Is Your Business School A Lamborghini Or A Volkswagen?

Alex Chu is the founder of MBA Apply and an obvious auto fan.

Alex Chu is the founder of MBA Apply and an obvious auto fan.

When you strip away all the discussion about GMAT averages, salary stats, and rankings, you can pretty much reduce the business school game to a single metaphor. Schools are not unlike cars, with distinct attributes that can tell you something about the people who go to one institution over another.

Which institution is the Lamborghini of business schools? The Aston Martin? The Volkswagen? Or, for that matter, the BMW or the Volvo?

Of course, there is one big difference between buying a car and an MBA degree. If you have the money, you can drive any car you want off a dealer’s lot. But you can’t always attend your No. 1 choice of a school, given the highly selective nature of the top MBA programs.

The reality is that many of the best business schools are far more similar than they are different. Still, with apologies to Tesla, here’s a tongue-in-cheek comparison of the schools’ reputations with cars you may either love, hate or feel indifferent about:

HARVARD BUSINESS SCHOOL

Harvard

HBS is like a British exotic car of varying quality – Rolls Royce, Bentley, and Aston Martin. They are Establishment, top hats and all. Like British exotics, HBS is really known for its heritage and prestige (with sport performance and classic styling to back it up). Some drivers are able to break the “unapproachable” mold and will take their cars for a bit of a joyride, but some are trapped in the pomp and circumstance of their cars. Only drawback is that they are incredibly high maintenance (more reliable than Italian exotics, but the repair costs are astronomically high) and insist on being noticed. And watching an HBS alum “fail” a la Jeffery Skilling is like seeing a Bentley stranded on the side of the road – everyone else can’t help but gloat.

STANFORD GSB

Stanford

Stanford is like an Italian exotic – from iconic marques like Ferrari, Lamborghini, and Alfa Romeo, to super exotics like the Pagani Zonda, as well as the “all style and no substance” that are the Maseratis. In terms of styling and performance, they are bold, distinctive, and anti-authoritarian much like Stanford – built as if to be a complete counterpoint to the British exotics. They aren’t the most reliable cars, but they sure look good, and they are the ultimate joyride car, risks be damned (few cars can replicate the exhaust note of a Ferrari). If HBS is about prestige, Stanford is about rebellious sex appeal. Just like not every Stanford GSB alum is of the same caliber, knowledgeable “car guys” know that there’s a huge difference between Ferarri and Maserati – the former is a real sports car, while the latter is a piece of sh*t. But to the uninitiated, they draw attention in equal measure.

  • annie

    Used him for an application to CBS and did not end up getting an interview. Decided to do it myself afterwards, undoing his edits and ended up in at HBS and Wharton. Found him to be very stubborn.

  • mba

    Do you mind elaborating? I’m considering using a consultant for my application process and was looking into Alex.

  • annie

    i did not have a positive experience working with Alex

  • Racki Itwasthecat Jennings

    I want my time back. This article has the caliber writing similar to the driving appeal found in a Chevy Nova.

  • Just another man

    Damn it! I drive a Lexus and I resent the fact that my car was not even mentioned 🙂 I was so anxious to find out which school was like my car. And I am surprised that the bugatti veyron did not find any mention. Come on, who talks about exotic cars without mentioning the Bugatti??. So much better than the Lamborghini. Fail!!! 🙂

    And btw, does the author realize that the Bentley, Lamborghini, Audi, Bugatti, Proche and Audi are all owned by Volksvagen? Cheers Kellogg, you actually rule the world. Lol!!

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m5_AKjDdqaU

  • Becks

    I think whoever wrote this article is sorely misguided. LBS is much more than a British car

  • Wonderer

    Thanks John for the info. However, my point is not about P&Q alone, it is also about readers and comments on this site and in fact many other sites as well, I see Columbia isn’t that school some five or 7 years ago!!

  • JohnAByrne

    Not at all. We just ran this story on CBS:

    http://poetsandquants.com/2014/07/15/columbia-cuts-ribbon-on-new-startup-lab/

    And also had a recent webinar with the CBS admissions director:

    http://poetsandquants.com/2014/05/24/adcom-advice-be-thoughtful-be-yourself/

  • Wonderer

    seriously, I noticed that Columbia is clearly losing popularity recently! in most articles and postings, there is little comments on Columbia! why is that? does the school really losing ground?!

  • Otto Fuchs

    Agreed. Dumb comment.

  • Guest

    Someone who isn’t pretentious and knows just how awesome that Nissan is.

  • Norbert Weiner

    Your comment is as much queer as it is out of place in a discussion about cars and schools. But I suppose, haters gotta hate.

  • WakWaka

    Oh sorry about that, Maserati is nothing compared to your Honda Accord 😉

  • Jonaz

    Maserati, a piece of sh*t? Now, that’s silly.

  • John777

    What a waste of time. Mr. Chu surely will not be getting new clients based on this.

  • BSchooler’12

    This is an incredibly inaccurate article. To suggest Kellogg is a school that is “one that is within reach of many people” clearly doesn’t reflect their selectivity of under 20 % of the most qualified applicants in the world. Also, it treats elite international institutions like crap if they aren’t Harvard, Stanford, or Wharton. All the M7 schools should be at least supercar caliber. Clearly the author doesn’t know cars or business schools as well as he thinks. Awful post, P&Q.

