Tag Archives: 2+2 Program

Harvard and the Age of MBA Students

I’ll lay my cards on the table:  I think Harvard’s 2+2 program is a crock.

Even though I do not hold the degree (yet), I feel comfortable in asserting that the purpose of an MBA is to prepare one for the working world.  It is an academic setting, but only exists to build tomorrow’s business superstars.  These students’ only application fodder is academic in nature, belying the importance of the #1 facet of an MBA applicant: experience.  So is it arrogance or ignorance to believe that Harvard could identify the next decade’s VPs before they’ve even been accepted to their first job?  The applicants for the 2+2 program still have the stench of cheap beer in their favorite shoes from their 21st birthday blowout.  Pardon me for being wary.

As fine an institution as Harvard admittedly is, even they are unable to teach a person to be a good employee or to create value for their company.  They can provide the necessary tools, but many times, that’s not enough.  The academic portion of an MBA application is simply a question of whether the applicant can satisfactorily complete the course of study.  Graduating from a tier 1 business school with a 4.0 vice a 3.0 does not make you automatically more qualified as a venture capitalist or a brand manager.  However, 5 years of experience making private equity deals would be significantly more valuable than 2 years in the same field.

We all learn from our experiences, both in and out of the suit and tie.  The value of a Harvard education in minimized when there is no experience to which to tie the concepts learned in the classroom.  For example, young professionals can read every book ever written on the subject of leadership, but none of the concepts will “stick” until the reader has an example from their past to connect to.

I have many more questions than answers:

  • How can an MBA admissions committee evaluate the strength of a business school candidate before he has worked in business?
  • How does the applicant know that an MBA is right for his career?
  • What motivation does the already-accepted worker bee have to perform at his best in his 2 years of obligatory work experience?
  • Instead of the first step in his career, could he see the 2 years of work as the means to an end: that he has to endure even if the setting/company/industry are all wrong for him?
  • What incentive is there to work hard and fight for advancement?
  • Would he be treading water and biding his time?
  • Would he place less emphasis on learning and growing at work?

And if these questions have validity, how does that affect the rest of the HBS class?  If I had worked my butt of for 6 years earning 2 promotions, while studying 3 hours/day for the GMAT, I would want a class full of other similarly experienced and motivated students.  I find it hard to believe a 2+2 admit would bring much to the table.  I hate to watch HBS turn into a puppy mill.