Wharts and All: Blogging the Full-Time MBA Program at the Wharton School

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Wharts and All [Edit 1]

Harvard's got Year One. Stanford's got Snapshots from Hell. What's Wharton got? I'm almost of a mind to attend the school just so that I can publish my own observations on life at Wharton. I'd call it Wharts and All. As the title implies I'd need to do my best to create an objective, balanced record of life before, during and immediately after Wharton.

Boosterism threatens to confound my authorly ambitions, though. The moment a person is accepted to a school his own interests are suddenly realigned in a way that supresses his desire to write anything that might tarnish the institution. Few students or graduates dare write anything that might draw heat or controversy because they want to perpetuate the brand glow that separates these schools from the rest. Meanwhile, graduates of less elite programs hope that if they only squeeze their eyes shut and wish hard enough and never say a mean thing (ever) then they'll be rewarded with the fame and fortune that accompany a rise in the business school rankings.

Thankfulness also conspires against honesty: I already feel incredible personal allegience to Alex Brown simply because he is the face of the admissions committee that chose to baptise the next chapter of my life with an admittance from the big W. I feel obliged to return the favor. I found myself wondering whether I should add my own voice to the ranks of student diarists, thinking that I could help Alex market the school to applicants. I'm not alone in these feelings judging from the tenor of posts that gush about all things positive at Wharton but remain mum on anything that's truly critical. This form of bias also applies to bloggers at other schools. Stanford's lone truthful blogger shut her blog down just a month into the start of the program when a negative post about a classmate's cheating got her into hot water with others at the school. And Mark reads like a Harvard infomercial at times.

The result is that there are very few honest opinions being published from the inside of any of these schools. Wharton comes the closest to actually giving the outside world a real feel for what it's like on the inside (much to Wharton's credit!). Even though the Wharton bloggers who have their mundane day-in-the-life vignettes touted all over the Wharton website are volunteers, they're publishing (and are publicised) on the Wharton admissions site. Surely this comes with either implicit or explicit understanding of what's appropriate and what isn't? (I don't know if they are given guidelines or not.) How likely is it that one of them will level a serious criticism at the school when their supervisor and sponsor in these blogging endeavors is on the school staff? Not likely.

Where are the William F. Buckleys of the MBA programs? Where are the cantankerous rabblerousers who circulate flyers on campus, pen letters of protest, and chain their naked bodies to bicycle racks in order to protest cruelty against something or another? They're all too scared!

They're scared for naught. No single voice is going to change perceived reputation of the Stanford, Wharton or Harvard brands. Most MBA types have an inflated sense of the impact of their own opinions. Did Stanford beef up the quality of its instruction in response to Peter Robinson's complaints? Doubtful. Did Stanford take a dive in the rankings as a result of the book? No. Is the book even that relevant to Stanford today? Doubtful.

And so I really doubt that this piddly little blog and the eventual mega book deal--we're talking four figures easy--that comes with being a faithful and interesting blogger will do much to alter anyone's opinion of Wharton. Confident in my own insignificance, I hereby pledge to to squelch bland boosterism and tell it like it really is.

Check back with me in a year and tell me if I've kept this promise or if I've wussed out.

PS: My, how time flew today! The length of this post is inversely proportional to the amount of work I accomplished today. Luckily, I've trained my secretary to do about 90% of my job.

PPS: For the record, I don't really think there's all that much difference in quality between any of the top business programs. (There are major differences in focus, in student culture, in student and faculty attitude, however.) I mentioned Harvard, Stanford and Wharton here because these schools have managed their brands and massaged their places in the rankings game particularly well. They're top by fiat.

Edit 2: I had incorrectly stated that Wharton's student diarists are selected by the school's staff. This has been corrected.


Blogger Dirty_Martini said...

Welcome to the bloggers, and congrats on W.

Finnnalllly - a fun, honest, and cool blogger!! Me likey

1/04/2005 05:17:00 PM  
Blogger Robert said...

Hmm, there is already a publication at Wharton that called "The Whart". The newsletter is run by John Brown (no relationship to Alex Brown) and could be accessed at

1/04/2005 05:55:00 PM  
Blogger bskewl said...

Thanks for the link! I think I heard about this publication during a happy hour and didn't remember it until you reminded me.

1/04/2005 08:40:00 PM  
Blogger bskewl said...

Thank you, DM, for the compliment. I've been a subscriber (via RSS) to your blog for a month or so. I enjoy reading your updates.

I also subscribe to your blog, Robert, but alas the updates are about as rare as [insert religious miracle here].

