Our End of the Deal

Spring time at the Harvard Business School is a wonderful time, it is a time in which our community swells with excitement and achievement; we welcome the presence of admitted students who try to imagine their place in the hallowed halls of Aldrich, we congratulate the RC’s on getting the hang of the place, and we say goodbye to the EC’s who, having figured out HBS, place one foot out the door in anticipation of tackling opportunities around the world. In some way you have to appreciate the way in which this process occurs with sundial like precision. This makes it all the easier to take for granted that this process will continue without your involvement.

This spring, as has been the case for awhile, the campus will host admitted students weekends for round one and two admits respectively. When you look at the historical yields for the MBA program with respect to enrolling admitted students, it is hard to argue that there is a lot more that the school can or needs to do to convince students to attend here. But as you have seen or will see in RC Strategy this is a dangerous mindset for any of us to have, as students (just as alumni, faculty, staff, and other members of our community) have the ability to impact the decision making process for admitted students (for better or worse). More directly, if you have found this place to be a worthwhile endeavor then I think you have some responsibility to help other students to call this place home.

Most of us enjoy belonging to a healthy community that fosters a positive spirit of family, and in large part this drives the excellence and standards which bind the Harvard Business School together. From time to time a number of administrators find themselves puzzled by the stir created among current students when proposals and changes are brought forward for subsequent classes of students at HBS. What is most often at play here is not so much that students want to be part of the decision making but rather that they have a visceral response to fight anything that might mean that someone in the future, not unlike their self, would not enjoy the fruits of this school and feel welcomed into the community the same way that they were. This response from students signals that students value our community beyond their own time here at HBS. While there are frustrations that can and do arise in trying to protect a place in the future for someone like yourself in this community, I think that the most sure fire way to make a tangible difference in this regard is to find a way to share your perspective and time with prospective students during an Admitted Students Weekend.

Year after year the feedback from participants in Admitted Students Weekend is that they wished more current HBS students were involved. And for all of our pride in maintaining a stellar yield relative to our peers and other graduate programs, I think…no actually I know…that given the painstaking nature of the admissions process, when someone is admitted, and chooses not to attend the Admission Board feels sad about that loss to the community, after all they work to build a class one admissions folder at a time. Take a look around your section and think about what it would be like if you had decided not to accept. Speaking for myself, I am certain that Section D MBA 2007, would have been different (for better or worse I’m not sure) but I am pretty confident that no one in my section would have recounted stories during the Black and Decker Marketing case about working on the construction job site, eating Nabs, and sitting with subcontractors and foremen at break to hear them talk shop and share stories about the last purchases they made at Lowes and Home Depot. Surely you have your own stories and experiences that have allowed your sectionmates to learn and leverage your perspective vicariously through shared moments that contribute to and build a robust case discussion. Our pedagogy depends on diverse perspectives and when a class is built, the expectation is that everyone who is admitted can and will bring something unique to our community.

Now if Admissions does their job, and “makes no mistakes” then there will undoubtedly be a great many admitted students who, by nature of bringing something “unique” to our community, wonder if this is a place where they will really belong. Many of these admits are really questioning-beyond the brand, the job, the 5-year payback and section fleece-whether or not they will be at home here. And they are looking for YOU to help them validate their belief that this is the right place for them to spend two years of their life, especially with the weather getting back to normal as of late.

They want to know that there are other people who share their interest in cricket, they want to know that there is someone who makes time to volunteer in Boston and to help teach adults to read, they want to know that someone has three kids and still finds a way to make it work out here. But they also want to know about the impromptu road trips, the research project that you do in your spare time, that time you rented some space in a warehouse down the street to play your drums, or that despite all the work you had in the first term of the RC that you still made time to read three novels a month. And to be sure, they want to know about how you trade currencies at night, what you did with the businesses you started before coming to school, or even how you found the courage to go after your dream; starting a company in your home country that creates jobs where there were none before. I imagine that they also want to hear about how you decided to stay in a dorm when you used to own a house back home, why you live in back bay, how you handled bringing your dog to school, or just how it is that your apartment in soldiers field has as much style as your apartment in manhattan. But more than anything they want to know that whatever their perspective, be that of a pharmacist, a helicopter test pilot, a project manager at a multinational, a world banker, or even an ibanker that this is ultimately a place that they could call home and thereby become a meaningful part of this community.

Now all that being said…I look forward to seeing you volunteer in some way to help out with admitted students weekends, and you never know…someone seeing the unique perspective that you bring to the school could gain courage to draw back the blinds and actually see themselves as part of this community. And you never know…especially here…that could make all the difference in the world.

It’s funny that something so small as making your presence felt at an event could be such a big deal to someone trying to decide whether or not to attend HBS. But for what it’s worth I think that is how we hold up our end of the deal.

Here is a bulleted list of some of the activities current students can volunteer for during Admit Weekend. Please look out for the Volunteer Poll from your Admissions Ambassador in the near future!
-Pre-Registration on Thursday, March 1
-Lunch on Friday, March 2
-Team Building on Friday, March 2
-TGIF on Friday, March 2
-Celebration Dinner on Friday, March 2
-Student Panels on Saturday, March 3
-Housing Tours on Saturday, March 3
-And more!