Wharton, Harvard, and Columbia

bschool2020's picture
Rank: Monkey | 37

I was accepted to Wharton, Harvard, and Columbia for MBA class of 2020. Harvard with no money. Wharton with ~40% tuition. Columbia with 100% tuition. Pre-MBA experience is IB (bulge bracket) and PE (MM ~1 billion AUM). Post-MBA I want to (1) secure a PE or VC role, or (2) find a business partner in b school and do something entrepreneurial. When I started this process, I was in a HBS or bust mindset. However, I didn't expect Wharton/Columbia to come with the fellowships. Maybe I could get a little more from Wharton if I told them I really wanted to come?

Just curious how folks would evaluate the decision.

Comments (57)

Mar 30, 2018

Huge congrats. I don't have any specific advice for you, but you're in a massive winning situation regardless of your choice.

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Mar 30, 2018

Can you tell us more about yourself? I have no advice, just curious haha

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Mar 30, 2018

Got any cash saved from your 4 years of finance? If you were going into this thing operating on the assumption that you would come out of pocket for most of the cost, the scholarships are all upside that were non-existent yesterday.

If you can take a reasonable dent out of the HBS price tag, and if you intend to pursue climbing the buyside ladder post- MBA, I think the intangible value of having that brand easily justifies the cost. With any planning and luck, you could probably get some good looks from upper MM funds, and I think at that point its just a lot of fit, selling yourself as a person, and pimping your PE MM experience.

Moreover, a lot of mid-level buyside roles seem to be brand whores, and I think there's a HUGE difference between Columbia and Wharton, and an equally large difference between Wharton and HBS.

Good luck.

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Mar 30, 2018

If you want to do something entrepreneurial then I'd probably take the money. 160k in tuition can fund the startup. You could also spend the 160k socializing in nyc. Can do a lot of networking that way.
Otherwise it's a tough call. I'd try to get more money from Wharton as I'm not sure saving 60k is worth the brand prestige between Harvard and Wharton.

The only reason I think someone would pick Columbia over the other two is if they wanted to be a value investor. I think they are still known for having the top program.

Array
Mar 30, 2018

This is actually a no-brainer (assuming you're not a multi-millionaire).
If you can't make a decision, you don't deserve any of these schools.

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Mar 30, 2018
MonacoMonkey:

This is actually a no-brainer (assuming you're not a multi-millionaire).
If you can't make a decision, you don't deserve any of these schools.

Good luck getting that option first

Apr 6, 2018

TROLL

WSO's COO (Chief Operating Orangutan) | My Linkedin

Mar 30, 2018

HBS

Mar 30, 2018

HBS easy. Who cares about $60k in a finance career? Unless you can get a full ride or didn't save anything pre-bschool I don't see why money would be a key consideration.

Mar 30, 2018

What a nice "problem" to have, congrats OP

Wharton has an option where you can spend a semester in SF. That could be interesting if you're serious about entrepreneurship / want more exposure to the largest startup and VC ecosystem.

I'd pick either HBS or Wharton (the former if I'm not strapped for cash), for more optionality in potential opportunities vs. Columbia, and also, to be in more of an enclosed university city/town vs in a large hectic city.

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Mar 30, 2018

If you're set on doing something entrepreneurial, don't go to business school. Take the money you would've spent and test your ideas. B school will always be there.

However, it sounds like you're not deadset on it. For context, I received a similar scholarship package from Wharton, but I did not get into HBS. Had I gotten in, I think it would've been tough to turn down even at full price.

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Mar 30, 2018

I think it depends on how much $80k to 120k flexibility means to you. If it's nbd then hbs easy. Otherwise, I really don't think these make huge differences in industry other than PE VC, where hbs just helps a leg up IMO.

Mar 31, 2018

First, congrats on the admission.

Secondly, we are all still relatively young (early 30s here), I'd say f*ck it, and do the startup/entrepreneurial stuff. If it fails, it fails. You learn from it. We get only one shot at life, and I hate leaving stones unturned. Living with regret slowly eats you away, don't BE that person. Go out, seek adventure, and damn well have fun. We all fall sometimes, but we get up and kick a** afterwards!

No pain no game.

