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Harvard trending younger - smart move or not?

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Harvard trending younger - smart move or not? [#permalink] New post 10 Aug 2008, 18:43
Being incredibly bored by my math exam coming up, I was thinking about the "going-for-youth" trend at HBS. I understood that it was originated by a demand coming from the IBs. However, is this not a danger for their reputation? Isn't it dangerous for a school to do that move when it is solely based on case studies, where peer learning is essential? If so, it will decrease the quality of the Harvard MBA grads and it will only be a matter of time before the companies realise this and downrate HBS.

Obviously this is an extreme scenario (Harvard brand being so strong), but I'd like to have your input on the subject.
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Re: Harvard trending younger - smart move or not? [#permalink] New post 05 Feb 2010, 20:32
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im not sure i like the trend younger...im not saying there is not room for meaningful contributions by early 20 year olds in an mba classroom setting, but i think it is a mistake for bschools to focus and expand this subsection. i remember being 23. you think you know things, but you simply dont. its like reading an economics book as a student and then thinking you can run the fed. its like being a professor writing a paper on the economic crisis and not understanding why the government doesnt just implement your ideas. the world simply just doesnt work that way (ask obama, hes a relatively new politician for being president, ask clinton about his first few years in the white house. theyre both intelligent. they both got spanked). there are nuances you learn being a leader in a high stakes professional setting. things that few early 20 something year olds experience enough to be able to contribute the type of seasoned perspective to a discussion that i am looking for. also, frankly, the likelihood of an early 20 something year old being incredibly useful as an inside contact, an industry informer and networking partner is slim. what can they contribute that is immediately valuable in this capacity? i should wait another four years for their career to take off? no offense to you young whippersnappers with tremendous potential, you may all be my boss one day, but im glad im getting an mba now before this trend saturates all the other bschools.
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Re: Harvard trending younger - smart move or not? [#permalink] New post 05 Feb 2010, 21:05
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oh boy...im off on a rant...somebody stop me!

ok. i get that bschools want to attract younger talent. they want to compete with med and law school where those applicants train in that discipline mostly immediately after undgrad. if thats what were are aiming for here, then i think bschools are going to have to revamp their systems entirely. med school and law school have a set curriculum and professional examinations. are we going to get those for business school? hmm. and does this early option really tip the scale for someone considering law/med school? (not a rhetorical question btw - anyone?) i mean the career differences seem miles away, no?

another thought. does anyone else get the feeling that bschools on this path might be being a little underhanded here: that what they are really thinking is that the younger they get applicants the more likely the graduates will identify the school as a major factor in their success and thus more likely to make a significant contribution to the schools coffers later? something like the dotcom/facebook thing mentioned earlier? am i being too sinister? its one thing to grant entrance to those truly exceptional early 20yr olds that any employer would be glad to take, but to increase the general entrance odds because of age? and will this not put these young graduates at a disadvantage in the eyes of recruiters?

imho the most effective argument for schools going younger is to attract more female candidates. i mean lets be honest. we need more female perspectives in bschool. i do have doubts even about this argument though. dont females that tend to be ambitious enough to pursue graduate degrees also tend to defer having families until their in their 30s anyway? if so is that not sufficient time to get an mba without carving out section for super young candidates?

why not create separate program for them? a traditional academic masters concentrated degree then? im not trying to be antagonistic here. tell me if you agree or disagree with me and why. i clearly just dont get it.
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Re: Harvard trending younger - smart move or not? [#permalink] New post 05 Feb 2010, 21:28
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I guess I'm in the minority, I am an advocate of the younger trend. I think most of the opposition coming from those in school and those applying now simply comes from envy - mad that this trend was not as "hot" while they were applying or when they were still in school/younger or they are upset that 2+2 programs didn't exist for them - and those who fear for their chances of admission over the next couple of years as these 2+2er's enter into each respective school, making fewer spot available. I have known that I wanted a MBA since my junior year in HS, and I too wish there was a 2+2 program when I was a senior, I feel I actually had a stronger profile then and would've had a better shot at H than now.

Secondly, I think a lot of people are overlooking the management/leadership experience younger people, especially the type to be accepted into a 2+2 program, have gained by leading clubs, student government, teaching courses at school, community involvement etc. Even at the typical 3-6 years experience, many (not all) of us aren't managing or leading people on any substantially different scale than we did in undergrad.

