Seniors Get HBS ‘2+2’ Decisions

Twenty-two Harvard seniors started the new school year on a good note this week, receiving admissions letters from Harvard Business School’s new 2+2 Program.

Approximately 630 college juniors from around the world applied to the program, which requires accepted students to enter the workforce for two years, guaranteeing them a spot at the Business School afterward.

Sixty-six Harvard juniors applied to the 2+2 program, which is in its inaugural year, according to MBA admissions director Deirdre C. Leopold, and the 22 Harvard seniors who were accepted were part of an admitted cohort of 106. Almost half of the admits were from engineering or natural science backgrounds, with a large proportion of these students involved in the life sciences.

The 2+2 program yielded an acceptance rate of approximately 17 percent, slightly higher than the regular admissions rate of 14 percent for the MBA class of 2009. The acceptance rate for Harvard undergraduates into the 2+2 program was well above both averages at about 33 percent.

“I think that we’re trying to be clear in our messaging that we want different applicants that wouldn’t have found us without the 2+2 program,” Leopold said. “There are plenty of other ways to get into HBS besides the 2+2 program, and we want to find students who wouldn’t have necessarily found us otherwise.”

“But of course, there are no hard and fast rules in the admissions program,” Leopold added. “Just like the regular admissions pool, we are looking for people with strong academic credentials, a real pattern of curiosity and engagement, and excitement about what an MBA can do for their future.”

Leopold also noted her belief that HBS would continue to see an increase in the number of undergraduate applicants because of the Early Career Initiative, which focuses on attracting students within three years of graduating college. Thanks to recruitment efforts for 2+2 by the Business School, Leopold said that undergraduates became more aware about the possibility of applying while still in college, and this increased awareness would lead to higher numbers of applications.

Sanford Kreisberg, an admissions consultant who runs the consulting blog hbsguru.com and gave mock interviews to a number of 2+2 candidates, praised the effort by the MBA admissions office to appeal to younger students who might otherwise have considered different academic paths.

“Leopold deserves an oak cluster on her 25-year service pin for dreaming up 2+2,” Kreisberg said. “This campaign has probably pre-empted 20 kids from going to Yale Law School and 40 or more from going to Stanford Business School, HBS’s biggest competitor.”

“It’s like HBS was taking babies from the candy,” he added.

One of the “babies” who received a 2+2 acceptance last week is Michael Segal ’09, a biochemistry concentrator.

“In the end, applying to 2+2 seemed like a fairly obvious decision because the program not only guarantees a spot at HBS and guarantees time to develop your own worldview,” Segal said, “but it allows you to find the best experience to have for two years. This program is a win-win on all accounts.”

2+2 also allows students to take an optional third year in the workforce before returning to Cambridge.

As a freshman, Segal was considering attending medical school after college. However, when he founded the Harvard College Entrepreneurship Forum during his sophomore year, his direction shifted.

“I had always had a philosophical interest in business and entrepreneurship.” Segal said. “I wanted to learn more about these people who disrupt how we think about the world, and in the process, I became enamored with the entrepreneurial world and decided that I wanted to be a part of it.”

The Business School will still be in touch with students who were offered interviews but not admittance. Leopold said that her office would talk with them about their future plans and whether they would like to enter the regular admissions pool in the future. Students who did not receive an interview can also still apply later for regular admissions.

“This pool of candidates was amazing, beyond our wildest expectations,” Leopold said. “These people are so different, so passionate, and will certainly change the world.”

—Staff writer Prateek Kumar can be reached at kumar@fas.harvard.edu.