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Admissions Director Q&A: Chad Losee of Harvard Business School

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Chad Losee is back for this Admissions Director Q&A to tell you all about Harvard Business School (HBS) admissions, the entrepreneurial might of the MBA program, what to expect in your interview and more. Losee joined the HBS MBA Admissions and Financial Aid team as Managing Director in 2016. After graduating from HBS as a Baker Scholar in 2013, he worked for a year as a fellow in the Dean’s Office, helping to launch HBS Online among other projects. In 2014, Losee returned to Bain & Company’s Dallas office, where he had worked as a strategy consultant from 2008 to 2011. He graduated from Brigham Young University in 2008 with a bachelor’s degree in international relations summa cum laude. More recently, he completed a doctorate in education from the University of Pennsylvania in 2021.

Read on for his insights into MBA admissions, including what’s new for the essay this year, applicants’ chance of admission after the interview and much more.

hbs admissions
Chad Losee, Managing Director, HBS Admissions & Financial Aid

Clear Admit: What is the one aspect of your program that you wish applicants knew more about?
Chad Losee: The incredible entrepreneurial ecosystem at Harvard Business School is one aspect that we wish applicants knew more about. 60 percent of our alumni create ventures within 10-20 years of graduating in a quest to change the world, which is a stat itself that reflects how dominant the spirit of innovation is within the program. You can explore the many companies founded by HBS graduates here. This past year we were also ranked #1 by Pitchbook for Female Founders, Founder Count, Company Count and Capital Raised, which is something we’re proud of.

Students are inspired by faculty, fellow students, alumni, and staff to pursue their entrepreneurial passions – and are encouraged to leverage the programming and resources available both during their time at HBS and post-graduation as alumni.

The unique needs of innovators are supported both inside and outside the classroom, from entrepreneurial courses to the several different entrepreneurship-based clubs to specific Career & Professional Development (CPD) programs – HBS will truly fuel your entrepreneurial passion. Two resources to highlight are:

  1. The Rock Center for Entrepreneurship on campus has a variety of programming including the annual New Venture Competition, one-on-one meetings with our Entrepreneurs-in-Residence, and Rock Summer Fellows.
  2. The Harvard i-lab is a resource available to all current students from any Harvard school and provides all the physical and intellectual resources needed to develop and grow, including one-to-one advising, office hours with industry experts, workshops, an incubator program, and a competition.

Finally, Boston is one of the largest cities for startups in the U.S. with venture investment growing year-after-year, making it a breeding ground for innovative ideas to grow into new ventures. Whether you’re a founder, joiner, investor, or undecided, HBS is the place for you.

CA: Walk us through the life of an application in your office from an operational standpoint. What happens between the time an applicant clicks “submit” and the time the committee offers a final decision?
CL: We have two application rounds – you can apply by September 7, 2022 or by January 4, 2023 to enroll in the Fall of 2023. Once we reach the submission deadline for a given round, we are off and running as an Admissions Board reviewing all the written applications. We are looking to see the impact that you’ve had and envision your potential as we create a diverse class from a wide variety of backgrounds.

As for the process, at least two different people evaluate every application. We read, and re-read applications as we work to build the interview pool.  We spend a great deal of time with these applications; as much time as needed to feel we are making the right decision in building the class each year.

Once a candidate is invited to interview, the interviewer reads the application thoroughly as they prepare . The interview helps us to learn more about you while using your application as the jumping off point for the conversation. This is my favorite part of the process as we get to (finally) meet you. It lasts for 30 minutes, but typically flies by!

The last part of the process for the applicant is the post-interview reflection. We think it is important for you to have the opportunity to share your reflections on the application process and the interview. An honest, authentic approach to the post-interview reflection works best.

Our Admissions Board will read the post-interview reflection as we make a final decision on your candidacy. After that, we send decisions to our applicants on the specified decision date.

CA: How does your team approach the essay portion of the application specifically? What are you looking for as you read an essay? Are there common mistakes that applicants should try to avoid? What is one key thing they should keep in mind as they sit down to write?
CL: We consider all the elements of an application and never look at just one piece by itself. The essay isn’t more or less important than other elements of the application. The most helpful essays build on the rest of the written application and bring all the aspects of one’s application together. It really helps us get to know you!

This year we added a 900-word limit to the essay. We have heard from some applicants that, without a word limit, sometimes questions (and stress) arise about the “right” word length. We hope that including a limit provides applicants with a little more direction and eliminates the stress about how much is too much to write. You don’t need to submit 900 words, however. Successful applicants may share what they wish to in 500 or 700 words, for example, or go up to 900.

We recorded an essay video with some tips that you can check out.

CA: Could you tell us about your interview process? Approximately how many applicants do you interview? Who conducts the interview (students, admissions officers, alumni) and what is the nature of the interview (resume-based, behavioral)?
CL: The interview is my favorite part of the process because we get to meet you and learn from your background and experience.

One thing that is different in our interview process is that we do not use students, faculty or alumni volunteers for our interviews. We have about two dozen individuals on our Interview Board who receive regular training and each conduct many interviews. This helps us stay calibrated and consistent. It also means that your interviewer will have access to your full application. We prepare for each interview by reading the application in its entirety and doing any additional research prior to the interview as needed to understand the applicant’s background and experience.

Because the interview is a conversation about you, there are no brain teasers, mental math problems, “case questions,” or anything like that. Although we may reference the resume in the interview, we try to go much deeper. We may dive into something you wrote in an essay, a short answer field (for example about their employment or post-MBA career goals), or something a recommender might have mentioned. Wherever we go with the interview, it is always a conversation in which we strive to understand your experience, abilities as a leader, and how you might thrive in and contribute to the HBS community.

