When a starry-eyed wanna-be-bschool-student tells us that they are only interested in the M7, then we assume we’re in for some trouble. Using the “M7” designation is just another way to say “I care about brand and reputation more than anything.” We’re not exactly bschool insiders, but we’ve been around quite a bit – and…
Sure, if you want to pursue the most expensive way in the world to start a business. EssaySnark is just not a fan of using the MBA to launch a company. And we really don’t think Harvard is the best place to learn entrepreneurship specifically. They were fairly late to jump on the entrepreneurship bandwagon…
It’s because Harvard is stupid.
There is no way that your Harvard education is that much better than what you will get at Tuck or at Duke or, heck, at Cornell.
Rankings mess with your head.
From the description of a book, aptly named Engines of Anxiety , that studied the effect of US News rankings on the law school market:
The authors find that prospective law students not only rely heavily on such rankings to evaluate school quality, but also internalize rankings as expressions of their own abilities and flaws. For example, they often view rejections from “first-tier” schools as a sign of personal failure.
What you get with Harvard (bschool, law school, any school) is ACCESS.
You get to go play with the rich boys and girls for a few years. You get “the network” so that when you try that little startup idea you have (before it crashes and burns) you can hit up these alumni with money to see if they’ll fund your starry-eyed dreams.
Is that worth it?
Hell yeah, if you’re going to use it.
But please do not fool yourself.
Harvard is not ‘better.’ It’s just what this system of class and money has designed to fool you, to continue with the illusion that class and money matter.
Exhibit A: Harvard Fellowships Have Always Been A Joke
Mostly what you get with Harvard is the smug satisfaction of the rubber stamp of Society Approval.
Sure, you have to be smart to get in.
Sure, you have to work hard.
But the Harvard kids are not smartER. They did not work hardER. They are just like everybody else — or, frequently, they’re members of the Lucky Sperm Club where they landed in a family of Harvard grads, so they’re what’s called a ‘legacy applicant’ and definitely in undergrad admissions, Harvard College loves those kids. For the class of incoming freshman that just got on campus this summer, one-third are legacy .
It’s like buying a Rolex or a Gucci handbag or a Ferrari.
A brand like that will deliver some attention to detail and refinement in the product. It’s going to be made with better materials and care of construction than what you find at your local Macy’s or the Kia dealership.
But a Rolex is just a watch.
Wearing a Rolex is a symbol to the world that you can spend that much money on a bauble on your wrist that tells you the time.
Everyone else is just looking at their phone. You get to shoot your cuff and show off this glint of luxury.
That’s all that Harvard is going to do for you.
(And the value only goes so far. If Harvard Business School were so great, why are its tweets so lame? We are convinced that they’ve got an undergrad student writing them — no offense to Harvard undergrads. But c’mon people.)
Please don’t be confused by what you are going to get.
Is there value to that prestige?
Sure. But the EDUCATION is what will change your life.
Not the association with wealthy elite.
So many people think getting in to Harvard will finally be validation. No, maybe they don’t CONSCIOUSLY think it, like, “If I go to Harvard then I’ll finally be worth something!” But it’s what’s driving the engine, under the hood.
But guess what? If you’re actually so insecure that you’re constantly seeking out external validation from The World, and you think going to Harvard will finally put all those internal voices of doubt and self-criticism to rest, no, that’s not what will happen. Instead, when you get on the campus at Harvard, you will be surrounded by a more extreme concentration of People Who You Think Are Better Than You than you’ve ever experienced in your life. You will see all these other AMAZING students who have done more impressive things (who have way more money than you) who have traveled the world, who already have a Rolex and not a Gucci bag but a Birkin. You think that’ll make you feel better?
We’re not saying not to apply to Harvard. That would be silly. We’re saying that you may want to look at your reasons for why you’re so enamored of the BRAND.
Because that’s all it is.
It is a BRAND.
A school is different than a consumer product, because a school is an experience and a community and oh yeah, an education. But very few people are focusing on applying to Harvard because of any of that. They may not be consciously thinking, “I want to go to Harvard for the prestige” but really, that’s what’s driving our social-construct personalities so much of the time.
Unless what’s really fueling your interest in Harvard is so that your unborn children will get to go to Harvard. Then by all means. Apply to Harvard.
We hope you get in!
You may also be interested in:
- The schools being ranked think that rankings are stupid.
- MBA Application Mistake #1: Not Researching Schools (and why we balk at the M7 thing)
- Why we react so negatively to someone focusing on brand or prestige (kinda the same thing we’ve said in today’s post, just 3 years earlier)
- An MBA is what you make of it
We asked you to exercise some critical thinking skills recently.
Why not turn those same skills to evaluating the MBA rankings?
Here’s the 2016 BusinessWeek list. Duke #3. Why?
The simplistic answer is that they scored at 90.5 which is higher than Booth and lower than Stanford.
Is that the position you’d expect Duke to be at?
We’re not knocking Duke. That’s an honest question.
What about the Jones school, at Rice University? They’re at #8. Why?
Comments? Reaction? Discussion?
Please base this on the actual data on the BusinessWeek chart. Here’s a link to the BusinessWeek rankings page where you can sort to your heart’s content.
