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Do You Ever Hide Your Wharton Degree?

by John McAdam

First know that I am honored to have earned a Wharton MBA. Wharton is the most intellectually stimulating place that I have ever been. However, as an entrepreneur sometimes I hide the fact that I have a Wharton MBA. Why? As a starter, Poets & Quants reveals that 16.8% of Wharton MBA applicants were admitted to the school in 2012. Given this acceptance rate as ‘average,’ a typical MBA class size of 800 means that 4,762 business people applied, 800 were accepted (ignoring admitted non attendees), and  3,962 MBA applicants were rejected. If we multiply these 4,000 rejected Wharton MBA applicants over 50 years, we generate almost 200,000 business people in circulation that just might harbor a grudge against Wharton. Do they remember their Wharton MBA application ‘ding letter’? And that’s just the rejected Wharton MBA applicants my fellow alum. Math aside, when we include Wharton undergraduate rejections, Wharton Executive MBA rejections, and all other Wharton program rejections – we Wharton graduates could be dealing with over a half of a million pissed off business people folks! Let’s ignore the family, friends, and loved ones of the rejected applicants to keep the angry mob under a million.  My assumption is that some business people who have been rejected by Wharton just might harbor a negative feeling about Wharton. Therefore, I sometimes hide my Wharton MBA affiliation until I feel comfortable that my Wharton credential will work for me rather than against me.  Am I alone hiding my Wharton degree at times? I welcome your comments, but let’s ask a few Wharton locals first.

Steve Smolinsky, WG79 comments, “I mention my Wharton MBA when it is useful. When I deal with smaller companies, Wharton to them implies high level knowledge, but also that I am an expensive expert. When dealing with small organizations, I don’t talk about my education at Wharton at all. When dealing with larger companies I always use it… It helps. However, being part of a premier business school can be very ‘off putting’ …. We tend to be stereotyped.”

I have observed Wade Roberts, WG76 underplaying his Wharton education at times and I always wanted to ask him why. Finally, Wade told me, “Perhaps it’s from my public company manufacturing background, but on the shop floor people sometimes assume that as a Wharton guy you are bringing complexity to the situation, or an aura of elitism. Therefore I underplay my Wharton education at times and bring it up when it’s relevant.”

Adam Moskow, W82, states “When negotiating on behalf of a client, I hide my Wharton degree so those I’m negotiating with aren’t intimidated and so they act naturally since being a Wharton guy in a negotiation can be looked at like being a lawyer. But, in business development I put Wharton out there 100% of the time. It’s a real selling point and often what people remember quickly in a positive way.”

How about you? Do you ever hide your MBA or other degree? If yes or no, then we will enjoy hearing from you in the comments to this article or you can email john at pioneerbusinessventures dot com.

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