Tag Archives: HBS

Match Your Personality With B-School Teaching Style

This post originally appeared on Stacy’s “Strictly Business” MBA blog on U.S.News.com Many MBA applicants make the same wrong assumption: No matter which top business school you attend, its teaching style will be more or …

This post originally appeared on Stacy’s “Strictly Business” MBA blog on U.S.News.com

Many MBA applicants make the same wrong assumption: No matter which top business school you attend, its teaching style will be more or less the same.

While there are similarities across the top-tier programs, each school has a different teaching style. There’s the case method approach; lecture-based instruction; and the experiential learning and team-based focus approach. Some schools concentrate almost entirely on one style, while others employ a mixture.

Finding a fit in teaching style is important, and I advise clients to seek out a program where they can thrive and feel comfortable. However, I find that this piece of the puzzle is often pushed aside, with more weight placed on factors like rankings, career center offerings, location and culture.

In fact, teaching style is often one of the last things applicants focus on. Although there are many different aspects of a program to consider as you select your target schools, I believe this one should have more weight, as it not only directly affects your enjoyment of your two-year investment, but the quality of knowledge that you walk away with.

• Case method: The case method approach was established by Harvard Business School more than a century ago and is still widely used at top MBA programs worldwide. With this method, students analyze and debate authentic management scenarios to create recommendations that the firm in question should employ in the future.

Harvard relies on case studies for approximately 80 percent of its instruction, and students at University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business are exposed to more than 500 cases in a variety of industries and functions during their two-year program.

Considered by many to be the gold standard in management education, the case method relies on lively class discussions with myriad points of view. A good case analysis requires a lot of preparation from students, who must feel at ease sharing their ideas in front of large groups.

Gregarious personalities will thrive in this environment, while shy individuals may cringe at the thought of showing up to class. This is not the learning environment for those uncomfortable speaking in front of strangers or those who fear they might say something embarrassing.

“Ask yourself if you find this method of learning intriguing and exciting,” Harvard Business School’s Director of MBA Admissions Dee Leopold advised applicants last fall. “If it’s not for you, choose another school now vs. later.”

• Lecture: All top MBA programs include courses taught using a lecture format, though some schools stand out for their significant use of this traditional pedagogic technique. According to the MBA-focused website Poets & Quants, Carnegie Mellon University’s Tepper School of Business tops the list with approximately 50 percent lecture-based instruction, while the lecture format at University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business comes in as a close second at 48 percent.

The Anderson School of Management at UCLA, Vanderbilt University’s Owen Graduate School of Management and Said Business School at the University of Oxford use lectures about 40 percent of the time.

[Follow these steps to make the most of your b-school campus visit.]

Fans of the lecture method believe this is the best way to concretely teach students the business concepts and theories they will need once they’re back in the work force. This environment may also be more comfortable for introverted students, as well as those who enjoy absorbing the wisdom of a seasoned professor.

In some instances, the lecture approach is simply the most expeditious way to get the information across. Columbia Business School devotes about 40 percent of class time to lecture and 40 percent to case studies.

Vice Dean Amir Ziv tells MBA Channel, “If you teach something really simple, cases are much too time-consuming. In the same time frame you can either cover two cases or six other things when lecturing.”

Experiential approach: In recent years, more and more schools have expanded the experiential components in their curricula, adding in more team challenges, simulations, field work and extracurricular activities. Poets & Quants reports that Vanderbilt’s Owen tops the list at 30 percent of courses using experiential instruction. At Owen, students have access to industry-focused immersion experiences, conferences, career treks, case competitions, entrepreneurial opportunities and more.

[Don't forget to join extracurriculars during b-school.]

Another leader in this area of action-based learning is the University of Michigan—Ann Arbor’s Ross School of Business, which has a seven-week, full-time consulting project known as the Multi-disciplinary Action Project. Ross connects first-year MBA students with corporate, entrepreneurial and nonprofit projects both in the U.S. and abroad that require thoughtful recommendations on organizational challenges.

Even Harvard got into the act in fall 2011, launching the yearlong Field Immersion Experiences for Leadership Development course for first-year students, which offers small-group learning experiences that are experiential, immersive and field-based.

This hands-on approach to learning benefits those with an entrepreneurial spirit, as well as generalists who enjoy working in groups and want to learn how to get things done. Unlike the lecture and case methods, which focus on theory, experiential learning encourages students to learn by doing.

As you can see, there is significant variation in how material is presented in an MBA program. Take a close look at your personal preferences and learning style to find the business school that’s best for you.

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Harvard Business School MBA Application Essay Tips 2013

This year Harvard Business School has streamlined the essay process even further by limiting the usual batch of essays to one question. While one question for HBS makes coming up with topics somewhat easier (in …

This year Harvard Business School has streamlined the essay process even further by limiting the usual batch of essays to one question. While one question for HBS makes coming up with topics somewhat easier (in prior years Harvard often asked applicants for three accomplishments) the open ended nature of the question and the no-limit word count will make this one question potentially quite challenging.

