Wharton vs Stanford Undergrad

HS senior fortunate enough to be able to choose between Wharton and Stanford for my undergrad studies. Interested in working in IB/PE in NY. Never was interested in VC until Stanford became an option. Generally want to work in New York, however. If I go to Wharton, do I have to get an MBA to make the transition from associate to VP at a Bulge Bracket? Is a Stanford Engineering undergrad and later MBA combo better long-term? I understand that I will have many of the same recruiting opportunities and both schools, but some PE shops recruit exclusively at Wharton (not going to base decision off of this however, due to the incredibly low odds of landing these gigs).

Would appreciate some industry input about this! Thanks in advance.

Comments (40)

  • Analyst 3+ in IB - Gen
Mar 29, 2020 - 1:01am

Dumbass comment, are you the type of hardo to take finance electives and brag about them in interviews? Interview prep takes like 6-7 hours max, and you learn way more on the job. I literally went to wharton and would take stanford hands down.

Mar 28, 2020 - 8:06pm

Current Stanford student here... you'll have to come in network if you want to go to NY but the competition here is significantly less than at Penn... if you work hard, you'll get whatever gig you want IMO

  • 2
  • Analyst 1 in IB-M&A
Mar 28, 2020 - 8:34pm

Stanford without a doubt for long term optionality. Both will get you to the same place in the short term but Stanford is a massive qualifier on the resume. And yes do engineering then MBA later - if I could go back in time this is what I would do personally - you will still be able to do IB/PE.

  • Prospect in HF - Macro
Mar 28, 2020 - 9:24pm

I also think PE shops are warming up to more schools across the country as they start to build out more structured analyst programs. I know for certain that KKR, Silverlake, Ares, Bain Cap, and Permira have a bi presence at Stanford undergrad (maybe because they're on campus for GSB anyways?). Growth shops like General Atlantic, Insight come to do coffee chats too for undergrads and some like JMI and BDT have alumni that do resume drops to hand out interviews. Some MM PEs recruit too, and for every local, smaller PE firm in NY at the margin that'd only recruit at Wharton there's a comparable MM/LMM fund on the West Coast for Stanford (couple of which are Golden Gate spinouts). Of course, the hedge funds like Point72, Bridgewater, Shaw, Citadel, some others are there too. Keep in mind though that many of the MF PE funds only take a handful of kids across the nation. For what it's worth, even for a Bain Cap or KKR event at Stanford, there's only 40-60 kids that show up.

  • Prospect in Other
Mar 28, 2020 - 10:42pm

Thank you for the detailed explanation... I am glad to hear that a lot more firms are looking towards the West Coast. Good point about there being less student interest (at least in terms of volume) in high finance. Seems like the opportunity per student ratio at Stanford is higher just because of this.

  • Research Associate in HF - Event
Mar 28, 2020 - 9:26pm

I'd take Stanford and that's coming from someone who went to Wharton.

Wharton is fantastic but it is gets you to the same stupid f***ing banking internship that you can easily get from any top 20 school except you are around 650 other kids all doing the same thing (more like 300-400 because 1/3 will automatically be the marketing/soft skills crowd).

Stanford at least you have the chance to open your eyes to thinks outside the box + much nicer to live in Palo Alto vs. Philly. The negative effect of potentially not being able to seamlessly recruit into New York IB is substantially mitigated by the above.

The downside of Stanford is if you want to be that top 10-20 kid of the 650 kids per class who get the one-off internships at prestigious HFs/PE like Silver Point / Blackstone PE / Silver Lake (Stanford prob also has Silver Lake if i had to guess); those opportunities may not be available on campus. For what it's worth, I did RX banking and would not have taken any of the above 3 names as jobs for reference if i had to redo it again.

Edit: I'm not as familiar with what Stanford offers exclusive opportunity wise for undergrads but the guy above seems to say most PE funds give looks so the Wharton opportunity set vs. Stanford seems to be even more moot than I thought. The other downside i thought of is you become a babbling VC-douche going to Stanford which requires self-control

  • Prospect in Other
Mar 28, 2020 - 10:44pm

Thanks for the perspective. The chance of landing those HF/PE gigs even at Wharton is so low, however, and it doesn't seem reasonable to base my decision off of such a hypothetical outcome. Glad to hear from a Wharton alum though.

