Monday, October 20, 2003

HBS Class Visit

"Waking up at 7 on a cold monday morning better be worth it", I thought to myself as I pulled into the parking lot at Harvard Business School this morning. I was there for the class visit program. A tip for those planning to visit - there's free parking for prospective students on campus ! That was a very pleasant surprise. I forgot to bring along a map - yes, this is a real campus with 20+ buildings. I found my way to Dillon and was given a personalized letter with the names of my student host & professor, class name, section & location. There are approximately 2-3 students per host and we met our host a few minutes before class and were escorted to the class.

This was a first year class, and the students use the same class room for the year. We were introduced to the professor before class, and a few other students stopped by to say hi while we were looking for empty seats. Parents of one of the students who were visiting her were also sitting in for that class. When the class started, they were introduced and given a loud ovation by the students. It was very genuine and very very cool. The prospective students were then introduced and welcomed and we got a round of applause also.

The formalities done, the class got down to the business of learning. Having read so much about the merits and demerits of the case method, I was very curious to see it in action. After an hour and half of class, I am a convert ! I learnt so much just by being a passive observer on a subject I had no idea walking in. I wanted to jump in and add my own questions and opinions to the mix many times. I can only imagine how much fun it must be as a student. The professor was excellent too - there was total class participation and he stepped in at the right times to steer the conversations in certain directions so that at the end of the class every aspect he wanted discussed and learnt was. I was impressed.

But there are some things I wish HBS did differently. The class visits at HBS are just that - class visits. You pretty much go home after that. My student host told me that some of them were going to meet at lunch to talk with prospective students. But that's very informal and not something that's scheduled. I would not have known about it if I hadn't talked to my student host about it. Also, their info sessions are at 3 PM, again no registration required. It would have been more convenient if all of these were blended in together.

I had an 8:40 class and the students had another class following that, so there was pretty much no time to talk with anyone except my host. It was hard for me to make the trek back to the campus for lunch at 12. I work nearby so I might go back and do lunch someday to talk to the students. Overall, a good experience, but feels incomplete. I really wanted to meet with the students to get a sense of what a HBS person is all about. Very few opportunities to do that on this visit. Great campus, smart bunch of people, the case method is awesome.

I wasn't sure if I should apply to HBS, and I still am not sure. The one thing my host mentioned was that if you don't have leadership written all over you (thru your essays) expect to get dinged. I want to get some elaboration on this and other questions I have for the students. The one thing I couldn't help was compare this visit to my visit to Sloan a few weeks ago. Will blog that tomorrow and maybe a comparison.
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