Harvard & Stanford: Who REALLY Gets In


(lively music) – Hi, I’m John Byrne with Poets&Quants. Welcome to our really incredible webinar that we’re gonna have here today. I have Matt Symonds in Paris. Hi, Matt. Matt is the cofounder
of Fortuna Admissions, the admissions consulting firm, but he’s a long-time veteran
of the whole MBA scene. He actually had the first franchise, the Kaplan franchise in Europe
many, many, many years ago. He’s a writer at “Forbes” as well, (audio distorts speech) and he’s my partner (chuckles) in our conference business
called CentreCourt, which we’ll be having
in London pretty soon. We’ll talk a little bit about that, but really, we’re here to talk about who really gets into Harvard and Stanford. Matt and his team at Fortuna did some remarkable sleuthing, looking through LinkedIn profiles, hundreds and hundreds of them, to see who really gets in. These stats that we’re
gonna present to you are never in a class profile
that’s published by a school, and on some level, frankly, they’re embarrassing to the schools. They suggest an incredibly
elitist admissions policy. I’m just gonna give a
little few tidbits here. For example, 37% of the last class admitted
to Stanford this year before, are from an Ivy League
undergraduate institution. At Harvard it’s 23%. Roughly one in five had, at one point, worked for one of three
firms: McKinsey, Bain, or BCG, which suggests to me that, yeah, these are terrific candidates, but it also suggests to
me a diversity problem that doesn’t show up in
class profile statistics, so I’m gonna ask you, Matt, for top line, what did you really find out when you went through all these numbers? And I have to give Matt’s son a great deal of credit for doing this because he did a lot of the legwork. – That’s right, the family business. I’d love it if he was a legacy applicant, but, well, as you know, John, you mentioned (audio garbles speech), which (audio garbles speech), and of course we get the chance to sit (audio garbles
speech) with the deans, and with the admissions
directors at these top schools, and I can remember, what
was it, two years ago at the CentreCourt event in San Francisco, and we had Kirsten Moss, who, at a previous stage in her career, had been the admissions director
at Harvard Business School, and who was joining us just three weeks in to the new position that she had at Stanford GSB, and a wonderful hire the school made in persuading Kirsten to join them, and– – [John] True. – I can see her sitting on
the panel at CentreCourt saying, “I have a real problem
with Stanford’s GMAT score.” Now, if you remember, you
go back two or three years, it was at a record 737, eye-popping average, and her point, of course,
was that a Stanford, and indeed, any of these top schools, craft the diversity of their
incoming class every year. My colleagues at Fortuna always say it was the best part of the job as they thought about
all of these individuals, that stories, how that comes together, and the chemistry that they’re making for the future (audio
garbles speech) classroom. She felt that 75 minutes
of data sufficiency or critical reasoning
really didn’t do it for her in terms of the sort of
backgrounds, experience, accomplishments, stories, curiosity that they were looking for, so we hope that many of
today’s audience will join us. We’re doing a lot of live streaming from the London event at CentreCourt with your questions to
those deans and directors, and we’ll have, hopefully, many of those top schools with us. You mentioned this idea–
– And you’ll get to meet– – about a typical–
– Matt and I as well, I should point out. You will get to meet Matt and I, and unlike other conferences of this sort, we not only host; we
guide, we orchestrate, we grab people, have good
conversations with them, bring them up to the people that we think should know them. This is not your ordinary, typical, vanilla MBA admissions event. We should point that out. – And of course people
come to those events, they’ve looked at school websites, and what do they find
for Harvard and Stanford? Produce pretty much
the same class profile. In fact, if you look for the
Harvard class profile of 2020, you can’t find it anymore. Well, you certainly will be able to in the Poets&Quants archive, but they only have their
class of 2021 figures, and as we show on the slides we’ve prepared
for this webinar together, it’s pretty basic stuff. These schools, as opposed to the, from, of
the first things that you see, is just the sheer volume of applications that these two schools attract, and embedded in that, the
fact that Harvard’s MBA class is about 2 1/2 times the size of the GSB, just how selective Stanford is. Usually it’s, what, one in every 18 or 19
applicants that make the grade. They share their average GMAT
scores, they share their GPAs, so those are the basics. – Well, let me just say–
– They give some– – let me just say this, Matt.
– international figures. – Matt, when I–
– They talk about– – when I look at this–
– gender diversity. – when I look at this–
– Yeah. – I see a lot of blandness, but I also see a disingenuous attempt to make it appear as if the class is far more diverse than it actually is. When you look at, for example, the number of undergraduate institutions, you might think that they’re far more open to public universities, state colleges, and things like that, when in fact they are not. You look at the number of organizations that people come from, 540-plus, it just it just is a lie in the sense that we’re
looking at a lot of tokenism in both those numbers, and I’m gonna just make one point. Those numbers were never
revealed by these schools until after we did our initial analysis of the feeder colleges
and feeder companies to these schools, which was embarrassing to these schools, which is the only reason why
these numbers even exist today in class profiles, okay.
– Right, right, so I guess to, you know, if you look at those, there’s
an average of two or three: Imperial College, Indian
Institute of Technology, or Berkeley and Boston College, but the reality is we’re gonna see, and we figured the schools
weren’t gonna help us with this deep dive that we undertook– – [John] No way. – And so LinkedIn became our friend, with all of its incredible profiles on there, probably (audio garbles speech) caveats (audio garbles speech) managed to track down the
academic and professional profiles of over 95% of Harvard’s
MBA class of 2020. In the case of the GSB,
that was about 85%, so you reassured me that that was statistically
significant and reliable, and what then emerges from
those different stories, so we’d love to think that this is the most
detailed deep-dive analysis that has ever been made public, looking at these two fairly conservative and fairly secretive schools. They do talk about diversity, but when you really start to explore, so the areas that we were looking at were colleges and companies, and of course what we’ll get to see here is how quickly it clusters
around the Ivy League schools as you then compare them to (audio garbles speech)
school in California, University of Michigan, Michigan State, and of course the
International Universities as you’re gonna see the
really (audio garbles speech), very dominant players that
are (audio garbles speech). We also thought it would
be really interesting, given that the schools provide a fairly light-weight sort of summary that says, “Well, yeah,
this year we had 36% “that had a STEM undergrad background. “We had 47% that studied
economics and business,” but again, it’s, you know, those are sort of big
shaded areas on a pie chart, and so with the research that we did, we actually tracked down
every undergraduate degree that these Harvard and
Stanford MBAs had done in the years previously. It throws up some very interesting data, including the fact that if
you come from certain schools you might be able to get away with less (audio garbles speech) experience, fewer years of work experience
than some of the others, so, I mean, your point to me is this: Is this elite, or is this eclectic? – Well, if you– – The parallel–