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Apr 5, 2018

First off, congrats! What a delightful problem to have.

Have you gone back to HBS and told them you'd love to attend, but you just happen to have offers from both Wharton and CBS with significant scholarships. Would they be willing to match?

they love their high yield number and may try to match, at least Wharton's offer.

Linda Abraham
President, Accepted | Contact Me | Admissions Consulting

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Apr 5, 2018

That's what I was going to suggest - wouldn't hurt to ask if they can match. Not that relevant but I did the same (not for Harvard) in undergrad and multiple schools improved their aid packages.

Apr 3, 2018

This is a good dilemma to have but congrats on the offers. IMO Harvard is the one school where i would choose even without the aid compared to the others. If Wharton was full/close to full ride than you might have a decision to make but otherwise i choose HBS.

Apr 5, 2018

I would look at this in terms of present value of your future income stream from each institution.

I haven't done the analysis but I'd be surprised if HBS or Wharton make sense from that perspective given your already impressive CV.

Apr 5, 2018

Actually, you should probably ignore that last comment. I'm not sure doing an MBA makes sense at all in your position in terms of NPV.

I can tell you Boston is a really nice city. You'll enjoy loving there, at least in the Summer.

Apr 5, 2018

Hey @bschool2020
WOW. This is awesome. I've only seen a full ride at CBS once before so this is really fantastic. So here's what I think...
1 You are a high wage-earner already. Presumably you will continue to be so post-MBA. Does the money really matter? If you were coming from non-profit, I might suggest thinking about your financial situation, but for you, this doesn't seems necessary? Also, remember there are loans and they are not hard to get assuming you are a US citizen with a decent credit rating.
2. FIT. This important!! Where will you feel most fulfilled? If you haven't already, go to the Admit weekends. See how you feel about the campus and your potential future classmates.
3. Coming back to money now that I am reading the comments here. Make sure you understand how the scholarships/fellowships work. I am not sure that they will just give you the cash? So it may not be possible to use the $160k+ (I think CBS has said it's $220k+ now?) to fund your startup unless it's more like mental math. (i.e. "I don't have to pay tuition or COL so I will use my savings to fund my startup.")
4. I agree with Linda -- go back to HBS and nicely and diplomatically see if they will match. You can try Wharton too and see if they will match CBS. Note I am a big believer in only negotiating with programs that you realistically think you will attend.
I do not envy you your choice but it is a wonderful position to be in.
Krista

mbaMission Admissions Consultant

For personal advice, please see up a free consultation: http://www.mbamission.com/consult.php
Website: http://www.mbamission.com
Blog: http://www.mbamission.com/blog

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Apr 5, 2018

First, Congrats!
2nd, if you can swing it, go HBS. Although all are great, the brand will give you more flexibility. You mention PE / VC or entrepreneur startup (definitely HBS for that). That's what you think now. Maybe later you'll want a shot at MBB or move into industry. The entrepreneurial route has a habit of starting small and getting big (that's the goal actually), and with that comes networking with major players who will appreciate the brand.

Older brother is an HBS grad from the 80s. Went MBB (M), moved to industry to run a small startup within a large F50, after that was sold moved to CEO of biotech start up, and so on...now knows all the players in the health sciences space and between HBS and MBB can get a call returned from anyone within 24 hours. That's the power of the network. Wants to learn how X works in India, emails an HBS guy who runs a company in India and it works from there. He would tell you that's the most valuable benefit of both HBS and MBB. Sure you learn things but you're at the top of the food chain anyway. It's about building a powerful network that can bring about change.

The tuition differential will be meaningless downstream.

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Apr 5, 2018

In this situation, I'd go to CBS unless Wharton will increase their bid to at least 55%.

or, if HBS will match Wharton's 40%, I'd go with it.

Congrats - 3 great routes.

Apr 5, 2018

Wharton tuition is 75k a year. He already has 40% scholarship. So you're effectively saying that (at least) 22.5k (15% * 75k * 2) is a difference maker?

Apr 5, 2018

Everyone has a different financial situation obviously, to me, yeah it would be. I also am fortunate enough to make enough to send money back to my parents, which is a big expense and I don't really have an option other than telling them to F off - don't come from means.

