The Value of an Elite MBA
I arrived in New York last week for Morgan Stanley’s two-day Early Insights MBA Program — a sort of recruitment accelerator for candidates interested in Investment Banking, Sales & Trading and Investment Research — it was more than a worthwhile experience.
We were warmly accepted at a dinner reception with students and Morgan Stanley reps, both junior and senior bankers and traders. What I immediately noticed were the schools represented — it was the who’s who of Top MBA Programs. Harvard, Stanford, Kellogg, Wharton, Booth, Darden, NYU, Columbia, Yale, Tuck, Fuqua, UNC. I immediately got the impression that Morgan Stanley was pretty targeted in its selection of the 60 – 70 that are invited. Btw, we were told they received well over 200 applications for the program and applications are heavily screened–for those that will apply for next year.
The welcome dinner was fantastic, not only was the food top-notch, the bankers were legitimately engaging, employees seemed warm and they did a wonderful job of making sure we felt comfortable around other students vying for the same jobs. The Tuck contingent was paired primarily with Wharton for the two days. Booth had pretty strong representation and I’d say they composed about 20% of those selected to participate.
The following day, Morgan Stanley had a nicely prepared series of panels touching on different units within the bank, a networking luncheon, visits to “the pool”, a case breakdown of the GM IPO and a cocktail hour afterward. I’ll spare the individual details of each panel, but you can always e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you want more. So here’s what I learned and have continued to reflect on the past few weeks…
I was worried (for nothing)
That my non-pedigree professional credentials would be a steep uphill climb for me to even get in front of top-notch firms. Hasn’t been the case at all, in many ways I think it’s helped me more than hurt me–but I digress. What’s actually made a huge difference is the fact that I’m attending one of the best business schools in the entire world. (According the Economist it’s actually number 1). I don’t say that flippantly or boastfully, in fact, I say it with great deference for the reputation that’s been paved for people like myself to have access to companies like Morgan Stanley before I even step foot in Hanover.
Mind you, being selected for Morgan Stanley is not the only accomplishment of my pre-MBA summer, I’ve had and continue to have doors opened at other firms. Not gonna lie, I’m kind of thinking in my head, “What did I do to deserve this?” That in mind, my experience is not like everyone’s pre-MBA trek. In fact I’d say it’s not normal to start recruiting so early, but I heard something last week at Early Insights from a Tuckie that spoke volumes to me.
I asked him the question, “I know Investment Banking is highly competitive, how many people who actually interview at Tuck actually get jobs at Bulge Bracket firms?” His response, “Probably about 85%. If you want a job in Investment Banking you’ll get it, as long as you put the work in.” I was shocked, he followed, “And if you want to work at Morgan Stanley I’d say you have about a 70% chance.” Wow. Now I’m not sure how accurate his math was but his responses were very telling.
The door has been opened.
Something I heard throughout the decision-making process, given the schools I was choosing between was, “It’s a good problem to have.” “You can’t go wrong with any of those schools.” At the time I was a bit skeptical, but the rhetoric is coming to fruition. The common denominator between all, yes all, of the Elite MBA programs is that they prepare you. Most of them are very rigorous in your first year, all of them have sterling reputations and each of them has a special relationship with recruiting at each of these firms.
A tidbit that I actually got from a Boothie Banker at MS said it all (Paraphrasing slightly), “Look, you’ve already been branded as the best of the best, it’s up to you to take the opportunity if you want it. By next January you’ll have more offers from some of the biggest names on the Street than you thought was possible… just remember you passed the first and biggest test by getting into an Elite MBA program. If you ask me, that’s the real value of what you’re about to do.”
When I surveyed the room one last time and saw that I was sharing a glass of wine with Yalies, Sternies and everyone in between, I began to internalize what “you can’t go wrong at any of these schools” really meant. You’ve made a commitment to a promising future that many before you have paved. You’re expected to work hard, play hard and lay the path for those that come after you. Being part of an ‘elite’ group doesn’t mean white glove service and your nose projected skyward, it simply means the bar was raised higher at the beginning–and you jumped over it.