HBS Recruits Younger Applicants to Lend New Perspective

The average Harvard Business School (HBS) student is 27 years old with about four years of work experience--similar to the national business school average. But in an effort to bring new and younger perspectives to HBS, the school is actively recruiting at colleges, encouraging undergraduates to apply earlier, even straight out of college.

"We are going to speak at colleges for the first time in about a decade, trying to significantly increase our outreach to undergraduates," says Kirsten J. Moss, managing director of MBA admissions and financial aid.

This year, HBS will visit about 20 schools. In September, Moss spoke across the river at the Harvard Student Agencies Business Leadership Program, telling an audience of 100 College seniors that they should consider business school immediately or after only a couple of years of experience.


"We want people to apply when they think they are ready--there is no minimum age or work requirement," Moss says. "And it's important to get the message out to undergraduates now because, if you wanted to come after a couple of years' experience, you would have to start the process only one year after graduation."

Moss and Williston Professor of Business Administration W. Carl Kester, chair of the MBA program, began to refocus the recruiting process on younger students when they assumed their positions last year. Kester says there was a consensus among deans and unit heads (the HBS equivalent of department heads) that it would be desirable to re-attract a group whose representation had decreased over the years.

Rather surprisingly, 20 years ago more than half of HBS students had fewer than two years' work experience. Now, such students compose less than five percent of the class.

"Over time, that part of the applicant pool has gotten little focus," Kester says. "It has withered under the presumption that anyone with less than four or five years of experience has simply no chance of admission."

Kester notes that the presence of more young people is especially important now, at a time when they have such a significant impact on the business world.

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