It’s your junior year of college and you think you’re interested in applying for Harvard’s 2+2 Program. What do you do now?
First, why Harvard 2+2? Entering its third application cycle in 2010, the 2+2 program is open only to college juniors or the equivalent, basically any students that have at least one term left in their undergraduate careers. Rumors abound about what types of students HBS is looking for, but the bottom line is that they want leaders across the spectrum, beyond just the traditional consulting-to-business school track.
While the application isn’t due until July 1st, so the summer after your junior year, don’t leave everything for those last few weeks. Planning ahead is crucial in order to get a solid GMAT/GRE score as well as work on those essays.
Check out Harvard’s website for more information and a timeline. But here are the major things to consider as you’re preparing your application.
1. Taking the GRE or GMAT
First, which exam should you take? While both are graduate entrance exams, the GMAT and GRE differ in format and focus. Both start with two essays designed to examine your analytical writing skills. Then the GMAT has two 75-minute sections (38 questions in Quantitative, 41 in Verbal) while the GRE has four 30-minute sections, two each in Verbal and Quantitative. Take a look at some practice questions for each exam and use the freedom you’re given to take the exam that best fits your skill set.
Check my article on taking the GMAT in college for tips on scheduling your exam around your academic schedule and responsibilities.
Note that international applicants must also take the TOEFL or IEST to prove proficiency in English.
Two recommendations are required for the application and they are submitted online. You will be asked to provide the names, titles and email addresses for your recommenders and they will be contacted electronically to submit the recommendation.
Whether you choose to ask a former professor or an employer at your on-campus job, choose someone who knows you, your motivations, your career goals, etc. The recommender will be asked to rate you on a variety of skills and traits, as well as provide paragraph-length responses. The more your recommender knows about you, the better and the more powerful their recommendation.
It’s your responsibility to make sure the recommenders fill out the forms by July 1st. Your application will not be considered complete without the two recommendations, so be sure to ask early and don’t be afraid to send a reminder or two if you see that they haven’t submitted it yet.
Also, don’t forget to thank your recommenders for taking the time to fill out the recommendation. A hand-written card and small gift (e.g. box of chocolates, gift card to a coffee shop, etc.) go a long way.
There are four essays that are part of the application. Three are required and the fourth gives you three options.
For the 2009 application, the questions were as follows:
1. What are your three most substantial accomplishments and why do you view them as such? (600-word limit)
2. What would you like us to know about your undergraduate academic experience? (400-word limit)
3. What have you learned from a mistake? (400-word limit)
4. Please answer one of the following (400-word limit each):
- Discuss how you have engaged with a community or organization.
- What area of the world are you most curious about and why?
- What is your career vision and why is this choice meaningful to you?
Since these essays are really a window into your personality and motivations, make sure you show the admissions commitee what you’re all about. Your transcript, resume and recommendations already say a lot about your academics and work experience, so use your essays wisely and either cover elements mentioned in those other components more in-depth, or explore other interests that are not covered elsewhere in the application.
There are two options for reporting your academic record. You can either submit a self-reported transcript by filling out a pre-formatted Excel spreadsheet, or scan a copy of your official transcript. Both must be uploaded to the application website.
Depending on how your college organizes classes, it may be easier to obtain a transcript and upload it. The self-reported form is not the most conducive to recording AP credits or colleges who offer a system that is not based on credit hours.
Grades are required through the end of your junior year, so plan ahead. If you go to a school on a quarter system, in which the year does not end until mid-June, remember that the registrar’s office will be busy with the graduating class. Familiarize yourself with the procedures of obtaining an official transcript and understand that some offices take a few days to process a transcript request, so don’t wait until June 29th to request a transcript.
The 2010 application will officially be available in the spring 2010, but start planning ahead if you truly think you’re interested. Plus, since scores are good for five years, taking the GMAT/GRE would be nice to get out of the way while you’re still in school.
Best of luck!