– go back to the number in the previous slide about how many students come from how many different
undergraduate institutions, at Harvard, for example, the truth is that, based on your analysis, only half, rather than
half of all the people, earn their undergraduate degrees
from only 24 universities. Only 24, half, so you look at that
number that they publish, and it makes it look like,
“Okay, you know, I got a chance.” It’s much more of an open race, and it really is a meritocracy, and then you look at your stats, and you say, “What? “How is it possible “that half of the entire class
of Harvard Business School “can come from only 24 universities?” Because there are, you
know, the discrete Ivies, then there are public Ivies, then there are non-Ivies that really are the top
liberal arts colleges and things like that, and 24 universities for half the class? Come on. Now, one limitation that I’m gonna just
point out to everyone– – A stronger statistician
than I am would say, “Well, if over 50% “of the class of the
applicants in that pool “were coming from those 24 schools, then– – That’s right, and that’s–
(John drowns out Matt) and that’s the one limitation.
– is pretty steady and reliable. That’s the one limitation we have because we don’t know the denominator, so we don’t know how many
people actually applied who had worked at McKinsey, Bain, BCG. How many people who applied actually went to an Ivy League school? We only know who was
admitted and enrolled, so that is one limitation to the research, and we probably have to suggest that. There’s a lot of
self-selection that goes on when you apply to these elite schools, so that, in fact, if you look at the applicant pool, it probably would skew
more toward Ivy League or these top universities, and more toward big, prestigious employers like Goldman Sachs, and Morgan
Stanley, and Google, and MBB, but nonetheless, I can’t imagine that even given that limitation, the stats would be reflective of a more equal playing field. What do you think, Matt? – Well, the schools (audio
garbles speech) promising, the schools are promising the
best of the best of the best, and I guess it’s open for debate where you get the best from, but we’re gonna talk a little bit later on,
I think, in the webinar about what the schools are looking for. They talk about academic rigor. They talk about intellectual
vitality and curiosity, and I guess their baseline
for that is, as we see here, to heavily recruit from top universities that, I guess, coming out of high school were attracting smart people
with strong SAT scores. Now, I guess as we get into those numbers, the fact that Stanford is then boasting a 3.72 GPA average from any of the schools that are then feeding into
these two MBA programs. These are academic high achievers, and I actually think that one of the things that
really emerges from this is just how much weight
Harvard and Stanford place on your academic background. Yeah, the GMAT, and I guess Kirsten said it somewhat publicly at CentreCourt, that’s a 75-minute section of quant. Okay, it’s gonna show that
you can handle numbers, but really, if you spent
three or four years at one of the top institutions and have done very well academically. Thankfully, it doesn’t stop there, but I guess as we sort of
jump into those numbers because we see the parallels
on the recruitment side. You mentioned MBB, of course, but in the case of
Harvard Business School, represented out, what, 21%, one in five, of those getting into the program, the big banks, the private
equity, venture capital firms, interesting to see how the
number of entrepreneurs that applied and got into Stanford, a much smaller class
compared to the numbers getting into Harvard Business School, so lots to get to. I guess, let’s start with the schools. We just put together the top 10 because, as you had pointed
out, in the case of Stanford, 53% of the class, in fact, came from (audio garbles
speech) institutions, almost all of them from the United States. In the case of Stanford, there was Pontificia Catolica from Chile that provided five of the Stanford class, and again, let’s not forget
Stanford is a small big school. It’s only 419 students, and they really are picking
them in ones and twos. Stanford, as you look at these numbers, obviously isn’t afraid to take those coming
out of Harvard’s pool, at least from the undergraduate level, and those two dominate on both sides, whereas Harvard and UPenn, which includes the Wharton School, are the two that dominate it at Harvard, so you’ll see a lot of those
Ivy League schools in there. Interesting to note how well Duke performs.
– Not only a look into Stanford’s numbers, okay, so outside of Stanford, which is not in the
traditional Ivy League, although all of us consider
it in the Ivy League, all of the Ivy League
schools are right at the top before anybody else. – They are. Scan down the list. Where’s MIT? There are a few that are
notable by their absence. Columbia made it onto the
top 10 list for Stanford. They’re a little bit further
down in Harvard’s list. Notre Dame. Notre Dame placed (audio
garbles speech) 18 into Harvard in the class of 2020, and they had pretty strong figures. I think, what did they have?
Six of Stanford’s class. Again, as you always
think about that ratio with Harvard’s MBA is about 2 1/2 times the size of Stanford, a school like Notre Dame is
placing in strong numbers. You also see some
interesting sort of subsets. Georgetown, many of those Stanford admits were at the Walsh School
for foreign policy, so clearly they have a
penchant for certain profiles, so the deep-dive analysis that we did identified all 167 institutions that were feeder
colleges into Stanford, and I think around 300 into Harvard. The big names dominate, and then very quickly you’re down to schools
that provided ones and two. I think well over half of the
feeder colleges to Harvard provided just one individual versus these that we
have on the screen now. If you look specifically
at the Ivy League, and interesting to note that
Stanford is not a member of that illustrious sports club, but they’ve taken even
more Ivy League graduates in the class of 2020: one in
three, pretty much, or 30%– – 37%. – Yeah, well that’s, well, 37, I don’t know, I ran my numbers
again ahead of the webinar. – Oh.
– I’m pretty comfortable with that one, but I think if
you add Stanford to the mix, then you end up at 37%
through nine schools, and Harvard is, what, one in four. They dominate, and you can see
that little logo for Columbia right down at the bottom there. That was just 1.6% of the class, so yeah, Ivy League is clearly up front. You didn’t see many from
the University of Chicago at either school. You just saw in ones and twos from great schools like
the University of Michigan, and part of the challenge,
(Matt drowns out John) we see Stanford with that scholarship to– – So isn’t it–
– attract Midwest applicants. – But isn’t it sometimes–
You know, they’re not getting them in the schools. – Okay, all these schools, there’s not a single public university, not even what are called the Public Ivies like Michigan, UVA, UNC, UT Austin, Wisconsin, UCLA, Berkeley, and not even those, which have massive numbers of
graduates every single year are among these top schools at the very top of the list. Isn’t that shocking? – It certainly is. You go back to that theme of diversity– – And we’re talking Public Ivies, no less, and when you get down to lower levels like, you know, UC Riverside, UC Santa Barbara, UC San Diego, if you get one you’re lucky
at either of these schools, or Penn State.
– Absolutely. – Penn State, which
graduates so many people, very small representation here. – Well, I mean, yeah, there’s a school like the
University of Oklahoma, that I mentioned earlier, that I think had three
admits to Stanford last year. They were all in mechanical
or chemical engineering. Perhaps there are only three
that applied, you know– – That’s true.
– If you look at the ratios– – That’s where we go now.
– you would have expected close to 60 applicants from
