Are you applying to Harvard Business School (HBS) this year? Then you won’t want to miss this latest installment of our Admissions Director Q&A series as we welcome Chad Losee, the Managing Director of MBA Admissions and Financial Aid at HBS. His team is responsible for recruiting, evaluating, and yielding a class of about 930 HBS students each year. In addition, Losee’s team oversees a need-based financial aid program that deploys more than $40 million in scholarships for HBS students.
Losee earned a bachelor’s degree in international relations, summa cum laude, from Brigham Young University in 2008; a master’s degree in business administration, high distinction, from HBS in 2013; and a doctorate in higher education management from the University of Pennsylvania in 2021.
From 2008 to 2011 and again from 2014 to 2016, Losee worked at Bain & Company as a strategy consultant, serving clients across multiple industries. At HBS, Losee worked as a Dean’s Office fellow from 2013 to 2014, helping to launch the HBS Online business and the Disruptive Strategy course. He began his role in MBA Admissions and Financial Aid in 2016.
In this interview, Losee talks about:
- What’s new at HBS
- Tips on the admissions essay
- How to prepare for the HBS interview
- The post-interview reflection essay
…and more! Check out the abbreviated transcript below, or listen to the podcast episode (hosted by Graham Richmond and produced by Dennis Crowley) here – or in your favorite podcast app.
This transcript has been edited for length and clarity.
Graham Richmond for Clear Admit (CA): What is something you enjoy about your current position at HBS?
Chad Losee for Harvard Business School (CL): This is a thread that goes back to being an admissions volunteer as a student, but I love the people that I get to meet. I wanted to talk about local politics all over the world with people who grew up in different places, people who worked in different industries, and those who just have different interests.
I would say that one of the biggest highlights for me is getting to know the people who are considering HBS, who apply to HBS, and who interview with us. Every step of the process, I feel really lucky to meet really interesting people that I get to learn from. I feel like that’s a really great way for me to stay on top of what’s happening in the world, see where great talent is going, and understand what management teams are facing.
CA: Is there anything you don’t like about your job?
CL: I confess, I still get nervous on podcasts or media interviews like this. So maybe I would put that on the list: not generally loving the spotlight on me and still feeling a little nervous for interviews like this.
CA: Give me an HBS stereotype that you want to debunk.
CL: One thing that we encounter in admissions while talking to people is this sense that we have a “certain type” that we’re looking for in the admissions process, so maybe a certain career path or background that we’re looking for. While it’s true that we’re looking for people who are curious, talented, and are interested in leadership & invested in people around them, it’s not true that we’re looking for one particular type of applicant.
For the incoming Fall class, we have people from about 300 different universities in 70 different countries who came from a wide range of companies and had different roles. We also have people from varied income and socioeconomic backgrounds who have different lived experiences. While we are looking for exceptional people, we want individuals who bring a different perspective than their classmates. That’s partly because of our learning model, where the students are really at the center of things.
In fact, most of what is said in a Harvard Business School classroom is spoken by the students. So rather than just sitting back and listening to a professor at the front of the room, our students are expected to bring their own perspective on what’s going on in this business and what should be done. The learning really comes out inductively through this discussion among people who are talented, but come at problems in different ways. So as an admissions team, we’re explicitly not looking for just one type of person. I hope that people will believe me when I say that, because I think sometimes there’s this myth out there that you have to have worked at a certain company or come from a certain place to be a competitive applicant. We’re really looking to get to know you and the voice that you would bring to the program.
CA: What’s one thing that’s happening, or is going to be happening, on campus at HBS that you wish people knew more about?
CL: I’d love to highlight the work that we are doing on racial equity at the school. This work predates the killing of George Floyd, but it’s definitely been accelerated in the last year. So I feel really humbled to have been a part of a greater effort that involved many alumni, students, faculty, and staff. We had a Dean’s anti-racism task force that ran for several months last year, and in September we made really strong public commitments about what we can do to advance racial equity and recognize the role that HBS plays in the broader business school landscape. So I’d love to highlight some of those things.
For instance, we have a new Chief Diversity and Inclusion officer, Terrell Drake, who’s going to be starting in September. One of the ways that we have influenced beyond just HBS is through the cases that are written by our faculty members. The cases that are written at HBS are sometimes taught at other business schools — I believe this statistic is that 80% of cases taught at business schools around the world were written by HBS faculty. So the kinds of businesses, problems, and business leaders that are highlighted in those cases can have an influence on what business students are studying around the world. One of the things that our Student Association and our African American student union led last year was called the Juneteenth pledge, where they worked closely with faculty members who pledged to write a case with a Black or African American protagonist. Over the last year, 70 cases have been written with Black or African American protagonists; and 50 more are currently in process. 90 cases with Latin x, Asian or Native American protagonists are in process right now as well.
