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Member of 2008 Class Reflects on March Admitted Students Weekend

As a recently admitted member of HBS’ Class of 2008, Apar Kothari candidly shares her experience from Admitted Students Weekend (March 2 – 4).

Admitted Students’ Weekend proved to be a huge success, as HBS students and faculty welcomed approximately 300 new admits to the Class of 2008 and 60 spouses and/or significant others. Each of the three days featured informational events, dinners, and parties, as well as the opportunity to meet several new and current students.

Pre-registration began in Spangler the afternoon of Thursday, March 2, followed by several HBS club-sponsored activities. The activities-organized by current students- ranged from cultural-club information sessions and dinners, to the Partners’ Club meet-and-mingle at Tommy Doyle’s in Cambridge.

Seeking the perspective of women at HBS, I chose to attend the Women’s Student Association panel and dinner, which took place at Grafton Street Pub (there were five group dinners at different venues). The dinner provided an excellent opportunity for me to get to know eight impressive women from my future class, as well as two current first-year students, on a more personal level. All my questions about life at HBS were answered: academics, housing, and how to manage friends and relationships outside of the “HBS Bubble” that is often referenced.

I was fortunate to have the WSA dinner at Grafton where the ASW Planning Committee had also organized one of their two happy hours that night; it spared me from having to walk outside in the bitter cold. The night seemed to be (let’s hope!) a preview of Thursday nights at HBS-cocktails and good conversation at a local Harvard Square joint. It was exciting meeting and mingling with other fellow admits, many who arrived from the other happy hour at John Harvard’s. We swapped stories about the admissions process, discussed summer plans, and of course, mulled over the new grade-disclosure policy. By the end of the night, people were profusely alleging that our class would never become competitive.

Before Admit Weekend, I distinctly remember having ruminations of HBS students as super-human beings that had run triathlons, started nonprofits in the deprived areas of Ghana and spun off their own ventures. Although many students had partaken in such glorious experiences, I was pleasantly surprised to discover how down-to-earth and modest my future classmates were.
This was definitely reassuring, as one of my biggest concerns about HBS was the arrogance often associated with the school.

However, that evening at Grafton Pub disproved this, as lots of laughs were shared, mutual bonds were discovered, and exciting thoughts of what next year may hold were discussed. The night ended on a high note as people walked across the bridge from Harvard Square back to their hotel rooms or friends’ dorms for a good night’s sleep before the next day.

The weekend officially kicked off bright and early Friday at 7:45 a.m. with a welcome address by Jay Light, dean of HBS; Rick Ruback, senior associate dean and chairman of the MBA Program; and Brit Dewey, managing director of Admissions and Financial Aid. It almost felt like the first day of college again, with the energy and anticipation of not knowing what the day held and whom you might meet. A handful of events were held for the partners as well, including a partners’ panel and information session. I was surprised to discover not only how integrated HBS students are within the community, but also how much effort is made to involve partners in campus life.

I found the Career Services presentation to be the most interesting, as it provided an excellent opportunity to hear various students discuss their summer internship experiences and chosen career tracks. The possibilities seemed endless-we heard from students who had worked at corporate giants such as Microsoft and Goldman Sachs, as well as smaller private-equity and venture-capital shops. We even heard from a student who had wanted to be a car dealer since he was 14.

The panelists all agreed it can be tough to break away from traditional consulting or banking paths many students choose to pursue. But my best takeaway from this session was to pursue a career that truly interests me, rather than being tempted into following the herd.

Although I had already attended a class when I interviewed, the opportunity to experience another class with a different section allowed me to see the unique dynamic in each section, and also provided a solid comparison to other schools. Because the class is so interactive and students do most of the talking, it is almost impossible to get bored or doze off-even after a heavy lunch!
Throughout the three sessions, many questions arose regarding the recent change in HBS’ grade disclosure policy and whether it would increase perceived “competition” among students.

However, both students and faculty members agreed that because the majority of students (middle 75 percent) receive 2’s anyway, this policy would likely not significantly impact students’ collaborative orientation and teamwork morale.

During the faculty panel discussion, Professor Hamermesh of the Entrepreneurial Management department put it best when he said the bottom line is, as students, we are all here to do well and, as such, we should do our very best either way and not let this new policy affect us. Many first-year students also assured us that they keep sectionmates’ competitive spirits in check by presenting witty awards such as the Statue of Liberty, which is given out to a select student in the section who is a compulsive hand raiser.

I really enjoyed the fun-loving culture of the school, and I am pretty sure the Class of 2008 will maintain the camaraderie I witnessed.

Following the rotational sessions, small “team-building” activities and games, initially thought to be somewhat corny, proved to be great icebreakers. The sessions later turned into Q&A discussions with the students, where I probably received the best advice from a first-year student. He said most people recommend meeting as many people possible-which we definitely should do-but during his Admit Weekend he got to know three or four people really well, who he still considers to be some of his closest friends. I could not have agreed more, and so I did just that at the happy hour that followed in Spangler Grille.

It was overwhelming meeting so many people at once, and I knew I would have plenty of opportunities to meet others. Although I met countless students who were both amazingly smart and fun, I must admit it was tough to carry a conversation beyond the standard, “What’s your name? Where are you from, and what do you do?” I ended up meeting a handful of individuals who were still deciding between HBS and Stanford, but the majority of them said the weekend sold them on HBS (let’s hope they weren’t just saying that). The festivities continued at a fantastic three-course Celebration Dinner in Spangler, and were carried well into the night at FELT Lounge in downtown Boston.

Saturday morning began sluggishly for many after the previous night’s revelry, but we once again had the opportunity to rotate among various presentations. I attended the Housing and Entrepreneurship panels, followed by the ever-important Financial Aid session, which was by far-and naturally so-the day’s most popular event. The day ended with tours of the on-campus dorms and apartments, followed by a closing speech by Steven Belkin, founder and chairman of the Trans National Group.
All in all, I am ecstatic about the weekend and the opportunity to meet some very cool people. Although I got a taste of what it will be like to get up at 7:00 a.m. every day, the weekend certainly bolstered my excitement to start school at HBS.

I eagerly look forward to Orientation Week, the chance to meet more people, and to begin this so-called “transformational” experience everyone keeps talking about-I guess I’ve got the next two years to figure
it all out.

Hats off to the Admit Weekend Planning Committee, and I look forward to becoming a member next year! Feel free to contact me if you have any questions: aparkothari@yahoo.com

Apar Kothari, 24, grew up in Wellesley, MA, before attending NYU Stern. After graduating in 2003 from Stern, she worked in IBM’s Corporate Development group for 2.5 years, focusing on M&A and Venture Capital. Apar recently decided to leave her job and move home to Wellesley to pursue a different opportunity. She will spend three months in Seattle interning with a VC fund. According to Apar, she met new friends from the Seattle area during Admit Weekend, which should make her feel more at home when she arrives.

April 18, 2006
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