As far as the classroom, let's be honest, aside from those of us really looking for a certain set of technical skills, business school is mostly about the network and job options, not the business education - finance and derivatives is the same at No Name Community College as it will be at Wharton, the only difference is the brand. It's great to hear someone else's perspective on a business problem, but after 2 years of working, you've experienced or heard about enough business problems and seen/implemented enough solutions for you to be able to contribute your obligatory 1-2 comments per class.

Lastly, I think it's time that business schools recognize that people have clear goals for themselves and would like to attend b-school at a younger age. Every other graduate school program (ok, maybe not some selective RED programs) allows students to come straight from undergrad. Why should someone have to postpone the next step in their education just to get into school? And as a woman, I'm really sympathetic to this as business school and trying to re-launch your career post-graduation and establish yourself as a professional cuts into your prime childbearing years (for those of us who want kids), postponing the whole ordeal affects your personal and professional life. Who cares if compensation takes a hit, 25/26 y/o graduates coming out making 80-90k will be doing a whole lot better than the majority of their peer group who are still in entry level and/or very junior roles. And of course, a lot of employers find it easier to hire younger students into these "level 2", long hour, analyst/associate roles.

The only downside of admitting the 2+2er's is dictating what will be appropriate experience in those two years before they come. If you already know as a senior that you're headed to HBS, what makes you obligated to take crappy 9-5 or 60-90hr work weeks in MC/IBD?

Overall, I think the longevity of work experience is overstated and it's definitely more about the quality, especially coupled with outside experiences that present just as many leadership and problem solving opportunities. I applaud the schools who recognize this and am happy to see focused 23-25 y/o's being more openly welcome into top b-schools.
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Re: Harvard trending younger - smart move or not? [#permalink] New post 06 Feb 2010, 08:25
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Words from the mouth of a Stanford adcom "We like to admit younger students so that they have more time to go out in the world and effect change with the education we give them"

I think the whole ageism in business school is complete bs, and the comment above was pretty pompous. We are talking four to five years difference between the young applicants and the "old" ones. When an average working career now spans probably forty years, you're telling me that being four or five years younger is going to make a difference in someones success? Give me a break.

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Re: Harvard trending younger - smart move or not? [#permalink] New post 08 Feb 2010, 01:49
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Here's my point of view. I agree that the most talented early 20s kids have plenty to contribute and plenty to gain from business school. However I believe that most kids do not fall into this category.

I was certainly not a credible b-school candidate when I was 24. This is partly because I had too much undergrad debt but mainly because I would have had nothing to contribute. I was naive, inexperienced, unprofessional and lacking leadership exposure. I suppose this is a confession of mediocrity, albeit one which I suspect applies to most young people, including the talented ones. There was nothing I could have done to change that in those early years because I was not mature enough to want to nor skilled enough to be able to.

Yet at 28 I believe I am an excellent b-school candidate and can't wait to get involved. I wish I'd been in this position at 24 but I wasn't, so all I can do is make the most of it now. There are plenty of young movers and shakers who got to where I am a lot faster, and full credit to them - I look forward to working with them and learning from them. But I think they are too few and far between to fill all of the top business school classes so focusing on the 24-28 age group will open the doors to more kids who aren't ready. Soo let's not write off the 28-33 guys because they were slower out of the blocks because there's plenty of talent and plenty of potential there still.

What's more, raw talent is not a subsitute for experience, despite what the girl with the subway avatar said in her otherwise excellent post. Her implication was that all the benefits of pre-mba experience can be gained in two years and the rest is superfluous. But after 5 years in industry, I have a perspective that no young rock star can offer. So if you take away all the 28 year old dinosaurs like me, you take away an integral learning opportunity for the whippersnappers who remain.

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Re: Harvard trending younger - smart move or not? [#permalink] New post 10 Aug 2008, 21:20
I dont see how this should decrease the quality of the grads very much. Lets assume someone starts the MBA age 26 with four years work experience. That person would already have a fairly good understabding of their industry and two, three or four extra years probably wont add that much considering it is only one aspect of the candidate. It's not the specific knowledge that members of the group have, but rather their personalities and ways of working that have the most value.

I would actually say that this could further strengthen Harvards position. I dont think it's only the IBs that this would appeal to. I believe most companies would prefer to hire a younger MBA over an older one if they are both career switchers with no relevant experience. If Harvard gives them what they want this can only strengthen their relationship. Anyway, you can bet your bottom dollar Harvard would be very much aware of any change in reputation brought about by this lowering of average age.

