Turning Down HBS for Wharton?

I don’t really like the case method and I’m a fan of Wharton’s flexible curriculum and no class on Fridays. Is this a good reason to turn down HBS for Wharton? Is it still H/S/W these days?

It is S/H/W with a not insubstantial gap between S/H and W. I think your reasons are valid. I would not personally recommend turning down Harvard for Wharton, but you’re not making a huge mistake by doing so.

Thanks, do you know it’s always been like this, or has it been very close in the past? Another thing I’m a bit concerned about is HBS seems to be a bit antiquated compared to the other top programs. Its insistence on the case method (especially cases on companies in the 90s) is dated.

Thanks, do you know it’s always been like this, or has it been very close in the past? Another thing I’m a bit concerned about is HBS seems to be a bit antiquated compared to the other top programs. Its insistence on the case method (especially cases on companies in the 90s) is dated.

This has been the ranking for the past few years. Harvard, regardless of its “antiquated” approach (you are not alone in this opinion) will always be Harvard due to prestige and alumni network. It typically loses out on cross-admits to Stanford but wins the cross-admits to Wharton. If Wharton seems like a better fit, you should go there. Fit is still important.


Worth a read: https://www.reddit.com/r/MBA/comments/krqdny/reasons_not_to_go_these_schools_v15/?utm_source=amp&utm_medium=&utm_content=post_body

Financials not a consideration point?

Anyway, it’s really S/H with Wharton closer to the rest of the M7 than HBS or the GSB, but fit is important. The case method (as well as HBS’s cohorts, don’t overlook that aspect) has pro’s and con’s.

But if costs are the same, I would choose HBS over Wharton given the choice. Remember that this is a 20 year (or more like 30/40 year) decision, not a 2 year one. The HBS network will simply be more powerful (and tighter) and I actually prefer the aspects of HBS over Wharton overall, regardless of how antiquated the cases may be. The world does change (and thus also businesses) but human beings are still the same, which would make many aspects of the cases still relevant. BTW, it’s not as if you’d be able to escape cases at Wharton. Like pretty much every other b-school, Wharton will also rely on plenty of HBS case studies.

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Is HBS network that much more powerful than Wharton’s? Obviously both boast an impressive list of alumni (and I think the 20 year lifetime earnings different HBS/Wharton is like $300k) I know Wharton actually has a larger alumni network than HBS due to its UG cohort (while I’m not going to hardcore network with these people now, but 20 years down the line, there’s still affinity between Wharton UG/MBA people if you hit them up).

Curious why do you say HBS has a tighter network than Wharton since they are both massive schools?

Do you think Wharton will ever close that gap again? In my mind it’s only a temporary blip that Wharton fell behind since the HSW days due to the 2008 financial crisis.

Oh, and as for “has it always been like this”:

For decades, at least. Stanford has risen compared to generations ago. Columbia formed the M7 about 2 decades ago because it wanted to associate with schools higher than it and keep out peerish schools like Tuck (Columbia’s main advantage really is just NYC). Haas has risen (both Stanford and Haas have been helped by the rise of SV a lot). Kellogg wasn’t seen as a top b-school entering the ‘70’s but rose based on its strong team-based culture. The good-not-great publics like Kelley and K-F have fallen.
I believe Yale SOM will rise in the future because they’re HYPSM with the money of HYPSM.

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HBS’s cohort system.



I don’t think it’s temporary. There are secular cycles of rises and falls of different industries (railroads dominated right after the Civil War but nobody thinks they’ll be a top industry again; cars had a heyday as well that lifted Detroit from a nothing city to one of the most populous and richest cities in the US; and probably lifted UMich in the mid-20th century). Finance had a great run after deregulation in the ‘80’s and onward until the GFC, but high finance being among the best-compensated fields isn’t some immutable law. There are people on this Earth now who were alive when finance was only 2% of the American economy and investment bankers made less than middle managers at GM. Now, Wharton can transition (there’s marketing, healthcare, real estate, etc.) just like Chicago now sends more to consulting than IBanking, but you can always count on generalist HBS (hurt by the rise of finance if anything) always being top 2 (Stanford tied much more to the fortunes of tech).

I’ve taken a look and since I was in school (15+ years ago) really only compensation in high tech has kept pace with the crazy rise in tuition. Banking and consulting haven’t.

To expound on that, Wharton’s free Fridays don’t actually strengthen their network, IMO, as people form cliques and go off their separate ways on long weekends (Columbia and NYU have the same issue, being in NYC). HBS’s social engineering does have benefits.

