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What really is the difference?

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What really is the difference? [#permalink] New post 30 Jan 2009, 08:25
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For some reason, the X School vs. Y School posts really bother me, so I am going to keep this more general. I understand that generally speaking, H/S/W are generally considered in a class of their own ,and generally, (I repeat, generally) if one is accepted to one or more he or she will attend. After that, things get a bit more dicey. I understand, that as you start going down the list from there, things become more obscurred, and the debates starts to heat up.

I guess my qestion, and I think this is geared more towards folks already in school (river, pelihu, et. al) is, how many more doors are really opened by going to a school like MIT/Chicago/Kellogg compared to a Duke/Darden/Ross and are those doors really worth the difference between say, a half tuition merit scholarship at a Duke and nothing at MIT.

Please, lets try as best as possible to keep this as school aspecific as possible. There have been plenty of discussions about school x vs. school y, I'm more interested in things like, "yeah, Kellogg sent 44 people to McKinsey, but they all went to little obscure offices at the far corners of the globe."

Lets also assume, in order to try to facilitate a more general discussion, that the person who wants this information really doesn't know exactly what they want to do after bschool or where exactly they want to do it.

I also realize that this discussion has probably already been had about 10 times on this forum, so links to other threads would be great as well.
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Re: What really is the difference? [#permalink] New post 30 Jan 2009, 09:29
This might help.
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Re: What really is the difference? [#permalink] New post 30 Jan 2009, 10:24
Thanks mba07, I've seen this thread and think there is some good information in there. However, I guess I'm just looking for more perspective on what makes a K/Ch/MIT "better" than a Duke/Ross/Darden and how much is that "better" really worth.
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Re: What really is the difference? [#permalink] New post 30 Jan 2009, 11:17
Good questions. I'd like to see folks' thoughts on this too.
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Re: What really is the difference? [#permalink] New post 30 Jan 2009, 12:24
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I think it's largely dependent on your goals, to be honest. Some people go to school solely to get into a specific company or level (McKinsey/Bain, Goldman, top-tier PE, etc) and in that case the value of a top 5 probably overrides all cost. If someone is more interested in the line of the work than in the company per se, there is more of a discussion to be had. For a career switcher or someone who prefers a certain region of the country, there is tremendous value in the 12-20 schools. A person who wants to do entrepreneurial ventures and likes the southwest will get a decent set of options from McCombs, for instance. If they want to do M&A in New York, not on the same scale. Lot of chances to do international development/microfinance from Yale, but lesser chance at a BCG or KKR.

I would offer this opinion: if you're aiming to compete for the same jobs typically filled by people who go to Stanford or Chicago, it is probably a lot harder to get there from Darden or Fuqua. Not impossible, but harder. If you're more flexible on what you'd like to do, it's worth considering the opp costs. So many applicants are wired to try a quantitative comparison between schools in search of a data set that gives a definitive answer, but I haven't seen that succeed yet.

Also would say there's a big difference between a Kellogg/Duke comparison and a Darden/[insert school ranked 35-40] comparison. There's still a ton of great opportunities anywhere in the top 15-20 cluster (pretty well defined, regardless of the ratings source). From what I've heard, there's a fairly sharp drop-off after that as to the scope and reach of career options coming out.
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Re: What really is the difference? [#permalink] New post 30 Jan 2009, 17:08
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I think this is a concern that almost everyone deciding on a business school spends some time thinking about. There's a lot that could be said on the subject, so I'll try to keep my thoughts as brief and organized as possible. I'm going to address it as a job-related question because people can make their own personal choices based on location, family, weather, city-size, etc.

First, I think the cluster system is the best way to look at the various schools, and for this discussion I'll limit it to ultra-elite, elite and other. I can tell you from my own experience that folks at schools in the 'other' category do not have nearly the same opportunities as people in the elite and ultra-elite categories for jobs that are most popular and competitive among MBA students. These jobs include top consulting, banking, a few of the elite general management roles and the hot companies/industries of the day (Google today, maybe green tech tomorrow or whatever). Certainly, I've met students from UNC, Texas, Vandy, etc. that have landed good jobs, but there have definitely been some situations where it would have been quite unusual to see students from outside the E/UE schools. The difference between elite and ultra-elite tends to relate more to very specific and in-demand jobs and industries (not surprising). So, if you're hoping to land at a hedge fund or in venture capital, being at an ultra-elite will definitely give you a leg up, all things being equal. For the more traditional highly competitive MBA roles like banking and consulting, there is a much smaller difference between elite and ultra-elite.

