Is H/S/W necessary if I don't want to go upstream?

After a stale set of rejections from H/S last cycle, I'm gearing up to create fresh applications for business school this year. As I'm preparing, though, I'm coming to believe that other schools may be a better fit for me than H/S, and I'm trying to navigate the implications of going to another M7 rather than shooting for the top tier again.

My main concern is that I don't really want to go to a bigger/heavier fund than the one that I'm at--a couple hundred thousand in compensation simply isn't worth the hours that I'd spend away from my wife and children, and I don't mind waiting the potential additional years that come with making partner at a LMM/growth/VC fund such as the one that I am at, so long as I'm paid decently and am not being worked to the bone.

Given that my goals aren't HIG or bust (or it's equivalent), is H/S/W necessary? And what am I not thinking about? I didn't grow up with any kind of wealth so viewpoints into the differences between H/W/S and the rest of the M7 are pretty subtle from what I see, outside of the fact that some 1%'r may see me as tier 2 vs tier 1. Where am I blind?



I would say it depends what fund you’re starting from and what funds you’re interested in. Go to the website of these funds and look at where post-MBA people went to school. Post-MBA PE is so insanely competitive that even at H/S, students are told to not try and recruit without prior experience and a lot of people with experience end up going downmarket. Sometimes smaller funds can end up being very H/S oriented because they can be, but just depends on the specifics

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To start, you don't need H/S for HIG, I wouldn't consider HIG a MF or that prestigious amongst the top PE firms. I know a few kids who ended up there from non H/S/W B-Schools. To me it comes down to what your background is and what you want to do after. H/S will keep the most options open for you so they're obviously nice to have if you can get in. With that said, the biggest job benefit (outside of the brand/network) to those to schools in my opinion are really a handful of top PE/VC/HFs that will only recruit from those schools. So yes, if you wanted a post-MBA role at Hellman & Friedman, even if you're an absolute stud coming out of Booth, it's likely going to be very tough to even get in the door. 

With that said, it also largely comes down to your pre-MBA experience. If you have pretty good pre-MBA experience in PE/VC and go to a non H/S M7, you'll generally be pretty competitive at most non MF PE/VC/HF types of roles, or at least you'll get a shot at interviews. If you have no prior PE/VC experience but want to get into the space, it's going to be really tough anywhere, but H/S give you a bit more of a leg up. 

So if your case, no it doesn't sound like it's necessary. Given that B-School is a luxury and the opportunity cost associated, etc, many people have a H/S or bust mindset and that's completely fair depending on where you're coming from. I think for many others, if you wanted to transition into a banking/consulting role, or maybe have a geographical focus on the midwest, or get a great aid package from a non H/S M7/T10, etc or hell you're like me and didn't quite have the profile for a H/S, there are still plenty of buyside opportunities coming out of the M7 schools. The big brand name ones are accessible if you have the right background, some options will just be closed off to you given it's not H/S, but with some hustle, good networking skills, and general business competency, you'll have plenty of buyside options as long as you're a little more flexible and not aiming for the moon.


As always, you've got fantastic answers. I appreciate you.

How do you categorize "pretty good" Pre-MBA experience? I imagine that it's some sort of combination of name brand/fund size, reviews, deals closed, role, etc.? I ask because frankly my fund isn't well known or large, but as I've compared my experience with my peers, I've become more seasoned. Totally willing to have to swallow the bitter pill of "name matters most", but what weight would you assign to the above buckets?

Remember, always be kind-hearted.

Anecdotally, for MM and LMM firms, I think experience and relevant industry expertise go pretty far. That's not to say that a MM firm wouldn't get excited about a candidate from Apollo if they wanted to work there, but I think most firms realize that there is usually a difference in experience between some of the MM/LMM folks and the MF folks and adjust accordingly.