We know that it will have an impact within HBS as those cases go into the curriculum and students see more diverse examples of business leaders, but we also hope that it will have influence at other places as well. Within admissions, we just rolled out a need-based application fee waiver and a new scholarship that stacks on top of our need-based scholarships to recognize students who have worked on advancing racial equity in underserved communities before they applied to HBS. We’ve also made adjustments to the financial aid formula to really account for socioeconomic background. Those are a few of the things that we’ve been working on and some of the efforts that we have underway on advancing racial equity.
CA: Let’s talk about the life of an application. Would you be willing to walk us through what happens from when someone presses submit until they get a final offer? How does the process work behind the scenes?
CL: I remember what it’s like to be on the other end of this: to work hard, do all of the reflection, and hit that button & say, “okay, I’m not sure what happens next.” I guess the first thing I would say is, we think of the application process as a two way street or a process where we’re doing our very best to get to know you. We’re also trying to do our very best to help you get to know HBS and the community that you would be joining if you decide to join us. So there are things that we have purposely tried to put throughout the process that I’ll highlight as well so that you can get to know the school as well as we’re getting to know you, because we recognize that you’re probably applying to more than one place.
As you’re doing the reflection about your own goals and where you’d like your career to unfold, you’re thinking about which school in which program in which community will best help you meet those. So when you submit an application, on our end, each application is read by two different members of the admissions board. These are people who are highly trained. Many of them are very experienced and have been doing this for a long time, so we’re familiar with the companies and the paths. If we don’t happen to know the path that you’ve been on so far, we’ll do a lot of research to make sure that we understand as much as we can.
So each application is read in full by two different members of the admissions board; we don’t like split up parts of the application or anything like that. They work together to decide which applicants we can move forward to the interview stage in our process. We have a really intensive reading period, where we’re all pretty much heads-down and only focused on reading and getting to know you as an applicant. We use all of the pieces of the application to try to get to know you as well as we can, so we want an understanding of your job history, your resume, what your recommenders have said, your academic background, and what you shared in your essay.
Those who are invited into the interview stage, which typically comes about four to six weeks after the initial application is submitted, will receive an interview invitation. Shortly after we start reading, we’ll let people know, “here’s the date that you’ll hear from us on,” so it won’t be up in the air. We will give you an exact date and time when you’ll know whether you were invited to an interview or not. Once we send out interview invitations, there’s usually a little bit of time between when those invitations go out and when we actually start interviewing, so you have time to arrange your schedule and pick an interview slot that’s going to work for you.
For everyone who we invite to interview, we offer the chance to connect one on one with Harvard Business School alumna or alumnus. Most people who interview opt into that. It’s not part of the evaluation process at all, so it’s fine if you don’t want to opt into that. We introduced this a few years ago, and felt like this was a great opportunity for people to just get a personal experience and a personal conversation with an alum to learn about what the experience might be like for them if they come to HBS. We try to match people up who have similar career interests or paths, and those are usually pretty fun conversations that the alumni and candidates have on their own. It’s purely meant to be helpful to the candidate.
The interview itself, I confess, is my favorite part of the process. We finally get to meet the person who we’ve been excited about and learning about over the past several weeks through the application. And on our end, we actually do a lot of preparation. I sometimes think of this a little bit like how you would prepare for a case method class: you make sure you’ve read the case, you understand the business, you understand the questions that might come up, and you walk into the room trying to be ready. When I’m preparing for an interview, I read the whole application. If I’m going to be talking with someone from a company or an industry that I may not be as familiar with, I’ll try to read up on that and understand it more because I want to walk into that room, ready to be a good conversationalist with the person I’m going to be interviewing. I want to be able to ask good questions that can help us get beyond the surface level of what’s on your resume. The interviews typically last about 30 minutes, and the goals are to get to know the candidate better and to imagine that person in our community. We like to get into a dialogue and see where things go from there. Immediately after an interview, we’ll write up our notes and put them in your file.
The last thing that goes in an applicant’s file before the final decisions come out is this post-interview reflection. Reflection is really built into the whole experience at Harvard Business School. We want you to learn, not just a lot about business, but a lot about yourself and what brings you a sense of meaning or purpose. At the end of the admissions process, we want to give you the opportunity to include anything you’ve learned or to reflect on how you believe you did the interview. It’s explicitly not an extra essay, although I’ve heard from some that it can feel like that. We hope that people will take a really informal approach and be honest with us in the reflection. On our end, we’ll read those post-interview reflections and take that into consideration as we make final decisions. At this stage of the process, almost everyone that is “qualified” to be there has the academic preparation and the inclination of success at HBS. Our task at that point is one of crafting a really diverse class of students who bring different talents, perspectives, and ideas about how to move forward. And that really powers the case method and powers our community in just what we can learn from people who are different from us and have different experiences than us. The decisions go out after that.
CA: Let’s talk a little bit about the essay portion of the application. If there was a tip that you had to offer for people approaching the application essay, what would it be?
CL: Our goal is to give applicants as much freedom as possible, so our prompt is, “What more would you like us to know as we consider you to be at HBS?” I guess my advice would be to just be authentic. Also, it probably won’t suffice to just write one draft. The application process can give you a reason to step back and reflect on what you’ve learned so far, where you’re headed, and what has shaped your experiences. That’s really what we’re looking for in the essay. If you get to the end of an essay and you think it could potentially describe a colleague that you have or someone else that you know, then then I think you need to do a little bit more work to share more of your experience and help us get to know you better.
