HBS vs. Wharton/Lauder

Hi everyone,

I've been admitted to HBS vs. Wharton/Lauder, but there's a lot of different factors at play into my decision. Hoping to source some opinions or perhaps hear from people who have been in similar situations. 

Offers
1. Harvard Business School - 100K most in financial aid, and might be eligible for more fellowship funding or external scholarships

  1. Wharton/Lauder - MBA/MA in International Studies, nearly full tuition from fellowships, and might be eligible for some additional need-based funding or external scholarships

HBS
Pros: 
1. Unparalleled brand - this is self-explanatory, HBS is just more prestigious both domestically and globally. One thing to note is, I went to Harvard for my undergraduate, so there might be diminishing returns to multiple Harvard degrees.
2. Better placement in high finance careers (PE, HF, VC) - not sure I'll totally want to go down this route but want to maximize my odds should I opt for IB or Consulting route.
3. Best alumni network in the world - this is also a give, more CEOs and c-suite than any other school. incredibly powerful network
4. Case method - I personally love the case method and think it will prepare me well as a leader
5. Quality of Students - I don't know if anyone else feels this way, but I perceive a very felt difference in quality between HBS students and Wharton students with the former being much more impressive based on their LinkedIns and resumes as well as the people I personally know at each school.
6. State of the art campus and facilities - HBS' campus is unmatched with around 40 buildings including academic halls, dining halls, various residence halls, and a beautiful bucolic campus contributing to an overall more enjoyable quality of life
7.Location: Boston is preferable to Philly by a lot
8. Nostalgia: It's been a lifelong dream to attend HBS and, having gone to the college, I took some classes there, worked with professors, and have genuine relationships with professors, administrators, and advisors, etc. Choosing HBS would be like homecoming.

Cons: 
1. Single degree/Difficulty standing out - at Wharton, I would be well differentiated with two degrees and two large merit fellowships. At HBS, I feel like it would be much harder to stand out and differentiate myself from the competition during recruiting. I also studied Economics as an undergrad, which is a dime a dozen degree even if from the top economics department in the world.
2. Money - while Financial Aid is generous, it just doesn't compare to the generosity Wharton/Lauder has offered. I could apply for external fellowships and scholarships. It will just take more time and energy and I would apply to them at Wharton also.
4. Technical/Quantitative Skills - my tech/quant skills are somewhat of a growth area. Don't get me wrong, they're strong but could be better. I don't think HBS, with its heavy emphasis on the case method, will provide me with a lot of these skills, so I would have to study them on my own. Whereas Wharton's curriculum seems to be much more skills-based and varied.

Wharton/Lauder

Pros: 
1. Money - near full ride in named fellowships, no questions asked. I know only about a third of Wharton students get offered fellowship support, and the majority do not get anywhere near this amount so would help me stand out given it's merit-based.
2. Lauder/Dual Degree - this is incredibly appealing as I would love supplementing my MBA with global studies and language classes. It would also allow me to differentiate myself from the sea of MBAs and I could see employers, particularly MBB or even some BBs, really valuing the academic diversity of a non-business degree in addition to the MBA. It also just makes for a more interesting and formative educational experience and make me more enriching of a colleague. Would also get the opportunity to write a Masters thesis which I am excited about.
3. Quantitative and Technical Skills - Wharton's curriculum is flexible and allows you to skip a lot of intro courses to get into advanced courses that will actually teach me a lot. The curriculum is a mixture of teaching methods and would more reliably prepare me for a career in finance or consulting. For example, part of why I think my technical skills are not my strongest is because I went to a liberal arts undergrad, so I think a more pragmatic approach to education is really compelling 
4. Location: While I prefer Boston over Philly, Wharton is closer to home (NY metro area) and NYC which could help for recruiting but really would be more fun
5. Social/3 Day Weekends: I love that Wharton has three day weekends with no classes on Fridays. This allows for more opportunity to socialize. Granted, I'm not THAT outgoing, but still nice to have the flexibility in your schedule.