It would be incredibly difficult for me to justify turning down a CBS MBA at no cost for a marginal increase in the prestige of the brand.

Apr 5, 2018

HBS or entrepreneurship is the way to go. Have you bounced your idea off anyone?

Apr 5, 2018

I'd say its worth it to go to HBS. If you're going to be buy-side the money is not a major issue at ALL. Like at ALL.

Apr 5, 2018

One way to think about it is in terms of NPV.....see below a link of average salaries for top MBAs.

On average, HBS grads are paid about $4,300 more than Columbia. Look at the NPV of paying tuition versus not paying. Adjust that $4,300 higher if you personally believe the difference is more and see what comes out on the NPV. Of course, this is no the only way to consider this decision, but it could clarify some thoughts on whether its worth paying HBS or how much more you would need to earn to justify HBS.

https://www.usnews.com/education/best-graduate-sch...

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Apr 6, 2018

I see what you're saying but in my opinion the wrong way to think about this.

Be long convexity on yourself. Congrats, OP.

Apr 6, 2018

Well, I would argue from a financial perspective this is the only way that you should be thinking about it. The trick is accurately guesstimating the future higher cash flows from HBS over the Columbia degree.

However, what this doesn't include is any other personal consideration like simply wanting to be a Harvard graduate. From a strictly financial perspective, most of us are better off driving a Toyota than a BMW. From the perspective of personally enjoying your car as well as any personal self-esteem which may come from owning one, lots of people prefer the BMW and that's completely rational as well.

In this case, it's really like the choice between a BMW 7-series or a Porsche. You really can't go wrong.....unless it's the four-door Porsche Panamera of course

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Apr 5, 2018

Stopped by to say congrats. Don't think I can add much to all the great suggestions made thus far.

Apr 5, 2018

A VP I worked for got into Stanford no scholarship, Wharton no scholarship and Columbia with 100% scholarship. He chose Stanford.

I would go to HBS if I were you.

Apr 5, 2018

Negotiate with W to match/get closer to C, then go to H with that and get them to match/get closer to your new W number

Apr 6, 2018

H/S only provide need-based scholarships so this won't work.

Apr 5, 2018

This is more of a "congratulate me" post than anything else. OP likely knows he/she will go to Harvard, as he/she should. It's probably why OP hasn't participated in the thread since inception.

I hate to psychologize but it fairly obvious here.

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Apr 6, 2018

I agree with Esuric that this is most likely a "give me an HJ" post, in the off chance that it is not:

This person has everything they need to go work for the most well known funds on the street. Go to HBS. Get the network. Enjoy your amazing life.

Array

Apr 6, 2018

I agree with others here, I would go with Harvard but see if you can get some aid first.

Apr 6, 2018

Thanks, everyone. I spent the last few days talking to current students and alumni at each school. I'm surprised at how many current students and alumni from Wharton/Columbia told me to pick Harvard. I have personal connections to most of the people I spoke with so I'm assuming they felt comfortable being candid.

A few folks have asked about my profile and what I think worked for HBS. In all seriousness, I have no clue what worked and why they liked me. For all I know, they could have hated my essay, but loved everything else. I can only speculate why my application worked.

  1. GMAT: 720
  2. Undergrad GPA: 3.8
  3. Work Experience: 6 years total. 3 years middle market PE (~1 billion AUM). 3 years IB at bulge bracket.

Other:
I tried to discuss my finance accomplishments and skills as little as possible on apps. In my view, IB to PE speaks for itself so I did not want to dwell on this aspect of me. I let my recommenders brag about my impact in my finance roles and how smart I was. Most examples I provided in short answers, essay, and interview all referenced "softer" experiences I've had. For example, if my Harvard interviewer asked me about a leadership example, I didn't discuss how I led some deal diligence or management team. I discussed managing a team at a nonprofit I volunteered at, or how I led my sports team in college. When asked about significant accomplishments, I definitely didn't say some stupid deal I worked on. I said stuff like being able to start a book scholarship back in my hometown. I applied round 2 because I had a bad GMAT score when the round 1 deadline came. Studying for the GMAT while working on deals was brutal. My work product suffered for sure. At a certain point, I just had to be less responsive and do the bare minimum at work. At the end of the day, my firm was supportive. The best thing to do is take the test when you have the 1-2 months off between IB and PE. I'm certain I could have got higher than 720 if I had more sleep I was rejected from Stanford.

