MBA: Stanford or Harvard?

Hi folks. I was lucky enough to have been accepted to both the Harvard and Stanford MBA programs. I would really appreciate any advice/thoughts on things I should consider while making this decision.

Here is some potentially relevant information/questions:

(1) My intention is to build a start-up upon graduation. Stanford is near Silicon Valley, but is geographical proximity such a big factor (just a plane ride away... and lots going on in Boston anyway)? Also, HBS has been investing a lot in entrepreneurship. Finally, I know that Stanford has a "start-up culture". Is this a positive or a negative? Getting exposed to different ideas might be more useful. Thoughts?

(2) My undergrad has no strong brand value. If I decide during the MBA to do something a bit more traditional, is one program more advantageous than the other?

(3) The Harvard brand is generally stronger, but is it stronger among those in the upper ranks (who know about these MBA programs well) too?

Thanks!

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Comments (45)

May 18, 2017 - 4:03pm

Congrats! I don't think anyone on this forum can provide you with the answers you're seeking, but good choices all around.

I personally would say there is a lot of value in being immersed in the Valley today if your goal is to launch a business. By the time you finish the program that might have changed, but for now the opportunity set is pretty incredible. Can't speak to Boston, but I hear that is a pretty good program as well.

May 28, 2017 - 9:22pm
jankynoname:
I don't think anyone on this forum can provide you with the answers you're seeking

...really?

Commercial Real Estate Developer

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May 18, 2017 - 4:38pm

Attend the one you prefer. There is ZERO downside from attending either of these programs, either for entrepreneurship or for traditional MBA roles. None. The only people I've met who've complained about being at these programs (and by 'complain' I mean express the most minor of dissatisfaction) did so because their goals were ridiculous/unattainable to begin with regardless of where they ended up. They still did great.

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May 24, 2017 - 12:20pm

I disagree. Stanford will provide you with access to the SV culture that you won't get at Harvard. ("At least not without a lot of travel"). When you can pick up the phone and meet someone for coffee at a moments notice.. that's worth something.

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May 24, 2017 - 3:36pm

Take a look at the executive teams of well known VC firms in the area. Stanford's advantage isn't as pronounced as you'd expect given its location, which is why I wouldn't lose any sleep over choosing one or the other based on fit and comfort level. H probably makes up for it somewhat with the sheer volume of grads it pumps out, but regardless it's not so big a disparity that I'd rule out attending. To your point in almost all other cases I generally recommend going w/ location, though.

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May 18, 2017 - 6:31pm

GSB is the easy choice with entrepreneurial aspirations. they have a more developed program in entrepreneurship and you'll have more opportunities to network with the VCs in silicon valley

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Best Response
May 18, 2017 - 8:22pm

It's funny how these days, people say "going into startups" like they used to say "working in finance". Neither statement is particularly meaningful if you don't know what you're referring to specifically

90% of startups fail, OP. That's a published statistic. Do you even have an idea to start out with? Means of obtaining capital?

May 22, 2017 - 1:03pm

Someone didn't like your dose of truth. I've noticed that too, people saying they want to build or join a startup is a hip phrase these days.

26 Broadway where's your sense of humor?
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May 22, 2017 - 5:16pm
<span>Going Concern</span>:

It's funny how these days, people say "going into startups" like they used to say "working in finance". Neither statement is particularly meaningful if you don't know what you're referring to specifically

90% of startups fail, OP. That's a published statistic. Do you even have an idea to start out with? Means of obtaining capital?

At Booth, we have coursework geared to guiding you through each step of the startup process, from developing an idea based on an unmet market need, selling that idea as a cash strapped entrepreneur, developing a prototype/product, finding venture capital, how valuation and funding works, etc. And since most startups require multiple founders, 60-70% of people don't come to school with ideas that end up working for startups. Additionally, if your first year startup idea doesn't really come along well you can reboot in year two with something else. I'd have to imagine that both HBS and Stanford have the same. I didn't here for startups or pursue the opportunity, and before school scoffed at going for your MBA to start a business. But the resources at top schools are really amazing. It's definitely a value add.

Financing? If you've got a VC before school, don't go for your full time MBA. Any M7 school will have a good accelerator to help with the funding process.

May 22, 2017 - 6:21pm
<span>BreakingOutOfPWM</span>:

At Booth, we have coursework geared to guiding you through each step of the startup process, from developing an idea based on an unmet market need, selling that idea as a cash strapped entrepreneur, developing a prototype/product, finding venture capital, how valuation and funding works, etc. And since most startups require multiple founders, 60-70% of people don't come to school with ideas that end up working for startups. Additionally, if your first year startup idea doesn't really come along well you can reboot in year two with something else. I'd have to imagine that both HBS and Stanford have the same. I didn't here for startups or pursue the opportunity, and before school scoffed at going for your MBA to start a business. But the resources at top schools are really amazing. It's definitely a value add.

Financing? If you've got a VC before school, don't go for your full time MBA. Any M7 school will have a good accelerator to help with the funding process.

Thanks for all the insight. With all these programs it's such a mystery why the startup failure rate is so high. After taking the necessary classes anyone can be an entreprenoor and have their very own startup

May 19, 2017 - 5:16am

unless you have a harvard undergrad, I would pick HBS every time assuming everything else equals.

Not to annoy you with various stats for HBS, but there is literally no downside, especially if you want to do a deferred entry, why don't you just stay in the Bay Area before MBA again? That wipes out the only geographical weakness you had in mind.

