CBS vs. HBS - not a "no brainer"

abcabcabca's picture
Rank: Chimp | 8

Hello WSO, I am working through this decision and hoping you guys can offer another perspective.

I was fortunate enough to get round 1 offers from CBS and HBS. My background is engineering undergraduate and 4 years in energy project management. I am looking to transition to an energy fund as my primary goal, and energy investment banking as a backup.

Right now my decision criteria is along these four areas.

  1. Network / Brand - Common thinking is HBS has the advantage. However, linkedin searches tell me CBS is also very strong in buyside and more concentrated in NYC (where I will likely end up) than HBS which is far more international.
  2. Course offerings - About equal, both have a couple of courses specifically in my area of interest. HBS has more of a developing-country focus in the courses, in line with their program as a whole.
  3. Course content for finance fundamentals - I am an engineer and have no finance training. My read is that CBS courses would offer me a stronger foundation in finance whereas HBS is dogmatic about case method which could reduce its effectiveness. I might need to do more independent interview preparation at HBS.
  4. Location / Networking - I have researched funds that I am interested in, and many are headquartered in NYC. Networking will be paramount for me to achieve my goals. I feel like at HBS I will be commuting to NYC every weekend to network. CBS also offers the chance for a school-year internship which would be extremely helpful as someone switching into finance.

One of my fundamental questions is - will HBS unlock any jobs that would otherwise not be available from CBS (given equal independent preparation for interviews and networking). If the answer is no, then that would point me to CBS due to location.

Thanks for the read and any insight.

Region: 
United States - Northeast
United States - Northeast

Comments (14)

Dec 14, 2015

This is a no brainer.

HBS has a stronger reputation both in the U.S. and abroad. Both programs have fairly weak curriculum's. I might give a slight edge to CBS in this regard but it's not enough to justify HBS's edge in both network and in name brand.

CBS is on the decline. It's finance curriculum is out-dated and the faculty is weak/irrelevant. There's too much of a focus on finance and I hear bad things about j-term dilution.

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Dec 14, 2015

Is this a joke? HBS hands down!!! No brainer.

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Dec 14, 2015

Unless CBS gave you a full ride, HBS is a no brainer. I'd still take HBS at full fare over a full ride to CBS though for what its worth.

Dec 14, 2015

While I agree with the points that have been raised this far, especially regarding network and brand name, I think it would also be worth considering, that Columbia does have a very strong network in the IM industry. I am not sure if you are also interested in energy investing in public markets or if you're focused on energy PE, but from another thread on here from a current CBS student it seems like you can do off-cycle, school year long internships. This could theoretically give you an edge as you could potentially gain experience doing what you want to do full time afterwards anyway.

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Dec 14, 2015

Definitely HBS and I say this as someone likely to go to CBS next year.

I strongly disagree with the "CBS is on the decline" rhetoric though that seems common on the internet, however. It's factually incorrect to say CBS is doing worse then the Kellogg/Booth/Sloan's of the world when you actually dive into employment reports, cross admit stats (CBS actually dominates Booth in cross admits), selectivity, and class profile's. Statistically there is just nothing that supports that rhetoric.

That said, HBS buyside recruiting will absolutely dominate CBS'. CBS has a strong brand name in the buyside, but it only beats HBS due to self selection. Go to HBS and don't look back.

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Dec 14, 2015

HBS MBA - Once in a lifetime opportunity

Dec 15, 2015

I've never been on the HBS bandwagon, but this is a total no-brainer. HBS.

You likely are just worried about reneging on your Early Decision commitment to CBS.

People do that every year. Bite the deposit and the guilt trip they'll give you, and go to HBS and never look back (well, you can, just to scare yourself about what might have been).

Dec 16, 2015

Thanks for the input so far. At this point I'm mostly weighing the HBS brand and network against the CBS location in NY and ability to do a school-year internship, as someone looking to jump from industry into finance on the buyside (ideally) in a specialist field. If it was IB I was going for, then no question HBS.

I am worried about trying to make that jump from HBS without having a school-year internship to get some additional experience.

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Dec 16, 2015

While HBS does not have grade non-disclosure, academics still aren't the core focus of your time on campus. It's about who you get to know. You mentioned commuting to NYC often - you're right, you will. That's part of the game. You'll get real used to Amtrak.

There are also all kinds of people on campus once the recruiting moratorium lifts. You also have access to any HBS alumni; the office on campus does a fantastic job of keeping contact info up-to-date, so you can call or email anyone - guys at firms who are just a few years ahead of you or who are up at the top of the pyramid. Professors will also put you in touch with former students.

In short, if you're worried that CBS is a better pick because you won't have to travel to network, the value of the HBS network is worth the travel time. Moreover, the travel isn't even that bad, because you can be really efficient by using the phone or email for the first few touchpoints with each person before moving to a meeting.

Lastly, the value of an internship is primarily what you learn while you're there, not the recruiting advantage it may carry in the future. The recruiting advantage isn't that meaningful except in the instance that you can convince that fund to bring you back. I know CBS and Stern guys who interned at Balyasny, for instance, who got full-time offers with the PM they worked for before graduation. A 30-hour/week internship will really eat into your campus experience, and it won't be super meaningful towards getting you to the funds you want to get to. They weigh your pre-MBA experience much more highly.

Given your specific interest in energy, I don't think you're going to find too many shops in NYC that will give you relevant experience to your goal. It's unlikely you'll get an energy-focused fund internship during the year at either CBS or HBS. If your logic was to just get any internship and use that to demonstrate interest in investing, there are hundreds of funds in Boston you can talk to. See these: http://www.wallstreetoasis.com/forums/list-of-hfs-...
The real question is how successful will you be going straight to the buy-side as a career-switcher. As I said, they're looking at your pre-MBA experience most closely. What do you offer vs. the guy who started at GS Nat Res then spent two years at First Reserve, or the guy who was at McKinsey then went to KKR / Denham / Riverstone?

That's how I'd approach it. Best of luck.

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Dec 16, 2015

I'd choose CBS. Strong buy side recruiting, academic rigor, location advantage, best for finance, and great profs. The only school I'd choose over CBS is Booth. Stanford and HBS have that liberal unprofessional kinda feel, not very intensive. The only thing they have is the name but name doesn't always matter because you'll have the same opportunities at CBS.

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Feb 24, 2016

OP, which school did you end up choosing?

Mar 2, 2017

Also curious

Mar 5, 2017

....HMM.. it's you that pulled out this ancient shit.

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Mar 5, 2017
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