Adding Value

We support HBS’s “2+2” program, but hope it reaches further into the nonprofit sector

Applying to business school is no longer the exclusive domain of alums with several years of business experience under their belts. Harvard Business School (HBS) last week unveiled a new, first-of-its-kind program that allows college juniors to apply to its Masters in Business Administration (MBA) program. Students accepted to this “2+2” deferred admissions program will spend two years after graduation working, and then matriculate to HBS for a regular two-year MBA. HBS plans to support admitted 2+2 students by helping them find jobs and organizing networking events and summer programs during their two years of work experience.

The hope of the 2+2 program, according to Associate Director for MBA Admissions Andrea Mitchell Kimmel, is to reach out to students who are not on the typical “business path”—a group that includes scientists, humanities concentrators, and those interested in nonprofits. In an interview with The Crimson, she expressed hope that the program would address the persistent fact that many HBS students give up risky entrepreneurship, nonprofit experiences, and other such ventures because they want to be certain they will look attractive to business school admissions committees.

This is a worthy concern, and the 2+2 program is an innovative and exciting solution. The program, according to Kimmel, would specifically not seek to admit students who were already well on their way to an investment bank or consulting firm. With a place at HBS secured, such students will hopefully feel liberated to pursue more diverse interests, enriching both HBS’ incoming class the lives of its students.

To help admitted students find jobs, the 2+2 program plans to partner with around 100 major companies. While these companies already include McKinsey—a company definitely part of the traditional “business track”—and Google, they also include nonprofits like Teach for America. According to Kimmel, the 100 companies will include a broad range of nonprofits as well as professional services, including retail, manufacturing, and pharmaceutical companies.

The inclusion of nonprofits as partners is particularly commendable and should be given special attention as the recruiting of partner companies continues. Most future business school applicants do not see nonprofit or public sector experience as conducive to business school admission and shy away from it.

HBS has already taken some steps to remedy this. Its Initiative for Social Enterprise attracts faculty interested in and affiliated with nonprofits and offers relevant classes and a Service Leadership Fellows Program for students. There is also a loan assistance program for graduates who enter the nonprofit sector after graduation. Hopefully, the 2+2 program can extend these admirable plans to support HBS students who are interested in taking their talents to the public and nonprofit sectors.

The 2+2 program has, not surprisingly, been met with skepticism from some quarters, particularly from those who say it will force undergraduates to make decisions about graduate school even earlier and limit their options. While prospective 2+2 students will indeed apply to business school well before their peers, it is hardly a stifling program. Although HBS must approve students’ jobs for the two years before their matriculation, the intent of the program is to allow students maximum flexibility, and students will not be limited to HBS’ 100 partner companies. Nor will the program be large enough to force everyone to “apply early,” as it will comprise no more than 10 percent of the incoming class and will specifically not seek students who are already pursuing the traditional path to business school.

Undergraduates who are not immersed in the world of investment banks, consulting firms, and eRecruiting socials rarely get the same exposure to business as their “business track” classmates, even though the uses of an MBA go far beyond consulting and banking. With 2+2, HBS has taken admirable an admirable step to extend itself beyond its stereotyped role. We hope it lives up to its promise.