Either way, best of luck, you can't go wrong with Stanford GSB as it's an amazing school, and you probably can't go wrong NOT attending either school as well. But Harvard is like the brand to not make fun of, if you look at all sort of dimensions of data and perception biases.

[quote="M7 MBA, iBanking. Top MSF grad. AntiTNA. Truth is hard to hear! But... "] [/quote] [quote="DickFuld: Yeah....most of these people give terrible advice."] [/quote]
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May 19, 2017 - 2:27pm

They are pretty much the same on reputation/future prospects. Many people argue GSB has an edge if you want to be an entrepreneur, I think there's a huge self-selection going on with GSB students. And HBS has plenty of successful start-ups coming out of it.

So I think you should go where you think you'll fit in better. They're very difficult schools culturally. I have to imagine you prefer one to the other.

May 21, 2017 - 11:10pm

In my opinion, the answers to your 2 and 3 are they are pretty equal. I would worry more about question 1.

In terms of entrepreneurship, being close to the valley is a huge advantage, and I guarantee that if you're in Boston you will not be going there as often (walking/Caltrain vs. flight). That being said, everyone and their Mama is starting a business at Stanford, but Harvard has way more students so it might be an equal number, but not an equal percentage. The reason I'm mentioning this is because I just graduated from an MBA program that doesn't have as many people interested in entrepreneurship. That was a huge benefit to me because I got a TON of resources for my community with little competition.

For me personally, I love not following the crowd so it was refreshing to be part of a small intimate startup scene. I doubt that would be the case at Stanford, and a little less so at Harvard, although from what I know a lot of people are interested in entrepreneurship there. If it were me, I would choose Stanford because of proximity to the valley, and proximity to startups/tech in the Bay, as you never know if you change your mind and want to work at a startup/tech company. My two cents.

Source: MBA graduate who interned in the bay last summer.

May 22, 2017 - 12:51pm

I did not have the luxury of this decision but when applying I was ranking Stanford>Harvard. I can't comment too much on the startup benefits of either school but really I think good ideas at either will get funded fairly equally and both can lead you to the valley after. Don't underweight the other parts of the experience including your fit with classmates/culture and flexible curriculum vs strict cohort. The flexibility of Stanford was a huge draw for me. You might prefer the same if you're working on launching a business at the same time; or, you may prefer that the cohort structure pulls you back to a set of classmates outside of the startup bschool culture. This is a big differentiator between the two schools in terms of fit.

May 22, 2017 - 1:34pm

You are in a fortunate situation, and you should be good to go at either school. I never got a MBA for opportunity cost reasons. Having worked in tech IB and 5 years ago founded a healthcare tech company, I would choose Stanford.

I've had a bunch of friends attend each school, and all but one of my GSB friends have started successful companies (the other guy did a search fund). I only know one startup founder from the HBS crowd. Most of those friends continued in finance or went corporate. My view is crafted from a limited data set, but that's what I've observed. I also hate the weather and Patriots fans in Boston so that makes it an easy choice.

One point you might want to consider - if you want to start a company, do you want to focus on enterprise or consumer startups? For consumer focused companies 100% you need to be in the Bay Area. For enterprise focused companies it's much less clear as the Boston VCs are more enterprise focused overall, although the Bay Area has plenty of that as well.

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May 22, 2017 - 1:37pm

Interesting point. There might be an advantage to being at HBS if one's goal is a B2B company (since that's how one will meet all of the corporate folks).

Why do you say that for consumer focused companies one must 100% be in the Bay Area? That's a pretty strong statement.

May 22, 2017 - 2:18pm
<span>funkymonkey456</span>:

Why do you say that for consumer focused companies one must 100% be in the Bay Area? That's a pretty strong statement.

Because all of the investors that don't care about revenue model and geek out over user engagement metrics are in the Bay Area.

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May 22, 2017 - 6:03pm

funkymonkey456 As an incoming senior looking to apply to HBS 2+2 and GSB in the spring, I'd love to get a glimpse at your profile. Do you mind posting your stats, ec's, school, background etc. to help out future applicants?

Array
May 22, 2017 - 6:59pm

Surprised that this isn't the main thing being mentioned but IMO this should come down to case method vs. not; what do you prefer?

I went to one of these schools; PM me if I can be helpful.

May 22, 2017 - 7:49pm

I know that this should be one of the last factors and will ultimately not the tip the scales one way or the other but I feel it should be mentioned.

Harvard doesn't count grad school alumni for legacy admissions, while Stanford does. If/when you have kids, they will have a greater chance of getting into Stanford as they will have legacy with GSB while Harvard wouldn't give two monkey shits that you went to HBS.

Repeating that this isn't even in the top 20 reasons to choose a school but I feel it should be mentioned as many of us value education and would want our future kids to have an easier time getting an elite education (especially as acceptance rates get absurdly low compared to just 20 years ago).

Array
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Jun 27, 2017 - 11:51pm

I was in your shoe (also college senior applied to deferred program) and I picked Stanford. Most people I knew (6 guys and 1 girls) who were duo admits in prior years all chose Stanford over Harvard (I went to one of HYP fyi)

Stanford has a much more close knit community, really strong alumni network that is also very international. Both brand names are equally strong anywhere in the US. And I just really enjoy the well-rounded aspect of the curriculum. Case-method is good but it could be limiting when it is the only kind of teaching you get.

Congrats and I hope to see you at Stanford in 2/3 years!

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May 20, 2021 - 12:46pm

Can't name blame them for picking Stanford. GSB is a sick school and making it past their horrifyingly low acceptance rate automatically makes you a tank in my eyes 

Jun 28, 2017 - 4:37am

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Jul 4, 2017 - 8:44am

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