There is one question for the Class of 2016:

You’re applying to Harvard Business School. We can see your resume, school transcripts, extra-curricular activities, awards, post-MBA career goals, test scores and what your recommenders have to say about you. What else would you like us to know as we consider your candidacy?

HBS adds this tip to the essay prompt:
There is no word limit for this question. We think you know what guidance we’re going to give here. Don’t overthink, overcraft and overwrite. Just answer the question in clear language that those of us who don’t know your world can understand.

The goal of this essay is to know yourself, know HBS, and know how to match the two to demonstrate your fit for the school. Your first task should be to evaluate all of the other aspects of your candidacy – what is the story your resume tells? What do you think recommenders will say? How does your transcript communicate your skills, accomplishments and interests? Then you need to evaluate how to fill the gaps with the essay.

While comparisons with Stanford’s “What Matters Most” open-ended question may come immediately to mind, HBS is very different and it will be important to know the program.

As you consider possible stories to tell in this essay keep in mind that HBS has always been highly focused on leadership and wants to accept candidates who have a track record of leadership impact and a success trajectory that indicates upper management potential. Accomplishments have traditionally been a strong focus of HBS essays, and outlining one or two leadership oriented accomplishments as examples of who you are would likely be a strong approach. Other ideas are to reflect upon your future goals, explain an important formative experience, and reflect upon your growth as you enter an MBA program.

We see many applicants tempted to include “why HBS” type information in HBS essays. This has never been part of an HBS application essay question and we don’t recommend including that sort of angle here. HBS is quite clear on why applicants are interested in the school, and they would rather see you use the space to provide more information about yourself and your candidacy.

A note on word count: HBS traditionally has limited essays to around 400 words each. Do not be tempted to go overboard with a 2,000 word essay this year, rather focus on concise and clear writing and consider keeping this essay to 600 words or less.

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SBC Scoop: HBS 2+2 Success for Economics Major

Anita was a college senior at Northwestern and was weighing her postgraduate options. She thought Harvard Business School’s 2+2 program was perfect for her, as she would get two years of real-world work experience before …

Anita was a college senior at Northwestern and was weighing her postgraduate options. She thought Harvard Business School’s 2+2 program was perfect for her, as she would get two years of real-world work experience before returning for a two year program. Anita worked with her Stacy Blackman consultant to make sure she presented herself in the best light, as she thought she might not look like the best fit for this relatively new program on paper.

What worried Anita the most was that she was actually a natural fit for an MBA program. With a strong academic resume, a good GMAT score and a soon-to-be-complete degree in economics, she would be a strong candidate for any traditional MBA program after gaining a few years of work experience. However, Anita was concerned that the HBS 2+2 program was focused on attracting non-traditional MBA students, such as science and mathematics majors, or students who would normally pursue other types of postgraduate degrees. Anita’s consultant directed her to look at some of the program’s recent admission statistics: while the current class was nearly two-thirds students with a STEM background, almost twenty percent came from more traditional economics and business backgrounds. The program’s website also specifically mentioned that students from all undergraduate majors were now encouraged to apply.

Anita knew that she would be competing with other students with great numbers as well, so she and her consultant chose to emphasize her leadership experiences. Anita enjoyed long-distance running, and in college had gathered a casual group that would work out on weekends. Anita had convinced them to raise money for charity by entering various events, and after several successful runs joined up as a local chapter of a national charity running organization. In addition, Anita and her consultant found a narrative through her background of “leading younger people” that ran from Anita’s time as a Girl Scout leader, through her Big Sister mentorship, to her Resident Advisor and Orientation Leader positions as a junior and senior. While they emphasized the “business” qualities of Anita’s charitable marathon group, including fundraising and organization, her other leadership experiences testified to her character as well.

By combining Anita’s leadership qualities with her more traditionally MBA-style background, and touching on how the HBS 2+2 program would help shape Anita’s future in the business world, she and her consultant felt confident in her application. Anita is working for a tech startup now and looking forward to the second half of her 2+2.

Are you applying to the HBS 2+2 program? We have experience positioning applicants like you for success ”“ contact us to discuss further.

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What’s So Special About Harvard Business School?

Quite a bit, according to an open letter published last week by Ryan Allis ’14 as he reflected on his first semester for the Harvard Business School Class of 2015 pre-matriculation blog.  Like any top-tier …

HBS

Quite a bit, according to an open letter published last week by Ryan Allis ’14 as he reflected on his first semester for the Harvard Business School Class of 2015 pre-matriculation blog.  Like any top-tier MBA program, HBS students learn finance, marketing, operations and the like. But Allis says he’s taken away much more than that over the last four months.

