Last week I attended an MBA admissions event hosted by Harvard Business School; the event was targeted at women who are looking to get into the HBS BMA program in the next few years. As always in New York City, the crowd was diverse and interesting. It wasn’t quite as interesting as watching the NYTimes’ “On the Street” with Bill Cunningham, but it wasn’t half bad: from real Louis Vuitton bags to great H&M sandals, everything was there. The current trend of huge eyeglass frames (also known as the Brooklyn look) was also present and accounted for.

Reception for MBA Applicants – HBS Style?

As for the reception, it’s unfortunate that Harvard Business School decided to be so old-school. The event was hosted at the Marriott Hotel in Midtown East, and it included a presentation by Jessica Lester, HBS class of 2003, along with a panel with 4 recent alumnae. No networking, no mingling, just a panel and a Q&A. And — no food! I was shocked. There was coffee, but I didn’t even see milk or creamers. There was no give-away – just the run-of-the-mil pens and paper cards that you get at a Marriot. Honestly, I would have expected more from HBS. Don’t they know anything about marketing? Branding? Millennials? Wouldn’t it be fun to write your HBS draft on HBS paper? Wouldn’t that motivate you to try and apply, to improve your GMAT score? Maybe it’s just me, but I wish they had done it differently.

The presentation itself was standard, with information about the application process, the deadlines, and a short,unemotional movie about life at HBS. I did feel that the admissions team at HBS tried to tweak it for the female audience — there were plenty of images of women (students and professors) in the presentation –but I felt that there was no emotional connection.

Harvard MBA Alumni Panel

The panel included 4 recent alumnae.While I have their full names, I’ve decided to use just their first initials to protect their privacy. So here are their profiles:

* N. – An investment banker at Goldman Sachs before her MBA, and currently doing impact investment at a big foundation.

* H – An HBS undergrad who worked in Private Wealth Management for 2 years before coming back to get her MBA from HBS. She’s recently started her own e-commerce retail company.

* M – Worked in retail before b-school, tried out a summer internship at Facebook, and decided to go back to retail after school, working as a buyer for a global brand

* Y – Originally from China, went to a top university for undergrad (and studiedmath), worked in finance before school and is currently doing M&A at a top firm in NY.

The panelists talked about what they learned in school, and they seemed to be passionate and positive about their overall HBS experience – but who wouldn’t be? They talked about how the case study method helped them have more confidence in presenting arguments in their current careers, starting new businesses and interacting with others.

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