Thought Experiment: What if Harvard's 1st Year Class Was Switched With Another School?

econ's picture
Rank: Neanderthal | 2,667

I wanted to get your opinion on something. Do you think people from Harvard's MBA program mainly do well because they went to Harvard, or because the type of person who generally gets into HBS is intelligent, driven, etc? For all you students of economics out there, I'm talking about the signaling debate. If all the first year MBA students at HBS had to attend some school ranked 30 or so, and all the first year students at the other school had to attend HBS, do you think the results would be much different 5 or 10 years after graduation?

P.S. In case anyone is interested, I know there was a similar study for undergrad. They compared students who went to Harvard for undergrad, with people who got into Harvard but chose to attend another school. The findings were that the non-Harvard grads did as well as the Harvard grads a few years after graduation.

United States - Northeast

Comments (8)

Feb 6, 2010

econ - i always wondered about that study; theres a difference in doing well and doing the job you want. for example, im sure many kids in non-targets couldnt get jobs in top BBs/boutiques but went MM and had similar salaries but less exit options, or had to choose their second choice job (medicine/law/and vice versa too) which paid as well but which they didnt really like

Feb 6, 2010


The problem is that on-campus recruiting is incredibly different at Harvard than it is at a Top 30 ranked school. HBS has access to all the elite PE/HF/VC jobs that even top schools like Booth / Kellogg / Tuck / Sloan don't see the likes of.

Leaving the practical arguments aside, I do think that the brand does put weight on how two equivalently skilled students are viewed. When I meet HBS students I instantly just "assume" they are smart and am more likely to give them credit for the good things they say and less likely to discredit them for stupid comments.

Feb 6, 2010

The undergrad study is not a good proxy for an MBA degree.


Avrg. state school student who studied quant science $$$ > avrg Harvard theology / social policy undergrad's $

Apples to oranges comparison. I am also inclined to believe that the students who turned down Harvard were more interested in quant / science fields, where an undergrad degree is not hugely differentiating.

In other words, major and university's reputation are both variables. Major by major earning differentials are often greater than school by school, at least in the early years.

Among MBA degrees, the only variable is university's reputation.

HBS does not have a monopoly on talent.

Feb 6, 2010

didnt they already do a study like this with Yale or something? They looked at people who got accepted into Yale but had to go to a lesser school because they couldnt afford it or for some other reason. The avg salary a couple of years out for these people was the same as people who actually attended Yale in the same period.

Feb 7, 2010

dude if not for signaling there is absolutely no reason to do an MBA

Feb 8, 2010

dude if not for signaling there is absolutely no reason to do an MBA

In general I agree with you, but in the case of people who did not have undergraduate degrees in business I think an MBA can be really valuable for them. Nurses, engineers, comp sci people, etc all can benefit from an MBA.

Feb 7, 2010

For those questioning the undergrad study, have you actually looked at it? I haven't, so I don't know, but I wouldn't be surprised if they controlled for some of those things. For example, it would be silly not to control for major.

Feb 8, 2010