Spring Break is over, the FIN II final is rapidly approaching and (for many of the RCs at least) summer jobs have been found. So what could there possibly be that might prevent the outbreak of ultimate frisbee and soccer on Baker Beach?
You’ll hear a lot about it in the coming days and it is, of course, the process of choosing courses for the second year at HBS. This is a somewhat daunting procedure but one which will soon have the entire RC discussing Ws, Xs and Ys, Cross-registration, Field Studies and ISRs as well as who the favorite Professors are and which courses have the heaviest workload! Fortunately, the end result will be one where pretty much everyone gets to take most of the classes that they choose – so don’t stress out too much. However, it is important to adhere to the deadlines and make sure that you do the research early.
The basic process is the following: All students must rank their preferences from a list of courses that will be taught next year. Although most submit a list of 15-20 courses, you will have an opportunity to select up to 30 from a list of approximately 80 offerings covering everything from Accounting to TOM. Once everyone has submitted their preferences for the fall and winter terms combined, a computer program will allocate to each student (as fairly as possible – and based on a complex logic with which you will soon become familiar) a total of 10 classes per student.
There are, however, a few extra wrinkles to the process. Namely, approximately 50% of the class choose to work on a Field Study or Individual Student Research and around 20% choose to Cross-Register for courses at other schools (such as KSG or MIT Sloan). Although you do not pre-register for these options, it’s wise to begin planning now.
A Field Study is an opportunity to work in a team (typically 3 or 4 students) while Individual Student Research is for individuals. Each team works together with a faculty supervisor to conduct research, carry out thoughtful analyses and prepare a report and/or final presentation.
Topics might be anything from preparing a business plan, writing a case, or working with external sponsoring organizations.
My personal suggestion on how to approach the process is set out below, but you may also wish to read what other members of OB had to say on the subject:
o Decide whether your focus is on breadth or depth across the 10 different subject areas (academic departments). For example, do you want to take a lot of marketing courses and no finance, or a little of everything?
o Read up on the course descriptions and then talk to as many people as you can (students and faculty) to understand the differences between offerings. For example, what is the difference between Capital Markets and Corporate Financial Management (CFM)? Should you take Entrepreneurial Finance (EF), International Entrepreneurial Finance (IEF)
o Consider whether you want to pursue a Field Study, Individual Student Research or Cross-Register. All of these take extra effort to coordinate, but results can be worth it.
o Be aware of the extra options – a sixth course, auditing, and half-courses.
o Watch out for whether a course is paper-based (20 classes and then a paper), half-course, or exam-based (30 classes + exam) and whether this plays to your strengths and interests.
o Make sure you comply with all the deadlines. The best courses fill up, and you cannot rely on the Add-Drop process at the beginning of each semester to get a seat. So do your research early and often.
Some Helpful Advice from Anonymous Members of Section OB
How to Choose Courses Your top five picks are critical. Research a ton and use them wisely. Find out the best professors and the best courses, and estimate demand to maximize your top five. The next five are not quite as important. Your interests and goals may change six months out, and the good news is that field-based learning and add-drop DO provide flexibility.
Choose courses based on the tactical skill set you want to leave HBS with (reading a balance sheet, understanding performance measurement systems, etc.) and the general areas you want to grasp (macro-economics, real estate, private equity, etc). Then find out who the “must have” and “must avoid” professors are.
Take account of the Professor rankings from prior years. In particular, stay with the ‘great’ professors where you can. If you had told me that I would look forward to a Friday afternoon tax class, I would have shot myself. However, for those who take Hank Reiling’s class, you’ll know what I mean.
Add it all up, make the call, and don’t stress. You can’t go too wrong in the second year.
Field Studies and Individual Student Research
A great opportunity to work directly with a professor and start applying the theoretical frameworks to a real world problem.
(From someone who did one ISR in the fall and two in the winter). I have loved them all. Plus, doing them makes my schedule that much better! I didn’t have class on Mondays or Tuesdays all year, and I will only have one exam. This worked out really well for me, as I wanted to visit my “significant other” a lot. Overall though, I don’t think I would have done it if I didn’t have a reason to leave campus so often.
To do an ISR you have to be okay with working a lot on your own and only interacting with one professor (vs. a whole class), so be prepared for that.
Paper Based or Exam Courses
The more you can balance the two the better, but this should be a secondary criteria.
In undergrad, I used to love writing papers. I always enjoyed the process, and took great pride in the product. However, after spending five years prior to HBS expressing my thoughts in PowerPoint and short e-mails, I found that writing papers had become a bearish task. It was definitely good to get back into paper writing mode, but it was painful.
My advice: be very careful about how many paper courses / field studies (with major writing components) you take. They are much more work than they initially seem.
I had a great experience with add-drop this semester. Basically, I dropped 3.5 courses that I had signed up for and have ended up relatively happy with the courses and field study I ended up in. I was able to switch into Negotiating Complex Deals, despite it being double oversubscribed and not being on the waitlist. What’s interesting is that I took three out of four of my top ranked courses in the Fall and LOVED them – Entrepreneurial Finance with Professor Sahlman, Real Estate with Professor Segel, and Business Marketing with Professor Narayandas.
o For almost everything:
EC Prereg Tab on myHBS (goes live on April 2nd)
EC Course Selection Book (via Spangler boxes on April 2; check on-line for updates)
o Specific Process Questions:
Sheila Connelly et al at MBA Registrar Services (Spangler 2nd Floor)
o Suggestions on Prioritization Strategy
– Members of the EC
o EC Feedback on Courses from Prior Years- EC Summary Course Evaluations within the Course planning feature of the EC Prereg Tab
o Course differences within a Department- Faculty
As a LAST RESORT
o Your Ed.Reps. – Sorry but they’ve all worked so hard this year, don’t be surprised if they refer you back to the above mentioned sources!
Key Dates in the Process
o 2nd April Tab will appear on myHBS giving further information
o Mid April In-Section Presentations from members of the EC
o Mid April Informal discussions of some unit’s course offerings by RC faculty.
o Late April Informal section-by-section presentations by Sheila Connelly, Coral Sullivan, and Ron Peracchio regarding the mechanics of the process
o 7th May – 4pm Deadline for submission of Course Priorities
o August Results posted on-line
o September 3-4 Term 3 add/dr
op period (opportunity to request schedule changes)
o January 14-15 Term 4 add/drop period (opportunity to request schedule changes)