Article by Ben Feuer. Photo by James Jordan.

 

WHAT IS 2+2, ANYWAY? 

Is it an overgrown arithmetic problem? A formula for Noah’s ark?

Yes, but it’s also a highly selective program targeted at undergraduates in their junior year, designed to ‘lock them into’ Harvard Business School two to four years in advance of their attendance.

If you’re a top student, especially if you also happen to be female or an under-represented minority, you’re gonna be a very sexy target for graduate programs. Business school may seem to you like the least attractive option: dull, money-centric, excessively technical, and culturally irrelevant. Plus, it takes years of work experience and total industry commitment to even be considered!

Enter Harvard, always a thought leader, once again attempting to shift the conversation. The 2+2 program is that attempt. 

This program is designed to convince and convert brilliant ‘on the fence’ students, locking them into Harvard’s prestigious business school, HBS, at the ideal age — just when as they might otherwise have gone over to the medical or law schools.

Even if you already know all this, it’s important to remind yourself of it before you think about applying. By understanding the type of student Harvard wants, you can better position yourself in your application.

 

FACTS AND FIGURES 

Here are some statistics that can help give you a sense of the overall landscape of 2+2 admissions. 

The 2+2 program accepts around 110 students each year. The selectivity of the program is around 11 percent

STEM and humanities majors are preferred … however, business majors are accepted every year. In fact, 26 percent of the most recent class were business or economics majors, compared to only 12 percent humanities majors! That said, econ is going to be much more competitive than undergraduate business.

You’ll need great stats. The GRE is an option, but GMAT is still more popular70% of admitted students chose GMAT.

 

FOR BUSINESS MAJORS

~780 GMAT target.

~3.9 GPA target.

 

FOR NON-BUSINESS MAJORS

~750 GMAT target.

~3.7 GPA Target.

 

2+2 is not just for undergraduates.  Many people don’t know this, but candidates from master’s degree programs who have not held a full-time work position (not including law, medical or Ph.D) are also eligible to apply.

 

HOW TO GET IN 

Getting into HBS 2+2 is both the easiest and the hardest thing you’ll ever do. It’s hard because very few people are successful. It’s easy, however, to understand why they’re successful.

Want to know the secret? Here goes —

 

Lead in what you love.

 

2+2 is, at its core, a blank check from Harvard to you. They’re saying to you, “No matter what, we have your back. Now go out and change the world, then come back to us and change it again.”

So you better have at least two key things if you want to get in —

 

1. A proven track record of creating change, in a leadership role.

2. An area of the world, not business, that you are currently focused on changing.

 

Once you know what that is, the rest is simple, at least in theory. The execution can be more of a challenge. You need to reorganize your essays, your resume, your extracurriculars, your potential recommenders, and probably your life, to reflect this new direction you now realize that you have. 

All of these aspects of your candidacy are important, but pay special attention to your recommenders. For younger students like 2+2 applicants, character is incredibly important because there’s less of a track record to look at. So pick recommenders who know you really well, and have known you for a relatively long period of time. Think years, not months. Strong, enduring relationships are a good indicator of success in a program like 2+2, which has 2-4 year gaps between accepting students and reeling them back in.

When it comes to your essays and resume, dwell in the land of the firsts and the bests. What have you done that is different? How did it change you?

There are many potentially compelling extracurricular profiles. Here are a few we’ve seen succeed in the past.

 

•Non-profit founder

•NCAA star athlete

•Major engineering/design competition winner (especially team projects)

•Small-to-medium business founder (revenues up to $50 million)

•Overseas educator

•Anti-poverty crusader

•Early career success in competitive field (entertainment, politics)

•School, class or association president

 

One last tip. Don’t get too hung up on name brands. Harvard’s attitude towards them is lukewarm at best — they want to add brand recognition, not join the back of a conga line. They’ll take a state schooler with extraordinary leadership qualities over a middle of the pack Ivy leaguer every day of the week.

 

WHEN TO APPLY 

The 2+2 applications have only one deadline this year: April 3rd, 2017. Applications are not reviewed on a rolling basis so your application will not be considered until the April 3rd application round.

 

MORE QUESTIONS?

No problem!  Hit us up and we'll be happy to discuss your particular situation and answer any questions you may have, including how competitive you are.


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Harvard Business School's prestigious 2+2 program is attracting more qualified applicants every year.  How can you stand out from the pack?

The HBS 2+2 program has only been around for a few short years, but it is quickly becoming one of the most attractive destinations for ambitious young scholars.  It has evolved a lot in the few years it has existed, but its mission remains the same -- to attract the best and brightest young students who wouldn't otherwise consider business school and bring them into the Harvard fold. HBS takes these students 'sight unseen', as it were, without work experience, and requires them to work for two years before joining their Harvard Business School class.
The program is highly selective, with acceptance rates hovering around 11 to 12 percent every year -- but if you want to go, here are a few things you have to do in order to prepare yourself.

1.  Have a great job -- in your chosen field.  It is incredibly important to have a post-baccalaureate job lined up before applying to HBS 2+2, even if it means waiting until Round 3 instead of applying Round 2.  Furthermore, it can't just be any old job -- working at the Starbucks isn't going to cut it!  The most competitive applicants will have landed jobs that show their potential in their chosen field, while also leaving the door open to improve themselves with a business education.

 2. Have great test scores and GPA.  Even more than HBS itself, the 2+2 program is intensely competitive and numbers-driven, since there's less work experience for adcoms to judge. You can take either the GRE or the GMAT, although GMAT is the more rigorous test and therefore adcoms will be a little more forgiving of a 'weak' GMAT score than a weak GRE score.  A student applying to 2+2 should have at least a 730 with at least 75% score on the quant section to be competitive, and a 3.7+ GPA.

3.  Have a STEM background. HBS 2+2 loves STEM applicants more than anything.  62 percent of the incoming class was STEM, dwarfing all other backgrounds COMBINED.  Engineers, mathematicians and data scientists' skillsets are always in high demand at business school, so this probably comes as no big surprise.  That said, liberal arts and business majors do have a real shot at getting into the program -- just less of a shot.

4.  Have a compelling story.  Although numbers tell a big part of the story, they don't tell the whole story.  The fact is, recommendations and essays are the "X factor" that can overcome slightly weaker numbers -- and unfortunately, this is the part of the process most candidates spend the least time on!  All of the advice we give to B-school applicants in general goes double for HBS 2+2 applicants -- finding a meaningful reason to go to business school, an exciting life goal the committee will want to engage with, and being able to talk about your personal background and life history in a way that really illuminates who you are.

If you have questions about your chances at getting into HBS's 2+2 program, contact us! ; We'd be happy to handicap your chances and give you a few pointers.

Happy hunting!

Photo by Niklas Tenhaef.