Comments (42)

Oct 1, 2013

I sort of agree. I mean all else being equal, you want to be top dog in whatever environment you're in.

Here's the issue though. You don't know how well you're gonna perform. You may tell yourself "well i'm pretty smart and hard working and although school X isn't that prestigious i think i will be one of the top students there." That may be true, but it's no guarantee since there are a lot of unpredictable variables at stake. So you're basically taking a risk by doing what Gladwell suggests, a move that could pay off or backfire. Hence, my general view is that one should be conservative, opting for the best school one gets into in order to hedge his bets. The better the school, the more opportunities you will be exposed to. This does NOT mean that going to harvard will get you a gig at de shaw or blackstone, for instance; rather, the school exposes you to a wide variety of options that you otherwise may not have known about.

I think such a decision hinges upon the schools and programs in question, so there is no fast rule here. I mean I would tell someone to take harvard over ole miss 100% of the time, but if it's a choice between harvard and a full scholarship at say Duke or Vanderbilt, that's a tougher call depending on the student's goals, preferences, and personality.

Oct 2, 2013
mbavsmfin:

I sort of agree. I mean all else being equal, you want to be top dog in whatever environment you're in.

Here's the issue though. You don't know how well you're gonna perform. You may tell yourself "well i'm pretty smart and hard working and although school X isn't that prestigious i think i will be one of the top students there." That may be true, but it's no guarantee since there are a lot of unpredictable variables at stake. So you're basically taking a risk by doing what Gladwell suggests, a move that could pay off or backfire. Hence, my general view is that one should be conservative, opting for the best school one gets into in order to hedge his bets. The better the school, the more opportunities you will be exposed to. This does NOT mean that going to harvard will get you a gig at de shaw or blackstone, for instance; rather, the school exposes you to a wide variety of options that you otherwise may not have known about.

I think such a decision hinges upon the schools and programs in question, so there is no fast rule here. I mean I would tell someone to take harvard over ole miss 100% of the time, but if it's a choice between harvard and a full scholarship at say Duke or Vanderbilt, that's a tougher call depending on the student's goals, preferences, and personality.

I keep reading your name as "mba muffin."

Oct 1, 2013

I appreciate Gladwell's approach, he's an interesting guy who brings up some valid points...but his conclusion is misguided.

One of his main points is the following: "When it comes to confidence and motivation and self-efficacy, the things that really matter when making your way in the world, relative position matters more than absolute position". So I interpret this as the following: be part of second-rate institutions because you will excel there and that will boost your self-esteem. Now this is true, can't deny that. But I would challenge his initial premise, namely that confidence and "self-esteem" is all that really matters when making your way.

What about actual intellectual ability though? Does that seriously not factor into the equation anywhere? What about challenging yourself to hone your capacity to think critically? Build character through a little struggle? Be inspired and driven by your peers? Be exposed to things that can be done that you could not even conceive of otherwise?

Gladwell's "evidence" in terms of looking at how many economics papers people published after getting PhDs is odd because he doesn't even consider the quality of the papers. The Toronto guys might be pumping out paper after paper but they might all be mediocre and no one gives them a second read. That's the thing about Gladwell, he's not very critical when it comes to his own evidence.

I think there's a lot more you can get out of an institution like college than just feeling good about yourself. The fact is that the top student at a mediocre school might be impressive relative to his peers at that school, but his class rank doesn't necessarily say much about his abilities outside of his peer group given the unreliability of his institution. He may be very bright, or he may not be - you just don't know.

Oct 2, 2013

I hear what you're saying, and agree to an extent. That said, I don't think someone should go to Harvard if they're going to graduate in the 33 percentile of their class. Why would you do that to yourself? Why not go to a school 20 spots lower on USNWR, get a great education, be near the top of your class, and get your dream job?

There were some other holes in how he looked at this besides just the Econ/UT thing, but I think the overall point was to go where you're going to be exceptional. A lot of exceptional people go to Harvard but check out afterwards because they feel like they're mediocre. They're still some of the smartest people in the world, they just don't think that because they've always been the least smart of the smartest. I don't know if that makes sense and how true it rings, but it sounds right to me.

Oct 2, 2013
D M:

A lot of exceptional people go to Harvard but check out afterwards because they feel like they're mediocre. They're still some of the smartest people in the world, they just don't think that because they've always been the least smart of the smartest. I don't know if that makes sense and how true it rings, but it sounds right to me.

This is more or less true. It's really common for students at top Ivies to feel inferior to their peers (even if this is not necessarily the case), except for the obvious exceptional students at the tippy top of the class - that is, the true prodigies, not the grinders who manage 3.9s on the basis of course selection or work ethic.

