By betsy On Friday, January 25 th, 2013 · no Comments · In , ,

I have seen a lot of discussion around the internet about the right “feeder schools” to top MBA programs. Some websites, such as Poets & Quants, back into an aggregation of the top feeder schools, but even before discussing them, you want to be aware of false correlations, and of assuming causation when there really is none.

Harvard Business School has done us all a favor by publishing a list of schools where students from the HBS Class of 2014 come from. It’s encouraging to see the incredible range of schools. The international scope takes your breath away; who knew there were students from the University of Macau? Aalto University in Helsinki, Southeast University, Universidad Pontificia de Comillas?

That just speaks to the exciting diversity of an MBA education, especially at a school that has a worldwide draw such as Harvard Business School. The other kind of diversity is in type of school. Of course Princeton, Yale, Dartmouth, Stanford and other brand names populate the list (more on that later), but what about a school that is about as free-form as Bard? Or a brand-new school such as the Franklin W. Olin College, or a specialized schools such as Kettering University. I mean, who knew?

Undergraduate institutions represented at the Harvard Business School Class of 2014.

This should cheer a lot of people up, figuring that if they didn’t go to an “Ivy” or a state-school Ivy like Michigan or North Carolina, that all is lost. Good Lord, that’s not true.

So I posted this link on a forum in which I participate called Wall Street Oasis. It’s for young folks who are either trying to break into Wall Street or a similar job. It’s a very humorous venue. In any case, the first comment I got after posting was, “ha ha if your school isn’t on it!.” Well, again, that doesn’t hold water. I work as a resume coach at the Stanford Business School, and get to see people’s backgrounds. I’ve seen students from UC Davis, a terrific California state school which is not represented this year at HBS, Portland State, University of Ulster, my goodness, there’s no one in the HBS class of 2014 from the University of Nebraska? What would Warren Buffet (who was rejected from HBS, by the way)

So if you are worried that your undergraduate school puts you at a disadvantage, as long as you did well there, you should be fine.

Now, a quick note about “feeder schools.” You’ll see on the web that a lot of students did come from schools such as Harvard, MIT, Stanford, Yale. But that’s partly a function of the number of students that applied, and partly a function of what people are “expected to do.” In short, if you went to Dartmouth, does it mean you will automatically get into HBS? No. Does it help? Maybe. If you went to University of Nebraska, does it mean you won’t get in? Nope. If you got a 2.5 GPA at Penn, will you be looked at more than someone who got a 3.5 at Arizona State?
Probably not. But it depends on what you took, what that other student took, and on and on.

There’s a rhyme and a reason, and most of it makes sense. But it doesn’t make sense to game your past. If you are unhappy with your previous school or previous GPA, you can take a course an get an alternative transcript. I’ll write more about courses that work for an alternative transcript in another blog post, or if you’ve got a specific question, just email me.