the University of Oklahoma, so those guys, if you look at
their admissions success rate, in many ways they perhaps
had enjoyed far more success. That would certainly be true for all of those Chilean
graduates from Pontificia. To get five into the Stanford
program in a given year is a phenomenal number, but it is, it’s very top-heavy for sort of 15 to 20 schools, and you don’t then see that
sort of eclectic spread now. It would be very interesting to ask Harvard and Stanford
MBA students what they want. Do they say, “Yeah, we actually feel “that we’ve got far too
much of the Ivy League here, “far too many of the familiar faces. “I’m looking to build up a network “that’s not just international, “but even across the best
schools in the country,” or would they say, “This
is how it should be. “I want to be surrounded “by Ivy League undergrads “in my MBA classroom,” so certainly, I guess, as we then follow that pipeline through, there’s also an important
stakeholder in all of this, and that’s the recruiters. I think one of the themes
that I think we draw from is the upper hand that certain applicants, either from their school networks or the employers that they work with through their recommenders, who that start, they have a head start. They have great networks
that they can tap into, people that can speak on their behalf, and I think with even the best efforts of Kirsten or Chad, all of that, those are very important voices
that they need to listen to, so yeah, you do wonder if there’s this sort
of self-serving bubble. Of course, the schools
are capable of change. If we were looking at these
numbers 10, 12 years ago, both schools would have
only had 30 or 31% women in the MBA classrooms. With these numbers, we’re
looking at between 41 and 43%, and of course in the class of 2021, record numbers at both schools. Stanford brought in, what, 47% women to this year’s MBA classroom. I think they would admit that with the efforts that they’ve made, and the success that
they’re starting to see with that move towards gender balance, I think, for them, the battleground now is minority students, and the sort of diversity
that you’re describing, there’s every chance that
many of those ones and twos that were taken from
schools from the South, from the Midwest… – So here’s (audio garbles speech), and that’s a good point you’re making because of the statistics
that we’re seeing, I would bet that more minority candidates and more women come
from these other schools that are less represented in the sample, so in other words, if you are a white male
applying from Oklahoma, applying from Rutgers, applying from (sighs) you know, state college someplace, your chances of getting
in are even slimmer than these statistics would even suggest because I would bet
that a lot of the people coming from the onesies
and twosies schools are minority or female. – Well, I guess that’s, you’re
laying down the challenge for the next deep dive that we do for 2021 to bring in those sort of components. – Indeed. – As we take, this was something
that I found fascinating. Harvard and Stanford, perhaps more than the other M7 schools and the top schools in
the last two, three years that have seen a fairly dramatic decline in the number of international applicants. Now, both Harvard and Stanford have kept their international
intake fairly strong, fairly stable around, well, in the case of
Stanford, as we show here, 42% of the class. A considerable number of them, I think, will be dual citizens, but what really struck me was that, of those international students, almost half of them had studied undergrad in the United States, so there’s still that
endorsement, I think, of top schools in the U.S. That’s what we feel most comfortable with. That’s where we’re recruiting from, and that really sort of comes
through in those numbers. Again, Stanford, with
a much smaller class, that they had this spike
in Chilean students, I think there were a handful from three or four institutions in the UK. There were very small numbers from India. We maybe didn’t pick up
a few Chinese applicants, or applicants that don’t have
the same level of visibility on the LinkedIn platform, but for Harvard, over, what, about a third of the
international students had studied in three countries: India, UK, and Canada. (audio garbles speech)
achievement for Canada, which is population of,
what, 37, 38 million, compared to the 1.3 billion in India, so to get 22 admits
from nine universities, and as you go down the list you’ll find, I think
it’s Brazil, number four, Australia is in the top five or six. You’ll find France, but yeah, so clearly there’s an advantage for that international applicant who has already completed
undergrad in the United States, perhaps has then gone on to consolidate the first
steps of their career, also in the U.S., but it felt a little disingenuous in that they are talking about such a strong international pool, and yet a great many of them are likely to have already
had a footprint in the U.S. when they applied. – And Matt, I should point out to everyone that we’re gonna be taking questions for the last 15 minutes
of the presentation. We already have a few, and we’ll get to them
a little bit later on. – Right, so (audio garbles speech) through in those typical class profiles of any of the schools, and as we look to tackle
Wharton and others next, is so what did people study? And economics was the clear, clear winner among the top feeder schools. You had big numbers from Yale,
from Princeton, from Harvard, that studied economics. The further down you went, it was interesting a school
like Duke had great diversity, you know, Chinese studies,
archaeology students. That was quite an eclectic mix there. I think many of the schools that provided applicants in ones or twos, that’s where you would see the BBA program from schools
like (audio garbles speech), Houston you mentioned earlier,
Berkeley and Michigan. You’d see a lot of engineers
from the international crowd, but yeah, economics was a clear winner, and those that have the patience can go through all 300-plus universities because we actually identified and shared every single major or degree
that people had taken. I think that matters too, that you’re not seeing
many studying art history. We’ve seen the shift already
away from liberal arts through more and more
successful applicants at these top schools that
had a STEM background. That certainly came through. I think it was, what was the
top at Wharton was finance, perhaps no surprise. I think that was similar at NYU, and then history was the
most recurrent undergrad at a school like Dartmouth, but this final point, this bullet point on this
slide really interested me, that apart from my spelling mistake, of course it’s HBS admits, their intake, if the Harvard admits in the class of 2020 who had an Ivy League
undergraduate education typically had less work experience than the non-Ivy League graduates. Now, part of this could
be explained, of course, by the 2+2 Program, where individuals are applying in the senior year of college, they don’t have four or five years of professional experience to point to, or some incredibly successful startup, or the impact that they’ve had working in the non-profit sector, so of course, for HBS’s 2+2, and then Stanford and
their deferred enrollment, they’re relying much more
heavily on academic achievement when they look at those seniors applying at that early stage, so could have some impact, but just this idea that if you
have an Ivy League education, maybe you can get away with six
months fewer on your resume, and that will be fine for Harvard, so are all standards the same? This is where my son
did this incredible work looking at null hypotheses and finding out what was
relevant, what might not be, and he showed me this particular finding. – Yeah, definitely. – On the employer side you talked about, and it really is dominance. I mean, look at this. McKinsey, BCG, and Bain, we’re looking at two sets of numbers for each of these feeder companies. The bigger number, in
the case of McKinsey, 29 to Stanford and 82 to