A few of you mentioned savings. Yes, I have savings. Not as much as I should after working 6 years, but still a nice reserve. Also, Harvard is need-based so there is no opportunity to negotiate with them. Based on their formula, I won't qualify for aid.

Some of you had specific questions about the entrepreneurship angle. I have no clue what that means for me yet. Idk if it's an operational startup or something more like a small investment fund. Maybe I could consider a search fund or some entrepreneurship through acquisition type thing. I did communicate to all the schools that I want to return to PE. However, I was very clear on why I felt an MBA was necessary for returning to PE. I was also clear on why doing the MBA right now was necessary.

Excuse all the bad formatting here.

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Apr 7, 2018

They know you'll most likely go back to PE and get a high paid job. Their stats won't suffer. You have the average GMAT to get in - their stats won't suffer.
You are the perfect candidate to increase the school's ranking, it's a no brainer.

Wharton at 40% is a bit shit as they are the most expensive MBA and tuition is only a small part of the total price tag of an MBA - the real deal breaker is 100% at CBS vs 0% at Harvard. A guy from my grad class at a large BB ended up going to CBS with a partial scholarship and to be close to his girl friend. It can make a lot of sense to be in New York and still a great school. For disclosure I went to one of the two other business school with no scholarship. If Wharton matches CBS or gets closer than go to Wharton, also cost of living is cheaper in Philadelphia.
I don't think you should just disregard the price tag because you will end up working in high finance the rest of your life, that's a bull shit advice. You want to have financial freedom in the event that you want to start your startup or just say fuck to finance and go play the bongo in Hawaii.

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Apr 7, 2018

Oh - and regardless of whether you go to Wharton or Harvard, most students are so full of themselves it's fucking ridiculous. Don't fret though, there are still a decent amount of grounded people who don't think Zeus was their father. Also which undergrad you went to also helps. Makes sense to go to Harvard if you went to Wharton as an undergrad or vice versa

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Best Response
Apr 7, 2018

Two comments, @bschool2020.

One, consider the merits of each school relative to your goals independent of their financial packages. Two, you can game the three of them against each other.

One:

You write that your goal is two-fold:

:

Post-MBA I want to (1) secure a PE or VC role, or (2) find a business partner in b school and do something entrepreneurial.

On the first leg (future buy-side recruiting opportunities), HBS is miles away from the other two. There is a litany of firms that recruit solely from HBS ... for no other reason than the founder(s) went to HBS. Some of the more selective ones (taking only one person every year or two) don't even formally post the position on the career site. They rely on prior summer associates who are in the EC year or current associates who are recent graduates to tap their personal network to pull the best guy from the RC class.

This holds true more frequently in venture than in buyout (where there tends to be a higher body count). Venture requires that you take a tremendous amount of initiative, meaning you secure your position solely through your own efforts, not through a pre-packaged assembly-line process like banking or consulting offers.

Wharton, while a tremendously strong school for finance, is a step down from Harvard in terms of PE recruiting. Columbia is further back. The financial aid packages you received reflect this. The same candidate (you) looks like an "Oh my god, get him here now" at CBS (100% ride), an "attractive, this is what we like to see" at Wharton (40% ride), and a "just an average face in our crowd" at HBS (0% ride). This is by no means a dig at you; congrats on a tremendously successful application cycle. I am simply stating that the 'pricing' tells you a lot about how the b-school market perceives you.

So yes, there will be buy-side options from all three schools, but the concentration of formal postings and access to the informal processes that occur simultaneously is by far and away found most densely in Cambridge.

On the second leg, the simplest way to say this is that you want to surround yourself with the highest concentration of the smartest people. Even if you felt like you were a small fish in a big pond, who cares. You are socially proximate to people of a caliber where you now enjoy a higher probability of building a relationship with someone smart enough to make you money, if you want to think of it like that. Seriously. If someone is willing to partner with you and you're the dumber one out of the pair, who cares. That person is willing to partner with you and you're off to the races. Besides, you shouldn't feel like a small fish. You got in just the same as every single one of your classmates did.

