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Do perceptions of school prestige vary by region?

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Do perceptions of school prestige vary by region? [#permalink] New post 02 Jul 2013, 08:11
Hi guys,

I've heard a rumor that in Silicon Valley people tend to favor MBA grads from schools in the pacific and northeastern regions over midwestern or southern schools. Have you ever encountered (or heard about) this?

I actually had a director-level colleague caution me that UNC is too "southern" and I'd be better off choosing UMass-Amherst or something similar.

What do you think?
And, if you agree, do you think such a regional bias exists in other areas as well?
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Re: Do perceptions of school prestige vary by region? [#permalink] New post 02 Jul 2013, 09:10
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Hi temuchin43 - welcome to GMAT Club!

The answer to the question you posed in the title is "yes" - however we had thought that you were asking about bigger regions, Asia vs Europe or something. As an example in that category, the Haas brand name is not that strong overseas, and brand recognition of school tends to matter quite a bit in certain industries and countries. We often caution people interested in certain international careers that they'd do better with other schools - even, surprisingly, a school like Cornell which isn't considered as strong as Haas is in some respects.

But to your question: It sounds like you're actually talking about a form of ethnocentrism - in this case, people being closed-minded about other REGIONS without regard to the facts. You shouldn't go to UNC because it's in the South??? That's a little ridiculous.

That being said, everyone does have their own biases and most of us don't ever recognize them, so we're not going to hold that against anyone. We honestly don't see that to be the norm in Silicon Valley though. Much more commonly, the bias is in favor of a specific brand name - see comment re: Cornell v. Haas above. And this is universal, not limited to Silicon Valley.

The reason that Silicon Valley might hire MBAs from the Pacific Coast schools more often (to the extent that they hire MBAs at all - that area isn't known for loving MBAs in general - but that is a discussion for another time) is that once you get out of the Top 10 schools, most MBA hiring is local. There's only three really good schools in the West (some might say only one) and they attract students from all over. A chunk of those students are going to disperse back to "all over" when they graduate, and another chunk will stay in the region. However, even combined from all schools, the chunk that stays local isn't a huge number - maybe (complete random guess) 400 (?) or so out of the 1,000 grads that these three schools spit out each year. That's not a huge number of warm bodies for recruiters to be working with when you think of all the companies in the western region - there isn't another bschool until you get to Chicago so that's a pretty wide territory, if you think about it.

The reason that someone might favor a Northeastern school is simply prestige; you've got history and associations. The NE is more frequently associated with Ivy League.

If you're asking, "Should I go to Amherst to get an MBA job in Silicon Valley" we'd say an emphatic NO. This is an unlikely path forward. You'd be on your own for recruiting. We're highly skeptical that Google is on campus there. They also don't seem to be recruiting at UNC K-F -- but they sure are at Duke. So is Apple.

There's a lot more companies in the Valley beyond those two but you can use them as a proxy to see where other quality companies would also be looking for talent.

It's true that there are fewer great bschools in the Midwest and the South - but there's a handful. Pick your school based on THE SCHOOL - not the geography. Geography only should matter for YOU, in terms of where you want to live for a couple years and the type of bschool experience you want to have.

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Re: Do perceptions of school prestige vary by region? [#permalink] New post 02 Jul 2013, 11:03
Essaysnark, thanks for the detailed response!

Yes, I was referring to unsubstantiated biases that people may have. I've heard it taken as far as to claim that people in SF would rather hire from UMass-Lowell than from IU(Kelley), which really is ridiculous. So I wanted to figure out if such extreme bias is an anomaly, or a common thing in the SF area.

As for the background for this thread, I'm researching for a friend. She's a controller and needs an MBA (or similar) to be qualified for a CFO position. Haas or Stanford would be serious overkill (and over-budget), so I suggested an online degree in a reputable school like IU, UNC or UFL. That's when I heard the "too southern" objection and decided to research...

Thanks again!
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Re: Do perceptions of school prestige vary by region? [#permalink] New post 02 Jul 2013, 11:12
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If she's already in the Valley then Santa Clara University is a fine option - easy to get into, quality program, flexible, and respected in the region.

There's more and more online options these days too - she should also check out UCLA Flex MBA, which is a hybrid (online/on campus), really flexible and easy to handle - could be ideal (also pretty easy to get into - way easier than Stanford/Haas).
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Re: Do perceptions of school prestige vary by region? [#permalink] New post 02 Jul 2013, 20:34
Thanks Essaysnark, you've been very helpful.

In general, do you know of any surveys of college reputation and/or name recognition? I am still curious to what extent people's perception may differ from actual evidence-based rankings...
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Re: Do perceptions of school prestige vary by region? [#permalink] New post 03 Jul 2013, 06:32
That was a really good explanation, i had a similar question..

Thanks essaysnark
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Re: Do perceptions of school prestige vary by region? [#permalink] New post 03 Jul 2013, 07:13
temuchin43 wrote:
In general, do you know of any surveys of college reputation and/or name recognition? I am still curious to what extent people's perception may differ from actual evidence-based rankings...


Had to chuckle a bit with this question. The 'actual evidence-based rankings' are largely driven by 'surveys of reputation' - almost every published ranking system (or maybe all of them) uses surveys of different constituents as at least one major input into their evaluations. BusinessWeek uses feedback from the graduating classes at the top schools as a main driver for rank - one major reason why Booth hits #1 year in and year out is because then-Dean Snyder put a big emphasis on that and (as we understand it) the school does a push for positive reviews on the surveys (if someone at Booth is reading this they can correct us - had heard this happened years ago, don't know if it's ongoing). Other rankings (U.S. News) use surveys of recruiters which may be more valuable in some ways to gauge the output of the school.

Our point is that theoretically, such perceptions are embedded into the surveys. The "evidence" is in there too - they use GMAT scores and hiring data and post-MBA salaries as well, which are all valid in certain dimensions.

The best way to find out perceptions of the people who matter most in this decision is to do as (you/your friend) is doing: Ask the hiring managers in the industry you want to work in. Informational interviews can be so helpful in figuring out the value of the MBA and the perception of a specific program.

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Re: Do perceptions of school prestige vary by region? [#permalink] New post 03 Jul 2013, 11:31
I think we meant slightly different things by "reputation". What's embedded into the surveys is knowledge from people like you -- who live and breath this every day -- as well as MBA grads, recruiters etc.

But most people have never looked at an MBA ranking list in their life and go by what they've heard from friends or on the news. I suspect many of them think Yale is much better than Chicago (it's Ivy League!), Arizona State is the outfit that sells online degrees to bored housewives, and Northcentral is the same as Northwestern ;-)

So I'd be really curious to see a public survey of people's perceptions about the various schools.
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Re: Do perceptions of school prestige vary by region? [#permalink] New post 03 Jul 2013, 12:14
Oh got it - yes exactly. We call that "the gramma test".

As in: "Tuck who??!?"

We often ask clients, Do you want to go to a school that gramma will brag about?
Or do you want to go to a great school?

They're not always the same - as you are pointing out!

Never heard of any survey like you're talking about - some form of public perception poll, is what you mean (or maybe targeted to industry or employers).

And for your last comment: You mean this.
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Re: Do perceptions of school prestige vary by region?   [#permalink] 03 Jul 2013, 12:14
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