Overall, we interview about twice as many people as we can admit, so after an interview you have about 50/50 odds of receiving an offer of admission.

CA: What is your testing policy?  Do you offer exam waivers?  Why or why not?
One of the biggest misconceptions about applying to HBS is that admissions decisions are based largely on your GMAT or GRE score. That is not how it works at HBS. We consider every element of your application to get to know you as a whole person, and we know that you are more than a standardized test score!

So why do we require a standardized test at all? In the case method at HBS, students think on their feet, debate with classmates, and analyze complex situations. The classroom is very engaging and fast-paced, and I think you’ll love it. A standardized test gives us one indication of your verbal and quantitative agility—important for thriving in the HBS MBA program and the case method. We also consider your undergraduate transcript (not just your grades, but also the classes you took) and the rigors of your work experience to date to get at your verbal and quantitative agility.

We are agnostic about the GRE or the GMAT—really. Take whichever one suits you best. You can see from the Class Profile that we admit students with a wide range of standardized test scores. While a higher score will never hurt you, it’s not a guarantee to be admitted either. And some of the admitted students who have the biggest impact while at HBS and beyond didn’t have the highest test scores. We’re looking to craft a Class of diverse thinkers and leaders who will make a difference in the world, and that goes well beyond a test score. We always keep that in mind as we get to know you through the whole application and make our decisions.

I recorded a test scores video with some tips that you can check out.

CA: Tell us briefly about two popular courses at your institution.
CL: We are extremely fortunate to have some of the world’s most influential business thinkers here. But more than just thinkers and researchers, Harvard Business School professors must also be gifted teachers. The Case Method requires it. Harvard Business School teachers love to teach. They love research. They love ideas. And you see this come to life in the classroom. Here is a little bit about three courses that we’d like to highlight:

Leadership and Organizational Behavior (LEAD) is a first-year required course that focuses on how managers become effective leaders by addressing the human side of enterprise. LEAD is all about putting students in the shoes of protagonist and giving them a realistic preview of what it takes to be an effective manager and leader. This course helps students begin to transform professional identity from individual contributor to manager while addressing the process of developing effective relationships with a diverse collection of individuals and groups. With the short and long term in mind, LEAD helps students learn how to be proactive and entrepreneurial in developing their leadership talents over the course of their careers.

Product Management 101 (PM 101) is inspired by the idea that we learn by doing. This course takes the perspective of a product manager or product executive inside an organization leading the vision and development of a software product. It covers software product lifecycles, including starting new products and expanding existing products. The skills learned in this course will be applicable to a wide array of product management scenarios, agnostic of industry. Some of the topics covered include setting product strategies and visions, understanding your customer needs, experimenting to validate ideas, working with developers and designers, and developing Minimum Viable Products. Weston Ruths (Harvard MS/MBA: Engineering Sciences 2022), said that PM 101 “was an especially transformative process as it helped me to develop a new vernacular, get my ‘hands dirty’ with product management, and grow the confidence to explore new horizons in the video game industry.”

Scaling Minority Businesses a field course offering taught by Professors Archie Jones, Henry McGee, and Jeff Bussgang and developed during the summer of 2020 in partnership with fellow classmates Allie O’Shea, Mickias Hailu, and Shani Carter. This course is designed to meet that challenge and leverage the intellectual power and community of HBS to address the vital needs of Black-owned enterprises as they face the twin tasks of surviving and growing. It helps students explore why racial inequity in business exists and work on real-world projects with Black and Latinx-led businesses in Greater Boston. Nimisha Ganesh (HBS MBA 2021) said this was one of her favorite courses – and during it “supported Cruz Companies, the largest Black-owned business in Massachusetts, with developing a five-year strategic plan for their property management division. Over the course of six weeks, we met with various leaders and staff members to unpack the systemic barriers to their growth and create an actionable framework to support their expansion in the low-income and mixed affordable housing space.”

CA: As we learn to live with COVID-19, campuses have opened up and students are back. What about prospective students? Will they have the opportunity to visit campus? Will admissions interviews be conducted virtually?
CL: This spring we were excited to bring back in-person MBA class visits, campus tours, and information sessions for prospective students after a two-year pause. The case method was one of my favorite parts about HBS and, I think, a helpful way for applicants to learn more about HBS as they navigate the admissions process.

For those of you who can’t make it to campus, we also have virtual information sessions and a number of virtual events as well as a video given an overview of the iconic HBS case method. The admissions team is also excited to travel around the world in the coming months to host an event near you – you can check out our many domestic and international events here. We look forward to meeting you!

There will always be the option for future interviews to be held via Zoom. We have not yet finalized a plan for potential in-person interviews.

CA: Is there anything else you’d like to highlight about your MBA program or admissions process?
CL: We believe that today’s greatest challenges and opportunities cannot be met without business playing a significant role. Today, more than ever, there is a huge need for leadership, the kind of leadership that comes from understanding, not just how organizations work, but how to get people to work together toward a common goal. Gaining that understanding—how to manage an organization, how to lead—is what Harvard Business School is all about.

We recognize that socioeconomic inclusion plays in an important role as we strive to educate leaders who will make a difference in the world. This includes diverse financial, social, and environmental contexts that have shaped who they are and how they think. These perspectives are invaluable to our community and provide a critical lens that equips our students to live out the HBS mission – as leaders who make a difference in the world.

To this end, in 2021 we rolled out a need-based application fee waiver and have also adjusted our financial aid formula to ensure that all backgrounds and contexts are taken into consideration. We are excited to continue working on these types of efforts to ensure that HBS is accessible to all.

Lauren Wakal
Lauren Wakal has been covering the MBA admissions space for more than a decade, from in-depth business school profiles to weekly breaking news and more.