  • Prospect in IB - Ind
Mar 29, 2020 - 12:57am

thanks for the insight! was wondering why you would take rx banking over the three buyside positions given that people at wharton seem to be gung ho about them

  • Research Associate in HF - Event
Mar 29, 2020 - 4:32am

Personal preference - don't like M&A / PE which eliminates two of three and SPC isn't a firm I recommend people join.

RX / Distress is a small niche and I've met less than a dozen in the field with a Stanford background (vs there are almost a dozen if not more ppl at my current firm who are Wharton undergrad or MBA alums). Different strokes for different folks.

  • Prospect in HF - Macro
Mar 28, 2020 - 9:46pm

Can confirm that the above poster is right. Silver Lake has a presence, but Blackstone PE does not recruit out of Stanford undergrad.

EDIT: I noticed you also asked about MBA. I think Wharton being the best undergrad business program in the world makes the MBA redundant, so there's that. If you're dead-set for an MBA, something cool about Stanford is you can take a few GSB classes and build relationships with notable profs there. All Freshman are assigned a personal and when I was a Freshman, I requested a GSB professor to be my mentor and we still keep in touch. I'm a Sophomore now, and got a paid gig to help out the admissions officers at GSB. Call it what you want, but there are ways to build your relationship with the GSB as an undergrad here before their 2+2 apps are out. You could probably do all this as a Wharton undergrad with the Wharton MBA folks too, though.

  • Prospect in Other
Mar 28, 2020 - 10:51pm

The prospect of taking GSB classes as a Stanford undergrad is exciting. Given the breadth of the course offerings and academic freedom, it seems that I could major in engineering and have a foot in the GSB door, whereas there is not too much value in having this opportunity at Wharton as it is already a business degree. Thanks for your thoughts.

Mar 30, 2020 - 6:10pm

I heard with GSB they don't want to take in applicants that did their undergrad at Stanford since it'll be redundant and Stanford prefers to widen their alumni pool by taking in someone that did undergrad elsewhere.

  • Prospect in HF - Macro
Mar 30, 2020 - 6:26pm

So I've definitely heard that's the case for Stanford Law because in the last few years Stanford undergrads would overwhelmingly choose YLS or HLS over SLS which screws over SLS's yield since it's a small class, but it's an interesting thought for GSB.

Not a perfect source (and I'm not sure how they got this data) but P&Q and Forbes did a study and found that for the 2019 GSB class, Harvard undergrad is represented with 25 and Stanford is second with 23, then Yale (19) and Penn (15). At HBS though it seems it's Harvard (49), Penn (39) and then Stanford (35). So I guess both Penn and Stanford generally will do you well for HBS or GSB.

GSB: https://poetsandquants.com/2019/09/18/feeder-colleges-companies-to-stan…
HBS: https://www.forbes.com/sites/mattsymonds/2019/11/21/feeder-colleges-and…

Mar 28, 2020 - 9:52pm

I'd take Stanford. Other people have given reasons why. I'll talk about the MBA part of your question though. The nice thing is, if you want to stay in banking long term you don't need your MBA. At no point from analyst-MD will you need to get/nor should you get an MBA. Even in consulting where it used to be a requirement to get an MBA to get promoted past the undergrad role, it's being heavily relaxed, especially if you come from schools like Stanford or Wharton.

That being said, if you do PE you will most likely need an MBA regardless of where you go to undergrad. While some firms do direct promotes without requiring an MBA a lot of firms have pre and post MBA associate positions and you (obviously) need to get your MBA to advance.

  • Prospect in Other
Mar 28, 2020 - 10:49pm

OK. I'm not too well-versed on the MBA "requirement" for high finance, so thanks for informing me on that.

Mar 28, 2020 - 10:23pm

Went to Wharton, had a generally pretty good experience. It is miles ahead of any other undergraduate business school. However, if I had it to do over again and Stanford engineering was an option, I would choose Stanford 100%. Same reasons as people gave above.

