He Got Into HBS, GSB, Wharton & Booth. Now He Has To Decide Where To Go

Betsy: That’s a really hard question to answer. It also depends on the money he may have received from other schools.There’s a little bit of a bargaining chip in that–he did get into two other schools. We know that he got some money from both of those schools – we can’t unknow that –given that, both of those schools are sort of a threat, if he gets nothing from Harvard and Stanford, he can very honestly say, “but I did get money from X and it is material.” It’s a really hard thing for me to say, “Go and forgo tens of thousands of dollars in aid;” it’s hard for me to recommend it, but people do it all the time.

I don’t want to lead him down a garden path that he’ll be unhappy about. Again, this is about your happiness, over the time value of money.

Justin: That makes sense.

John: So Justin, are you inclined to go to the bank and borrow over $100,000 to fund your Harvard or Stanford education if you got no aid?

Justin: I think if I got no aid at all from either school, I would do, like Betsy said, use the financial aid offers I got from the other two schools as leverage.  If that didn’t work, I think I would face a very tough decision—choosing tomorrow, maybe $150,000 or more in loans vs. $50,000 or $75,000. It’s a big difference obviously, but I guess we’ll see.

Betsy: Good answer! And also, you still don’t have all the information. This is all theoretical. We think here, and we’re just the committee on the sidelines, that it’s unlikely that you’ll get zero money in terms of fellowship. We also don’t know what it’s going to be like when you get there [for admitted students weekend] and you get to one of those schools and you just viscerally  — you may have visited both schools,  but admit weekend is different, and you may viscerally feel just right, just perfect at one place or another, or alternatively say, “I don’t know what I was thinking”. Either of those things could happen. You know that.

Justin: Of these two schools, or more broadly these four, which school do most of the dual admits go to, especially over the past four or five years.

Betsy: I wish I could say that I’ve worked with many students who have gotten into both. It’s not that common; you’re a very rare individual. John can tell you; I will defer to John on what the numbers look like.  I think over the last several years more students have chosen Stanford, and that makes Harvard nervous. But it doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re going to do crazy things.

John: There was some data published by Bloomberg BusinessWeek, which surveyed students and alums of the business schools and it did show pretty dramatically that Stanford was winning the dual-admit battle with Harvard in recent years.   That said, you know the way people choose between these two schools—some literally take out a spreadsheet and they basically log everything that’s important to them and then they even devise a subjective point system.

Betsy: Do you know anyone that’s actually done that?

John: Actually we’ve run several stories on the site of people who’ve been in your position, who’ve had the luxury of choosing between the two best business schools in the world and how they went about choosing that decision, in one case we even provide on the website the spreadsheet used by one student to evaluate the schools on each of probably over a dozen metrics. I think it was over two dozen metrics, in fact.

So it’s a big decision, it’s an important decision, the truth is, as Betsy has said, you can’t go wrong, really.  This is an embarrassment of riches, in a way, and you’re going to have a magnificent, transformational experience no matter where you go. Any one of these four schools, in fact. Doesn’t even have to be H or S.

Betsy:  You’re a lucky guy, and we’re honored to know you and we’re honored to have a chance to talk to you about this. You must really be feeling like the world is your oyster at this moment, so enjoy it while you can.

John: So Justin, thank you for sharing this big moment in your life with us. I will say to all of our listeners and readers out there, we will have a Part 2. Because we want to get back to Justin and we want to find out what you ultimately decided and what kind of criteria swung it one way or another. And the kinds of things that you considered. We’d also love to hear about your visits to the schools during their admit weekends, whether they are putting on the full court press to get you to come, what that was like, and how that affected your decision.

Justin: That sounds great. Thank you guys so much. This was fun. As you know I’ll be visiting some schools over the coming three or four weeks for admit weekend, and I’ll looking forward to seeing those campuses and meeting students and faculty. I’m looking forward to the next steps.

Betsy:  Thank you, and we look forward to hearing your decision!

John: Good luck Justin!