Monthly Archives: September 2014

Do HBS students really get kicked out?

To all appearances, everyone seems to be enjoying second year. With new classes and new friends, the dynamic has changed substantially when compared to last year. However, something does seem amiss…  some of our first year section mates are unaccounted for. We search the online class cards, but to no avail.

Every year there are some students who leave HBS after first year. The reasons vary. Some start their own business during summer break, and as the business gains traction, they are reluctant to abandon their “baby”. They usually take a year’s leave of absence, with many not returning to HBS unless the business fails. This may be a rare occurrence these days, but in the heyday of the dotcom bubble in the late 90s many students took this route.

Others leave HBS for family reasons. For example, a friend of mine left to run the family business in his home country due to his father’s illness. This is very unfortunate – they also take a leave of absence, but circumstances may not allow them to return.

And, as many people may know, not a small number of people leave HBS due to unsatisfactory academic performance. At HBS, as I wrote in another post, we are graded on a curve, with the bottom 10% of each class automatically getting the lowest grade. Should a student receive a number of these low grades during first year, HBS’s Academic Performance Committee (APC) sends an alert to the student. Called “hitting the screen”, the APC discusses how to improve the students’ academic performance and offers several resources and options. But not all the students are eligible to utilize these opportunities, and at the end of the day, some students are required to leave the school. Yes, they are kicked out.

This may seem harsh but it does mirror the real world. And it is this pressure that is the source of healthy competition and a major incentive for studying at HBS. However, losing precious section mates is very sad…


Designing EC

Well, we have finished the second week of our second year. For those who missed my previous post, second year at HBS is called Elective Curriculum (EC) and is exceedingly more flexible than first year’s Required Curriculum (RC). We are free to select 10 classes from a potential list of 150 courses. In effect, we design our own curriculum.

As a rule, there are three distinct paths that students follow.  Type A people select classes from various domains, such as strategy, finance, marketing, leadership, and form a well-balanced curriculum. People who pursue careers as general managers or business professionals (investment banking, consulting, and PE) tend to follow this route.

Type B people typically take multiple classes with a focus on a specialized discipline, such as healthcare, finance, and social entrepreneurship. These individuals may have found an affinity for a particular field through their summer internship, or may be people who attended HBS with a specific career in mind.

Type C people develop their curriculum giving the highest priority to work-life balance. They carefully scrutinize a syllabus, find classes with minimum workloads, and combine them with other classes of the same ilk – regardless of their career interests. They may very well have been burnt out by the intensive case method during first year. It should be noted however, that people who want to spend their time on startups also tend to go this way.


Me? I’m Type B. I decided to focus on healthcare and am taking the following classes:

  • Innovating in Health Care
  • Building Life Science Businesses
  • Entrepreneurship in Healthcare IT and services
  • Introduction to U.S. Healthcare Policy (Harvard Kennedy School)


By the way – despite continuous practicing, I must sadly report my golf game does not seem to be improving…


Second year has started

Today saw us start our second year. Campus was filled with stressed-out freshman RC students and familiar looking, calm EC students.  On the way to my classroom, I happened to run into some of my old section mates; we stopped and talked up a storm, comparing notes on our exciting summers, and of course we were almost late to our first class.


Contrary to the military-like discipline of first year, the second year at HBS is relatively flexible. In addition to HBS’s 150 elective courses, we are also able to cross register in classes of other graduate schools in the Cambridge area: Harvard Kennedy School, Harvard Law School, MIT Sloan School, etc. Crammed with fundamental general management skills in the first year, we can now pursue our own interests.

However, it’s not easy to pick only ten classes from the intriguing long list. Therefore this first week is designated as a “shopping period” in which we can attend various classes and add or drop classes. The ultimate window-shopping! Although we engage in a bidding process for spots in some of the more popular classes, most students are able to set a satisfactory curriculum during this period.

The importance of today seemed lost on most, as everyone looked “airy-fairy’. No doubt they still had memories of summer vacation dancing through their minds.