Katherine Richardson (MBA ’23) reports on the school’s decision to increase class size for the classes of 2023 and 2024.
Harvard Business School is welcoming the largest first-year class in its history this fall, increasing enrollment to around 1,000 students. This temporary adjustment will affect both the classes of 2023 and 2024. To accommodate the increased class, HBS is adding an additional section, Section K, resulting in 11 sections of around 90-93 students. The increased class size over the next two years came after HBS allowed deferrals for the first time as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“In the spring of 2020, Covid-19 is raging. Students in the class of 2022 had applied before Covid-19 and made decisions before Covid-19. And we sat down and said, ‘What is the right thing to do here?’ Jana Kierstead, Executive Director of the MBA and Doctoral Programs, said. “We all came to the same conclusion, and that was we need to do what’s right by the students and to give them a choice.”
As a result, around 200 students from the class of 2022 chose to defer their acceptances, leaving the class of 2022 with 732 students. The deferral group was split in half and enrolled into both the class of 2023 and 2024. Arden Orata (MBA ’23), a class of 2022 admit who deferred into the class of 2023, said he was thankful for the choice, which HBS has provided in very rare instances in the past.
“I was relieved when HBS announced that they would allow deferrals,” Orata said. “I think that decision of HBS was very thoughtful and considerate, especially for international students like me.”
Orata said his decision to defer came from concerns about safety, logistics, and the HBS experience.
“I believed that the on-campus experience was transformational and once in a lifetime experience. I didn’t want to miss that,” Orata said. “Second, the pandemic was just starting back then, and I was worried about catching the virus while in a foreign country. And third, there were too many uncertainties: visa application, international travel, and all the logistics in moving abroad.”
Enabling nearly 200 deferrals meant reassessing class size, ensuring students applying to the classes of 2023 and 2024 had an equal chance of acceptance.
“In April, when we announced our one-time deferral policy for those admitted to the Class of 2022, we were already thinking ahead to those of you applying in the next two years,” Chad Losee, Managing Director of MBA Admissions and Financial Aid wrote in a blog post announcing the decision. “We did not want you to be disadvantaged by spots already reserved for those who deferred from the Class of 2022.”
According to Jan Rivkin, Senior Associate Dean and Chair of the MBA Program, said the team worked to ensure HBS had the resources and capacity to provide a positive experience for the larger class.
“In making the decision [to increase class size], we thought a lot about if it was going to allow for a good experience for the class of ‘23 and ’24,” Rivkin said. “I think one consideration for me was do we have the room on campus and the faculty, the staff, in our excellent way. Can we do it? We looked at the staff, the campus, and the available classrooms, and decided we could.”
According to Kierstead and Rivkin, the slightly larger class size will only enhance the breadth of students’ networks and experiences.
“The overall class size in combination with the section experience is actually an advantage, because the section experience is that home base, close community, friend group support, at least at the beginning,” Kierstead said. “In the big class, you have lots of people from lots of places and great experiences, and you get to draw upon that as you start to go beyond your section and reach out and meet other people.”
Irvin Gómez and Brett Andersen (MBAs ’22), Co-Presidents of the Student Association, said that they took the larger class size into account while planning the start of the year with the Student and Academic Services team.
“We really thought about the class size with resource management and ensuring those connection moments on both a small-and-large scale for students,” Gómez said. “For resources, we’ve really leveraged Slack this summer to jumpstart RC-led planning of small groups. For events, we worked with the SAS team to get creative and plan events within budget and operations that include all students, partners, and families.”
Gómez said the team also was intentional about creating smaller and larger group events to ensure all 1,000 students are included.
“We know that a large class size can feel overwhelming,” Gómez said. “As we planned for START and the fall, we aimed to balance large, community-wide events with smaller events to ensure we give people options on how they want to be involved in the HBS community.”
Katherine Richardson (MBA ’23) is a current RC who grew up in Southern California and is not quite ready for Boston winters. Before HBS, she worked for four years in brand strategy in New York City, working with companies spanning healthcare, CPG, food & bev, and luxury. In college, she spent four years as a reporter and editor at The Hoya, Georgetown University’s student paper, and is so excited to keep her passion for journalism and campus news alive at the Harbus.