The b-school application process is not a perfect mechanism, but it's largely effective. The smartest people wind up at the best schools. Said bluntly, you can expect a 'better' group of people to be at Wharton than Columbia, and at Harvard than at Wharton. The yield numbers (especially the cross-admit data) tell it all.

If you're looking to find someone stellar enough where you're comfortable taking the leap and forgoing a traditional career path in order to start a business together, Harvard is again your better option.

I see a lot of CBS teams trying to raise seed rounds. I see a lot of HBS teams who do raise seed rounds. Whether that reflects on the quality of the founders, the allure of their school brand, the caliber of coaching and entrepreneurial resources available at the school, or the strength of the school network relative to funding sources, who knows. I do know what the (admittedly anecdotal) outcome is. (Anecdotally, I don't see many Wharton founders).

If the search fund route is attractive, the only school that could arguably be better than Harvard is Stanford. The two schools effectively pioneered that whole strategy.

In summary, if you dispassionately assess the schools in terms of how well they help you accomplish your stated goals, there is a clear leader.

Two:

Contrary to your last post, you can get money out of Harvard. The comments everyone has made about using the schools against each other are true.

You should call Wharton and tell them how interested you are, how strongly you feel the school is a fit for your future career interests, and how your decision would be much easier if they were able to re-evaluate your package in light of the full-ride Columbia offered. Do not lie. Do not make misleading statements. Avoid saying "I'll go if you..." or anything like that. If they ask point blank for a commitment, simply say "I'm happy to review after I can see whatever you're willing to send me."

You have a >50% chance of getting more money out of Wharton following this script. Once you do (and let's say they scale to 70%), you now need to broach the exact same topic with Harvard. If you skip the prior step and take Columbia's package to Harvard you're just not going to get the same traction. I haven't minced words anywhere else in this post and I won't start now. They're going to care about losing you to Stanford or Wharton. If you chose to go to a school besides that, they'd go back and look at their notes to figure out where they want wrong in assessing you.

Harvard states that their policy is "merit-based admission, need-based aid", which is true on the surface. They do, however, have a whole bunch of private sleeves of donor money that aren't commingled with the general endowment. A good analogy would be a GP who has separately managed accounts or side pockets that they maintain discretion over. In short, if they want to hand $10 or $25k a year to someone they want to see in that year's class, they can.

///

If after all this you fail at getting anything from Harvard, I'd congratulate you on the effort you spent trying and still point you towards attending at full-freight. If you are successful in getting a buy-side summer internship, you're looking at $50k in summer income. Your signing bonus at any venture or buyout fund is going to be that or higher, so overall your debt load should not be bad because you'll have those two bullets to fire at it before Christmas of your second year.

For what you've identified as your goals, HBS gives you your best probability of success.

Best of luck any way you go, and congrats again on your success so far.

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Apr 12, 2018

APAE - Thank you for the thoughtful comment. You definitely put the merits of each offer into perspective. It's very difficult for me to turn down HBS so I'm going to commit.

Apr 13, 2018

You're welcome, and again, best of luck.

One thing I'd encourage is that you really work to be happy with your decision. I have no reason to believe you aren't, but I'm proactively offering a word of encouragement and caution.

I have seen people make difficult career decisions (like a choice between two wonderful new jobs / a new job and a promotion at a current one / attending school or remaining in the workforce / etc.) and somehow be hampered years later by the weight of the decision they made.

Whatever you pick (in this case, matriculation at HBS), invest yourself in it fully. Commit to maximizing what you get out of it. Make it a part of the bedrock you operate from. It needs to be a healthy part of your self.

Otherwise it will sit like a tumor, however small, and cause you problems later: resentment, or worse, a continual rehashing of the decision and pondering various what-if scenarios if you'd taken another option ... all of which are a cancer on your ability to commit your energy toward progress on your goals.

Again, I have no reason to suspect you may fall into this trap. However, I've seen enough smart people fall prey to this that I'm happy to take the few minutes to encourage you on this dimension.

Enjoy school.

