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HBS to Expand Spring Peek Weekend to Broader Applicant Pool

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Building on the success of its pilot last spring, Harvard Business School (HBS) recently announced plans to expand the applicant pool for Peek Weekend this June to welcome not only candidates from women’s colleges, but also college sophomores, juniors and seniors majoring in science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM) fields or who come from a family-owned business background.

“These groups can be underrepresented in business school applicant pools,” Dee Leopold, HBS managing director of MBA admissions and financial aid, said in a statement. “We want to do all we can to ensure that our admissions process reaches as many qualified students as possible and help them understand the many different options and opportunities a Harvard MBA can lead to in a graduate’s life.”

Peek Weekend debuted in 2015 as an all-female affair, with 124 promising young women drawn from 14 women’s colleges including Barnard, Wellesley, Mills and Mt. Holyoke. Response surprised organizers, who originally planned to target just a single school, Barnard, and draw around 40 or so participants, Leopold said. The purpose of the program was to offer current students from women’s colleges a “peek” into what the Harvard MBA program is like—in part to help drive greater female enrollment. (HBS this year welcomed 42 percent women as part of its incoming class, up from 38 percent in 2010 and 28 percent in 1995.)

In an interview with Clear Admit just after the all-women’s weekend, Leopold was thrilled with how successful it had been and intimated that the format could be expanded to include other groups of potential HBS applicants. Now, in just its second year, the school appears to be doing just that.

The 2016 Peek Weekend will again be open to applicants from women’s colleges, but it will also include two additional cohorts, one made up of STEM majors and another made up of students who come from a family-owned business background. Each cohort will have its own specific curriculum, but the entire group will come together as part of joint sessions for all Peek participants.

An Introduction to the HBS Case Method
Last year, a big part of the Peek Weekend focus was on introducing participants to HBS’s signature case method. Leopold was reluctant to talk about the event before it took place, unsure of how successful it would prove. “We just didn’t know,” she said. “Can we get the case method to really cook, really bubble in such a short time with people who haven’t done it?”

The pilot group of women dove right in, embracing the case method with ease. “I was blown away by how engaged and thoughtful they were,” said Frances X. Frei, HBS professor of service management and senior associate dean for faculty planning and recruiting, who taught a case on Tessei, a company that provides cleaning services for Japan’s bullet trains.

“I immediately fell in love with the case method—it was a huge part of the great experience I had there,” said Catherine Cousins, who was a rising senior at Mills College in California when she took part. “I just assumed, based on my economics background—that it would be really quant heavy. I was expecting numbers and statistics and Excel, but the case method was so much more than just how the numbers change,” she said.