Friday, May 26, 2006

Getting a Harvard MBA: Wiggle room on admissions criteria

I just read "From Bush league to Ivy League: Harvard biz school takes Jenna’s dropout ex-beau", by Jenna Wolf of the Boston Herald. The subject of the article is Blake Gottesman, a Texan who was admitted to the Harvard Business School's MBA program, even though he only attended college for one year. The Herald gleefully dives into Gottesman's association with the Bush family. Besides dating Jenna, he also was George Bush's (MBA '75) personal aide, a job which he got without any formal interview, reports the Herald. The newspaper is clearly questioning how one of the most rigourous MBA programs in the country can accept someone with limited academic experience. The tone of the article strongly suggests that Gottesman's Bush connections helped get him in.

If this student was accepted to the MBA program mainly because of his political connections, it would indeed be very unfair, and unfortunate.

Even if political connections had nothing to do with the Business School's decision, it still reflects quite badly on the Business School. After all, the B-school should only admit the brightest students, with superior business and management abilities, a drive to succeed, and solid undergraduate backgrounds, right?

Wrong. While being smart and having business and management talents should be criteria for the Business School, I do not believe the lack of a college degree should automatically disqualify someone from entering the MBA program. There are some brilliant entrepreneurs and managers who either didn't attend college, or couldn't complete their degree. Bill Gates is one example (although he did complete three years of college as a Harvard undergraduate in the 1970s), and there are others who couldn't attend or finish college because of military service or family issues. They are the types of people who should be given a special look. If they excel in other areas, and their admissions essays and GMAT scores pass muster, why shouldn't they be considered for admissions into Harvard's MBA program?

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The value of an MBA, con't

When education trumps experience

Part-time vs. Full-time, Online, and my Harvard whine

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