We are still skewed to consulting and finance

Traditionally, many business schools have been dominated by consultants and investment bankers, and HBS is no exception. According to HBS’s official report on students’ pre-MBA industries (class of 2015), 31% are from financial services (including investment banking and VC/PE) and 19% are from consulting. This means non-consultant or non-bankers account for only half of the class size.

These numbers grow when we look at the proportion of students who have experience in consulting or banking, because many students, whose pre-MBA industries were not strictly considered consulting or banking were actually employed by consulting firms or investment banks but are listed by their latest industry.

Based on my section’s profile, I calculated the proportion of students who have experience in consulting or finance.

Class Profile

As can be seen, approximately 70% of my section is dominated by consultants, bankers, or old soldiers in these fields. While this only represents one section, I feel it accurately represents the entire class. After the financial crisis, HBS is still skewed to consultants and bankers.

These facts have two implications:

One is that it’s difficult for consultants and bankers (both applicants and students) to differentiate themselves just because they have consulting/banking experience. They have sophisticated PPT/Excel skills, setback experiences and great achievements in difficult projects, but the majority of their classmates have similar experience. If you are a consultant or a banker in the application process, many of your self-perceived strengths may not unique. In the classroom many classmates raise their hands when you raise your hand. You need to differentiate your strengths apart from your work experience in order to stand out from the crowd.

The second implication is that non-consulting/banking students have great value in their study group, section and other communities at HBS. For the majority of students, their thoughts and experiences are always new and worth listening to. They bring creative ideas to the communities, and their insights deepen discussions among consulting/banking students which tend to be stereotypical. If you are an applicant and have a background other than consulting/banking, you should be proud of it and make the maximum use of your work experience.

HBS is always refining its admission strategy, and I hope the number of students from non-traditional industries continues to grow.

5 thoughts on “We are still skewed to consulting and finance

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  5. Kevin


    Thanks for the insightful blog post! I am applying to HBS this upcoming fall and am not coming from a Consulting or Finance background (as defined above). I saw that this article was posted a couple of years back, so I’m not sure that I’ll get a reply, but figured I’ll send a note in the event that you’re still providing advice regarding HBS admissions.

    I am curious to learn more about what I can do to optimize my candidacy. I’d greatly appreciate if you could spare some time for a brief call to discuss in further detail. I can be reached via email at kjalayer@gmail.com or via phone at 516-815-6992.



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