  • John Smith

    I find this to be biased and in extremely poor form. Many of these comparisons are not only not funny in any way but also quite demeaning and insulting of the schools they represent. To compare a school like Haas to a Prius or Stern to a Honda is clearly insulting, especially considering when other schools are Ferraris. To make matters worse its not like Alex Chu even attempts to be respectful of some of these schools. Quotes like “Haas is like Toyota, much like Stern is like Honda. It’s for the practical minded who simply want to get a good degree so they can get a better job. Nothing more or less than that” is entirely false and belittles one of the top 10 schools in the nation. Neither Hass nor Stern are small local schools whose targets are people who just want to change careers. Both are elite international business schools. If I were the folks at P&Q I would pull this article, its only doing the website a disservice.

  • Teradi

    Hang on Mr Weiner, I think you just humiliated the 650S. at best Yale is a bicycle..

  • Norbert Weiner

    I might add the 650S is a fine comparison to Yale as well.

    Good day, sir!!

  • Norbert Weiner

    To compare Yale to anything other than a McLaren 12C Spider is an insult to this blog’s readership and an affront to my sensibilities. I DEMAND you delete this rubbish post poste-haste.

    Good day, sir!!

  • Bus_Dev

    Alex….. the Kellogg diss? Tsk Tsk Tsk ….

  • hedgefunder

    No, Rolls Royce is not a garbage, Peuageout is in fact the rubbish..

  • rania

    in asia, particularly SEA, singapore management university is better known and produce more qualified people.

  • obamanocare

    What?! So HBS is garbage then?

  • Johnny

    lol seriously!

  • The dude

    another point here is that most all of these schools cost the same thing. Who wants to pay ~120K for a Nissan?

  • Jim

    Mr. Cock, surely you meant Duke’s Fuqua.

  • Zat

    It is very well known across Europe. In the US and Asia, the awareness is still growing.

  • Zat

    It is very well know across Europe. In the US and Asia, the awareness is still growing.

  • T

    Tesla is too good for Haas. MIT could be a Tesla.

  • Zat

    Yes… just like the Pagani Zonda started production in the 90s.

  • Crunch

    HEC has offered an MBA since the early 90s (ISA)

  • Greg Thompson Jr.

    He probably went to Darden. *snort snort*

  • Jeremey

    Range Rover is Cambridge Or Oxford. French things should not go beyond french..

  • Hedge67

    I think you take things very seriously.. how old are you?

  • Octopotamus

    Fun article, but Stanford should be a Tesla, not a Lamborghini!!! And Yale SOM is definitely a Subaru, not a Mazda…

  • BT

    I thought this was light-hearted fun. A good lesson in branding too.

  • call it like you see it

    “the former is a real sports car, while the latter is a piece of sh*t” lolol subtleties be damned!

  • This is definitely a “unique” take on comparing business schools… as someone who doesn’t know a lot about cars… I think I may have used the comparisons in reverse!

  • tim_cock

    why, Chrysler is a good vehicle ! they have the HEMI engine, pretty much like Duke’s Fuqu 🙂

  • kevin

    This nonsense is at least 4 years old. What’s the point of posting about it now?

  • JavertHL

    Haas is a Prius? (And not, say, a Tesla?)

  • Duke Alumnus

    This is the last article I’m ever reading from this sophomoric blog.

  • DuPaunt

    if it wasn’t Peugeout, then at best it is Renault. no more than that. It is hard to be an elite with mass size of >1000 a year.

  • Captain Obvious

    While Lamborghini is mentioned in the blurb, that’s a Ferrari in the photo…

  • Myron

    This article earns marks for creativity and some description of B-School and car categories is entertaining. Comparing Insead to Peugeout Citroen is harsh, the main feature are French heritage. I would rather see Insead as the Range Rover.

  • you_have_to_be_kidding_me

    This has to be one of the most asinine articles I’ve ever read on this site. Absolute garbage. Since when did P&Q get bought out by Buzzfeed??

  • CarFan1215

    What about MIT Sloan as a Tesla – innovative cutting-edge tech, mission driven…this could also be seen as saying more about different car brands than biz schools – a fun read.

  • Janet

    I would add Fordham to this list as a Lada !

  • Wow

    CBS hate is strong. wow.

  • L

    I think you meant to say “lower awareness outside France.”

  • helimet5

    I think IMD Lausanne is much like Maserati than Lexus.

  • JLee

    Stanford

  • tim_cock

    John, in the title you said “is your school a Lamborghini or…?” yet, there is no lamborghini out there!! why is that. did you miss it? or there is no school that really compared to lamborghini? 🙂

  • FAR34

    HEC Paris is the Renault or Citroen

  • Zat

    Nice article. I would also add HEC Paris to the list as a Pagani Zonda. High on performance, brilliant pedigree, but lower awareness outside Europe as it is comparatively newer to the MBA scene. However, it is catching up fast with its fellow schools.

  • remond

    thats good comparison..I’d add that IMD of Switzerland is the Lexus of the Business Schools 🙂