1. Curriculum innovation: As many are aware, the case-based method of teaching pervades the HBS curriculum (other programs such as Tuck offer a mixed lecture-and-case-method approach to material). While continuing to use this method, HBS faculty have approved the addition of a required first-year course to the curriculum.
For this course, called FIELD (Field Immersion Experiences for Leadership Development), students will be assigned to small groups of five or six and concentrate on leadership and self-reflection. The course will also include a consulting project and an assignment related to international affairs. More opportunities for hands-on and field learning are expected to follow. Though these changes have been approved and formally announced to admitted students, HBS faculty have not settled on the specifics of the official course yet.
The new course at HBS is perhaps comparable to the Chicago Booth LEAD course (Leadership Effectiveness and Development) and the First-Year Project at the Tuck School of Business where students are asked to apply their core academic knowledge to a real-world problem. It should also be noted that HBS will modularise electives in the second year, allowing students greater flexibility when shaping their course of study.
2. Intellectual ambition: HBS will continue to encourage its faculty to pursue research projects that will shape the world of business. Faculty will continue to develop what Nohria calls “the big ideas that have shaped the world of business scholarship, education, and practice.”
3. Internationalization: The curriculum at HBS will continue to reflect the increasingly globalized nature of business. Students will continue to study prominent business cases outside of the U.S. Last year, more than half of the business cases studied involved non-U.S. companies.
4. Diversity: HBS will continue to value diversity when crafting their class each year.
5. Interdisciplinary interaction: HBS will seek partnerships with students and faculty from other Harvard departments.
What does this mean for you? During the interview, you will be asked to articulate why a particular school’s curriculum is a good fit for you and your professional goals. Make sure you understand the distinctions between different programs — which ones offer case-method learning, which ones offer a “mixed” teaching style, which offer greater flexibility, which have a greater range of courses available, etc.
Make sure you don’t simply repeat the obvious in your essay; telling the schools what their curriculum consists of and stating that you admire it will not win you points in the admissions process. In your application essay, you should show why and how a specific curriculum will work for you. Also remember that you are applying to business school at a time when innovation, diversity, social consciousness, and civic awareness are becoming more important. In a time like this, you definitely do not want to come across as someone just “looking to get a ticket punched.”
The bottom line. The MBA degree will continue to be an important fixture in the corporate world. Business schools are, in a sense, businesses themselves and will continue to ensure their relevance. Despite the debate about the worth of an MBA in today’s tough economic times, placement rates at the top programs are excellent this year (Tuck is nearly back to its pre-recession placement level). The MBA continues to signify to employers a knowledge of core business subjects and an ability to handle complex management issues.
Also note that the Wharton School of Business, the Yale School of Management, the Stanford Graduate School of Business, and the Berkeley Haas School of Business have recently announced plans to revamp their curriculum as well. Make sure you stay on top of these developments.