I was from a relatively no-name MM fund, a couple of B in AUM, but had got in early and did a lot of deals. I was able to present a deal sheet with 5+ deals on it where I was truly one of the investment leads and I think that helped me to standout, both a similarly sized funds and even ones that were larger. I think I could represent that I was far beyond an Associate/Senior Associate level role whereas many folks from bigger funds can't speak to that. With that said, there are plenty of bigger funds that purely want grinders so someone from an HIG (to use as an example) even if they didn't close as many deals, would represent that they could crush models/decks and work 100 hours a week and many firms are screening for that. For me, I was trying to represent myself as someone who was an experienced deal leader, could help to really lead deals end to end, fundraise, do portco ops, etc which was a hit at some firms and a miss at others (usually the larger ones) Personally, I don't think I could have ever gotten a MF role, but I do think that if I had made it my sole goal to get to a well known MM fund out of B-School, like an HIG, as a VP. I would have been able to get there. Ended up with an offer at a larger, respected industry specific MM fund as a VP. 

If you want to PM me I'm happy to give more details as you think about things. 


Ehh I can't really speak with much authority on the HF/AM world (not that I speak with much authority on anything, haha). I will say that it seems that it's a little easier to switch into that space, especially with somewhat relevant background, than it is to get into PE. With that said, it depends on what you're aiming for. I had plenty of classmates end up at some HF/AM firms, some were really gunning for the Fidelity's and other large well known shops, which is obviously more competitive and some made it. If that's the route you really want to go, the Colombia value investing program has great placement. Booth is also solid given it's quanty and more finance orientation. Truthfully, I wouldn't be surprised if on a numbers basis, the M7 outside of H/S sent more people to various Asset Management types of shops than H/S as it's a little less in demand of a profession. That said, well known HFs are probably still the domain of H/S, unless you have a strong public equities background. I guess the one nice thing about that world is that an MBA doesn't matter as much, so it's a little more meritocratic. If you have put together good research, have a track record, can pitch, and aren't deadset on going to Bridgewater, then you'll likely find a spot.

Edit: Was just thinking about this, were you talking about going to MM PE firms from an equity research background? Answer is that it'll be really tough. Equity research, especially at a not well known shop or not having made the switch to a HF pre MBA isn't that desirable of a skillset. You don't have any transaction experience, haven't had to think as an investor, etc. Potentially even worse than banking in my opinion. Your work will be cut out for you and you'll likely have to take a very LMM position after a bunch of in-semester work during the two years. You can pursue it, but I'd have a backup if I were you. You'd honestly be better off going to the best investment bank you can and then trying to lateral post-MBA.


Haven't attended business school but anecdotally I've seen success at MM / LMM PE funds from Booth and Kellogg (less familiar with Columbia beyond their employment reports). You would likely need to put in more leg work and find opportunities yourself, but I think that would be true for the LMM at any school. You may also end up at firms that promote without the MBA if found outside of OCR

Again, this is all anecdotal so take with a grain of salt. I certainly think it's doable and have seen it done from M7 and non-M7 schools. 


My background is coming from BB->MF->H/S/W. I personally think if you want to do PE it doesn't make sense to go to any school but H/S/W, as your entry opportunities are just as good coming in laterally as from any other M7

While it is still not easy by any means at H/S/W if you come in without experience, I know several people that did get PE internships and FT offers after coming from banking, consulting, or non-PE investing.


What if you're an international (Europe) but want to move to the US, have a solid background (top undergrad, MBB, Large Cap global PE -3 years of experience) and go to CBS?

Got unlucky with last minute HSW apps, am older than average so considering Columbia J Term to graduate in the US quicker. But very concerned about how detrimental this will be for fund recruiting given it's not HSW (and to a lesser degree no internship)


What do you think went wrong in your HBS interview?

Honestly, even as a very self-reflective and critical person, I don't see much that went wrong in my interview. I think that my HBS rejection was a combination of having an average GMAT, average recommenders, and being from a non-flashy fund. I think I got the interview in the first place because I have a very unique story of growing up in poverty and being the first in my family to go to college, as well as having extremely significant leadership experience at Bain and doing very well at my fund, but it's clear that I had as many reasons to say "no" as there was to say "yes," and it was a tough roll of the dice for me. I've bolstered all I can now, though! Fingers crossed for this year's application.

Remember, always be kind-hearted.

Makes sense, thank you! I'm at Bain right now and our acceptance rates to H/S (directly from Bain) have sure gone down a ton in recent years. Good luck this year! 


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