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EC Course Selection Starts Soon

Congratulations RC’s? Your wish is about to be granted.

Since that long ago day in August when you were assigned a seat in an assigned classroom where you would sit for all your assigned class, you have craved one thing… Freedom of Choice! The freedom to choose a seat outside of the Worm Deck and near a door; the freedom to choose to live a life free of FIN and full of LEAD; the freedom to choose to never again have a class that starts before 10:00am.

The day is coming when you can exercise this freedom and make a choice. That day is EC Course Pre-Registration.

As exciting as this may sound, the process of selecting and registering for classes can be quite daunting. In fact, most people are overwhelmed by the choices. Here’s a very brief overview of the course options available in the EC year.

* Traditional HBS Courses: During Pre-Registration, you have the option to preference up to 30 EC courses (most students preference between 15-20). Once your preferences are entered into the system, a computer will allocate to each student a total of 10 classes for their EC year. In an effort to be as fair as possible to all students, the computer uses a complex logic to assign classes to students, making every attempt to give students their highest preferences while also weighing factors like classroom capacity.

* Field Study vs. Individual Student Research: Both Fields Studies and Independent Student Research (ISR) offer the opportunity to work with a faculty advisor to more closely study a topic or theory through research, analysis and preparation and presentation of a final report. They key difference is that 3-4 students are involved in a single Field Study while ISRs are completed by a single student. Typically, 50% of ECs choose to work on a Field Study or ISR

* Cross-Registration: HBS students can enroll in graduate courses at any other Harvard graduate program, Sloan (MIT) or the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy (Tufts). Cross-Registration occurs in the Fall and is not part of the EC Course Pre-Registration period. On average, 20% of ECs will cross-register into classes at one of the above schools.

Inevitably EC Course Registration becomes not about what to choose but how to make the best choice for your individual needs and aspirations. In an effort to help you make the best decision for your individual expectations and aspirations, here are just some of the information sources available to you:

* EC Course Selection books: This is the handbook to course selection. It contains a list of all EC courses available along with course descriptions, professors teaching the course, time and day the course is taught and whether the course requires a paper or an exam. It also contains important info about graduation requirements and additional course options (field studies, cross-registration, etc)

* myHBS: The “EC Course Planning” tab on myHBS contains a wealth of knowledge. In addition to containing most of the information in the Course Selection book, it also lists key deadlines and review by ECs of the courses offered.

* Academic Services: For any process specific questions, the knowledgeable folks at MBA Registrar Services (2nf Floor Spangle) can help you.

* Current EC Students: Various “official” programs, like panel discussions and a school sponsored lunch voucher program, offer the opportunity to talk directly with ECs and solicit their perspective and advice.

The fun of EC Course Selection is just beginning. The freedom you have craved for so long is about to be yours. Don’t be overwhelmed by the choices available to you. Instead, take advantage of the great information resources offered to you by the school and your EC counterparts. And no matter what, pay attention to deadlines. You don’t want to miss out on your first and best chance to take advantage of all the choices available to you at HBS.

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Now that you know the basics, here’s some advice from ECs on some other topics you should think about as you compile your list of preferences:

What are the key things I should think about as I choose courses?

Think about the courses that will help you in the short, medium and long term and rank them according.

Follow your passion! Focus on courses that help you create value not just capture value.

Choose EC courses primarily by professor. A great professor in a less interesting subject is infinitely more enjoyable than a bad professor in an interesting area.

Figure out what’s most important to you and stick to it. Want no Thursday or Friday class? Want not class before 10:00am? Want the rock star professor? Want to become a FIN god? Pick your balance and do it. DO IT!

What are the best sources of information regarding courses and professors?

Read the Harbus reviews carefully and treat them seriously, i.e. when it says the class is boring, the class will probably be boring. But also, don’t believe the hype.

Ask ECs about the courses – not just what classes the liked and didn’t like, but specifically why they liked those classes or didn’t.

Talk to your RC professors that you like and know you on a 1:1 basis.

Take advantage of the EC course ratings and prelim lottery results – they are pretty accurate.

Papers or Exams. Which is better?

Definitely do not over-burden yourself with too many courses that have projects rather than exams. Exams take 4 hours to write, papers can take well over 100 hours to complete!

Two or more Field Studies/ papers are a bad idea. They cut down on time for recruiting and things you are interested in.

Do not make sacrifices for the sake of balancing papers and exams. If you get all 5 papers but love all your courses you are so much better off.
How should I think about Field Studies?

If you want to do a field study, start planning it before you get back (from Summer break). Finding an advisor at the last minute is tough. Also, don’t forget about professor emeriti when you are looking for an advisor since they often have more time than other faculty members.

Unless your field study topic is 100% what you want to do after graduation it is a colossal waste of time. Take a good class instead.

You are unique and so should your choice be. Think of professional networks and course integration.

You have so many choices – go make the best of it!

April 4, 2005
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