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Getting Academic Support at HBS

For some students, HBS can be a somewhat overwhelming experience and juggling academics with other obligations can be at times a bit much. However, there are several channels of support available and resources to help out in the educational process.

Your Ed Rep is a naturally contact to first hash out educational issues and determine what the appropriate response is to an academic concern. The Ed Rep is best used as a conduit and resource, and simply having a perspective from a fellow student in the section can also be helpful from time to time. Furthermore, RCs can also take advantage of their Section Chair to discuss any academic issues. Section Chairs are often plugged in to key people on campus and resources to help students out with academic issues. Moreover, MBA Support Services, located on the second floor of Spangler, has full-time staff devoted to helping students navigate through issues related to academics as well. Finally, RCs have the added benefit of having EC Tutors that they can use for free to go over any material from troubling courses in one-on-one sessions as well.

Several Ed Reps host review sessions on a weekly or monthly basis that student volunteers run. It’s often OK to attend another section’s review session, too, so speaking with friends from another section to find out when review sessions are being held often helps. These sessions are run by volunteers in the section who are often experts in subject matter because of prior exposure to the material and are often invaluable sources of wisdom. Some of the most valuable learning that occurs during these review sessions happens in the Q&A period as review session leaders field any questions, no matter how seemingly trivial.

Furthermore, for some students, waking up in the morning to attend learning team can be a valuable addition to individual preparation and in-class discussion. However, for others, waking up early may actually decrease academic performance if students are already sleep-deprived. Therefore, discussing with your learning team whether you can meet after class or otherwise fit the group’s meeting time to your sleeping pattern probably holds the best chance of success for getting the most out of learning team if you find you are simply too tired to best make use of your learning team.

HBS is filled with support at the doctoral level as well. For instance, HBS doctoral students in Strategy and Finance are resources available on campus that are often willing to help MBAs think through tough issues in their field. For instance, a fourth year doctoral student in Finance may be willing to lend time to discuss the nuances of tricky capital structure material raised in FIN 2. While it might be difficult to find out who these doctoral students are, professors and Ed Reps often can help. Some of these doctoral students lead review sessions for MBAs but others would also be willing to lend an ear and help a fellow MBA student to increase understanding as well. Doctoral students’ offices are usually close to the faculty of their unit.

Finally, the role of the faculty itself cannot be understated. Professors hold office hours because they want to speak with students and are happy to field questions, no matter how small. HBS is somewhat rare among business schools in that professors wholly devote one semester per year to teaching and look forward to establishing relationships with their students throughout the semester. Perhaps one of the easiest ways to “break the ice” with a professor is to visit the professor during office hours or available times and introduce yourself. It’s a simple act that can often go a long way to improving comfort level with the professors and the class materials.

February 17, 2009
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