Applying to HBS? Join us for a conversation about Harvard Business School, entrepreneurship, leadership, and admissions.
Our guest today is Adam Nathan, who earned his MBA from Harvard Business School in 2015 as a Baker Scholar and joined Accepted a few months ago. Adam graduated from Duke in 2010 and was accepted to the inaugural 2+2 class at HBS. Before starting at HBS he worked briefly for the White House and then as an Associate and Senior Associate Consultant for The Bridgespan Group, the non-profit associated with Bain Consulting, and finally he worked in Network Strategy for Hawaiian Airlines. While at HBS, he started Ace Travel.
A Duke grad’s journey to 2+2 [2:30]
Why a b-school education is significant—leadership roles, potential to solve problems in both the public and private sector. He sees an important social role for business.
What is great about HBS? [4:13]
The intentional application of management principles to every experience; great professors (and a culture that truly values teaching); the case method. And the people: your classmates are obviously smart and accomplished, but also genuinely nice, good people.
What he misses about HBS: the opportunity to devote time to thinking about big questions, reading, absorbing experiences. [8:48]
Any changes he’d like to see at HBS? [11:09]
More of a focus on helping people develop a sense of purpose—who they want to be, what they want to do, how they want to help other people. He thinks Harvard can start working on this by beginning to shift the definition of success—and that the application process is part of that (asking applicants to present themselves as humans with values rather than just resume items).
HBS social life- is it expensive/elitist? [17:11]
He explains that there is a bit of a “pay to play” culture, but that most people see it as an investment that will pay off later. I.e., people spend money on trips, retreats, and so on—budgeting up to $20-30k above tuition costs. Many people come into b-school already well-off, but he concedes this can be tough for students from non-traditional and less affluent backgrounds.
How is the admissions process evolving? [19:33]
It’s moving away from just numbers and resumes to focusing on who students are as people— their values, what inspires them, how they think about things. Most HBS applicants could probably handle the academics, but that’s not sufficient—the committee’s looking for human virtues.
He was part of HBS’s inaugural 2+2 class. Would he do it again? [22:12]
YES! it was definitely the right choice for him. Knowing he was HBS-bound allowed him to pursue work he was especially interested in before beginning his MBA.
Start-up: Ace Travel [24:23]
He’d worked at Hawaiian Airlines before b-school, so he had an understanding of the challenges facing the airline industry. At HBS, he wanted to design a better business model for the travel industry and developed Ace Travel, which allows customers to design their travel experience end to end. How did HBS help him launch Ace Travel? HBS provided a small amount of money for initial research, seed investors, and also additional support from the HBS network and alumni.
The secret to HBS admissions? [31:28]
Be true to yourself. If you’re just saying what you think will make the adcom like you, you’ll blend in. It’s clear when someone’s genuine. Think about what your goals are and how b-school fits into your life.
Specific advice for 2+2 applicants? [35:50]
It’s OK to be the undergrad that you are—remember the stage you’re at.
Closing admissions tips [36:56]
Have an extra set of eyes look over your essays—an impartial reader is really valuable. “Impartial” is important—it’s best that your reader is not a loved one.
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