A Day In The Life Of A Harvard Business School Student

by Marquis Parker Steven Rao, James Hu, David Santos, Frank Tobler, Jeffrey Hu, Michael Medrano, and Brian Nguyen

This chapter is a free excerpt from The Best Book on Top Ten MBA Admissions.

The case system

Harvard Business School emphasizes general management principles. To develop the thinking skills you need to be a business leader, you’ll learning through a case-driven curriculum. Cases are real life examples of the problems businesses face. You’ll read a write up of the case and then you’ll spend the class discussing the important aspects of the case.

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The case system

Harvard Business School emphasizes general management principles. To develop the thinking skills you need to be a business leader, you’ll learning through a case-driven curriculum. Cases are real life examples of the problems businesses face. You’ll read a write up of the case and then you’ll spend the class discussing the important aspects of the case.

Your learning team

At HBS you are placed in a small group of other students called a learning team. Every school day, one of the first things you’ll do when you wake up is meet with your learning team. Together, you’ll discuss the cases for the upcoming day of classes.

The learning team is especially useful because you get the perspectives of people from other industries when you’re looking at a case. The learning team is a safe environment because you won’t be going to the same classes as them. You’ll get to know everyone in your team very well, so you’ll be among friends.

Your section

Your section is the 90 or so students you’ll be going to class with. Most of the friends you make will be from this larger group because you’ll be spending all your class time with them. You’ll also be spending a lot of time with them at social functions.

The people in your section will be from an extremely wide range of backgrounds. Some of your section mates will be similar to you. Others will be from significantly different backgrounds. Your interactions with either group of people will be valuable in terms of learning new things and building your network.

Classes

Business school will keep you busy, busier than you’d expect.

You’ll wake up a lot earlier than you would during your undergrad years. I usually woke up at 7 am. At 7:30 am I’d meet with my learning team for an hour to discuss the cases for the day.

Classes start at 8:30 am. There are 3 classes each day, each running at about 80 to 90 minutes. You have a lunch break between your second and third classes, but aside from that you’re spending a huge consecutive chunk of time sitting for classes.

Classes end at around 3 pm. Lunch is a time where you can get to know your section mates, especially during the beginning of your first year. Some people use lunchtime to catch up on cases from the last day or read the cases for the upcoming day.

Campus speakers

Classes end at about 3 pm. During the 2 or 3 hours after classes end, the school and a lot of different student organizations host different talks and panels. A lot of different corporate leaders and entrepreneurs come to give talks about their success story and tips for future business leaders. Most first year students will attend these talks on a daily basis, especially those exploring the possibility of entering another professional field.

Dinner and study time

At dinnertime, you’ll usually come home and have dinner with a group of friends. People from your section will often plan activities during dinnertime for people to get to know each other. Most people, however, spend dinnertime reading up on cases, especially during weekdays.

Your workload will be a lot heavier than your workload from college. During my first year, I spent and average of 4 to 5 hours studying cases every night. If, for example, your dinner ends at 8 pm, you might end up studying well past midnight, only to have to wake up at 7am the next day.

After your first semester, you will get into a routine where you read cases faster and synthesize information more efficiently. You’ll learn how to cope with the workload. Regardless, the first year of business school is a fairly mechanical and tiring process. All that hard work is one of the prices you pay for developing your business skills.
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