Cons:
1. Big drop in prestige/name brand - again this feels very real, especially abroad. I already have Harvard on my resume, so not sure how much of a factor this should play in my decision compared to someone who doesn't already have this.
2. Student body quality - this is probably the biggest con for me. Based on my experience talking to students, most Wharton students (outside of Lauder) are just not THAT impressive when it comes to their academic and professional achievements. I'm definitely splitting hairs here. I know that this is going to sound incredibly disconnected (valid), but they tend to be smart/strong students who love business/finance and are motivated to put in the work to succeed in demanding industries. Whereas HBS students are much more likely to elicit a wow from me based on their academic and pre-MBA professional experiences. It feels like every HBS student wants to change the world and leave a lasting legacy. They tend to be more diverse, colorful, and unique, which is a big plus to me.
3. Location: Philly seems like not my ideal city. I don't think living here would be as comfortable as living on HBS' campus.
4. Limiting to Finance/Consulting - Wharton has less of a name/presence in the tech sector. There are plenty of students who still break in, but HBS is more renown universally so allows me some flexibility should I decide to pivot to another area.

So what does everyone think about my dilemma? I know both are incredible options. Would love to source opinions or ideas as to how people would go about making the decision or hear from any who have been in this situation or in similar circumstances.

Also if anyone is Round 2 or thinking of b-school admissions, happy to answer any questions you may have. :)

Much appreciated!

Comments (26)

Dec 22, 2021 - 2:23am

Forget CBS, way below H/W.

HBS and Wharton are both very recognized internationally. HBS may have marginally more laymans prestige, but both carry equal weight amongst the college-educated in every continent from what I've seen.

Placement and alumni are also extremely similar, with W having a slight edge in alumni and H having a slight edge in placement.

Go with "cultural fit" instead of miniscule differences, although personally I prefer Wharton for the prestige and culture.

  • Associate 2 in IB - Cov
Dec 22, 2021 - 10:10am

100% Harvard.

if you truly believe even half of what you wrote, none of your peers/alumni at wharton will want to help you (or even be in the same room as you for that matter).

Lauder is an incredibly tight nit community and there is no space for anyone who comes in thinking they are better than 90% of the class. Also, the number of people in Lauder is very small so it will be very easy to figure out who you are based on this post.

go to HBS

  • Analyst 1 in IB - Cov
Dec 22, 2021 - 12:24pm

I'm only now prepping for my MBA, so take this with a grain of salt, but I definitely agree with your assessment that HBS has diminishing utility due to your undergrad. It's not like you don't have access to HBS alums already...

I also went to an Ivy and I personally would not go back, even though I loved it, because of the overlap in network. You already have access to Harvard's, why not tap into Wharton's?

Dec 22, 2021 - 12:32pm

As someone who went to a large non-target state school for undergrad, I will give my input because I'm pooping and have nothing else to do.

I understand Wharton is great for finance, but so is Harvard. It's Harvard. You went there for undergrad so you know how much clout it has.

HBS is the goat of goats.

Most Helpful
Dec 22, 2021 - 3:36pm

Either one is fine, go to wherever you'd have more fun (probably Wharton given the feedback I have from friends who done that MBA vs HBS).

Prestige is dumb at these levels and literally anyone who's spent one day in a working environment knows there is no discernible difference between having either on your resume.  In terms of recruiting, Lauder probably gives you the smallest edge vs the rest of Wharton for landing some first rounds but really it doesn't matter.  Unless you have some serious DEI boost, having Lauder isn't going to make employers readily jump on you - it will just be easier to organize first round interviews with it.

Also as far as the "option" to go high finance - you need to get on that shit immediately upon getting to campus.  Most of the people I know (who started their MBA between 1-4 years ago) who didn't already have a IB/PE background had no looks if they started to look that route in October of their first year.  Even then, if you get an offer, they will usually make you commit before you can interview for other industries.  

In general, IBs have had a harder and harder time getting post-MBAs to join so you shouldn't have an serious issues getting looks with either on that front.  Post-MBA consultants are a dime a dozen so same thing applies there.   

Also I'm not sure if this is a troll, or I'm just reading it funnily, but you come off as incredibly insecure.  Seems like you only care that people respect that you went to Harvard for undergrad and about the "brand name" of your MBA.  Having a successful career and life is so much more important than telling people in your industry you're the 1000th person they've met from either of these schools.  If you want to impress your family, you can tell them you got in - it will work just the same.  You should do the school and work that you want to do, and not what you think other people will think of you.  

  • Summer Associate in IB-M&A
Dec 23, 2021 - 5:25pm

This. It's a bit ironic that OP is so focused on prestige but is planning to target 2nd tier jobs (in terms of prestige) coming from the caliber of these schools (Harvard / Wharton).

  • Consultant in Consulting
Dec 24, 2021 - 1:48am

Well banking is definitely considered second tier at these schools which is why they only send a handful into the industry and why GSB sends 0-2 people annually. Consulting not so much. Don't forget, McKinsey is the top employer of HBS MBA's.