Mar 28, 2020 - 10:46pm

I'd go Stanford. That being said, I've heard finance is looked down upon on at Stanford, because if you wanted to do banking/finance you should have just taken some kids spot at Berkeley (not that you should let stigma bother you). Plus who knows, once you get out to the Silicon Valley, your interests might change and Stanford will position you well to develop a more diverse network, especially for VC/startups.

  • Prospect in Other
Mar 28, 2020 - 10:54pm

Right. Stanford may open many more doors compared to the relatively straightforward finance track at Wharton. This is something I'll have to consider. Thank you.

  • Prospect in HF - Macro
Mar 28, 2020 - 11:03pm

I would not say finance is looked down upon at Stanford. The student body is fairly pre-professional (just as it is at any other top school be it at HYP, Penn, Columbia, Duke, etc.). Everyone generally just wants to get a high paying job out of college, whether that be finance, consulting or tech. The guy doing his summer at Google isn't going to shit on the guy doing his summer at Goldman. A good number of kids actually do a Facebook or Google as a sophomore and pivot to traditional finance roles for their junior summer. I would've actually guessed that the activist culture at Berkeley (which is absent at Stanford) would mean that kids there get looked down upon more for doing finance, but I don't know.

  • Intern in IB-M&A
Mar 29, 2020 - 3:15am

Current Wharton senior. This place is fantastic for people who come into university knowing terms like "bulge bracket" and "PE". Hardos tend to absolutely kill it here, and the fact that you already know so much about recruiting and the finance landscape makes me think you'd do just fine.

That being said, I came in here knowing fuck-all about finance (had no clue what "investment banking" even meant) and the environment really primes you for the real world in finance. From hands-on classes like corp val. and venture cap. to just being surrounded by so much recruiting, despite the culture being somewhat toxic it really brings the best out of you.

Stanford engineering is awesome, but if you know finance is your path then i don't think you could pass up on Wharton. Maybe if you want to keep the option of doing SWE/PM or any tech role down the line, but even then, Penn CS is great for recruiting. The Wharton name does crazy things, even for a moron like myself who managed to land interviews at places I had no business interviewing at. That's just my 2 cents though

Mar 29, 2020 - 4:11am

I'm surprised people aren't really emphasizing how big of a difference culture and location makes to the experience of remaining interested, learning more about, and recruiting for finance. If you go to Stanford, where engineering tech CS etc. is all the rage, it may be harder to stay interested in finance (yes I know there are finance clubs there) compared to Wharton. The business school, gigantic finance presence, "hardo" culture are great for people that already have an interest in finance, as the post above me mentioned. Being close to New York means that NY firms will come to campus for OCR. Significantly easier in terms of meeting analysts from NY, networking, and eventually working in NY. There are West Coast kids at every single NY bank, but it's a night and day difference in terms of ease of networking. That being said, there are a handful of good firms in SF and Menlo. Focus tends to be tech or healthcare related there.

A few people are mentioning that finance classes or Wharton is overrated for interviews or being on the job. It's a fair argument to say that you can learn the material for interviews via interview prep guides, but the experience of being in a large community of students with a shared interest in finance is hard to beat. The finance culture at Wharton is so entrenched that students that intend to primarily study a different business major (marketing, management, statistics, etc.) will still study finance just because it's the most popular major and the curriculum is good.

I understand this is entirely subjective. Every "pro" I mentioned about a hardcore finance student body can be viewed as a "con."

Mar 30, 2020 - 11:08am

If the choice is binary between Wharton and Stanford Engineering, take Stanford ten times out of ten. In my humble opinion, a business undergrad degree is far less useful than an engineering degree in terms of skillset taught and postgrad optionality. Wharton hardos are a dime a dozen on the street, but you will get a lot of respect as a Stanford ENG and won't have any difficulty recruiting to a top shop so long as you're willing to send a few cold emails (less of an established network), plus you'll be at an advantage for PE recruiting and GSB admissions. Seems like a no-brainer.

Source: senior engineer starting full-time in M&A at BB/EB

Edit: feel free to reply/PM with specific questions

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