There's a missing element that people tend to forget (or never consider in the first place) when assessing different schools, and that is that different individuals will have different advantages based on their own backgrounds. I would encourage people to consider how their backgrounds and their perspective schools fit into the puzzle.

Here's an example: If I'm interested in banking and have the right pedigree (ivy league school, bulge-bracket analyst experience, etc.) then my best bet would probably to get to a place like Wharton or Columbia that sends tons and tons of people into banking every year. On the other hand, if I'm interested in banking but have a non-traditional pedigree, I think it would be a tough road competing against a multitude of fellow classmates with spot-on profiles; I might have a much better chance at a school where the competition is less focused. If a firm comes to campus and wants to put 100 people on their closed list and you have 200 classmates who worked at bulge-bracket banks before school, you might have a tough go of it as a career-switcher. I'll use my own case as an example. I had no finance in my background (entrepreneur, law as some of you know) but was able to land on 20+ closed lists (basically every one I applied to) last year for investment banking internships. Speaking with friends from other schools I've met along the way, if I were at Columbia for example, I doubt I would have been selected for 1/2 as many. My pedigree would have been lost among the crowd there.

Another huge factor that cannot be overlooked is that you'll have a 1000% better opportunity to land a job if the firm/industry you are interested in recruits on campus. This is a subject that has been widely discussed many times in various threads, but keep it in mind because it's really really important. Some schools may list a whole bunch of employers that recruit at the school, but some are just job postings (generally worthless), some are just presentations by HR folks (better, but not great), and some are bona-fide recruiting relationships where firms host events and interview on campus (and perhaps give out offers on the spot). Big, big difference and definitely worth doing a little digging before making a final decision.

If you're thinking about doing a non-traditional job search, the strength and responsiveness of the alumni community is a huge factor. All schools like to say they have a great alumni network, but in speaking with friends at other schools, there are major differences between schools in responsiveness and what you can expect when reaching out to alumni. Tuck and Darden have always been leaders in this area - not surprising given the out-of-the-way locations and small, tight student communities. I'll tell you from my experience that community cohesiveness across generations is noticeably strong here, while friends at other schools have negligible expectations when they reach out to their alums, especially older ones. This isn't going to matter much to you if you're looking for a traditional role with a firm that recruits on campus, but it could make all the difference in the world if you want to explore a new part of the country (or world) or try to get into a different industry or perhaps one that doesn't have a well-developed MBA recruiting plan.

Going back to the OP, would it be worth it to take a scholarship at an elite over an admit at an ultra-elite? Hard to answer, and conditions could really change depending on the economy, strength in various industries, personal goals, etc. I'll use my own example again. Given how crappy the economy is and how tough the job market as been (especially for finance roles), being on a full scholarship has really taken a lot of the pressure off. On the flip side, I've hard that things have been particularly tough this year at schools that traditionally send a lot of folks into banking (I'm sure nobody is surprised by this). Things might be different if the economy was booming. If we consider another hypothetical, say if we were in the middle of a tech boom, people in Charlottesville might feel left-out if all the action is in Silicon Valley. So, it's really hard to say which situation (scholarship / higher ranked school) would be more advantageous without knowing the future.

So, consider your goals, the firms and industries that your perspective schools have relationships with, how your personal background fits without what a schools offers/demands, your own financial situation, where you want to live in the future and how comfortable you will be in each situation. It's hard to give any definitive answers because the questions and answers are so personal, but the good news is that, in my opinion, the vast majority of people at all of the elite & ultra-elite schools are very happy.
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Re: What really is the difference? [#permalink] New post 31 Jan 2009, 09:00
Thanks for the great response pelihu +1. I really like you comments about getting into a finance job from a school that is not traditionally known for finance.
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Re: What really is the difference? [#permalink] New post 31 Jan 2009, 09:52
Not going to quote it, but awesome post pelihu. I was 99% sure I was going to Darden before that, you just moved it to 99.9%. Hope to see you there, barring the .1% contingency.
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Re: What really is the difference? [#permalink] New post 15 Dec 2011, 06:45
Great post pelihu. I have been having a real hard time with this situation. You really hit the nail on the head with going to a non finance school for career switchers. I am one of those trying to make the jump to banking and without the pedigree for it I think a non-traditional finance school might be a better choice.
Re: What really is the difference?   [#permalink] 15 Dec 2011, 06:45
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