For me personally, I would love to start my MBA aged 26 (am currently 24) but I'll probably postpone a year to try and beef up my application and have the best possible chance. I would much rather be in a MBA group with an average age of 30 as opposed to 26, but I think the difference is negligable considering other factors (mostly economic ones).
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Re: Harvard trending younger - smart move or not? [#permalink] New post 11 Aug 2008, 05:25
mubs352 wrote:
I dont see how this should decrease the quality of the grads very much. Lets assume someone starts the MBA age 26 with four years work experience. That person would already have a fairly good understabding of their industry and two, three or four extra years probably wont add that much considering it is only one aspect of the candidate. It's not the specific knowledge that members of the group have, but rather their personalities and ways of working that have the most value.

I would actually say that this could further strengthen Harvards position. I dont think it's only the IBs that this would appeal to. I believe most companies would prefer to hire a younger MBA over an older one if they are both career switchers with no relevant experience. If Harvard gives them what they want this can only strengthen their relationship. Anyway, you can bet your bottom dollar Harvard would be very much aware of any change in reputation brought about by this lowering of average age.

For me personally, I would love to start my MBA aged 26 (am currently 24) but I'll probably postpone a year to try and beef up my application and have the best possible chance. I would much rather be in a MBA group with an average age of 30 as opposed to 26, but I think the difference is negligable considering other factors (mostly economic ones).


I couldn't find the data, but from what I saw HBS students tend to have way less than 4 years years of experience. If they have >4y experience, I agree that's it's a good thing, but from what I understood these guys tend to have <2y experience. Correct me if I'm wrong though.
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Re: Harvard trending younger - smart move or not? [#permalink] New post 11 Aug 2008, 05:38
I think 40% or so had <= 3yr WE
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Re: Harvard trending younger - smart move or not? [#permalink] New post 11 Aug 2008, 05:40
From the spreadsheet created by svrider, it appears that the middle 80% range for Harvard work experience is 3.0 - 5.0 years, and the average age is 27. When we say "trending younger" what we mean is accepting 24 - 25 year old applicants, or even the 2+2 program (although no one really knows what Harvard is looking for in those applicants). Under the new "trending younger" concept, someone that will be 29 at matriculation next fall would be considered a b-school senior citizen.
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Re: Harvard trending younger - smart move or not? [#permalink] New post 11 Aug 2008, 05:46
I think another important factor here is trying to entice women into coming. I can use my own married life example. Both me and my wife are 25 (same exact birthday's actually - which is really odd :shock: ) and I reckon that her window of opportunity to do an MBA is the next 2 yrs as in ... she probably needs to start by the time she is 26 or 27 max before other desires (child rearing kick in).

I think this is a really solid move to attract more women ... they are not going to start branding it that way but I suspect the numbers will bear it out.
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Re: Harvard trending younger - smart move or not? [#permalink] New post 11 Aug 2008, 08:04
sm332 wrote:
I think another important factor here is trying to entice women into coming. I can use my own married life example. Both me and my wife are 25 (same exact birthday's actually - which is really odd :shock: ) and I reckon that her window of opportunity to do an MBA is the next 2 yrs as in ... she probably needs to start by the time she is 26 or 27 max before other desires (child rearing kick in).

I think this is a really solid move to attract more women ... they are not going to start branding it that way but I suspect the numbers will bear it out.


So you're saying it'll be a bunch of old stodgy men with a bunch of young women?

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Re: Harvard trending younger - smart move or not? [#permalink] New post 11 Aug 2008, 08:17
hey ... I am going to be a perpetually young man ... never going beyond 29!!

But this is just my thought ... time will tell what really ends up happening.

A lot of smart young women cant ever be a bad thing though .... especially if you are single :P
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Re: Harvard trending younger - smart move or not? [#permalink] New post 11 Aug 2008, 08:53
sm332 wrote:
she probably needs to start by the time she is 26 or 27 max before other desires (child rearing kick in).


Really depends on the woman...I am 28 and so is my wife. Many people we know here at school are 27-30 and none of the women want kids anytime soon. Seems many professional women want to wait until they are in their mid 30s these days. I think its more a matter of trying to get smart young career driven kids before they head to law school or med school.