Harvard Business School, that is the number of successful admits that had McKinsey on their resume since graduating from college, so it’s a full-time position, whether they started their career, and then moved on and did other things, but McKinsey, BCG, and Bain,
you gave the numbers early. Absolutely dominant, and perhaps speaks to
(sighs) a number of factors: the networks that those
individuals benefit from that I mentioned earlier, but clearly these are among the most prized employers for graduating college students, and they have very rigorous
recruitment standards. The case method that you have
to sort of really dive into for your MBB interviews, I think that provides
a level of reassurance for the admissions office. If you were good enough
for McKinsey, Bain, or BCG, you’ve already got a head start. Also, a lot of industry breadth. You know, in the space
of two or three years you may have worked in
laminar flow in aeronauticals. You’ve worked in Bitcoin cryptocurrencies and the latest fintech ideas
that are being deployed across so many industries and sectors, and I guess is the admissions office is looking for those voices of experience and perspectives that
the top consulting firms, and include Deloitte in the list. They made a great showing
among the Big Four in both of those school lists. They’re number four in the Stanford list. They’re number five in the Harvard list, so really does it for these schools. Anyone that’s wondering where private equity and
venture capital crowd are, they’re certainly very
present on the deeper dive that identified over 500 employers that had fed people to these schools, but you see much smaller numbers. Bain Capital crept onto the list, so yeah, it’s the big consulting firms, and it’s the big banks. I want to come back to the big banks because there’s another
trend I think that we see in terms of it’s great
to start your career, whether it’s Citi,
Barklays, Bank of America, Merrill Lynch and Goldman,
Morgan and JPMorgan, but just how many people then move on after perhaps two years
of a rotational program, or three years. Then they get an interesting
position working in PE or VC, and that seems to really
work for these two schools, so it’s a great place
to start your career. Far fewer of those individuals are still with JPMorgan or Morgan Stanley by their time that they
actually apply to these schools. – What does it say about
the diversity of the class? I mean, is Harvard and Stanford nothing more than finishing school for consultants and investment bankers? – Well, it’s certainly a great place for them to build the next
steps of their career. You know, for many of them, perhaps having worked the
sort of hours involved at MBB or the investment banks, actually the rigor of business school, it might seem like two
fairly light years for them, and for many. You know, we talk about that triple jump that people will make, where
they switch geographies, they switch sector, then
they switch function. Of course, some will return. I think we see many more
of the McKinsey, BCG, Bains going back to those companies after, perhaps, doing one
year at a school like INSEAD, that places such high numbers to MBB. You know, two years, you’ve got that internship
between year one and year two. You explore. You’ve got, you know, you’re
surrounded by an incredible mix of talented, ambitious,
open-minded classmates. Who knows where the next
steps of your career might go. Consulting is one of those options. I mean, both of us, when we reflect on Stanford’s
recruiting numbers, what is it, a third of the class has not confirmed a position
coming out of the MBA program within three months. Now, that statistic, most deans
would never sleep at night if they knew that 33% of their graduates hadn’t found a job yet, but there’s a confidence
among Stanford MBAs, whether it’s the next high-growth, fast-track unicorn, or something else that
they’re looking to pursue, so yeah, they’ve got, certainly, remarkable networks, and they’re set for the
next steps of their career. I guess, then, you start
to see further down where you bring in those
voices from the Fortune 100. It was interesting to see
the oil and gas sector with the likes of Exxon Mobil that had eight admits to Harvard, followed by Shell and Chevron with five, Saudi Aramco, the world’s
highest market-cap company in the world. They provided three, and even GE’s subsidiary, Baker Hughes, they had another three. You see this. We saw
it a lot of applicants coming from oil and gas
about four, five years ago. Oil was $28 a barrel. The majors were laying people off: Schlumberger, Odebrecht, and
big (audio garbles speech), so going to business
school made a lot of sense. I mean, you’ve often read on Poets&Quants about how tight, certainly, the U.S. job market is right now, and perhaps people postponing
their business school plans, but Harvard, Stanford, I don’t think people
would put off those plans if they actually got an offer from the admissions offices
at Boston and Palo Alto, so when, I mean,
(Matt drowns out John) I think one of the other
things that you see. Say again? – When I sit back and I look at both the
undergraduate institutions where these students came from, and then the companies,
at least at the top level, what these statistics suggest to me is an incredibly risk-averse admissions process where admissions people are taking very few bets on people. Instead, what they’re looking for is an undergraduate institution that is already highly selective and has a very fine filter, and has filtered out a lot of people, and then they’re looking for an employer who does the same thing: highly selective employment practices, and then, on top of that, they’re still looking
for high GMATs and GPAs, so everything is aligned, not only to find
quote-unquote the best people, but to ensure that they can’t they don’t make an admissions mistake. – I mean, as you know at Fortuna I have, what, nearly 40
former admissions directors, associate deans, and associate directors of the top 10 business schools, and we talk about, of course, the processes that they have in place, and committee discussions, and already those established ties that they have with the recruiters, both as feeders, and then as recruiting graduates as they come out of the MBA program. Caroline and Judith talk
about past performance is one of the best predictors of future achievement or success, and I think, yeah, here
you have the safe bet, and I think, perhaps, this is the entrepreneur in
both of us that’s talking. You know, we lament, perhaps, not having a greater diversity for the, I mean, you created a site
dedicated to the misfits. You know, we see genius,
and as Steve Jobs framed it, those individuals with a level of vision that are the ones that are gonna, as Stanford like to put it, they’re the ones that talk about change lives and change the world. I think that there’s an
inbred confidence, perhaps. You know, I’ve got my
Ivy League education. I’ve worked at one of the
major blue chip firms, and naturally one of
these business schools is the next (audio garbles speech) so there’s a pathway. There’s a comfortable pathway, and I do, certainly (audio garbles speech) individuals in Boston,
and 420 in Palo Alto, they can take risks. They can see individuals
that, perhaps, you know, not all of us had the
stellar academic moment at the age of 18, 19, 20 years old, but there are other ways to
be able to demonstrate that, and they sometimes, in
looking at these numbers, think that we’re fairly safe with this. You’re that much safer
coming out of the U.S. Navy, both in terms of an undergrad. I think Naval Academy scored much higher than West Point in these classes, and much, much bigger numbers that target, perhaps target, but certainly are admitted
to Harvard Business School. You know, we talked about
the three M’s of Harvard; McKinsey, Mormons, and military. You certainly see it in these numbers with the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Army, and the great majority of
