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Can You Answer These Questions To Get Into HBS’ New Online Program?

A screenshot of what students in Harvard Business School's CORe program will see on their computers

A screenshot of what students in Harvard Business School’s CORe program will see on their computers

Harvard Business School is asking applicants to its inaugural online program in business basics one essay question along with five multiple-choice questions as part of its application which went online today (April 9).

Prospective students to the program called CORe, which stands for Credential of Readiness, are being given until May 6 to complete the application for a June 11th start date to the program. In this first wave, HBS is accepting applications only from students enrolled in a full-time degree program from a college or university in Massachusetts. Applicants must be a member of the class of 2014, 2015 or 2016 or graduate students in a non-business program. The school expects 500 to 1,000 students to enroll in this beta version of the program at an inaugural cost of $1,500. If all goes well, Harvard expects to make the HBS CORe (Credential of Readiness) program available nationwide in the fall, with as many as 2,000 students, and to roll it out internationally early next year.


Students who enroll in the pre-MBA program will take a trio of online classes—Business Analytics, Economics for Managers, and Financial Accounting—all taught by full-time, tenured and endowed professors at Harvard Business School who have taught in the core MBA program. The HBS CORe program lasts just two months, requiring between seven and ten hours a week from students. Courses can be taken at any time during the two-month period because none of the online sessions will be in real time. Grades for each course will be based on participation and tests, including a final examination. HBS will maintain a transcript of each student’s grades and award a certificate of completion to every student who graduates from the program.

CORe is the first of what will be a portfolio of online courses and programs from the Harvard Business School which has been quietly assembling an in-house online learning group dubbed HBX that now numbers 32 full-time staffers. In choosing to enter the digital education space with a paid offering, HBS has decided to pass on the MOOC bandwagon in which rival schools are providing both core and elective courses to hundreds of thousands of users for free.


The just-posted application asks candidates to name their undergraduate college, along with their grade point average and class rank. It also asks applicants to check off their primary reason for applying to the program: To improve my resume; To advance my current career; To help make a career change; To expand my knowledge base; To prepare for business school; To supplement my academic coursework, or To have fun/try an online course.

But to help the school decide who to reject and who to admit, HBS is also asking applicants to answer an open response question in 300 words or less. “The goal is for us to see a sample of your spontaneous writing style,” according to the application. “Therefore, we expect you to complete your answer in one sitting. You will not need to use any outside sources. If you leave this page or your session expires before you save, you will lose what you have written.”

When Poets&Quants signed up to apply, the question was as follows: “Members of the HBX community learn within a system of Community Values which hold all accountable for “respecting the rights, differences and dignity of others.” How do you interpret this guideline in the context of online learning? What might it mean in the online environment in a way that’s different from an in-person classroom?”


Then, the school asks candidates to answer five so-called “skill check” multiple-choice questions. Here they are: