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Wharton ($), Booth ($), and Haas ($)

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Which School to Choose: Booth, Wharton, or Haas?

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Wharton ($), Booth ($), and Haas ($) [#permalink]

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New post 22 Dec 2016, 20:00
Hey everyone!

I've recently been admitted to Booth (70K scholarship), Wharton (100K scholarship), and Haas (Full Tuition, Fees, and Insurance - about 125K in value).

I currently work in DC as a Consultant. I am interested in pursuing a career Tech Product Management post-MBA, but also have a strong interest in Finance and would consider a career in IB, hedge funds, sales/trading, or PE/VC as an alternative to tech. The Finance would be more of a stretch for me to pursue based on my background but I'm willing to take the risk.

I love Booth's culture and principles, the quality of the professors and students, and the flexible curriculum that treats its students as mature adults without wasting their time in useless rigidly defined classes that they don't want to be in. The students seem genuinely happy there, and Chicago seems like a wonderful city. The Polsky Center also seems to be up to great things, and Booth has been doing extremely well in the rankings.

I appreciate Wharton's massive reputation and global reach/network. Philadelphia seems like a so-so as place to live, and the students seem like more of a mixed bag, some happy and warm/friendly, others not so much. The school itself has phenomenal access to employers and seems to be shedding its image as simply a Finance school, with opportunities growing in Tech/Entrepreneurship, not to mention the SF campus presence. But Wharton seems to have lost some ground in the rankings in recent years as compared to Booth and Kellogg. Not sure if that will persist as a trend or not, or if the "blue chip stock" metaphor of Wharton being a long term winner will prove to be true.

Haas has great access to top tech firms in the west coast, an amazing culture and close knit student body, and SF seems like an amazing place to live and work. But with a smaller network and more west coast emphasis as compared to the more global Booth and Wharton brands, I wonder if the low cost of attendance at Haas would be worth it in the long run. I also hear that most of the international students (which comprise about 40% of the student body) end up returning back to their home countries post-MBA. At such a small school that produces an even lower domestic population of alumni to tap into, or so I would imagine. In addition I'm not sure if the opportunities in finance would be as lucrative for me as compared to Booth/Wharton.

Pretty tough decision in front of me - I really appreciate your input!
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Wharton ($), Booth ($), and Haas ($) [#permalink]

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New post 22 Dec 2016, 22:43
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I have to say that all schools have a mixed bag of students - if you take a look at the student reviews of any program we have (we have like 400 school reviews) and they all complain about classmates as being the only/main weakness and if they complain, all review rate classmates a notch lower. There are always idiots in the program and part of it is that they may seem like idiots and part of it is that they may be them, but after about a month or two in the program, you will have your circle of friends and you will be happily on your way through the 2-year experience very busy with classes and recruiting.

Something to note is that all schools have also bad professors - either they are misunderstood, or bad teachers, or just bad people but there seems always to be a bad dude who is getting let go fired or hanging on there due to their research, title or connections - that's true in all places including Booth and Wharton.

The world is not perfect, so do not expect the schools to be.

Yes, Philadelphia is not great but you are close to New York, the financial center (and now Jersey and Connecticut too). I personally love Downtown Chicago where most Boothies live but the area around the school really leaves a lot to be desired. Chicago has been the crime capital of the US for a bit and one of the only big cities to love population. It is still my personal favorite, however, but I don't live there.

Both Chicago and Wharton are strong Finance programs. You will definitely be eclipsed in most cases by more experienced/capable finance applicants if you are just looking to get into finance and you will need to network the heck out or find a way to beat them or an edge that will help you (perhaps better people or interview skills, a personal connection somewhere, something) as on a pure resume vs. resume for an iBanking job or Asset management one, you will be getting the B or C choice of a company.

However, You would be proud of either Booth or Wharton if you went there and with Wharton, you would have a stronger international recognition.

This brings me to Haas. It is actually a very selective program, in part because it is smaller and in part because there are not really many good schools on the West Coast. You have Stanford, Haas, and Anderson, all pretty small, and a lot of people love the weather, so it is quite competitive. One thing about the West-coast schools is that they generally have a lower ranking/reputation on the east coast. Stanford is the only exception, but in general, west-coast is considered laid back (i.e. lazy) and somewhat dismissed by the bankers on the east coast so in general Haas is a regional school. They place only 5% on the east coast, in part because nobody wants to leave the good weather (not kidding) but in part is that opportunities are slim. Also going to Haas you would be a second fiddle in town, the first one being Stanford, and looking at the students (having known a few), I feel there is a difference between the two programs and you would be on the underdog team (some people like that, some don't). You can take a look at this review, though it is from someone who graduated in 2009 http://gmatclub.com/reviews/comments/ha ... -345350321

My choice would be between Wharton and Booth unless you wanted to move/live in CA. Between scholarship and having to put up with Philadelphia, i see the choice as pretty equivalent. You could rent a much nicer place in Philly or buy a brand new car (which I do not recommend you do as an MBA student) but you get an idea - you can insulate yourself with money against the discomforts vs. Chicago. You have done some good thinking it seems and have a good feel for it - good luck with your choice and decision!

Congratulations on your admits scholarships by the way! Great job. I think a 100k scholarship would potentially trump HBS/Stanford without money.
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Re: Wharton ($), Booth ($), and Haas ($) [#permalink]

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New post 24 Dec 2016, 08:01
I'm always a huge advocate of fit. You don't want to go somewhere for 2 years that you're not entirely committed to.

In reading your post, I think you've already made your decision deep down for Booth. You have only positive sentiment for Booth and Chicago whereas with Wharton and Haas you're a bit more reserved in your language.

All 3 schools are great and you can't go wrong of course, especially with your amazing scholarship options. I think Booth combines your tech + finance options well -- do check out the employment reports. Like @bb though I'd only look into Haas more if you have to be in CA immediately post MBA. The other options will give you easier flexibility in terms of location as students will naturally gravitate towards roles across the country but Haas tends toward west coast.

If $$ is a factor use your scholarship options at Wharton/Haas and see if Booth will match.


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Good evening all,

I owe you an update. After about 2 months to reflect and attend both admit weekends I have made my decision. As I approach the Booth deposit deadline tonight at midnight for R1 applicants, I am pleased to report that the winner is… Wharton! Here are my impressions now that I’ve attended both school’s admit weekends and processed everything.

The Wharton School:

Pros:

- Classmates: Pleasantly surprised by how impressive and collegial the community is. I feel as if I got to know my fellow admits a bit more than at Booth’s admit weekend, mainly because they make us sit in a big classroom most of the day and chat it up. Plus every single one of us did actual introductions and got to share a bio and fun fact. That didn’t happen at Booth. We kind of just met and jumped right in to doing things at Booth.
- Location: Philly is no Chicago by any means, but the area where Whartonites actually reside in and around Center City and Rittenhouse Square is more than livable and actually has some pretty chic / homely qualities. New development and construction in the area such as the opening of Vanguard’s office there this year and a bunch of new apartment buildings are positive signs of growth and progress. It is a bit easier in my opinion going from Center City to campus on a regular basis than from Downtown Chicago to Harper Center, especially if you bike or UberPool, and the neighborhood has so many Whartonites it sort of feels like a large village. Last small item is that it’s a bit easier for me to traverse from Philly to DC (where I’m from and have contacts) or NY as needed than to travel to those cities from Chicago for business.
- Career Placement: When it comes to my wide ranging professional interests at this moment (FinTech, Entrepreneurship, Real Estate, PE/VC) I find that Wharton performs stronger in all four of my areas of interest, with greater placement and resources available by a comfortable margin in comparison to Booth. The two schools are comparable in terms of I-Banking and Consulting, but less comparable in my four areas of interest.
- Sessions: The industry sessions were fabulous. They were hosted by current students and were very real and relatable.
- Brand: the reputation and alumni network is incredible at Wharton, especially among the “old guard” which I define as the 40 and up crowd, which cares less about internet rankings and more about resources and reputation. As an example, I told an older colleague of mine who went to Stanford and Harvard during the 60s that I got into Wharton and he put me in touch with like 4 people, including the CEO of a company that I’m interested in, which resulted in an interview with the company and possible internship / job offer pre-MBA. He knew that I got into Booth as well but said he didn’t know anyone who went there. These things seem to make a difference and speak to both schools’ track record of excellence among the hiring community.
- Clubs: the club brunches on Sunday were phenomenal. My brunch was joint hosted by reps from different clubs and really gave me a personal sense of the clubs all at once. A lot more personal and informative than at Booth, where you walk around a crowded room for brief interactions with individual clubs, which feels a bit more like speed dating. Both schools represented well but Wharton’s club interaction was decidedly more valuable and informative to me (included a slide presentation and words from club leaders).
- Joint Programs: a lot of folks doing that with Penn’s other top ranked programs. This was a differentiator.

Cons:

- Academics: I think Wharton could have sold their academics a lot better. This is one of the big reasons why I almost chose Booth. We had about a 20 minute quick overview and Q&A with the dean on the first day, along with a “master class” which was pretty good. But I think the breakout classes at Booth were a lot more interesting and dynamic, plus it showed the “investment” of the faculty for 3-4 of them to give their time to admitted students to teach a class versus being economical about things and jamming everyone into an auditorium for a single big master class. I’m a big fan of not just resting on laurels/reputation/GMAT scores, and am more concerned with expertise/knowledge/merit. Thankfully independent research confirmed for me that there is indeed a plethora of interesting and rigorous classes and professors at Wharton for the intellectually curious to partake in, even though they don’t put that front and center.
- “Comparison” Culture: Admit weekend at Wharton was almost too “hoorah we’re the best!” culturally for me. For example it annoyed me during master class when they showed all the other top business school names on a slide and then put big red X’s through them. I know that this was said half way jokingly as a way to choose Wharton but to me it was a sign of weakness and insecurity, not strength and confidence in one’s personal identity and value proposition. If you’re the best then just show it, you don’t have scream it from the rooftops.