1/04/2005 08:43:00 PM  
Blogger Classy said...

Thanks for the comments on my blog, Zach! You never cease to crack me up. You also need to give out a way to email you, you know! ;-)

You definitely have earned some loyal fans here (specifically, WC, DM, and me)!

1/04/2005 09:18:00 PM  
Blogger bskewl said...

You're setting expectations too high. I swear I'm going to run out of juice in three more posts if you expect me to be funny or interesting five times a week (well four, the Friday compilations don't count).

Oh, one more thing: I have a confession to make... I went and trolled the homophobic marine's blog anonymously. I suppose I shall be found out shortly, but I so badly want to bait him into saying something even more damning and wrongheaded so that I can quote him in tomorrow's post.


As for my email address: zachlee78 at gee mail.

1/04/2005 09:32:00 PM  
Blogger zacharyemig said...

There are several reasons for this phenomenom:

1. As you mentioned, the emotional investment in the school, and the hope for improved ratings. Why cheer against the home team?

2. The fact that many students rely upon alumni for job leads, and many alumni would frown upon someone dissing the school.

3. For the most part, MBA life is a pretty sweet. Grades don't matter, you have 3 day weekends (at most schools), you get to spend tons of time recruiting for a job you love, and you have a bunch of strangers (alumni) helping you to get that job. Sure, you're paying a lot of $$$ for this,'s hard to get in a complaining frame of mind.

4. MBA students are older than undergrads, and--having some real world experience under their belts--more likely to look down upon rabble-rousing in general. i.e. what's the productive benefit of rabble rousing?

5. If no other bloggers are writing bad things about their schools, would you want to be the first one to do so?

I doubt that many bloggers intentionally lie about their schools; more likely, they choose to only write about the good points (i.e. 99% of the MBA experience). I don't think it's a big deal if blog readers don't get to see the 1% aggravating part...and I'm not sure what the student would get out of writing about that.

Zachary (the other Zach?)

1/05/2005 07:50:00 AM  
Blogger Robert said...

On a separate note ...
As a Wharton admit, you should be permitted to post on the Diaries site, right? If so it would be interesting to see how transparent Wharton really is and whether they will try to censor your posts...

1/05/2005 12:01:00 PM  
Blogger Megami said...

Does this post imply that you are all set for Wharton? Is W your first choice?

1/05/2005 12:02:00 PM  
Blogger bskewl said...

Robert: I don't even want the conflict of interest that would come with publishing on that site. I'd feel too obligated to tone it down, spritz it up, or keep it quiet. I'd feel self-conscious using the occasional four-letter word, and I want to feel comfortable as I write. If any school would be willing to do this, though, it'd be Wharton.

Megami: Let's put it this way: Palo Alto is my first choice geographically speaking, but Stanford's admissions office appears to be a cold, black box compared to the humane Wharton admissions process. If that coldness is an overall school thing (and not just an adcom thing) then my choice will be clear. I've heard Derek can turn on the charm once someone's admitted, though. We'll see. I've been interviewed by Stanford but I'm fully prepared to love the one I'm with.

1/05/2005 12:53:00 PM  
Blogger Riter said...

Hi,I've been catching up with my bskewl reading and thought this was a great post!

Based upon my [limited] knowledge and experiences with these schools, I'm going to go out on a limb and say that as opposed to S/H, W is likely to actually do something to address any such issues that have been raised by a student. A Wharts and All would actually be looked upon as an opportunity for improvement at Wharton. In fact, constructive criticism -and the attitude of lets do somethig about it- seems to be a way of life out there.

1/07/2005 10:21:00 AM  
Blogger bskewl said...

Riter - I get the same impression. I went to an info session where many of the alumni there noted that the school made changes as a result of student feedback. It was a running joke that the school was "student run" -- and there was a bit of playful jousting between Alex and the alumni on this topic.

I don't know how much this is true at either H or S. I only know what I've learned about Wharton (and that's quite a bit, thanks to the wonderful job the school does communicating student perspectives to prospectives).

1/07/2005 06:13:00 PM  
Blogger Alex said...

just to clarify, we do not 'select' diarists, they self select.

1/08/2005 09:21:00 AM  
Blogger bskewl said...

Thanks for noting that inaccuracy. I'm correcting it now.

1/08/2005 06:07:00 PM  
Anonymous john brown said...

hey gang, this is john brown, the guy who wrote the whart. nice site. are you at wharton now? would love to chat at some time. i'm working on a new site. details to follow soon....

7/20/2006 11:14:00 PM  
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