CA: What advice would you offer to someone who has been invited to an interview? What should they be doing to prepare?
CL: If you Google “Harvard Business School interview questions,” my guess is that you would find hundreds of questions. And the reason for that is, we don’t ask the same set of questions to each applicant. These interviews are really tailored to you because we’re trying to get to know you beyond the surface of your resume. I would say my best advice for the interview is to read through your application, because that’s going to be the jumping off point for the conversation that we have. I would also say to do whatever you need to relax before your interview, and then just come prepared to talk about yourself. Then we’ll see where things go from there.
CA: Let’s talk about the post-interview reflection. What are you looking for in this part of the application? Where did the idea come from?
CL: The post-interview reflection is meant to be informal and reflective. It definitely does not need to be a recap of the interview. Instead, it gives applicants the chance to have the last word that goes in their file before we make decisions. On our end, we look at everything in the application again including the interviewer’s notes and the post-interview reflection. We consider all of those things as we’re trying to understand what voice would come to the program if we admitted a person.
CA: One thing that I think is interesting about life at HBS is the way it feels like everyone has this shared experience in the first year. Could you speak on that?
CL: We’ve made distinctive choices based on our mission as a school and our goals for our students. The mission of HBS is to educate leaders who will make a difference in the world, and we explicitly have a focus on creating great general managers. We aspire to be a great general management program, and what we mean by that is that people will not come out of the Harvard Business School experience as narrow or deep in just one area. We have crafted the curriculum and the whole experience to help you be ready to contribute and make a difference in any kind of industry and any type of role. I think it’s very uncommon for someone to pick a company now and stay with that company for 40 years. People always change industries, geographies, and roles. I think a general management curriculum gives you a ton of flexibility later on. HBS actually kind of gives you the best of both in terms of size. It is a big business school, meaning that we have about 900 students that start a typical year. So you have the benefits of scale by having access to a large alumni base in any city around the world, a bigger network in any sort of industry, and lots of faculty with deep expertise in different areas. But it’s very small and tight knit when it comes to how we’ve structured the curriculum.
The first year, everyone is put into a section of 90 students. Those students represent the overall diversity of the class within each section. I still remember in my first semester, I sat next to a woman who worked in mining in Australia and someone who was in the military in intelligence roles for 10 years. These are people that I never would have encountered in life, and now they’re my close friends because we were put into this really amazing experience together. So in the first year, everyone takes the same 10 classes involving leadership, marketing, finance, operations, macroeconomics, strategy, entrepreneurship, and more. The idea across this first year curriculum is to prepare you to encounter any kind of business problem and be ready to tackle it. In the second year, you have the elective curriculum and you can take any class that you’d like. There are over 100 electives offered just at the Business School, and you have the option to cross-register anywhere at Harvard University. So you can really get depth if you’d like, or you can continue to build on the breadth in your second year depending on how you want to structure it. But in that first year, you take all 10 of your classes with that section of 90 students and you become very close with them. It’s a very small, tight knit, and intimate experience during the first year.
When you become a student at Harvard Business School, you’re there not just to learn, but also to share your experience and what you know from your background. If you’re an expert in finance and don’t take the finance class, for example, then all of your classmates are going to miss your perspective. Also, you’re going to miss the opportunity to share something that you know deeply about with someone that doesn’t know as much about that, which, I think, is a really important leadership skill for later on in your career. On the same token, if you’re very deep in finance, maybe you don’t have any operations or marketing experience. So in those other classes, you’re going to rely on the people who have been in the CPG company or worked in manufacturing. There is a real sense of this shared learning model where you have something to contribute but you also have humility about what you can learn from your classmates.
CA: Do you have any advice about the 2+2 program at HBS?
CL: 2+2 is a really amazing process. It was launched over 10 years ago, making it one of the older deferred admissions processes. This program gives college seniors the opportunity to apply now for admission to Harvard Business School and gain a few years of work experience in whatever field they’d like before they start. The way that we really focus on 2+2 is by trying to broaden who we can bring into the class at HBS. There are some people who start their first job out of college and get onto a path that may not be business-focused. Then they may never look around again, because they’re busy and life is moving fast. Our 2+2 program is explicitly focused on creating opportunities for people to consider business school who may not already be on that path. Maybe they’re planning to work in an industry where fewer people tend to go to business school or they’re from a lower socioeconomic background. Maybe they were first gen to go to college or their family has had less exposure to graduate school. This is a way for us to create an opportunity for someone to consider how business school can help them explore their skills and take risks early on in their careers. We really like the 2+2 process because it allows us to meet with college students earlier and intrigue some people about how business school, especially HBS, can help them learn to get things done in the world. And that’s helpful to them, but it’s also helpful to their classmates because they bring very different perspectives than we might otherwise have in the classroom.