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Apr 7, 2018

If you go to Columbia your ROI is infinity

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Apr 15, 2018

i mean i know shit but from what i read here you can't go wrong with any of those schools for new york

Apr 15, 2018

Or anywhere else in the world.

Apr 15, 2018

Harvard, Wharton, Columbia in that order. Wharton/Chicago are consistently ranked the top finance programs but the prestige of Harvard generally outweighs the specialty rankings. Finance is also extremely broad. For example, you could get a BB IB pretty easily out of any of those schools but more competitive buyside jobs will be more difficult and your prior work experience will also be a major factor.

Apr 15, 2018

check title

Apr 15, 2018

B-school is pretty much the worst place to try to find a fiance.

Apr 15, 2018

Wharton fiances tend to be more naggy than Harvard ones.
Columbia fiances are the most expensive to maintain.

Try a state school fiance in NY and a Harvard fiance in CT, until you are ready to stop renting and buy.

Apr 15, 2018
ibes_answer:

Wharton fiances tend to be more naggy than Harvard ones.
Columbia fiances are the most expensive to maintain.

Try a state school fiance in NY and a Harvard fiance in CT, until you are ready to stop renting and buy.

Wouldn't a fiance indicate he's ready to buy? At the very least he's making a down payment.

"If you can count your money, you don't have a billion dollars." - J. Paul Getty

Apr 15, 2018

Why do people think Chicago is better than Columbia (specifically for banking)? It seems like Columbia has a lower acceptance rate, better location, and a larger alumni network in the banking industry. Yeah, I know Chicago has a better rep academically, but from what I understand people don't go to an MBA to be on the academic cutting edge--they go to network and job hunt--and in their spare time learn the general finance concepts they need to be a good banker. Am I missing something here? Columbia also seems to be more internationally recognized too.

Apr 15, 2018
jc100021:

Why do people think Chicago is better than Columbia (specifically for banking)? It seems like Columbia has a lower acceptance rate, better location, and a larger alumni network in the banking industry. Yeah, I know Chicago has a better rep academically, but from what I understand people don't go to an MBA to be on the academic cutting edge--they go to network and job hunt--and in their spare time learn the general finance concepts they need to be a good banker. Am I missing something here? Columbia also seems to be more internationally recognized too.

for banking, they're about equal. chicago places better for sales&trading, asset management, and hedge fund jobs. i think columbia has a slight edge for private equity.

Apr 15, 2018

Columbia's lower acceptance rate is mostly a function of its location... it receives a significant number of applications from people already living in NYC that don't want to move for business school, as well as borderline and less competitive applicants that already live there. That is why Columbia and NYU both have very low acceptance rates. Chicago and Kellogg benefit from the same factor, but to a lesser extent because NYC has so many more people.

Better location is debatable... plenty of people prefer Chicago to New York (and I don't mean to turn this into an annoying NYC vs. Chicago thread -- there are plenty of legitimate reasons why different people would prefer different cities), especially when considering how expensive New York is for somebody that's going to school full time.

As for banking recruiting, there is no advantage to being in New York over Chicago. Investment banking recruiting is an on-campus exercise, and being a subway ride away from bankers doesn't give you any advantage. At Chicago, the fall quarter of your first year will be dominated by organized recruiting events with the banks, so you'll spend a significant amount of time -- more time than you'll want to -- "networking" (aka, trying to get on the closed lists for internship interviews). If you're at Columbia, you'll have the same, but also be expected to set up more coffee chats, etc. with bankers that frankly don't want to take time out of their very busy days to talk to b-school students that are trying to get a job. Roughly the same number of people are hired into banking from Chicago and Columbia on a yearly basis, so in the end there's no real advantage to one or the other.

When it comes to hedge fund and private equity recruiting, the schools are on equal footing. Getting a job in either of those fields is going to come down to what experience you have and how well you're able to interview at places that don't have structured on-campus recruiting.

In other words... there's no advantage to either school when it comes to getting a job. The only real difference, from a recruiting standpoint, is that if you want to stay in Chicago then obviously Booth is a better choice, just as Columbia is a better choice if you're interested in going to a middle market shop in NYC.

Apr 15, 2018
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Apr 15, 2018
Apr 7, 2018