Is it worth spending $200k to get an MBA at a top business school?

Prepwise AnswersCategory: MBA AppsIs it worth spending $200k to get an MBA at a top business school?
Career Dev Staff Staff asked 3 years ago
1 Answers
Kate McKeon Staff answered 3 years ago

Based on the amount of capital that HBS grads control directly and indirectly, I’d have to say – it’s a damn good idea if you want to make impact in your chosen field.
That said, it isn’t for everyone. Indeed, I just wrote an article to that effect – Why You Don’t Belong at Harvard – it’s a commentary on the undergrad but is applicable to HBS as well.
[[I send folks to both HBS and the undergrad each year (as well as gsb, stanford undergrad, wharton and a few others as fits) so my opinion stems from my observation of the career trajectories of similarly talented students – some who understand the game they’re getting into, others who do not. All opinions are mine, yadda, yadda.]]
You’re betting on the access you get. They’re betting you carry the torch.
Imagine you are about to invest half a million dollars*. Choose the return you expect. Now look at your career aspirations – can you reap that return on $1/2mm investment by following your chosen/expected career path? Can you do so now?
Timing matters. Just as the @The single biggest reason why startups succeed, so too is your ability to reap what you sow at HBS. Go too early and you underwhelm your classmates and professors, don’t make the bonds you hope to count on later and frankly probably just piss around for a while after school. Not ideal. Go too late – which I’m a lot less concerned about – and you may find your peers are too junior to be of much use so you have more legwork with alum. The too early is potentially a problem. The too late isn’t really a problem if you’re willing to reinvent yourself.
I put an MBA value calculator in the footer here: GMAT
It’s based on the aggregate salary data for each of the top 10 schools over 20 years. Put in your current salary, rate of return you want 5 for 5% for example and it will spit back your extra return by choosing to go to each of the top 10 schools.
Spoiler alert HBS is the winner in $ terms.
But is it all about money?
No, but yes. How much you make may not be that compelling. But he/she who controls capital can determine the fate of many of our systems. Love it or hate it, it helps to know those who have influence and potential control. Are you interested in business? Are you interested in impacting a system – technological, ecological, educational – you name it – you’ll need capital, access to capital and people willing to aid. HBS is no panacea. And plenty of regular state school kids (look at Fortune 50 CEO list) blossom into roles of prominence, but in terms of playing your cards, HBS is a damn good call if you want to play the game.
About that $1/2mm investment, it’s not quite the same as buying a house. You can’t parcel yourself up if you get sick of being an HBS grad. You’ll be reselling yourself daily. You’re investing in your brand. Can you justify spending that much on a branding exercise? When you know what you want to do with it – it’s worth the expense.
*1/2mm: about $200-220k for 2 years (don’t forget trips and summer expenses – you’re missing out if you don’t join your peers) + lost wages ($60k-120k covers most of the class, adjust based on your income) – I chose $120k/yr, about $450k for 2 years.