  • Summer Associate in Consulting
Dec 23, 2021 - 5:30pm

When you said that Wharton students weren't "that impressive" it made me wonder why you are only settling for BB banking or consulting. Grads from both schools have gone on to start companies, hedge funds, venture capital, PE firms. 

If anything, your profile isn't remarkable at all compared to candidates at each school. & no, I didn't go to Penn, but I think that assessment is a little bit ridiculous considering people land BB & MBB roles out of Mich, UT Austin & that if you were that remarkable then you'd have bigger goals at HBS/W. 

  • Intern in Consulting
Dec 24, 2021 - 4:27pm

Lmao at this post, Wharton (and Lauder especially) is literally at the tip top of prestige. There are a decent # of Lauder kids who picked it over HBS (some with scholarship, some without). But yes if you think Wharton is not that impressive, go to HBS. I've always thought some HBS people are rather arrogant and fucking assholes (some at Wharton as well) so you will fit right in :). I chose W over HBS since the alums from both schools I've talked to said at this level of school pick on fit, curriculum and other considerations. I'm a 1Y and I'm having a blast at W, and I have no regrets. I'm sure HBS would have been fine as well, but just a different experience.

Personally I think GSB is where you will find truly exceptional candidates. H/W people are definitely very impressive, but GSB is on a slightly different level because they focus so much on story. H/W you can get in based on pure stats + name brand.

Edit: I will note I've met some students at B/K/S/C who will tell you that HBS > Wharton, because for some reason they get off on Wharton losing to HBS (especially Booth people in my experience and they will swear by how Booth=Wharton lol), and I think you see some of that on this thread. However, no one at HSW would tell you that, so you can choose who to believe.

  • Intern in Consulting
Dec 25, 2021 - 12:36pm

lol which part, that OP should focus on fit/curriculum? Or that H/W have some very arrogant people (as most top schools do)? Or that GSB focuses slightly more on story than H/W?

  • Analyst 1 in IB - Cov
Dec 31, 2021 - 12:33am

Thanks for the take on perceived prestige, intern in consulting!

Dec 25, 2021 - 11:24am

Lauder hands down, not even close. Similar levels of prestige (I concede HBS does have a very slight edge here, but Lauder makes up for it). So on the prestige point it's moot.

The network part Wharton wins HANDS DOWN for you specifically because you already have Harvard UG. No sense in repeating that network. You can access HBS through Harvard UG so why not tap into Wharton's double network as well (you could have access to Wharton UG network as well).

I think the even split on this thread just shows that there's no wrong choice here.

Dec 25, 2021 - 11:25am

As an older person on WSO and someone who actually knows several people (quite well - including family members, close friends, etc.) who attended  HBS or W and are long in their careers, I would say fit, curriculum / style (i.e. case) and "lane" are important differentiators. Not a matter of what's better as that's completely subjective, but more a matter of what's better FOR YOU! You can likely get anywhere from either but do you want to be swimming upstream of go with the flow?

The people I know who went HBS ultimately have moved into leading businesses (GM, Business Unit Head, CEO, Head of Corp Strategy reporting to CEO, etc. They may have started out in banking or MBB or product mgmt but that ultimately led to Managing/ Leading organizations. The folks I know who attended W have ultimately been leaders in finance (CFO of F500, Head of M&A, MD at BBs, PE, etc). Some W's who I know are CEO's but of Finance oriented companies. 

So ask yourself what you really want to do in life. Again, one won't preclude you from anything, but may make the path more natural. 

An aside - if finance is the route, a good comparison would be W and UChicago not HBS. My friends who attended those two "look" a lot more similar.

  • Intern in Consulting
Dec 25, 2021 - 11:33am

Great take, very similar to the advice that I received from senior alums from both schools. At this level of pedigree, seek the best fit in terms of culture, and the curriculum that best supplement your UG education and one that you believe will make you a well-rounded business leader.

Jan 6, 2022 - 1:59am

You got offered a full-ride from Wharton. Because of that, I think the arguments like "well this school places better in PE than this school" or "this school would help me differentiate myself" are largely moot. Wharton giving you a full-ride is indicative that your profile is very impressive. Don't worry about career placement or differentiation between two of the top business schools in the world.

Also you made HBS's placements into finance careers a pro but Wharton's placements into finance/consulting a con. You have an obvious bias for HBS, so go to HBS.

  • Intern in Consulting
Jan 10, 2022 - 8:00am

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  • Prospect in IB - Gen
Jan 10, 2022 - 10:23am

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