them, as these numbers reflect, are using business school as the transition to civilian life. Clearly Harvard is attracting many more of them than Stanford. Now, in terms of, you know, we spoke about (audio garbles speech) one in three had them on their
resume when they applied to when they applied to the GSB, similar numbers coming through
for Harvard Business School. Interestingly, in that breakdown, both Harvard and Stanford
have more female students that were consultants pre-MBA than males. You see a complete reverse, and far steeper reverse when you, clearly there are more male bankers at both of these schools, but for the class of 2020 there were more women
that were consultants than men admitted. – By a large margin or a little? – No, it was about 51 1/2, 52%, so it’s fairly gender-balanced. Very interesting one was
those coming from industry, and how many successful women applicants. This was particularly for
Harvard Business School, and as the school looks
for patterns of leadership, perhaps the idea of imagining them in a male-dominated offshore oil rig, or whatever that industrial
setting that they were in, you know, rolling up their sleeves, working with, certainly with
many of the successful clients that we’ve had at Fortuna, being able to talk about how they managed to successfully thrive in that sort of
male-dominated environment, is something that has connected
with the admissions office in sharing their story, and almost all of those
from the industrial sector were women, in this particular one. Tech, tech was about half and half. I think, on the software
side it was dominated by men, and tech firms at the
product management level, there was far more gender balance. – This is really interesting– – In terms of–
– because, again, since Harvard and Stanford are accepting more women
with consulting backgrounds than men today, the percentage of women
who go into consulting is quite small compared to men, so these statistics loom even larger than they might appear at first glance because I know that Kinsey, all the consulting firms
have made a major effort to recruit more young women, but I would bet that it’s
probably not much more than 30%, maybe even less at most of these firms, so that the fact is really remarkable. What that means to me is
that if you’re a white male, and you work for McKinsey/Bain/BCG is, despite what these
overall statistics show about how favored you might be, you may end up at Wharton, (laughs) or Columbia, or MIT. Not so bad, okay, not bad at all, but obviously Harvard and Stanford are showing a preference for women here. – Right, well, when you look at subsets, I mean, yeah, the white male banker is clearly an overrepresented profile in any of the applicant
pools of the M7 and Harvard and Stanford probably at the top. What was really interesting
is how these firms act as a great first step. I think we saw, what was
it, as many as 11 admits from Credit Suisse,
and Citi, and Barklays, but none of them, or perhaps one of them, was still with the firm as they were successfully admitted to either of these two schools. They’d all gone on after the first two, usually it was about a 2 1/2-year average, in the first two or three
years, had then made a move. Some, of crouse, had
stayed in their industry. Many then took that chance to move to, you know, whether it was BlackRock, KKR, and sort of spread their wings
and gained extra experience. Makes sense, right? I mean, if they’ve
already proved their worth in the hothouse of investment banking, to then gain that additional
experience in private equity, that’s a strong professional resume that you’re presenting to any school, so I guess anyone that’s listening that says, “Well, you know, my second year “is up at Goldman or at Morgan Stanley,” lift your heads up and
think about, you know, if you’ve got thinking
about these top schools in a two or three-year timeframe, what’s the best plan? Do you apply at this early
stage in your career, or do you now make a move and
gain additional experience? Certainly, from what we’re
seeing on these resumes is that the preference from Harvard and (audio garbles speech) is the individual that
has made a move after two. – Hey, Matt, we’re getting
a good number of questions, and I think we might wanna
turn to a few of them because they’re pretty
darn interesting, I think, and I think they would
help a lot of people, so here’s one who is currently employed
by Bain & Company, and this person is wondering, “How I can best differentiate myself “amongst the MBB applicants?” Any thoughts, advice,
based on your experience? – I mean, clearly, any of these successful
applicants from MBB, you know, we talked earlier about
just how many are applying. Business school is, for so many
of you, a natural next step, whether you want to make partner, or you want to make the transition
that we were describing, and there’s a lot of room. In fact, Harvard and
Stanford are very explicit. Harvard says, “Okay,
we’ve read your resume,” and obviously what they’re finding out about the academic and
professional background, and we’ve read your
letters of recommendation, which are both professional, so they’ve got this wonderful context for the career that you’ve already built, and Harvard then says, “What
more should we know about you?” So I think that you use, perhaps, your academic success in undergrad, and the career that you’ve built with Bain as tremendous building blocks, but it’s that what more piece, and I think those that,
we see it a lot, we’ve last year we had around a 50% success rate with HBS applicants, many
from MBB and the Big Four, and it was interesting
just how many of them, whether in their private
lives, in the community, had some level of real engagement. You know, they hadn’t
started walking puppies at the animal shelter a month before they applied
to these business schools. Things that they’d been doing
for 18 months, for four years, and were able to really speak about it with passion and purpose
because it’s quite explicit. You know, Harvard and Stanford, you know, my colleagues that were admissions officers
at these schools, they said, “You start talking to us
about another PowerPoint deck “that you put together for a client, “or another M and A deal
that you were working on, “explicitly use those essays, perhaps, “to share a far more personal narrative “about choices that you’ve
made, a path that you’ve taken, “things that you’re
really passionate about, “and that you can prove it.” You know, back to CentreCourt, when Kirsten was talking
about applicants to Stanford, they see this whole change lives
and change the world thing, and so many applicants, from
Bain and other great firms, will start to talk about how
they’re gonna change the world, and whether that’s clean
drinking water solutions, or solving poverty, which, of course, if you could achieve any small
part of either of those two would be phenomenal, but if they don’t see clean
drinking water in your resume when you’ve described
that as your big vision, it’s gonna make the school wonder just how legitimate or just
how real is that vision, so obviously, looking
into your background, Bain will have kept you very, very busy in the early years of your career. The schools know the sort of
hours that you’re working, but I think that the applicants
that truly stand out, whether through college, and even now in the first stages of
their professional lives, have found the time,
they’ve carved out the time to make commitments which
demonstrate patterns. Ultimately, they demonstrate
patterns of leadership. Both of these schools, you know, we talk about
Harvard and leadership. I think both of them want to see whether, in a professional setting,
in a community setting, whether it was a club that you were involved with at college, how they see these sort
of recurrent patterns of leadership and impact, how you make a difference, so Bain’s a great place to start, and I think now it’s to really
explore the personal story to find those things that
really help you to stand out. – Here is a question. What percentage of the
