Who Gets Into Harvard & Stanford’s MBA Programs Might Surprise You

feeder colleges to Harvard and Stanford MBA programs

The top feeder colleges to Harvard and Stanford MBA programs

Symonds: If you look at some of these schools, there’s an average of two or three admits from places like Imperial College, the Indian Institute of Technology, or Boston College, but the reality is the schools weren’t going to help us with this deep dive. So LinkedIn became our friend. We managed to track down the academic and professional profiles of over 95% of Harvard’s MBA class of 2020. In the case of the GSB, that was about 85%, so you can be reassured these class samples are statistically significant and reliable. We’d love to think that this is the most detailed deep-dive analysis of these two fairly secretive schools that has ever been made public. They do talk about diversity, but when you really start to explore the data you find that it quickly clusters around the Ivy League schools. Given the schools’ fairly lightweight sort of summary on undergraduate backgrounds, we actually tracked down every undergraduate degree that these Harvard and Stanford MBAs had done in the years previously. It throws up some very interesting data, including the fact that if you come from certain schools you might be able to get away with less experience, fewer years of work experience than some of the others. Your point to me is this: Is this elitist or is this eclectic?

Byrne: You know I think it’s the former instead of the latter. Based on your analysis, half of all the students at Harvard Business School come from just 24 undergraduate universities. Then you look at the school’s published number of undergraduate institutions represented by the class and it makes it look like, “Okay, you know, I got a chance.” You’re lead to believe it’s much more of an open race, a meritocracy. But how is it possible that half of the entire class of Harvard Business School can come from only two dozen universities in the world?

Symonds: A stronger statistician than I am would say, “Well, if over 50% “of the class of the applicants in that pool were coming from those 24 schools, then it makes sense that 50% would be admitted and enrolled.

Byrne: And that is a very good point, Matt. Because that’s the one limitation we have with all this data. We don’t know the denominator. So we don’t know how many people actually applied from the Ivy League schools or from McKinsey, Bain, and BCG. We only know how many students from those places are enrolled in the class. Obviously, there’s a lot of self-selection that goes on when you apply to these elite schools, so if you were to look at the entire applicant pool, it probably would skew more toward the Ivy League and more toward big, prestigious employers like Goldman Sachs, and Morgan Stanley, and Google, and MBB. But nonetheless, I can’t imagine that even given that limitation, the stats would be reflective of a more equal playing field. What do you think, Matt?

Symonds: Well, the schools are promising the best of the best, and I guess it’s open for debate where you get the best from. They talk about academic rigor. They talk about intellectual vitality and curiosity, and I guess their baseline for that is, as we see here, to heavily recruit from the top universities that are attracting smart people with strong SAT scores. Stanford’s 3.72 GPA class average tells you these are academic high achievers, and I actually think that one of the things that really emerges from this analysis is just how much weight Harvard and Stanford place on your academic background.

Kirsten said it somewhat publicly at CentreCourt, that the GMAT is just a 75-minute section of quant. Your score is going to show that you can handle numbers, but really, if you spent three or four years at one of the top institutions and have done very well academically that is more important. Thankfully, it doesn’t stop there. You mentioned MBB, of course, but in the case of Harvard Business School, one in five of those getting into the program came from those three firms. At Stanford, it’s interesting to see quite a few students from private equity and venture capital, and the number of entrepreneurs that applied and got into Stanford.

Let’s start with the schools. We just put together the top 10 because, as you had pointed out, in the case of Stanford, 53% of the class, in fact, came from 19 institutions, almost all of them from the United States. In the case of Stanford, there was Pontificia Catolica from Chile that provided five of the Stanford class, and again, let’s not forget Stanford is a small big school. It’s only 419 students, and they really are picking them in ones and twos. Stanford, as you look at these numbers, obviously isn’t afraid to take those coming out of Harvard’s pool, at least from the undergraduate level, and those two dominate on both sides, whereas Harvard and UPenn, which includes the Wharton School, are the two that dominate at Harvard, so you’ll see a lot of those Ivy League schools in there. It’s also interesting to note how well Duke performs.

Byrne: – All of the Ivy League schools are right at the top before just about anybody else.

Symonds: They are. Scan down the list. Where’s MIT? There are a few that are notable by their absence. Columbia made it onto the top 10 list for Stanford. They’re a little bit further down in Harvard’s list. Notre Dame placed 18 into Harvard in the class of 2020 and six in Stanford’s class. Harvard’s MBA program is about 2 1/2 times the size of Stanford, so a school like Notre Dame placing those strong numbers at both schools is impressive. You also see some interesting sort of subsets. Many of Georgetown’s admits at Stanford were at the Walsh School for Foreign Service so clearly they have a penchant for certain profiles. The deep-dive analysis that we did identify all 167 institutions that were feeder colleges into Stanford, and I think around 300 into Harvard. The big names dominate, and then very quickly you’re down to schools that provided ones and twos. I think well over half of the feeder colleges to Harvard provided just one individual. If you look specifically at the Ivy League, and it’s interesting to note that Stanford is not a member of that illustrious sports club, but they’ve taken even more Ivy League graduates in the class of 2020: one in three, pretty much, or 30%.

If you add Stanford to the mix, then you end up at 37% through nine schools, and Harvard is, what, one in four. They dominate, and you can see that little logo for Columbia right down at the bottom there. That was just 1.6% of the class, so yeah, the Ivy League is clearly upfront. You didn’t see many from the University of Chicago at either school. You just saw ones and twos from great schools like the University of Michigan, and part of the challenge for Stanford is to attract more Midwest applicants.

Byrne: Among the top ten at either Harvard or Stanford, there’s not a single public university, not even what is called the Public Ivies like Michigan, UVA, UNC, UT-Austin, Wisconsin, UCLA, and Berkeley. Given the size of their graduating classes each year, that is rather shocking. And these schools are the so-called Public Ivies, no less. And when you get down to lower levels of public universities, from UC-Riverside or UC-Santa Barbara to Penn State or Michigan State, if you get one in at Harvard or Stanford you’re lucky.

Ivies At Harvard and Stanford MBA Programs

Ivy League grads appear to have a leg up in admissions at Harvard and Stanford MBA programs

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