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4 Traits That (Most) HBS Students Share

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4 Traits That (Most) HBS Students Share [#permalink]

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New post 01 Jan 2017, 12:08

Harvard Business School admissions doesn’t just embrace diversity, they obsessively (and methodically) seek it. HBS sees diversity as essential to its learning environment—the renowned “case method” requires a wide variety of viewpoints to challenge and teach students.

But admissions is only one part of HBS’s diversity push. 900+ matriculating students are carefully sorted into 10 sections, with results that would make the Hogwart’s Sorting Hat jealous. Perhaps unsurprisingly, each section has a near-perfectly balanced composition of industry background, nationality, gender, military experience and dozens of other less obvious traits and experiences. These ultra-diverse super sections provide the opportunity to learn from (and network with) a rich portfolio of experiences and backgrounds.

Despite the differences, accepted HBS candidates often share a few common, noticeable traits. HBS admissions speaks to what they are looking for on their website, but I’d like to add to the list. If you’re a prospective student, here are 4 traits that may help you determine if you might fit into one of these super sections.

1. Confidence

Confirmed. Plenty of confidence to go around. The joke is that you spend your first week at Harvard thinking, “How did I get in here?” and the next two years feeling confident that you belong but wondering how everyone else was accepted.

2. Social Grace

You probably won’t be surprised (and it’s well-discussed) that there are more extroverts than introverts at HBS. This leads to a culture where extroversion is almost an expectation, and an extremely active social agenda among students is almost a given. However, minority introverts and majority extroverts alike have exceptional interpersonal skills. Sit down, grab lunch, and meet a new classmate; it’s likely that regardless of whom you’re speaking with, the conversation will be engaging and flow effortlessly.

3. Opinionated

If you visit a class at HBS, you’ll see 90 students sitting on the edge of their seats ready to passionately provide their viewpoints. I loved it. I hope you witness a heated argument! Without my classmates sharing their strong opinions, my education (and entertainment) would have been severely diminished. The case method motivates a deep and broad understanding of issues. People who form and articulate sound opinions, even with limited information, thrive.

4. Planner

HBS students love “treks.” A trek is simply traveling somewhere in the world with classmates, mixing fun with an optional set of business introductions or experiences. Whether you are mostly adventuring, or straight-up vacationing with your classmates, each trip comes complete with a published itinerary. You’ll probably have two or three information sessions beforehand to review the dense itinerary. It’s both overwhelming and fantastic. I still reach out to my classmates to get old itineraries for places I didn’t visit as a student but intend to go now.

What does this mean for HBS candidates? If you are ready for a calculated, highly social, argumentative two-year trek, then Harvard may be the perfect place for you. Do you think being suffocated by those traits for two years may kill you? Well, you can survive--no super section would be complete without two or three medical students to revive you.


Jaren Nichols is part of the HBS '15 graduating class. Jaren currently heads up revenue at ZipBooks. Previous to, Jaren worked for Dropcam, Nest Labs, and Google.

Related Resources:

HBS 2016 Grad Reflects on Her Experience as a Harvard MBA [Episode 154]
Harvard Business School 2017 MBA Essay Tips & Deadlines
What is Harvard Business School Looking For?

This article originally appeared on

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4 Traits That (Most) HBS Students Share   [#permalink] 01 Jan 2017, 12:08
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