Harvard’s 2+2 Adjusts To Work & Love

by John A. Byrne on

Deidre Leopold, managing director of admissions and financial aid at Harvard Business School

Deidre Leopold, managing director of admissions and financial aid at Harvard Business School

As it turns out, breaking up is hard to do—especially when it involves quitting a job you’ve had for only two years or ending a romance to attend an MBA program.

At least that’s what Harvard Business School is discovering with its relatively new 2+2 program designed to attract top undergraduates. The deferred admissions program invites applications from students in their senior year of college and then requires admits to get two years of work experience before showing up on the HBS campus.

When the first 2+2 class came to Harvard in the fall, only 65 of 106 students accepted actually showed up. Some 40 admits postponed their matriculation, while one dropped out, forfeiting the $1,000 deposit. For the next 2+2 class, which will arrive on campus this coming fall, more than half have decided not to come right away.

THE 2+2 POSTPONEMENTS ARE GOOD NEWS FOR REGULAR MBA APPLICANTS TO HARVARD

That’s good news for regular applicants to Harvard’s MBA program because it means that the 2+2 program is filling fewer slots than had been anticipated, slightly raising the odds of admission for others. Harvard allows 2+2 admits to defer an additional year, but extra extensions are granted on a case-by-case basis.

“The reality is it could be called the X+2 Program,” Deirdre “Dee” Leopold, managing director of MBA admissions and financial aid, told The Harvard Crimson.

In a story on the program today (May 2), the student newspaper said the postponements are largely due to “the difficulty of structuring one’s early post-college years around a two-year plan. Some students have said they avoid disclosing their acceptance to 2+2 to their potential employers. And others, finding success in the working world, are not ready to step away after just two years on the job.”

WORK AND ROMANCE ARE GETTING IN THE WAY OF A HARVARD MBA

Even budding romantic relationships were impacted for some, including Diana Kimball who got into HBS’ first 2+2 cohort and spent two years working for Microsoft in Silicon Valley and a short time at a start-up. “I entered a romantic relationship early in my time in San Francisco, and on our first date, I had to disclose that I was moving in two years,” she told the newspaper. “It made it difficult to settle down in some ways.”

Mostly, though, some admitted students found it awkward to tell their employers they were only going to hang around for two years. “For some companies, if you had put ‘HBS Admit, Class of 2013,’ they actually would not have wanted to hire you because they wanted to keep you for longer than 2 years,” said Alexandra Dickson, a Harvard College 2009 grad who is in the first 2+2 cohort.

Harvard doesn’t appear surprised or disappointed by result. “We want to get the MBA out there as something for smart and active and committed college students to consider,” Leopold told the Crimson. “The majority of 2+2 admits [from the 2014 cohort] are electing to do a third year of work. We’re very flexible [in saying], ‘Tell us what you need and we’ll work with you.’”

HARVARD WANTS HALF OF EACH 2+2 COHORT IS FILLED WITH SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY, ENGINEERING & MATH STUDENTS

Leopold said the business school hopes to fill at least half of each cohort with students who have backgrounds in STEM—Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. The program also was meant to get top undergraduates to consider an MBA instead of law or medical school, which do not require work experience.

The Crimson reported that Harvard College has had a strong showing in the first three cohorts admitted to the program—22 out of 106 students in the 2013 cohort were Harvard undergraduates; 27 of 115 the next year; and about 20 of 100 the year after that.

Leopold has made several changes to the 2+2 program since its launch in 2008. Initially, the school provided admits with help finding employment through career counseling and a partnership program with recruiters including Google, McKinsey and Teach for America. “We don’t get involved in that process,” Leopold told the Crimson. “Students are required to get their own jobs.”

Harvard also discontinued a program for 2+2 students to practice case studies and network with each other on campus for several days. “We found over time that they found ways of connecting without us being involved at all,” added Leopold.

And this year, Harvard made the 2+2 admissions cycle more like the traditional admissions process, breaking it into four rounds instead of one application deadline.

DON’T MISS: THE WORLD’S MOST POWERFUL MBA GATEKEEPER or EARLY 2+2 APPLICANTS AT HBS HEAR THEIR FATES

  • http://www.mbaapply.com/ Alex Chu

    “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” John Lennon.

    Not entirely surprising. The first few years after college are when many young people go through the biggest changes in their perspectives, attitudes, and values. Those first few years are the first time when you have to redefine who you are after having been a “student” your entire life.

  • JasonDennis

    Alex, I couldn’t agree more. That’s why I think this 2+2 thing is so premature. Seriously, how much can a 24 year old provide in terms of business “experience”. Most would have difficulty holding leadership positions in prestigious companies with only 2 years of work experience (heck, can you imagine a 25 year old summer MBA intern telling you how to manage an organization at your company?). Let’s call a spade a spade here… This is Harvard’s attempt to capture brilliant minds who would normally go to Law/MD or an attempt for Harvard to brandish the next Tech-Startup guru w/ an HBS degree (i.e. STEM comment). Of course this all relies on the assumption that someone who’s comparable/innovative as a Zuckerberg would stop what they’re doing and go to grad school.

    I’m going on a whim here, but I think at least 50% of the 2+2 realize this and that’s why they decided to delay… not because they “in a romantic relationship” with their current employers.

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