D M:

I agree. And while Gladwell did the UT vs Harvard comparison, I think that was more for effect.

A better way to look at it imho is taking Harvard vs somewhere like UVA. You're still looking at 2 great schools, but UVA isn't going to be as difficult as Harvard. You'll still have access to many of the jobs Harvard grads have, but you'll be a better candidate in relation to your classmates.

I wouldn't ever tell someone to turn down Harvard persay, but I'd definitely tell them to consider their options.

Isn't it pretty absurd that someone should be concerned about their employment prospects because they chose a harder school?

Edit: I just got to the part where he advocates that employers hire solely on the basis of class rank, disregarding the institution attended. I personally think that's a fucking moronic conclusion (to say it bluntly) - does anyone see the merit to it?

Also, as has been pointed out here, I think his analysis and interpretation of the data is somewhat simplistic. The psychological phenomenon he discusses are real, but I don't think he does an adequate job exploring other factors that could be contributing to the numbers. I'd elaborate further but I'm way too sleep deprived to string together a coherent argument.

Oct 2, 2013

I too think Gladwell might not be always right - but he is darn convincing.

Oct 2, 2013

I'd rather have a 3.3 GPA at an Ivy than a 4.0 GPA at a smaller school. The network is what matters and after your first job no one gives a shit about your GPA.

Oct 2, 2013

I'd rather have a 3.6 at UVA than a 3.3 at Cornell tbh

Oct 2, 2013
TNA:

I'd rather have a 3.3 GPA at an Ivy than a 4.0 GPA at a smaller school. The network is what matters and after your first job no one gives a shit about your GPA.

I couldn't agree more. Not to mention, who in finance cares about how many papers you've written. It's all about how you produce and who is in your network. This guy sounds like such a clown academic with this non-real world conclusion.

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Oct 3, 2013

Um, depends on the school in question and major. I mean I would rather have 4.0 from berkeley, michigan ross, uva mcintyre, unc, ut austin mccombs, over 3.3 from Harvard any day of the week. A 3.3 unless in math or engineering is pretty low and will close a lot of opportunities. Now, a 3.6 from harvard in economics or applied math vs 3.9 from uva would be a more apt comparison

Oct 2, 2013

What a stupid statement! This is akin to saying "go to college where you feel most secure in terms of your intelligence, not where you'd benefit most in terms of meeting other intelligent people like yourself."

Oct 2, 2013

There's a pretty big disparity in comparing UVA and Cornell with say... Cornell and my school.

Oct 2, 2013

Cornell is pretty close to UVA. I am talking Cornell vs. Iowa State. Once you get into a top 10-15 UG program you have the brand, OCR and alumni that you need.

Oct 2, 2013

Yea I understand that. And like with everyone I listen to, I take Gladwell with a huge grain of salt. The choice between Cornell and Iowa State isn't really a choice. What I took out of this is if I don't think I'm smart enough to be a top 50th percentile performer at Harvard, I'd rather go to a school like UVA and be a top quartile performer.

I see this as being very important, particularly for the WSO demographic. If you want to do IB, there's no point to going to Harvard if you can't maintain a 3.5+. Why not go to a school like UVA or UNC and pull a 3.7+? At Harvard you're going to be fighting an uphill battle against dozens if not hundreds of other kids that meet the minimum requirements for GPA. At UVA/UNC, you'll still be fighting other people for slots, but at least you'll be one of the top choices to fill those slots.

I'm not saying you should definitely turn down Harvard by any means. There are a bunch of other factors to take into account there. I will say that it's a good idea to take a look at other schools and see which ones might allow you to be the best of the best.

Oct 2, 2013

Every Gladwell book could be 5 chapters shorter. Dude is the king of belaboring a point.

I also think you can't look at this in a vacuum. Being #1 at Full Sail is meaningless. Being #1 at East Carolina isnt bad but wont touch a middle of the road bro at Georgetown or similar, let alone the HYPs of the world

If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses - Henry Ford

Oct 2, 2013

I agree. And while Gladwell did the UT vs Harvard comparison, I think that was more for effect.

A better way to look at it imho is taking Harvard vs somewhere like UVA. You're still looking at 2 great schools, but UVA isn't going to be as difficult as Harvard. You'll still have access to many of the jobs Harvard grads have, but you'll be a better candidate in relation to your classmates.

I wouldn't ever tell someone to turn down Harvard persay, but I'd definitely tell them to consider their options.

Oct 2, 2013

If you're smart enough to get into a college, you're smart enough to graduate at the top of your class. You just have to work harder than those who are smarter than you. Makes no sense to settle for a second rate school just so you can get an easier A.