incoming class at these schools are business owners or entrepreneurs? – Very few, and interestingly, the entrepreneurs that we identified almost invariably had the title of founder and CEO, so clearly it was the owners. It wasn’t someone that joined the startup in the early stages. They were one of the
founders or the cofounders, and the numbers for Stanford
are much, much higher, certainly, as a percentage of the class. I think the actual real
numbers of entrepreneurs going into Stanford, I mean, were still, compared to the banks and the
consulting firms, big tech, and others that we’re talking about, you know, those numbers are fairly small, and I would encourage you to, obviously, download this deep dive because I think we also identify that within 15 or 20 entrepreneurs that were admitted to Stanford and, what was it, 12 to 14 admitted to
Harvard Business School, it wasn’t smart phone apps
that they’d been developing, and it was great to see
that it was entrepreurship across a complete sector spread. It wasn’t all about technology. Some people had built restaurant chains, and others were doing it in the social (audio garbles speech). Yeah, the numbers are,
I guess, fairly modest. That’s, what, fewer than 5%
in the Stanford classroom, but nearly all of them had
the CEO and founder title. – Right, here’s another good one. Do you have any data regarding students who already have a masters degree and apply to a business school? – So I think that we saw, and Heidi and Theo, that crunched
so many of these numbers. It was a labor of love. I think that we saw somewhere between 17 and 20% with a graduate degree. There’s a caveat there because, of course, as we were working with LinkedIn profiles, you know, a great, well, a significant number
of these individuals are applying for dual degrees. You know, the schools themselves report that as many as, what, about 25% of their MBA students are pursuing a dual degree
at Stanford or at Harvard, whether that’s at the Kennedy School, whether that’s the MBA and an MS combined in computer science at Stanford, so very often they would start and do their first year
in the engineering school, at the d.school, at the Kennedy School, and then would begin the MBA in the second year, so it was sometimes a little
bit tricky to extrapolate, but I think, probably,
it would be safe to say that somewhere between 15 and 17% already had a graduate degree when they were applying to school. – Now, here’s a question from someone who’s working
at Google right now and is looking at the stats and seeing the predominance of consultants and investment bankers who are getting admitted, and this person works in, looks like revenue,
advertisement at Google, so person’s, the question is, “Is it realistic to target Stanford or HBS “as a person who has experience
in advertisement in Google?” – It’s a great question, isn’t it, because of course when
we use these buckets, and we say, “Well, it’s about tech,” of course you could be the chief financial officer of a firm, and your career is very
much about finance, but with a tech label on that,
and the schools, you know, my colleagues at Fortuna talk about this, about being very sensitive
to the actual position and areas of expertise and
experience that you have. We actually have numbers, what is it? For Harvard Business School, 13 of the admits had
Google on their resume. Now, I have to say that Google had some of the
most elaborate job titles. They had elite mentor at the Google launch
pad accelerator program and deep-mind engineers, whereas at Microsoft
there were two titles: there was project manager
II, or mechanical engineer. That was it, so obviously Google has a lot
of fun in the HR department coming up with these job titles, and I think that the
great majority of them would be tech-focused. Now, of course Google probably has one of the most impressive
sales teams, certainly, if you look at the sort of
revenues they’ve been generating in the last five or six years, so for you to leverage that and say, you know, “The
position that I’ve held, “I’ve had to be able to collaborate “with some very technical minds, “and be able to make, “build that bridge between technology, “and the end user, and the client,” so we don’t see many with a straight sales role. I think many more would have a sort of a more strategic business
development sort of hat on, but if you have been able
to play that sort of role, and helped the company
to go into new markets, or identify new opportunities, even on the product side, I think that ability to have a dialogue across different parts of the company, your focus might be sales, but if you understand
the underlying technology or can identify opportunities and bring those to the attention of senior executives at the firm, that’s a great story
to share with Stanford or any other top business school. – And at the bottom line is Google is a highly selective employer. It’s very hard to get a job there. It is a gold-standard
company in this world, and even though you may not
have a gold-standard job for an MBA program like
Harvard or Stanford, you can’t take the other stuff away, and you should point out, I think, in your application somewhere, how highly selective it was
to get your job because– – I mean, (John drowns out Matt)
the screen you pass through – of course–
(audio garbles speech) importantly. – These admissions officers, of course, these two schools are
perhaps more closely followed than any other, and you follow them as closely
as anybody that I know, that their admissions teams
are actually fairly small. You know, there’s a core team, perhaps six or seven individuals that are expected to have
regional market knowledge, whether that is the top institutions at the Tsinghua and Fudan
universities in China, the Oxfords and Cambridges in the UK, and/or the top schools
in Brazil and Chile, and similarly with employers, and I guess what you’re describing, John, is if you were working for a successful but little-known software firm in Bangalore versus working for Google
out of Bangalore or Mumbai, you start, I guess, with that sort of, you have that head start that the admissions
officer of these schools will recognize your employer. Now, the next step, obviously,
is to be able to articulate and share the impact that
you’ve had in your work. It’s not enough, and I think one of the core messages that I would leave with anybody. I was struck by one of my colleagues, a former associate director
at Harvard Business School, would conduct many hundreds of interviews, and she tells a story
of Ivy League applicant, probably with a 3.7, 3.8 GPA, with the badge of one of these top firms that we’ve been discussing, and about 12 minutes into the 30-minute Harvard interview, he stops her, and he says, “I’m sorry. “That’s not the question
that you should be asking. “What you should be asking me is this,” and then, of course, he proceeded to answer his own question. Now, my colleague at Fortuna, wearing her HBS hat, as she then did, it took every ounce of effort not to just scrawl
rejected across that resume because no matter how smart you are, no matter who you work for and the schools that you graduated for, if you can’t demonstrate
humility in this entire process, then I think you’re doomed to failure. It really is something that
these schools look for, and Harvard has a problem. Harvard Business School has a problem. It’s not visible to the outside world that sees a 90% yield
into the MBA program. They have more money than
they know what to build on that beautiful Boston campus of theirs, but somewhere along the line, with the whole change lives
and change the world slogan that Stanford has identified with, they have caught the
imagination of this generation, and though Harvard has a high yield, when they lose people,
as inevitably they do, they typically lose them to Stanford, whether that’s because of technology, and the West Coast, and innovation, and good weather, I guess, but just in this idea that
somewhere along the line Stanford’s almost
identified as the good guys, and it’s telling. Chad has organized and made sure that when
his team goes on the road to give those HBS info sessions, you know, they talk about, “Don’t
