Adding 2+2 To Equal Five

As Students Defer, HBS's 2+2 Program Learns To Be Flexible

When Diana G. Kimball ’09 was in her junior year at Harvard, she got a phone call from her father. He had just read an article in the Wall Street Journal announcing a new program at Harvard Business School that he thought would be perfect for his daughter.

At her father’s recommendation, Kimball read about the 2+2 Program, which invites students to apply to Harvard Business School in their senior year of college. Admitted students are asked to spend two years in the workforce before completing Harvard’s two-year MBA program, hence the name.

Kimball, a history concentrator at the College, applied and got in.

She spent two years working at Microsoft’s Silicon Valley office and a short time at a start-up company, but her plan to return to Harvard was always at the back of her mind. “I entered a romantic relationship early in my time in San Francisco, and on our first date, I had to disclose that I was moving in two years. It made it difficult to settle down in some ways.”

As the first class of students admitted to the 2+2 Program, including Kimball, wraps up its first year at the Business School, the difficulty of structuring one’s early post-college years around a two-year plan has become apparent.


Some students have said they avoid disclosing their acceptance to 2+2 to their potential employers. And others, finding success in the working world, are not ready to step away after just two years on the job.

Out of the 106 students who were accepted in 2008 to the first class, 65 showed up at Harvard this year, 40 postponed matriculation, and one dropped out. For the next class, which is scheduled to arrive on campus in the fall, more than half have chosen not to come right away.

“The reality is it could be called the X+2 Program,” said Deirdre C. Leopold, managing director of MBA admissions and financial aid.


Harvard Business School requires most students to enter its MBA program with at least two years of work experience. The 2+2 Program opened the door to college-aged applicants.

“We want to get the MBA out there as something for smart and active and committed college students to consider,” Leopold said.

The program classifies admitted students based on their expected year of graduation from the MBA program. The School is currently selecting what it terms the 2016 cohort; Kimball’s cohort is 2013.

Harvard College has had a strong showing in the first three cohorts admitted to the program—22 out of 106 students in the 2013 cohort were Harvard undergraduates; 27 of 115 the next year; and about 20 of 100 the year after that.

After two years in San Francisco, Kimball said she has found it comforting to return to the familiar environment of Harvard. “I think that same place, different story is the main feeling,” she said.

Lilly Y. Deng ’09, who was accepted to 2+2 at the same time as Kimball, noted that compared to Harvard College, the Business School offers a more structured academic experience. She said her classes run from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and are almost fully attended—a stark change from college life.


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