Oct 2, 2013

I was at a dinner few years back and this was the keynote speaker.... Pretty funny guy but draws on a weird data points

Oct 3, 2013

Your university is a signaling device. If you go to a great school, people assume you're smart. If you went to a shit one, people assume you're an idiot until proven otherwise. Five years from now, no one will ask what your GPA is. But your school follows you forever. And this isn't even getting into the benefits of surrounding yourself with smart people who challenge you, an expanded network, greater access to interesting jobs, a career center that's actually invested in its undergrads...

I usually enjoy Gladwell's work for what it is (soft social science with the goal of challenging assumptions), but this is terrible advice.

Oct 3, 2013

I personally think Gladwell is a glorified con-man and a pseudo-intellectual. He's done a very good job of marketing himself and his writings. There's almost no empirical support for his arguments.

I agree 1000% with your first paragraph. People change jobs all the freaking time, but what school you go to stays with you forever. The prestige and network you get out of an elite school is for life, something no one can take away. It's priceless.

Oct 3, 2013
mbavsmfin:

I personally think Gladwell is a glorified con-man and a pseudo-intellectual. He's done a very good job of marketing himself and his writings. There's almost no empirical support for his arguments.

I agree 1000% with your first paragraph. People change jobs all the freaking time, but what school you go to stays with you forever. The prestige and network you get out of an elite school is for life, something no one can take away. It's priceless.

Don't know if I agree with "priceless".... Lot of top school people I know are not hung on prestige nor is the regular working world... Some circles.... Sure but regular professional will say they know good and bad people from a wide range of schools

Oct 6, 2013

I wonder if being a top student at the University of Phoenix beats out an average Harvard for on-campus recruiting.

Oct 6, 2013
boredviewer:

I wonder if being a top student at the University of Phoenix beats out an average Harvard for on-campus recruiting.

Haha, yeah according to Gladwell as long as the Univ of Phoenix guy has written more bullshit papers he's gold

Oct 7, 2013

Beware of troll.

Oct 7, 2013

Would you like some cheese to go with that whine?

Oct 7, 2013

Oh my god I want to hit you. Sorry...don't mean to be violent but COME ON.

Oct 7, 2013

Dude I went to a non-target and had friends at Ivy League schools. I saw the work they were doing and it was the same shit. How many different ways do yo think you can you learn about efficient markets, the black-scholes model, or even computing WACC?

Try applying to somewhere out of the BB range. If you go to a great school you will have a leg up on everyone else.

Also, maybe they are smarter then you and just didn't try as hard in high school. I know plenty of kids with 3.8+ GPA's that spent every second in the library. Does that make them smarter?

Oct 7, 2013

Hate to burst your bubble, but what makes you think a 3.4 at a target is equivalent to a 4.0 at Wisconsin/ UIUC/ IU/ UNC?

Get your head out of your ass.

Oct 7, 2013

i can almost smell the sweat on this guy's forehead. great stuff.

Oct 7, 2013

And you didnt. Suck it up; grow a pair and keep working.

LOL @ MurdersNExecutions

:P

Oct 7, 2013

I went to both a non-target (ranked around 200 in the US) and to a target and can tell you that it was a lot harder to get As at the non-target since you needed at least 93% to finish with an A and I had one class in Advanced Accounting which required 95% to finish with an A and the professor gave no extra credit whatsoever.

At the target I went to (top 10-20) on the other hand it was a joke to get an A, you just had to finish within a certain percentile in your class ranking to get an A. So at the non-target maybe 5-10% got A's while at the target 20-30% got A's. In the end it was the same material but the teachers were more demanding at the non-target for most of the classes.

And no OP, there is no way in hell that you would have a 4.0 at a state school if you can't even manage a 3.5 at your current school, the discrepency is not that big if it even exists. So get your head out of your ass, start working and stop complaining.

Oct 7, 2013

Doesn't one of Cornell's program give out the highest honors for having above 3.9 GPA and 0-page thesis paper?

P.S.: 3.7 - 4.0 target student will have same GPA in public school, 3.0 - 3.5 target student will have to work much harder to keep same GPA (average B/B+) in public school.

Oct 7, 2013

Ivy league schools are notorious for inflating their grades...

Oct 7, 2013

and the one I attend might be the most notorious of the bunch. That said, I've taken classes at other non-target schools and the other schools are way easier. I'm sure plenty of non-targets are harder, but definitely not all. That said, I'm not prepared to say a 3.4 at a target should be more impressive than a 3.8 at a non-target- the key is to go to a target and continue working hard to get a 3.8 there.

Oct 7, 2013
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Oct 6, 2013