Sunday, February 16, 2014

Should I have gone to Harvard?

We just had the 1st round admit weekend on campus and it was interesting to see many potential members of the class of 2016 evaluate their classmates, campus and faculty. I hosted a German admit (who has just paid his deposit and will be coming to the GSB - Way to go Daniel!) and was thinking more than usual about why coming to Stanford was the right choice for me, what it meant and also what I had to sacrifice.

Adding on to this, last week I was asked by a classmate who had also been accepted at Harvard if I sometimes think that I should have gone HBS. I think about it at least once a week and most likely much more often. Especially coming from Europe the HBS brand name carries so much more weight and is the Coca-Cola of education - something really everyone knows. As most human beings (some more, some less), I like to impress people. I find it satisfying to see that my parents and friends are proud of me. I could have had so much more of that had I gone to HBS especially talking to people that have only heard about both schools and never did any research. Still, I believe Stanford is the place where I can grow the most and where I am prepared to have maximum impact in whichever path I end up choosing.

Whenever I think about that a quote from our Dean of Admissions comes to my mind. Someone asked him the grandparents question:

"Derrick, my grandparents have no idea what Stanford is. I want them to be proud and I remember how excited they were when I got into Harvard."

Derrick's answer:

"You know it is really sad if your grandparents don't really know where you are going to school. But imagine, that one day your grandkids won't know where you went to school."

Stanford is a great place, but in some regions outside the US it does not yet have the reputation of Harvard. This will change over time though. Stanford is forward-looking, innovative and shapes the world like very few other places. Going to Stanford means taking pride in what is possible, not in what has been.

1 comment:

  1. Congrats on all your success! That's an interesting point you (via Derrick) make. A few observations:

    - Harvard has been around and revered for 378 years. You're suggesting that in 50 years (when you're a grandfather), people won't know what Harvard is? I understand the sentiment, but, come on.

    - It's a certainty that the prospective student's grandparents don't know what Stanford is, but it's still uncertain if his future grandchildren will know what Harvard is. Why would he pick a certain negative over an uncertain negative. That doesn't make sense to me.

    - To the point above, wouldn't it be worse for one's grandparents to not know of one's school than one's grandchildren. By the time you're a grandfather, it doesn't matter where you went to school, one's life is defined by so much more at that point (hopefully accomplishments). When one is in school, the reputation of that school matters quite a bit (I'd argue more than at any other time in one's life). So wouldn't you want the height of the school's reputation to coincide as closely as possible with when you're a student, not when you're on your deathbed?

    - Finally, the comment generally insinuates that HBS and Harvard aren't very much focused on the future, though from just reading a few articles, that doesn't seem very true (though I agree that Stanford has a reputation for innovation).

    I get that the Derrick soundbite sounds nice, but does it make much sense logically?

    Full disclosure - I was accepted at both schools several years ago (and debated this with myself) but decided not to get an MBA after all.