think about yourself as one “among 930 sort of alpha personalities, “type A competition. “Think about yourself in a cohort, “or a section of 90 students, “and a level of
collaboration and support,” so I would say that since Chad has arrived in the Harvard admissions
office as the director there in the last, what, three, four years, he’s truly looking for
that level of humility irrespective of the school or the companies that you’ve
been to or worked with. – Here’s another good question for you, so this person works at Deloitte in the business technology analyst role, and I know one of the more
fascinating aspects of the study, which we really didn’t
get into all that much, is the second-job phenomena, and this person is asking,
“Is it better to have worked “for another company after Deloitte “and then apply, “or stay at the same firm?” because Deloitte is still, it’s
a silver firm; It’s not MBB. – Well, with a gold plate because if you look at these numbers, Deloitte has outperformed
the rest of the Big Four by a country mile– – That’s for sure. – and building in, I guess, Monitor, that is also part of the Deloitte family. A couple of points to that one. One of the points of
data that Theo identified was that, on average, consultants, whether McKinsey, Bain,
BCG, Deloitte, or others, on average they have one
year fewer work experience than admits from other sectors. The flip side of that is that those coming from the military, as this slide explains, have, typically, between
2 1/2 or three years more experience than the
rest of the incoming class, so I think one of the things
you can draw from that is that whether at the first stage and then staying at that firm, or making a switch, there’s this sense that you’ve often got
tremendous industry breadth working in the consulting firms, and if you’re one of those that has quickly been given
levels of responsibility, and you have recommenders
that can talk about why you were given this
particular project, how you managed to connect
with senior executive clients, I don’t actually think that it is it makes that much difference. You know, the movement that
we saw in the investment banks is much less at the consulting firms, and over a three or four-year period these admissions offices clearly feel that those on a fast track are building that level of responsibility and demonstrating leadership potential, so no, I don’t see in the
numbers this need to move on. What we often see, I think,
after two, three years, is schools are probably quite interested by those that make a move that also has a sense of purpose. An example might be the consultant, two, three years into their career, that then joins a microfinance bank, or they join the Obama or the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. You know, they had this wonderful first step in their career, clearly want to have impact, and have made a very conscious decision to join an organization like that. I suspect that in the two or three years, as they then stand in
that step of their career, I suspect that their next employer, they might even have a head start in terms of the job title
that they negotiate. You know, they see a very
smart, capable individual, and the role that they
first interviewed for might get a little bit of
title inflation, but yeah, you can stay at Deloitte–
– Stay put. – provided that you’re on that fast track. – Stay put. Actually, I think one of the big surprises of the stats out of here is how strong Deloitte showed up on both top lists, much higher than I would have imagined, so hey, we are out of time, and I know we can go on and on about this because this is so fascinating, and we have so many questions that are gonna be left unanswered. Maybe what we can do is I’m
gonna send you the questions, and we can put them online somehow, answer them.
– Sounds good. – And, um–
– That sounds good. – and I’m just gonna point out that if you want one of
these detailed reports, or both of them, Fortuna is
making them available for free. All you gotta do is turn
in your e-mail address. Now, if you turn in your e-mail address, are you gonna hound these people for business or something, or what? – (laughs) Hey, I encourage
them to take a look through. I mean, you talked about elitism. There’s a degree of, there
are so many profiles, and the, you know, we spent hours, days,
weeks working on these, and to look at the stories of
the architect from Uruguay, or the person working in
agritech in the Midwest. I have an even deeper respect for the work of these admissions officers. I know that there are some
choices that you identify there as being the softer or the
easy choices for them to make, and how it creates this kind of bubble, but nevertheless, they’re reading anywhere between eight and
9 1/2 thousand applications, and the time that they must take to identify some of these stories. (audio garbles speech) of Nigeria, running a laundry firm after first steps of
his career in McKinsey. Gotta love that story, so yeah, please reach out for
a copy of those deep dives. We’ve tried to just open them up and share as many of those
job titles and experiences, and all of those personal stories, and would love to spend time with you finding out what your stories are too. – So I, you know, I’ve
looked over these reports, and they’re really detailed,
and they’re really worthwhile, and because they’re free, I mean, come on, you wanna get ’em, and in fact at Poets&Quants
we have abbreviated versions, stories based on the reports,
if you wanna look at them. Just look, go to Google, say Poets&Quants, feeder colleges and companies
to Harvard Business School or feeder companies and colleges to Stanford. You’ll find our very slim, sparse synopsis reports with, incidentally,
links to the Fortuna site so you can go right to them and get the actually detailed reports, and if you’re gonna apply
to Harvard or Stanford, or have any interest in them, I really recommend that you get them because you’re not
paying a penny for them, and maybe Matt will call you up and try to get you as
a client, but big deal. Who cares? Matt’s a nice guy, and you can say– – You know–
– “No, Matt– – I’d be just as happy–
– “I don’t have no money– (John drowns out Matt)
“for you.” (laughs) – Just as happy as if they join us by live stream or in person– – Exactly.
– In London– – Yes–
– at the debate– – And you know, Matt–
– for CentreCourt– – I think–
– So, um– – This stuff–
(John drowns out Matt) is so fascinating that I wonder if you and I
should conduct a session on it at CentreCourt in London. Well, think about it. – Well, of course we’ve got
many of the top schools, you know, a lot of the
top European schools, so I think we’ve got the time to put together a couple of deep dives for, what, INSEAD,
London Business School– – That’s true.
– and we could– – That could be–
– present those findings– – really cool, actually.
– at the London event. – That would really be
cool, actually, yeah. All right, hey, thank you for joining us. This recording will be posted on the site. I think we’ll also do a transcript, and we’re gonna take all the
questions that have been asked, and Matt and I will try to
answer them as quickly as we can, and also post that as well. All right, this is John
Byrne with Poets&Quants. Matt, thank you so much
for joining us in Paris, and for doing this incredible research. I’m blown away by it, and I’m a little jealous that
we didn’t do it ourselves. – At least we’re now
doing it together, right? So thanks for the time,
and the great questions, and yeah, we’ll try and get to
all those questions offline, put something together for the Poets site. – And for all of you who
actually hit the Send button today or yesterday on the Harvard Business School application because the actual deadline was at the moment we started our webinar, good luck to all of you. We really wish you the best. – Yeah, whew– (John laughs)
(John drowns out Matt) (laughs) Wharton (John drowns out Matt)
Stanford in the next 48 hours. – Indeed, all right,
good luck to everyone, and thanks for joining us.