The MBA is a very expensive degree. Hopefully you’re aware of that already. The schools publish numbers on their sites about tuition and estimated costs, yet many applicants neglect to read those pages until after they’ve been admitted and are faced with the prospect of plunking down a deposit and looking at how they’re going…
“Additionally, I want the clout of the Columbia MBA to establish credibility…”
So ended the first paragraph of a BSer’s career goals essay.
Let’s step back a moment.
Why do three initials after your last name mean you’re credible?
All it means is that you jumped through enough hoops to get an adcom to say yes to you. It says nothing about your merits as an individual or your character. It might say something about your accomplishments in the world and in academics, since that’s what admissions officers value in the process. But all it means is you’ve been rubber-stamped by The System.
The school that you go to matters. Yes. It does.
But it most definitely does not matter nearly as much as you think it does. As MBA holders from Esteemed American Business Schools ourselves, we can tell you: It does not matter.
You want an MBA to go to Silicon Valley and raise some funding for your startup idea?
Did you know that the MBA is seen with scorn among many old-crusty techies? That anyone having an MBA is instantly viewed with skepticism? Especially the young whipper-snapper types?
Guy Kawasaki, UCLA Anderson grad, says that when he’s valuing a startup, he adds $500,000 to the valuation for each engineer on the team, and subtracts $250,000 for each MBA.
Yes, the tech industry is now hiring massive numbers of bschool grads each year. But that’s only because the tech industry is now a behemoth. It’s matured. It’s not the scrappy nimble red-blooded thing that it used to be. If you’re wanting an MBA in order to go into Big Tech, then you are NOT about braving a risky path in life. You’re not asking for others to take a risk on you. You’re playing it safe. What’s the need for getting vouched for? This idea of the MBA from a certain school bestowing credibility is faulty.
No – please do not say this. At least not in your apps. You may secretly believe this to be true of the world, that an MBA from A Certain Important School will pave your way to success later on, but it’s not going to add even a whit of value in your application process. You need to be pitching them on YOUR abilities and how you will do good in the world. The school’s reputation is NOT what you should be pitching back to them.
If you want to go to School #1, or School #10, on whatever system or in the eyes of whichever judge whose opinion you care about, because you feel that you need to impress that person based on your credentials, then fine. Do it. But don’t talk about it in your apps.
And just because it’s a priority for you to go to an Important School does not mean that that school is the right one for you.
How do you know you’re a fit to the place? How do you know you’ll be happy there?
It’s two full years of your life. We can assure you, the school’s reputation and ranking will matter NOT AT ALL when you’re in the experience of going through the process of learning stuff with your bschool peers. All it means is you’ll be surrounded by more, or fewer, people who are fixated more, or less, on these superficial things.
Should this matter in the context of which schools to apply to?
Well sure, you want to go to the best school you can. Anybody wants that. It’s obvious that that’s going to be a key objective for all BSers.
However, whenever this comes up in conversation with someone, it’s almost always because we’ve given them the feedback that we don’t really think that a top-tier brand-name school is going to be feasible for them, based on whatever elements of their profile that they’ve shared with us. We could be wrong – we don’t want you to NOT apply to somewhere you’re in love with just because we don’t think it’ll work out – but if you’re gung-ho on the idea of getting an MBA, then picking only these brand-name schools is not a sound strategy. Especially not if there are gaps and weaknesses and risks in your profile that you’re not facing up to and dealing with. (Especially not if you’re a reapplicant with all these gaps and holes…)
Instead, figuring out WHY YOU WANT AN MBA is super important.
An MBA from a high-rep school on its own is not going to give you success in life.
Yes, in certain circles it’s going to make certain people impressed by you when they hear you graduated from That School.
But then it’s going to be UP TO YOU TO GET THE DEAL DONE.
If you have not brought sufficient “GET THE DEAL DONE”-ness to the equation NOW, in the process of trying to GET IN to one of these schools, then sorry, we hate to be so blunt but we just don’t see it happening down the road, either.
A piece of paper framed on the wall from Important School is not the answer to life. It’s not what’s going to make the biggest difference in how you experience success and happiness in the future.
Same thing with “the network.”
“The network” is not going to give you diddly squat in life. If you’re already a go-getter who goes and gets stuff, then sure, going to a school with an extensive network can be awesome.
But you HAVE a network today. You’ve gone to some college or another that graduated some quantity of undergrads out into the world around the same time that you graduated. Have you used this network before? No, it’s not an MBA network, but so what? There’s all these people out there with a shared experience, theoretically also motivated to help each other out. Have you reached out to them before? Have you given anything back?
We understand that in certain cultures, more prominently in Asia, the school that you go to matters for quite a bit. We know this.
But that does not change the fact that you might have significant trouble getting into one of those schools if you don’t change the way you’re approaching this.
Just our thought for the day, BSer.
If you’re qualified and capable of getting into a top-tier business school, then that automatically tells us you’re qualified and capable of going off to do all sorts of amazing things in life. You don’t need the “credibility” of a fancy-pants school.