Chicago Booth:

Pros:

- Location: I didn’t know it until I visited for more than a day, but Chicago may very well be the greatest city I’ve ever been to. Awesome culture and tons of cool things to check out. I also get the sense that it’s more of an economic/commercial center than Philly, which would explain why Booth “sold” the city to us during the visit a lot more than Wharton, and not just the program. The restaurant and bar scene is unmatched, and Booth took us to some of the finest places, even paying for dinner at a fancy restaurant. Also important, Chicago attracts a lot of case competitions and challenges to solve business problems. You get a sense that the city is just as active as the campus (if not more), and I couldn’t say that is true for Wharton, as we didn’t tour much of the city really.
- Experiential Learning. One of the things I liked about the visit is that Booth seems deeply entrenched in the Chicago community, and leverages its relationships with the city to produce what they call labs. There are essentially labs for everything, including marketing, pe/vc, and consulting. They all seemed really awesome. I don’t really get the sense that Wharton is super well connected to clients and companies in Philadelphia or actively sends students to interact with said companies via experiential learning. I did however learn that it has “simulations” and more importantly something called a “Field Application Project” course (FAP). Truth be told I barely know what exactly FAP is, but if Wharton sold its academics a bit more clearly then maybe I would. For a school whose motto is “Knowledge for Action” I find that Wharton trails Booth in that terms of experiential learning opportunities.
- Academics: This was already mentioned, but the classroom environment for me was more exciting and enriching than the few classroom visits/sessions I participated in at Wharton. It’s like the students at Booth want to obtain that one gem of knowledge that could produce a lucrative 300M dollar gift just like the gem on indexing that Mr. Booth allegedly obtained from Mr. Fama many years ago (or the gem on value investing that Warren Buffet got from Ben Graham at Columbia). I’m not sure if that hunger and thirst for knowledge is as clearly consistent at Wharton.
- Career Services: top notch people who are really invested in their students for life.
- Housing Tour: We walked around the city for a while to visit certain frequent housing locations. I liked this a little bit more than the housing fair at Wharton, which was bit less personal by comparison. Boothies opened up their doors to let us in and see their humble abodes, which I appreciated much more than a housing brochure from some random Philadelphia company.
- Young Alumni Network: not much to say really besides the fact that a number of them (10 years out of school or less) came to the admit weekend to speak on a panel. This didn’t happen at Wharton, which says something about the young alumni presence and their investment in the school.

Cons:

- Old Alumni Network: Everything changed for the better with the coming of Ted Snyder in 2001. But the older classes seem to be more disconnected than the new. I know that one of Sunil Kumar’s big initiatives before he left Booth as dean last summer was to improve the alumni network and presumably get them to be more active and engaged. Not sure how successful he was with that. I can’t help but think that pre-2001 the school was a mostly average school with generally a less than average active alumni network due to Chicago’s reputation as a school for withdrawn academics. An exception to that would be a generous rock star like David Booth.

Closing Thoughts:

In closing, I should mention that I negotiated an additional 10K from Booth due to my genuine interest in the program (they added but did not a match). While 80K is an extremely reasonable offer I decided that the powerful alumni network, international brand, professional opportunities in my four stated areas of interest, surprisingly collegial student environment, and suitable if not undersold academic environment at Wharton make it the superior choice for me overall.

Nonetheless, by virtue of the fact that it was a close call (which probably wouldn’t have been the case with a H/S by comparison), I think for Wharton to solidify its place in the top 3 and keep Booth’s momentum at bay while honing and highlighting its own strengths it needs to work on:

1) Clarifying its purpose, mission, and values. Then work on clarifying, communicating, and living out its brand in light of that purpose, mission, and values. I lament the fact that I didn’t know that “Knowledge for Action” was Wharton’s mission until I came to admit weekend, whereas I knew “Pay it Forward” was part of Booth’s identity before I even interviewed, which they reinforced during the interview via one of their questions.
2) Developing stronger (or at least better communicated) relations with the Philadelphia and/or broader regional business community, including more emphasis on experiential learning opportunities with partners.
3) Reinvigorate classroom learning and reignite a passion for learning in its students (if it is not already there); I say this because of the very modest performance of the school on the Economists “Best Teaching Faculty” rankings in 2015-16, especially in comparison to Booth, which received top marks. The lifeblood of any university, business or otherwise, is learning, and a failure to hone that craft is detrimental in the long run.

I know that Dean Garrett has his own priorities and vision, however, if Wharton doesn’t prioritize these things over the coming decades and Booth continues its upward momentum we may begin to see students go to Booth over Wharton more regularly than they currently are. But for now Wharton is still the decidedly better option, as least for me right now, given the material and immaterial factors that I’ve shared.

Thank you all for your insights and votes!

Last edited by Starshooter89 on 27 Mar 2017, 19:30, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Wharton ($), Booth ($), and Haas ($) [#permalink]

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New post 16 Feb 2017, 11:25
Nice write up Starshooter89 !
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Re: Wharton ($), Booth ($), and Haas ($) [#permalink]

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New post 16 Feb 2017, 20:28
Great decision here, I would have recommended Wharton for many of the same reasons you cited above. It is a great school, with a great reputations. Good luck in Philly!
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Re: Wharton ($), Booth ($), and Haas ($)   [#permalink] 16 Feb 2017, 20:28
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