Carey Lai's Corner

A former lemonade stand entrepreneur turned Venture Capitalist

TO MBA OR NOT TO MBA?

MBARecently, a colleague of mine received entrance to the most prestigious business school in the world – the Wharton School of Business (I’m biased, I went to Wharton).  My colleague asked me if he should go.  You’re probably thinking that I said,”of course!”  Well, you’re wrong.  I would never say anything that self-serving in order to support my cognitive dissonance towards going to business school.  As any good Associate would do, my colleague began to analyze the Midas List.  What’s the Midas List?  The Midas List is the list of the Top 100 VCs in the United States.  It’s the Who’s Who of VC.  Any VC not on the list will tell you that the list is gamed.  My colleague mapped each VC on the Midas List to his/her alma mater as well as those who chose not to attend business school.  Here’s the list: http://bit.ly/hLimRU.  It’s interesting to note that out of the 100 VCs on the list, 30 attended Stanford, 21 attended Harvard, 19 chose not to pursue an MBA and 7 attended Wharton.  So, here’s the ultimate question, should you attend business school.  My answer: It depends.  It depends on what you want to accomplish and how you think business school will enable you to achieve your goals.  I would not think too much about the loss of 2 years of wages as well as the cost of business school.  Conceivably, you’re attending business school when your earning power is relatively low.  So, cost aside, the real question is whether or not business school will help you attain your goal, whatever that may be.  I know it’s not a direct answer, however, it really does depend on a person’s situation.  Point blank, business school is NOT for everyone.  There are plenty of paths to achieve what you want out of life.  Getting a fancy degree from a fancy school is just one of many paths.  Just in case you’re wondering, my colleague chose to go to Wharton.

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6 comments on “TO MBA OR NOT TO MBA?

  1. Kendall
    April 23, 2011

    You shouldn’t be thinking of the two years if earnings as early in your career because by taking a two year hiatus, you’re actually cutting off the last two years of your career when your earning power is at it’s most. But if you’re going to go, go to Wharton!

    • CL
      April 24, 2011

      I couldn’t agree more. Often, it’s difficult to see the entire forest when you’re stuck in the trees.

  2. Jamie
    April 24, 2011

    A good business school program would expand your network exponentially. Hard work will get you only so far, the network needs to be in place to attain real success.

    One classmate stated at graduation that each classmate/relationship cost him about $2k and that it was a bargain.

    • CL
      April 25, 2011

      No doubt a good business school program would expand your network. However, at the same time, a good start-up program such as Y-Combinator or 500 Startups would also expand one’s network. I think network value is definitely valuable, but there are also ways to obtain a valuable network outside of B-school.

  3. Paul Y.
    April 25, 2011

    Did you bring up Wharton West to your Associate? Because all of a sudden that 2 years of earnings is not zeroed out.

    Other things that are difficult to measure are the network that you build and the intellectual stimulation that you get inside and outside of the classroom.

    • CL
      April 25, 2011

      Wharton West is a great option for West coasters, but I will admit not the most fun way to receive an MBA. Carrying a full-time job and full-time school is challenging, let alone trying to balance life (i.e. friends and family).

      I agree the network value of B-school is valuable. However, that’s not to say you wouldn’t be able to obtain a similar and effective network doing something else for 2 years. Additionally, intellectual stimulation comes in many forms. I think doing start-up would provide plenty of intellectual stimulation.

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This entry was posted on April 22, 2011 by in Uncategorized.
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