Personally I think it definitely has its drawbacks. Some companies dont mind and may even prefer younger folks however some still value pre-mba experience and age. IB age probably is not much of an issue, most likely being 26 is better to them than being 32. However, it is harder to take very young folks seriously in some jobs. If you are in charge of people they may look at you as a kid, where as if you are closer to 30 not so much a problem. A few years difference in your 20s can make a huge difference in how you are viewed.

Also I think that many young folks are unprepared not for the academics or social aspects of the MBA but for the interactions. I sat in on a class last fall and there was one kid who was trying to participate (it was clear he was barely out of undergrad) and other students were trying to not snicker when he was talking about his vast experience in the subject. If you are 24 and only worked for 2 years its not just the fact your may not have done as much as a 28 year old but you also have had fewer interactions with co-workers...faced fewer challenges working on teams or leading people.

Personally, I think outside of young IBers who do their 2-3 years and are 100% set on going back to the field...most people would be much better off having 4+ years of exerpience. Especially engineers, IT folks, accounting, auditing, even most consultants...chances are it takes you several years before you are even remotely leading teams or projects and then having a few years of practice doing that is a big benefit. Its a management degree, its not like a normal masters. Honestly if I was 35 and some hot shot 25 year old recent MBA grad was my boss, I would definitely not take him seriously...thats me, I would look at him as who does he think he is. Where as a 30 year old, I could relate to instead of looking at a kid who was in diapers when I was in high school.
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Re: Harvard trending younger - smart move or not? [#permalink] New post 11 Aug 2008, 09:09
sonibubu wrote:
I think 40% or so had <= 3yr WE


Yeah thats about right it seems...
http://www.hbs.edu/mba/profiles/classprofile.html

So there would be many people with two years or less of work experience, I think 20% would be ok but 30% a bit too much.

I read somewhere that the average age was 27. However, there will probably be many more people < 27 than > 27, considering you can hold the average with two 24 year olds for every 33 year old.

I think an average of 27 yrs at matriculation is ok but any younger and you have start really asking questions about the value of such an MBA.

I think the real question is whether other schools catch on.
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Re: Harvard trending younger - smart move or not? [#permalink] New post 11 Aug 2008, 09:28
mubs352 wrote:
I think the real question is whether other schools catch on.


Probably the opposite. Stanford can get who ever they want...small program with an amazing brand. However, if HBS becomes known as nearly impossible for students in the 27+ age range (nonmilitary, phd, wierdos) then the other schools will benefit by attracting top talent who is just a too old for HBS.
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Re: Harvard trending younger - smart move or not? [#permalink] New post 11 Aug 2008, 09:32
i would say for MC, you cant have 20 something telling a CEO of a fortune 10 company to reform their org structures..it just doesnt fly...

HBS is probably trending lower cause the would like to recruit younger WOMEN, those who would like to start a family soon but would like to get their MBA out of the way first..
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Re: Harvard trending younger - smart move or not? [#permalink] New post 11 Aug 2008, 10:09
fresinha12 wrote:
i would say for MC, you cant have 20 something telling a CEO of a fortune 10 company to reform their org structures..it just doesnt fly...


Ha! I can picture the scene:

CEO: so this is how I have been running the company for the last 25 years

MC kid: OK, you've got 25 years of experience in the field; personally I have about 25 minutes of experience, but I can already tell you that you've got it all wrong

CEO: hmmm... Remind me your hourly wage again?
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Re: Harvard trending younger - smart move or not? [#permalink] New post 11 Aug 2008, 17:27
interesting observation about the women part linking to trending younger. I haven't thought of that angle before. On a side note, one of my classmates is pregnant right now and delivering sometime in Oct/Nov, generally the 1st year "crunch time". It'll sure be interesting.

I personally think that HBS has enough of a brand name and feed the industries that sustain the brand name (IB, MC, PE, etc...) well enough that trending younger won't hurt them much. Their biggest worry right now is that the US president is their most visible alum. :P
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Re: Harvard trending younger - smart move or not? [#permalink] New post 11 Aug 2008, 18:38
fresinha12 wrote:
i would say for MC, you cant have 20 something telling a CEO of a fortune 10 company to reform their org structures..it just doesnt fly...


I imagine it's very rare when a fresh b-school grad gets to directly influence his clients' senior leadership, so the situation you're talking about will never happen. Even if it does, does it really matter if the MC is 29 years old or 25 years old??
Re: Harvard trending younger - smart move or not?   [#permalink] 11 Aug 2008, 18:38
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