HBS to Open Second-Year Classes to Visitors

Harvard Business School Admissions GuideWe always tell applicants to visit their target business schools before applying. After all, how can you claim to really know an MBA program well — and be certain that you want to go there — when you’ve never even visited the school? This is especially true for the most competitive programs, where being an informed applicant may make the difference between an acceptance letter and heartbreak.

Harvard Business School has always presented a bit of a problem for applicants, particularly over the past few years, when its Round 1 application deadlines has crept up to the beginning of October. Harvard’s famous case-study method makes for a unique classroom experience, and the school does open some first-year classes to applicant visitors, but Harvard doesn’t do this until after its Round 1 deadline has already passed. Unless they visit the HBS the previous academic year, Round 1 applicants have to submit their applications before they ever set foot in a classroom and see the case-study method for themselves.

Fortunately, the school seems to have listened to complaints from applicants. Late last week HBS Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid Dee Leopold posted a note on the Harvard admissions blog announcing that the school will “open up a small number” of second-year classes to visitors in September. Leopold went on to write, “As you probably know, our entire second-year is an elective curriculum (vs. the “required” curriculum in the first year) so students are not in 90-person sections as they are in the first year. I think visitors will find this a great opportunity to see the case method in action – and get a glimpse of our second-year students.”

Harvard has understandably been reluctant to open up its first-year classes to visitors right away, since those sections are just starting to get into a rhythm and get used to the case study method. After all, as intimidating as it may be to visit an HBS classroom as an applicant, keep in mind how it must feel to be a new first-year student who’s in the line of fire. Once each section has had time to mature and get used to the way things work, then HBS is comfortable letting in visitors. It has always been unfortunate that this practice directly conflicted with the idea of letting Round 1 applicants “try before they buy,” and the second-year classroom solution seems to be a nice compromise.

No more details are available yet, but this coming week Harvard will post detailed instructions on how to arrange a classroom visit. September visitors will only be able to visit second-year classes, and anyone who comes October 3 and later will be able to visit first-year classes.

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