Business School Profile: Harvard
The MBA Exchange is featuring a series of articles showcasing graduate management programs that our thousands of clients have found most rewarding. Our content is compiled from a number of credible sources and articles and expanded with our own observations based on nearly two decades of advising applicants.
The Harvard MBA curriculum helps students develop a capacity for analysis, assessment, judgment, and action. Through its renowned case method approach to learning, students develop, refine and exercise practical leadership skills. Our clients have characterized their HBS experience as “transformational” and “enduring.”
To help prepare today’s students for tomorrow’s challenges, Harvard’s first-year curriculum includes FIELD – Field Immersion Experiences for Leadership Development. This course provides meaningful small-group learning that is both experiential and immersive. FIELD enhances the classroom learning experience by enabling students to reflect upon and apply in the field what they discussed during the more traditional case study analysis and action planning.
The case method, pioneered and perfected by HBS faculty over decades, and one of the highlights of the Harvard MBA experience, requires students to confront real issues faced by leading companies, nonprofits, and government organizations, placing the student in the role of the decision maker. By exchanging perspectives, countering and defending points, and building on each other’s ideas in real time, HBS students become adept at analyzing issues, exercising judgment, and making difficult decisions under extreme pressure. The case studies, usually written by HBS faculty, are “intentionally incomplete and difficult.” Mastering them requires rigorous deliberation and risk appetite.
Class participation is central to the HBS learning model. In fact, a student’s grade in most courses is based heavily on the quality of his or her class participation. This requires students and faculty to work closely together—another hallmark of the HBS experience. The infamous “cold call” is a rite of passage; professors open the class discussion of a case by choosing, at random and without warning, one student to provide his or her overview, analysis and action plan. During a two-year Harvard MBA education, the likelihood of being tapped for a “cold call” at least once keeps everyone on their toes – which is really the purpose. Even years later, at class reunions, peers still remember each other’s “cold call openings.”
At orientation, HBS students are assigned to 6- or 7-person Learning Teams, consisting of individuals from different sections – with whom they will work and collaborate for graded projects – throughout their first year. Students are also assigned to a specific Section – a diverse group of approximately 90 students with whom they will complete the Required Curriculum. Section mates take first-year classes together; Section faculty teach and manage the learning environment as students exercise their team-building and management skills. The professional and personal bonds formed among those in a Section last a lifetime.
HBS offers a truly global MBA. One-third of the cases studied are international in scope, and a wide variety of MBA classes and cases directly address global business issues. To support its research and case development process, the School maintains a network of Global Research Centers. More than 70,000 HBS graduates represent over 150 countries – a valuable lifelong network of potential allies, advisors, investors and confidantes. HBS ties run deep, to say the least.
Attending Harvard is like being a “kid in a candy store.” HBS is of course renowned for its faculty whose members faces and voices are familiar in the news, making an impact on the world’s stage. Hundreds of expert speakers and nearly 20 conferences further enhance the HBS experience for students. Annual events include International Week, Section Olympics, Movie Nights, the HBS Business Plan Contest in either the Business Venture Track or the Social Enterprise Track, and the HBS Show. The array of extracurricular options can be overwhelming, so choosing those with the most appeal can be difficult. Over 70 clubs and activities are available; these enable students to impact the local community and offer a diversion from academic life.
Beyond Harvard’s storied walls are beautiful, historic Boston and Cambridge. HBS students can soak up the vibe of Harvard Square, sample a world of culinary options in Central Square, Walk the Freedom Trail and traipse Beacon Hill’s cobblestone lanes. They can frequent the Museum of Fine Arts and the Boston Symphony, the Museum of Science and the iconic home of the Boston Red Sox, Fenway Park. A weekend escape on Cape Cod is a brief drive away, as are the quiet charms of New Hampshire and Vermont. Cosmopolitan and vibrant, Boston is an accessible, albeit often expensive, university town.
If this is an MBA program that appeals to you, please request a free evaluation of your candidacy. If you’ve decided to pursue admission, then contact The MBA Exchange for a dialogue with one of our admissions consultants – including former admissions officers and MBA grads — who can help you develop a strategy and tactics to maximize your chances for admission at this and other top-tier b-schools.