And if you’re qualified and capable but you DON’T manage to get into a top-tier business school, then THAT STILL means you’re qualified and capable of achieving similar success.
The MBA can open doors. But so can the hustle.
We published our very own BusinessWeek-like MBA rankings here on the blahg and wow, it’s 3 years old now?!?? A BSer asked us to update it, so here goes. First, a disclaimer and an explanation: The disclaimer is that this is just our view of the admissions landscape, based on our own experience watching lots…
Bob Bruner, Darden’s former dean, said this in his speech to newly-minted undergrads at UVA’s Commencement Day 2015. We’ve also heard him say it as advice to eager-beaver MBA applicants who are trying to figure out where they should apply to bschool. We’re offering it today as wisdom to consider, in particular for those who…
Given: You want an MBA in order to get a better job. Given: You’re very focused on getting into the most prestigious school that you can. Given: You want there to be lots of recruiters coming to campus to ply you with gifts recruit your bada$$ self into this great new future career you’ve imagined…
You don’t hear complaints from the teams about the draft system in (American) football. The way that works is, the team that’s the worst in one season gets first pick in choosing college players the next year. The team’s performance from year to year determines when they get to choose from the up-and-coming crop of candidates. If the team chokes this year, then the system says hey, we think you need a chance to build things up, so we’re going to let you pick first from the next round of kids available.
OK, that analogy doesn’t really work – with sports, the teams are explicitly competing with each other.
Maybe that’s why a “ranking” of top business school programs is nonsensical.
The schools aren’t literally “competing.” It even feels a little bit distasteful to say it. Coke and Pepsi? They’re competing for market share. They have to get out there and implement strategies and tactics to get consumers to buy their product over the competition. That’s how they survive.
Chevy and Ford? Same thing. Who’s going to make “the best” truck this year? Well, we’ve got all sorts of magazines that proudly trumpet the “best car” each season, and certainly that influences buying decisions. But unless a car manufacturer produces a real dud, then when you buy your Ford – or your Chevy – you’re going to get utility out of it. They’re pretty interchangeable.
That’s kind of the case when you’re looking at good MBA programs.
Yes, sometimes there’s a BSer who comes along who’s got some nice things going in their profile, and multiple schools admit the person. But they’re still not “competing” for that candidate. Even when there are some offers of scholarship money on the table, it’s not the same thing.
This is about supply and demand. If that in-demand candidate goes elsewhere, it’s no big deal. Nobody “loses.” At least at the moment, there will always be another Brave Supplicant willing to take their place at the schools that were rejected. There will always be another buyer for the Ford.
“Ranking” schools is ridiculous when there are so many different reasons for individuals to choose the different schools.
You can’t say one school is “the best” and another is second, or another is 15th. That’s just not logical. (Especially not when a school is dinged on a list because it failed to submit proper data. Like NYU Stern was by U.S. News this past year.)
It’s also super silly when the rankings come out every single year, and all they do is reshuffle the lot. Or a different publication has a different rankings and the school that’s #1 on one list is down at #12 or whatever on another. How can one school occupy such diverse positions on the different rankings? And do you really think that a school can change so much in a single year that it’s going to be catapulted to the top spot – but only temporarily?
We hear deans and other administrators complain about the rankings all the time. It puts undue pressure on the whole ecosystem that perverts the actual mission – that the schools are supposed to be educating you. How do you evaluate an education???? Because that’s the whole premise here, right? That going to School X is going to give you a better education than going to School Y. When you’re looking at the lump of top-tier schools then truly, that sounds, well, crazy. Doesn’t it?
Ya ya ya, before we get a bunch of people calling us lame with that: We know that the MBA is the pathway to a plum new job. We know it’s not “just” about the education. We know that there are many factors at play. However when you’re looking at what’s “the best” – dunno, people seem to get a little distracted from the whole idea of what SCHOOL is supposed to be about.
Some bschool people smarter than the ‘Snark have proposed using a ratings system instead of rankings – something like bond ratings in the debt market, perhaps. You evaluate what a school has to offer, and you decide if it’s A-grade, or AAA, or B+, or whatever.
Of course, then you’re going to run into the problem of grade inflation. 😀
We frequently hear deans of top schools lamenting the state of affairs around rankings. It puts lots of pressure on the admissions people and the career services people to accept high-performing students (based on flimsy stats like GPA and GMAT – we call them “flimsy” because they do not measure the worth of a person) and then to help those students land plum, high-paying jobs at graduation. This perverts the system.
Basically the only way that’s valid to use an MBA rankings is to use it as a filtering mechanism. If you’re new to the whole idea of getting an MBA, you can figure out which schools even EXIST by looking at a list.
But you could do the same thing just by saying to your mom, “Hey, what do you think is the best bschool out there?” It’s a popularity contest. Whichever school is top-of-mind in the public consciousness, that school is likely to be on a ranking. (Or ask your dad; you’ll likely end up at Notre Dame if you do it that way.)
Or here’s what you can do: Print out the names of the schools in alphabetical order. Post it on the wall. Then put on a blindfold and throw darts at it. That might be a nice way to pick “the best” of them.
As long as you end up at any of the 30 schools in the Top 20, you should be fine. 😉