11 thoughts on “Harvard & Stanford: Who REALLY Gets In

  1. Great research! Thank you for sharing!
    My thought is that these schools consider consulting = vast problem solving experience.

    We can argue whether junior staff at the top consulting firms really adds creative value but at least they are typically good at attributing success of the team as their own.

    Nonetheless, the lesson here is to probably optimize your own career for the variety of challenging experiences that hopefully create business or a social impact regardless of your origin, employer or country of origin.

  2. What would also be nice to do is to do the same LinkedIn research to identify the personal background of the admissions committee and see if there is a bias that reflects on the class composition.

  3. Would it be safe to assume that HBS and Stanford are simply tailoring to the requirements from the Top employers that pay top post-graduation salaries?

  4. Is there any way to do a cluster analysis to see what happens to a similar candidate group post graduation? Do former consultants get better ROI if they go to one school or the other?

    Same, based on the origin, nationality, prior employer/industry?

    Would be great to see “if-then choose this school” analysis.

  5. #Awesome mind-blowing #eyeopener that I should apply to #HBS and #GSB and be aware that I more than very likely SHOULD NOT keep #high #hopes or #positive #overconfident mindset of being #admitted here despite 10 years of work experience and I assume YOU DID NOT #RESEARCH on what age group or #EXPERIENCE in years or the #seniority level the maximum or major percentage of admits are in these #top Ivy league Universities Cheers !
    P.S – This would allow us to understand also that if we have switched companies or are not in the age denomination or profile that they most recruit as admits even though we seem to have a diverse profile with even perhaps an NGO or Govt public role that it would rather NOT BE ENOUGH and we would come to terms and NOT APPLY and concentrate on the second league of Universities and make a good application for the MBA !!

  6. Also #please tell me as I am #eager – what is the #second #list of #Great #schools both in the US and the World ( if we do not belong to the Ivy League Profile ? ) that would STILL DO A #GREAT #LIFE #FULFILLING experience and give us awesome fulfilling #careers and the same great knowledge, learning, networking and experience? What's the second best life, as you may call it, that you can have and which of the next set of MBA's should we be happy and aspiring for apart from the Ivy League?*

  7. Hello
    It was great seeing your video. I had a profile evaluation request as i am planning to take an admit in the said schools.how should i contact you guys. Will be of great help

  8. I think the "diversity" is mistakenly interpreted.

    They want the top people with diversed background from each sector, not diversed level of quality. Therefore, they only recruit from the top colleges, etc.

    I think HBS and GSB are still doing the right thing in recruiting talents for their class.

    Thanks to ETS, I learn more in analyzing arguments

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