My Stanford GSB and Harvard Business School MBA Info Sessions

I basically burned a rubber streak along LA’s streets between my job in the South Bay and downtown during the time that H/S/W came to town and hosted their info sessions literally on the same block over the past 2 weeks or so.

While Wharton hosted its event in the Deloitte building (I did a recap in this post), HBS and Stanford booked the same room on the same floor in a Tower right across the street from Deloitte to host theirs; interesting. Here’s how it went down.

Harvard Business School LA Info Session

First up was HBS. After experiencing Wharton’s pre-info session meet and greet hour the week prior, I guess I was kind of expecting something similar; I had no such luck. After fighting through downtown LA’s horrendous mid town rush hour traffic, I sauntered off of the elevator on the 27th floor at approximately 5 after and walked–to my surprise–into a jam packed info session in full swing. Over the next 15 minutes or so, at least 15-20 other people stumbled their way into the party-in-progress as well.

The first thing that I noticed was that nearly everyone seemed to be in a dark suit. I, of course, had on my jeans–and a blazer. “Maybe this is a good sign”, I thought; “Maybe there’s no one else here from my industry, which would be good differentiation.”

The adcom who led the meeting was an HBS alum who you could tell loved giving back to her institution. As she gave her presentation, it became apparent that even she–who had no doubt given that talk a million times–was uber impressed with what she had to say about Harvard.

The alum panel consisted of a very bright group with standard, yet diverse post MBA professional interests. There was the entrepreneur, the finance guy, a young lady who works in entertainment and even a current student who was finishing up her internship out in LA.

The alums were a talkative and lively bunch. They were definitely eager to answer questions in a surprisingly candid way. The woman who works in entertainment shared a story about getting a small time job in Hollywood company X during the economic downturn and the paradigm shift that happened when her bosses realized she was a Harvard MBA. Mental note.

Overall, it was a great session. I just wish the other prospective students weren’t so stiff. You would have thought they were waiting in line for IRS auditors. The alums, on the other hand, were quite lively. In fact, all of them were dressed either casually or in business casual; now those are my kind of people.

Stanford Graduate School of Business LA Diversity Info Session

Just two days after the HBS info session, I attended Stanford’s diversity info session–same building, same room; actually same hors d’oeuvres, too. I got a kick out of that. I didn’t mind though, because they were finger lickin’ good (yes, I went there) and I was hungry on both occasions. A big +1 for HBS and Stanford.

Since I hate being late, I was determined not to repeat the events of two nights prior, so I made sure to arrive sufficiently early. I ended up being one of the first people there. Since this was a diversity event, there were far less people (although there should not have been. If you are a diversity prospective for Stanford and you missed this, shame on you), resulting in an intimate, almost familial environment.

For the first 30 minutes or so the prospective students basically snacked on finger food and got to know one another. And since the same group of people attend many of these events, I instantly recognized 5 or 6 familiar faces that I b-lined to in order to speak to them.

What I remember most about this particular session was the adcom representative, who was also an alum. She literally smiled the entire time. The. entire. time. I must say, I was impressed. I also noticed that there were many more folks in the room who were semi-casual compared to the HBS prospectives; including folks who I had seen just two nights before in dark suits. I find it interesting how each school seems to attract certain types–or bring out different sides of the same person.

The alum panel was warm and welcoming as well. Actually, their professional breakdown was almost identical to that of HBS. This reminded me that no matter how distinct many schools brands are, their alums ultimately end up in the same jobs most of the time. The actual people were similar as well. Both groups were top quality and probably would have fit in well at either school; no surprise there, I guess.

I found it odd, however, that some of the Stanford grads declined a few seemingly reasonable questions from the audience. That seemed uncharacteristic of Stanfordy folk to me. It was a different story one-on-one, though. Each of them gave a good deal of attention to prospective students who came up to them with questions afterward. One of them even agreed to give me some feedback on my essays and provided me with some key insights that I had not considered.

Value Props

While both info sessions were excellent, I could not help but notice two very distinct value propositions. The Harvard group harped on the brand and the network. Their power point slides featured professionaly designed charts and graphs and featured photos of grand dining halls, stately classrooms and sprawling grounds. It was all quite impressive. If their value prop were to be given a theme, it would have to be “We Are”, as in “We are Harvard. Come join us so that you, too can be a part of something great like this”.

The Stanford group kept talking about the environment–the ecosystem; and the relationships. The power point slides were largely conceptual.  They seemed to beg of you to think; to introspect. This approach was also impressive, but in a different way. If their value prop were to be given a name, it would have to be “You Will Become”, as in “At Stanford, you will become __________ (fill in the blank with your own possibility”.

Anyone who gets to attend either of these institutions is beyond fortunate.


Would you like my help getting into your dream b-school? Well, there are two starting points for that:

1. Get a Free Profile Analysis (after receiving your information, I’ll let you know whether or not I think I can help you)

2. Get Help Now (If you already know that you want help and what you want help on, then just skip to here)

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About mbaover30

Wharton MBA and admissions expert

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  1. MIT Sloan MBA Info Session | MBA Over 30 - September 1, 2012

    […] week after attending Harvard and Stanford’s info sessions in downtown Los Angeles, I attended the MIT Sloan info session in Santa […]

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