Turning down HBS for Wharton?

Wondering if this has ever happened? (barring something like a full ride to Wharton) When I was applying, H didn't even rank in my top 3 choices. I loved Stanford, Wharton and MIT, HBS just seemed very uptight and outdated to me. The other 3 schools are pushing innovation while HBS cases still seem to revolve around outdated companies.

Understand H has the marginal prestige, but if I'm not trying to go to elite PE/VC, hate the case method, is there any point? My heart is saying that I will thrive more in the Wharton environment (the SF campus seems awesome, the flexible curriculum and no classes on Friday really appeal to me)

I got a bit down into the ranking hole, and am trying to take a step back and see whether all the prestige chasing is really worth it. If anyone here has turned down H/S for any other schools based on culture/fit, let me know!

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Comments (19)

Most Helpful
Mar 16, 2021 - 3:09pm

I am not in b-school so take this with a grain of salt, but most of my friends are at this stage and we catch up regularly (that last 2 year stretch in the 2+2+2 phase). Most went to top schools - and yes a few definitely took W over H and S over H etc. because of various factors (location, significant others, $ received, and overall fit with the class)  

First, if you are concerned about career - ask yourself, what you did pre-mba? If you did IB then PE and want to go back in to PE or HF you will have no problem getting looks from most of the MFs, UMMs, HFs, etc at HSW. If you have the experience for the job or internship - you will get looks for a specific job you want whether it is from OCR or from networking. 

Besides the factors above this is the intel I got from my peers: 

1) Recruiting

People obsess over arbitrary rankings a bit too much and try to split hairs in rankings to naively predict their potential post-MBA outcomes. Jim who worked at BCG and goes to H will not outperform in PE recruiting against John who did IB>PE and is at W or S. Thats a fact...

Even if both candidates are identical from HSW - based on conversations with my buddies it's almost an equal ball game and much more dependent on independent performance & previous transaction experience to lock down that offer. As a matter of fact, most of my buddies from W are going to Elliott/Pershing Square/Renaissance/Megafund PE and H buddies are "chasing their passion" with a unique startup idea, non-profit, research fellowship etc. and the class was just generally less interested in high-finance. The one standout from it all would be Stanford - if you want the best chance at top tier VC, Stanford seems to absolutely obliterate VC recruiting. After the top 3 there are a bit more hurdles to jump through to get your foot in the door - but again, all dependent on a case by case basis. 

2) Classes

People overlook this but what kind of classroom fuels you? H will be case method purely and you will be doing strategy oriented HBS cases on companies from the 1960s-2000s. W is more data driven and uses various simulation games to mimic business cases. S is all over the place in terms of academics, course load varies, and not really known for specific class structure. 

3) People

This is for you to decide and classes vary from year-to-year even if a school has a certain "vibe" you need to go visit and understand the type of people that will be in your class, faculty, and geographic area. 

After all of these considerations - yes friends have turned down H for W, turned down S for H, turned down W for Booth. It really comes down to your own considerations and where you will be happy. This is the last time in your life you will be surrounded by 800 (400 if you got GSB) people from amazing backgrounds with a workload of 15 hours a week and essentially unlimited leisure time. Instead of sifting through online forums that split hairs in rankings and trying to make the decision that way - you need to go visit the school and understand your own capabilities in terms of recruiting and what matters most to you etc. At the end of the day you can't go wrong with any of these, so I'm sure you will make the right decision. 

Mar 16, 2021 - 3:57pm

Wharton 2Y MBA vs HBS 2Y MBA. I applied to H/S round 1, ding'ed at S but got into H. As crazy as it sounds, I applied and interviewed at W in R2 so waiting to hear back. So technically waiting on W, but I think the interview to offer rate is pretty high, and I think I did pretty well in the TBD.

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Controversial
Mar 16, 2021 - 5:08pm

medialogic

Wondering if this has ever happened? (barring something like a full ride to Wharton) When I was applying, H didn't even rank in my top 3 choices. I loved Stanford, Wharton and MIT, HBS just seemed very uptight and outdated to me.

"Uptight" and "outdated"? I've never heard those terms to describe HBS before. What makes you feel that way?

The other 3 schools are pushing innovation while HBS cases still seem to revolve around outdated companies.

Interesting, enlighten me on how exactly the other 3 schools are "pushing innovation"?

Also, there are some "classic" HBS cases that you will learn during the required first year, but it's completely false that cases revolve around "outdated companies"

Understand H has the marginal prestige, but if I'm not trying to go to elite PE/VC, hate the case method, is there any point? My heart is saying that I will thrive more in the Wharton environment (the SF campus seems awesome, the flexible curriculum and no classes on Friday really appeal to me)

I got a bit down into the ranking hole, and am trying to take a step back and see whether all the prestige chasing is really worth it. If anyone here has turned down H/S for any other schools based on culture/fit, let me know!

I went to HBS. The only real downside of HBS are the brutal winters and the cost to attend (things that Wharton would not do much better in). If you just want the "MBA" credential to advance in your career or break into another industry, than by all means, go with Wharton or some other school - you will have a great experience and the money will be well spent. On the other hand, if you want your lifelong crimson-colored "passport" into the world of business (a "passport" that, in my view, opens certain doors that a Wharton MBA does not), then you should absolutely go with HBS.

Mar 16, 2021 - 6:33pm

I guess each person values their MBA experience differently. I talked to quite a few HBS alums and current students. Some people have said that their experience haven't really been amazing (and that their careers down the line really haven't been affected by the HBS brand), while some say that they've had a blast and swear by it. They did mostly all agreed that HBS vs Wharton prestige is like splitting hairs (unless you are trying to go for the top of the top funds). 

Mar 16, 2021 - 10:49pm

I've known many people who turned down HBS for - Wharton, Stanford, Insead... and I'm sure some have turned down HBS for CBS, Kellogg, etc... It's not as uncommon as you might think.

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