largely prestige credentials. About 30% of Harvard B-school’s incoming class this fall hails from one of the original eight Ivy League schools (slightly less than Wharton’s 33.1%). Subtract out the international schools in the sample and those eight institutions account for roughly 38% of Harvard’s entire class (versus 44% at Wharton). The vast majority of the students come from more expensively priced private schools.

The data was collected from the Facebook page for the Class of 2013. Poets&Quants was able to identify and confirm the undergraduate backgrounds of some 638 members of the group. We then used that sample to estimate the number of students from any one institution in the full class of 918 first-year MBAs.

An estimated 49 students got their undergraduate degrees at Stanford, 45 from the University of Pennsylvania, 37 from Yale, 27 from Columbia, and 26 from Princeton.

Despite the tony schools at the top of the list, HBS admits appear to be drawn from a slightly wider selection of public schools than Wharton. In the HBS sample, for example, there are at least a pair of students each are from Arizona State, Ohio State, the State University of New York, the University of Oklahoma, the University of Iowa, and the University of Washington. There’s also at least three from the University of California’s Davis and Irvine campuses as well as a minimum of four students from the University of Florida.

The U.S. Military Academy, which failed to make the top 25 feeder schools at Wharton, figures much more prominently at Harvard. With an estimated 15 West Pointers in the class, the academy boasts the 15th largest contingent of undergradates in HBS’ new crop of MBAs.

Boston-area schools also are well represented. Besides the large contingent from Harvard and MIT (see table on next page), the class has at least five undergraduates from Boston College, two from Boston University, and a pair from Babson College.

Of course, the pedigree of one’s undergraduate degree is just one of many factors used by admissions to decide whether to admit or deny an applicant. Unlike GMAT scores, grade point averages, however, it’s one of the more mysterious factors because no B-school publicly discloses the colleges attended by their admits. Yet, the school where an applicant earned his bachelor’s degree can loom large in an admissions decision, often given far more consideration than most admissions directors will admit (see Getting Into Wharton: Does College & Work Pedigree Trump Merit?).

“School and job pedigree count more than schools would like to publicize because the mythology of admissions is that everyone starts equal, and schools are open to all comers,” says Sanford Kreisberg, an MBA admissions consultant who runs “But schools are not equally open to all comers, and job pedigree especially can be critical, even more so than schooling. You are not getting into Harvard Business School or Wharton from the local bakery or real estate office.”

While the information is eye-opening, though, it can be difficult to draw firm conclusions from the data. For one thing, it’s a slightly incomplete sample. For another, it’s only for the current incoming class. And finally, it’s not known with certainly how refective the sample of admits might be with the entire applicant pool.

Regardless, buried in all this infomation are some compelling factoids and insights. Among them:

  • Some 6.3% are from the Ivy publics: Berkeley, Michigan, UCLA, UVA, and UT-Austin (vs. 7.7% at Wharton).
  • Some 17.6% come from public universities (versus Wharton’s 16.7%)
  • The three largest international schools represented are the Indian Institute of Technology and Britain’s Cambridge and Oxford Universities.
  • A surprise of sorts is the high percentage of students from Georgetown which claims 1.7% of the class. This was even a bigger surprise at Wharton where some 3.3% of the incoming class is from.

(See next page for our table of the top 25 feeder schools for Harvard Business School’s Class of 2013)

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  • JohnAByrne

    It’s always hard to make generalizations on this, but I would say it depends on the school. There are some MBA programs that are hell bent on reporting very high GMAT averages for both bragging rights and for rankings because U.S. News uses those numbers in the methodology to crank out its ranking. Admission consultants put Wharton, Stanford, and MIT in this category. Other schools, including Harvard and Tuck, are going to be looking for most candidates to get over 700. Once you pass that threshold, GMAT no longer becomes a significant issue in admissions. Frankly, the two cases you mention are most likely to be neutral, meaning that an adcom will put more weight on other parts of your application–interview, recommendations, essays, work experience, and the perceived quality of your undergrad institution and employer–than either the GPA or the GMAT because in either case the numbers are really superb and not an issue.

  • marcus

    BTW Stanford undergrad has the lowest admit rate and highest yield of any US university. Stanford undergrad and biz schools are the most selective in the US

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