The Differences Between Harvard and Stanford Info Sessions

I basically burned a rubber streak along LA’s streets between my job in the South Bay and downtown during the time that H/S/W came to town and hosted their info sessions literally on the same block over the past 2 weeks or so.

While Wharton hosted its event in the Deloitte building (I did a recap in this post), HBS and Stanford booked the same room on the same floor in a Tower right across the street from Deloitte to host theirs; interesting. Here’s how it went down.

Harvard Business School LA Info Session

First up was HBS. After experiencing Wharton’s pre-info session meet and greet hour the week prior, I guess I was kind of expecting something similar; I had no such luck. After fighting through downtown LA’s horrendous mid town rush hour traffic, I sauntered off of the elevator on the 27th floor at approximately 5 after and walked–to my surprise–into a jam packed info session in full swing. Over the next 15 minutes or so, at least 15-20 other people stumbled their way into the party-in-progress as well.

The first thing that I noticed was that nearly everyone seemed to be in a dark suit. I, of course, had on my jeans–and a blazer. “Maybe this is a good sign”, I thought; “Maybe there’s no one else here from my industry, which would be good differentiation.”

The adcom who led the meeting was an HBS alum who you could tell loved giving back to her institution. As she gave her presentation, it became apparent that even she–who had no doubt given that talk a million times–was uber impressed with what she had to say about Harvard.

The alum panel consisted of a very bright group with standard, yet diverse post MBA professional interests. There was the entrepreneur, the finance guy, a young lady who works in entertainment and even a current student who was finishing up her internship out in LA.

The alums were a talkative and lively bunch. They were definitely eager to answer questions in a surprisingly candid way. The woman who works in entertainment shared a story about getting a small time job in Hollywood company X during the economic downturn and the paradigm shift that happened when her bosses realized she was a Harvard MBA. Mental note.

Overall, it was a great session. I just wish the other prospective students weren’t so stiff. You would have thought they were waiting in line for IRS auditors. The alums, on the other hand, were quite lively. In fact, all of them were dressed either casually or in business casual; now those are my kind of people.

Stanford Graduate School of Business LA Diversity Info Session

Just two days after the HBS info session, I attended Stanford’s diversity info session–same building, same room; actually same hors d’oeuvres, too. I got a kick out of that. I didn’t mind though, because they were finger lickin’ good (yes, I went there) and I was hungry on both occasions. A big +1 for HBS and Stanford.

Since I hate being late, I was determined not to repeat the events of two nights prior, so I made sure to arrive sufficiently early. I ended up being one of the first people there. Since this was a diversity event, there were far less people (although there should not have been. If you are a diversity prospective for Stanford and you missed this, shame on you), resulting in an intimate, almost familial environment.

For the first 30 minutes or so the prospective students basically snacked on finger food and got to know one another. And since the same group of people attend many of these events, I instantly recognized 5 or 6 familiar faces that I b-lined to in order to speak to them.

What I remember most about this particular session was the adcom representative, who was also an alum. She literally smiled the entire time. The. entire. time. I must say, I was impressed. I also noticed that there were many more folks in the room who were semi-casual compared to the HBS prospectives; including folks who I had seen just two nights before in dark suits. I find it interesting how each school seems to attract certain types–or bring out different sides of the same person.

The alum panel was warm and welcoming as well. Actually, their professional breakdown was almost identical to that of HBS. This reminded me that no matter how distinct many schools brands are, their alums ultimately end up in the same jobs most of the time. The actual people were similar as well. Both groups were top quality and probably would have fit in well at either school; no surprise there, I guess.

  • ta

    That definitely is a step forward. Its the right thing to do. Dee Leopold is right. I’ve read a lot and seen a lot of documentaries (primarily on netflix) centered around the 2008 crisis and I think that was an inflection point in the MBA world as we know it.
    I think in the decades to come business analytics will over take or give the MBA programs a run for their money. If you look at trends starting up(much like how quant finance programs started springing up after 2001). Harvard, UT Austin Mccombs , Mcgill , John Hopkins’ anti – MBA all have new programs centred around operations research based courses such as data mining, non linear programming , linear programming., statistics, Heuristics, Numerical Analysis etc.
    Even the new slue of courses at INSEAD is all OR based stuff. The way things are shaping up information and only information can change the world and actually make africa a better continent.We can see how shared information has brought about the arab spring and even though its turbulent times in the arab world after the spring in the long run freedom will seep through and democracy will evolve.

  • Dreamer

    Agree. That is why I like the HBS approach of cutting all the crap career and passion essays. I attended and HBS session for MLT and someone asked Dee Leopold why they cut the career essay and she said: “Because if every person who said they want to do microfinance in Africa,actually did it, Africa would be the richest continent in the world.” She then referred to the essays as “unverifiable stories.” I have seen people turn a one hour of volunteer work into a 500 word essay about passion to give back when really they just did it to write it for their HBS application. The worst culprits are the kid from KKR who writes he want to do social investing in Mexico and the moment he gets to campus starts recruiting for PE and after HBS goes to work at Apollo. Though to be fair this is the school’s fault as they have (maybe unintentionally) incentives for people to lie about their true career interest.

  • TA

    Something about the admissions process doesn’t feel right. There seems to be a missing link in the process and expectations of candidates. A lot of learning is life is stuff that can’t be proved on paper. They expect a beauty pageant contestant sort of candidate who promises world peace and high end achievements etc etc but actually is after the crown and in SOME cases is just a simple person looking for love, affection, recognition. As human beings we all have base desires and gaps in our psychological make up that need to be addressed. You can be as branded as an F1 race car driver’s racing suit , and make as much money as an i – banker in Lehman brothers real estate division in 2006 b.ut the gaps will remain unless one strips down to one’s raw sub conscience and addresses these issues. This is not to take away from B school learning or experience. I will try my level best to get into a top 10 b school but I think if you can understand the selling point one might be able to strike a better deal.

  • It wasn’t topic-specific feedback. His point was that I was doing a good job driving home one point or theme and then I suddenly veered off into something else. It was a fairly simple critique, but sometimes with essays you are so focused on what you are trying to convey that you through good writing practices to the side.

  • Tzeeentch

    Oh wow, can you let us know what topics to stay away from or was it a pretty personal thing?

  • It was feedback on my essays. He felt that I was veering off topic a bit on my Most Matters Most essay.

  • Tzeeentch

    What are some of the insights the stanford alum offered you when you spoke 1 on 1?