Thanks for the insight! I’m actually a big fan of Wharton’s data driven approach and quantitative curriculum. I think they can definitely channel that type of approach to marketing and Fintech and make that their new thing (though they’ve always been tops for marketing right behind Kellogg)

Fair, that piece is just so it makes it easier for me to visit my SO and vice versa. I’ve heard HBS becomes a microcosm, which while being great for creating a close knit network, is more conducive to the Turkey Drop :sweat_smile:

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omg yes on the cohort-building @HBS. This year’s 1st years have been doing things together throughout the pandemic (rules clearly do not apply to this lot!). Think beach weeks not just on the Cape, but in Fl. Think a group trip to TX to get vaccines before they rolled out in MA. They are bonded.

Congrats to the OP for having such a great choice to make.

The nice thing about the top three MBA programs is that they are all great, but each for different reasons.

I am fortunate to be able to compare two of these schools as my wife went to HBS and I went to Wharton. Both of us graduated in the late 1980s and had engineering backgrounds for our undergraduate studies.

The two programs are very different which program is best for you depends on what kind of background you come from and what you are looking for.

Wharton is very quantitative, and teaches quantitative methods to enhance student’s academic toolkits. If you aren’t quantitative going in, they will teach you, but you need to be open to strengthening these skills if you want to succeed. If not, Wharton is not the place for you. Some of these skills cannot be learned by the case method.

That being said, the case method is used for the non-quantitative subjects. Quite honestly, I do think you learn more skills at Wharton that are extremely useful early in one’s career (micro perspective).

Harvard, on the other hand, is very qualitative and does little to teach its students much in the way of quantitative methods. That being said, many of the people who go to HBS are very accomplished and high-level skill sets are assumed. There can be a lot of “fake it til you make it” and HBS’s non-quantitative approach allows for that. The benefit of the case study method is that it teaches students how to look at problems from a high/C-level executive perspective and there is a lot to be said for this macro approach.

Whether Wharton’s micro to Harvard’s macro approach is best really depends on where you are coming from and what you academic background is.

While both schools are passports to all the elite professions, Wharton can be stronger in areas like fintech, quantitative trading, hedge funds, certain areas of IB (Capital Markets). HBS may be stronger in areas like consulting, strategic planning, certain areas of IB (M&A), PE, VC , general industry

Looking back, I think my wife and I are both happy with our MBA experiences. My wife was a quantitative person going into HBS and the program there pushed her out of her comfort zone and has made her a broader and more strategic thinker. At times it may have been a struggle for her and I think she might have enjoyed Wharton more, but there is no doubt that she benefited from going to HBS.

I enjoyed Wharton’s quantitative approach and it built on my mechanical engineering undergraduate. While the focus on quantitative methods really benefited me early in my career, I can see the value of the case method now that I run a business (for the last 20 years). That being said, I am not sure I would have enjoyed Harvard more than Wharton.

As far as networking goes, both are great (and having both is really great). I think when we were in school, Harvard’s Section-oriented approach was superior to Wharton’s fledging Cohort approach, but over time I think the gap has narrowed. Honestly, I think Wharton saw the superiority of Harvard’s approach and was not too proud to replicate it.

Quite honestly, there are fewer people who turn down Harvard for Wharton than those who turn down Wharton for Harvard and I think that will always be the case. However, at this level, students who are accepted by both can make it work at either, so fit is more important than prestige. It is a lot like trying to decide which supermodel you want to go to the prom with. Both want you and everyone will be impressed, who you want to spend a memorable experience with should be the deciding factor.

Good luck. Let us decide on where you choose.


Thank you for such a detailed response! I went to a liberal arts college for UG and am in a relatively creative industry. As you can imagine, my UG is full of Socratic method classes and I’ve found that I preferred lecture style or experiential (lab) classes. This is also another reason why I believe Wharton’s quant rigor will make me a more rounded individual.

I really do like HBS’s strategic focus, but my LT goal is also to pursue a career based in data-driven creative marketing (where Wharton obviously shines).


@superdomestique decided on Wharton! It was tough to turn down the big H, but I felt like my UG already has a pretty elite alumni network, and Wharton’s education will make me more rounded as a business individual. Besides, I have 3-4 friends already/matriculating at HBS that I will visit quite a bit so hopefully I can make some connections there as well :slight_smile:




When it comes to MBA, both Harvard and Wharton fall into the category of global brands. Difficult to say that one is better than the other. Coca Cola Vs. Pepsi! Both have loyal followers. In terms of learning environment, faculty interaction, and scope for networking any comparison will be like splitting hairs. My suggestion, choose the brand that suits your profile.