Why Stanford Is Beating HBS Among Dual Admits

The Wharton School

The Wharton School

Scorecard: Harvard — 52% Wharton — 20%

When the choice was between Harvard and Wharton, widely considered the third powerhouse MBA program in the world, HBS predictably won hands down: 52% of 69 admits went to Harvard, while 20% chose Wharton. And yes, 28% turned down both schools and went somewhere else,

In the absence of information such as scholarship money, geographic and industry preferences, and legacy connections, it’s hard to explain why anyone would walk from Harvard, Stanford or Wharton and go to another school. But if a highly ranked program dangles a full-ride scholarship in front of an admit or one’s family boasts a well-traveled path to a university, this does become an easier decision for some.

Adds Bauer on the HBS-Wharton showdown: “If a dual admit is focused on hardcore finance, this decision could be a tossup. Otherwise, it’s difficult to see how and why most candidates would walk away from the more revered HBS brand.”

Hoff thinks this smack down more recently favors Harvard by a much larger margin, noting the nearly three-year lag in the survey data. “I’m actually surprised that Wharton was able to pull in even 20% of candidates that had HBS, Wharton, and others to choose from,” he says. “I suspect that number would be lower for a current admitted students group, just given some of the negative chatter around Wharton, the shifts in leadership at the top of the program, and so forth. It’s especially hard to see someone picking Wharton over HBS in that kind of head-to-head showdown because both schools are large, on the East Coast, and known for being stacked with resources. Even Wharton’s big advantage in healthcare management is neutralized by Harvard’s strength in that area. Perhaps Wharton has INSEAD to thank and that some candidates really want that time abroad in the Alliance program?”

Chicago Booth

Chicago Booth

Scorecard: Wharton — 43% Chicago — 27%


Students who were admitted to both Wharton and the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business had an often difficult decision—partly because of Chicago’s rising prominence but also because Booth has far more money to give to admits. Still, Wharton dominated this matchup. Of the 99 dual admits to those schools in the sample, 43% went to the City of Brotherly Love, Philadelphia, while 27% picked the Windy City of Chicago.

Bauer of The MBA Exchange believes this is “a brand-based decision impacted by decades of respect for and recognition of the ‘Wharton MBA.’ As Chicago continues to narrow the gap and earn high rankings, this margin will narrow, but not quite yet.”

However, Hoff sees this match-up a little differently. “I would suspect the gap has closed a bit on this one even in the years since the data was acquired,” he maintains. “Booth continues to be one of the most ascendant graduate schools in the world, of any type, and they have huge amounts of scholarship money to use in wooing top admits. That said, Wharton has actually become underrated amazingly and it’s hard to find a school with so many resources, which many candidates ultimately see when they make their own decisions rather than following trends. Plus, for candidates who want an elite Healthcare Management program, the INSEAD Alliance program, or even just to “stay on the East Coast” (I have heard this many times over the years), Wharton has the clear advantage on all three counts. Wharton’s brand also has more ‘carry’ in most global markets, so it’s almost unfathomable for me to imagine an MBA student who wants to work in Hong Kong or Paris or Rio after graduation choosing Booth over Wharton, to be perfectly honest. All told, while I personally would go to Booth over Wharton, these numbers still make sense to me.”

About The Author

John A. Byrne is the founder and editor-in-chief of C-Change Media, publishers of Poets&Quants and four other higher education websites. He has authored or co-authored more than ten books, including two New York Times bestsellers. John is the former executive editor of Businessweek, editor-in-chief of Businessweek. com, editor-in-chief of Fast Company, and the creator of the first regularly published rankings of business schools. As the co-founder of CentreCourt MBA Festivals, he hopes to meet you at the next MBA event in-person or online.