For example, Harvard Business School:

  • Teaches you a deeply analytical thinking process critical to making high quality decisions and becoming a transformational leader.
  • Enables you to build a team or find a team of superstars to go after any big world challenge that you wish.
  • Gives you constant psychological reinforcement and mentors that enable you to refine and then actually execute on your dreams to make a difference.

In just one semester, Allis says his thinking process and decision-making ability has been refined, because “HBS teaches you to see one problem from ninety angles”“equal to the number of classmates in your first year section with whom you’ll take each class and form meaningful lifelong bonds.”

Also, HBS changes the caliber of the people in your life as you build lifelong ties with highly competent people who want to make a big difference in the world. Allis adds that this greatly expands the frontier of opportunities available to you and your ability to find leverage points to influence the world.

Thirdly, Allis believes Harvard Business School can help you use your life to make a bigger difference in the world. “Whether or not you already have your life dreams mapped out,” Allis says, “HBS provides the landscape for wide-ranging exploration and reflection and the support to go in any direction you wish.”

Finally, this first-year student is amazed at the psychological value and self-fulfilling prophecy of being around people who assume you’re going to do something special in the world.  “If you crave the combination of an inspiring environment with access to the people who can help you do anything you set your mind to,” says Allis, “You’ll love your time at HBS.”

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Advice from Harvard’s MBA Admissions Director

Don’t try to stand out, do make sure you understand—and are excited about—the case method approach to learning, and stay curious are three of the main pieces of advice Harvard Business School’s Dee Leopold offers …

Don’t try to stand out, do make sure you understand—and are excited about—the case method approach to learning, and stay curious are three of the main pieces of advice Harvard Business School’s Dee Leopold offers applicants in a recent post on her director’s blog.

While some candidates may feel deflated after reading her remarks, fearing they might have to switch strategies mid-stream, Leopold’s tips benefit anyone applying to Harvard and other case method-based MBA programs.

Tip #1

“Try to resist the urge to make “standing out” your primary goal in the admissions process. If you have made traditional choices all along (college, extra-curriculars, major field of study, jobs), own it. You’ll look silly if you try to portray yourself as a rogue daredevil. There are plenty of people at HBS who come from traditional backgrounds.”

I would add that excellence comes in many different packages, and sometimes small examples can brilliantly illustrate your distinctive contributions. Avoid any attempt to manufacture a memorable impression and instead focus on relaying with enthusiasm your own unique accomplishments and interests. You’re not being asked to talk about yourself for any other reason than to help a school learn why you made the choices you did. What those choices were is hardly relevant.

Tip #2

“Do your homework about the case method. It’s our signature pedagogy and it is nothing like traditional academia. Watch Inside the Case Method on our website and ask yourself if you find this method of learning intriguing and exciting. If it’s not for you, choose another school now vs. later.”

The Case Method approach is a proven winner because it brings the subject to life, brings business back to reality, and allows you to benefit from the professional experiences of a diverse group of classmates. However, this method may not be for everyone.  Other top programs, such as Chicago Booth School of Business, Kellogg School of Management, Yale School of Management and more rely on a broader mix of teaching methods.

Tip #3

“Stay curious. It’s so easy to stay “heads down” during the application process and become so introspective that you lose sight of the larger world. Keep reading. Keep listening. We’re looking for people who can dig into a case about a company they have never heard of, in an industry they don’t think they care about – and be 100% engaged.”

I like to remind applicants to stay connected to the bigger picture ”“ remember what this process is all about.  Ultimately it is not about submitting a set of essays.  It is not even about getting in to X school.  It is about your future, your career, creating opportunities for yourself.  Tap into all the things in life that inspire you; this will help you to make things happen.

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Important Reminders from Harvard Business School

For anyone planning to apply to Harvard Business School this year, director of admissions and financial aid Dee Leopold recently offered a roundup of answers to common questions she’s been hearing from Round 1 applicants. …

HBS

For anyone planning to apply to Harvard Business School this year, director of admissions and financial aid Dee Leopold recently offered a roundup of answers to common questions she’s been hearing from Round 1 applicants.

Although some candidates may be tempted to submit a lengthy resume to counterbalance the recently reduced number of essays in the Harvard Business School application, Leopold cautions that a one-page resume is still a good guideline. Also, do not submit anything extra with your application. Period.

Don’t forget to manage the recommender process! Applicants must input their recommenders’ names and contact information before the application deadline, the director stresses, since that’s the only way they will be able to access the recommender form.

We all know business school is expensive, so if you are interested in applying for financial aid, sit tight for now because all need-based financial aid information goes out only to admitted students.

The online scheduler for first-year class visits opened today but the slots are filling up fast, so head on over to set up your appointment to visit a class and learn more about the HBS case method.

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Have you started on those essays yet? This year’s questions are a strong departure from previous years, specifically in the number and length of the essays. Read our MBA essay tips for Harvard Business School for guidance on how to approach this essay set.

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