Applying to business school can be a stressful and time consuming endeavor. For those who hope to pursue a joint degree, the application process is doubly demanding.
Joanna Cornell and Bhargav Srinivasan are both one year into their four year JD/MBA program at Harvard. Though they’ve settled into life here over the past few months, the application process remains fresh in their minds. We caught up with the two of them to find out what they wished they’d known about the program while applying, and what advice they have to offer prospective students.
Can you tell us a bit about yourselves?
Joanna: I grew up in Maryland and went to Yale for undergrad, where I studied Economics and East Asian Studies. Before grad school, I spent one year in investment banking and two years in capital markets at Bank of America Merrill Lynch covering financial institutions.
Bhargav: I grew up in Austin, TX and attended The University of Texas where I studied in the Business Honors Program. After college, I spent most of my time working as a management consultant at Bain & Company.
Why did you want to pursue your JD? Why did you want to pursue your MBA?
Joanna: When I started college, I was interested in international policy, spent several summers working in government, and thought law school would be a good fit. After working for a few years, I became interested in corporate social responsibility because I like working in the private sector and want to have a positive impact on the world. I thought the JD would give me a rigorous academic framework to engage with policies and regulations, and the MBA would give me a diverse network and allow me to think about real life management problems.
Bhargav: I'm motivated by the idea of maximizing an organization's potential, so I decided to pursue an MBA to gain both (1) substantive perspective on how to run companies and (2) qualitative perspective on how to lead. In the long term, the types of organizations I hope to help lead are those focused on impact, so I also decided to pursue a JD because the law is a key tool of social change. To put it simply, I'd like to eventually bring successful business models to important policy objectives.
At what point did you realize you wanted to get a joint degree?
Joanna: I started thinking about business school as I was applying for law school, but wasn’t sure yet. After visiting HLS during Admitted Students Weekend, I left committing to HLS and deciding to apply for HBS.
Bhargav: I decided to apply to JD/MBA programs in the fall 2014 - a little late in the game considering the Round 1 MBA deadline had already passed. However, I'm glad I took time to ensure I was ready for four more years of school which comes with its own opportunity costs. So far, it's been worth it for me.
How did you navigate the application process at each school?
Joanna: HLS and HBS have separate admissions processes and different timelines. I took the LSAT in college and applied for law school my second year out of college. After I got into HLS, I deferred for a year and then took the GMAT and applied for HBS. Some people apply for both schools in the same year and others apply for HLS/HBS during their first year here (you can start at either school).
Bhargav: The applications for HBS and HLS are separate and differ in their timelines, requirements, and priorities. HBS has three application rounds, and I applied Round 2 because I wanted to speak to new experiences I would only have in Fall/Winter 2014. HBS requires taking the GMAT or GRE which I did in 2013. I worked on the rest of my application in the months leading up to the Round 2 deadline. On the other hand, HLS has one application deadline with rolling admissions. Law schools generally prioritize the LSAT and GPA, so focus on maximizing those scores, but don't forget to tell your story. Finally, some students apply to one school first and the other as first-years at one of the Harvard schools. Since the program allows you to start at either school, this is a good option if you are decided on one school but undecided on the other.
Was there a part of the application process you enjoyed?
Joanna: I loved that HBS plans a whole day of events for people who interview on campus. You get to see the case method in action and meet some of your future classmates. Definitely interview on campus if you can.
Bhargav: Arriving at the other side of those months of contemplation. By the time I submitted my application, the process itself was worth it.
What do you wish you’d known about the JD/MBA program?
Joanna: The degree to which you can chart your own path. Having extra years and summers changes the timeline and allows you try completely new things. There’s no job that requires a JD/MBA and you may discover new interests here; so come in with an open mind and don’t be afraid to take some risks!
Bhargav: Not much...both schools do a great job of letting you know what you're getting into! One small thing I wish I had known was that scheduling classes across both schools in the third and fourth years can be a bit tricky due to timing and the distance between the two campuses.
Tell us about the joint degree cohort?
Joanna: The JD/MBAs are awesome! There are about ten of us a year and it is a great community. All of us take the required JD/MBA seminar that is offered once every other year by Professor Guhan Subramanian in either our 3rd or 4th year. For the 1st and 2nd years, Professor Subramanian runs a fun reading group that meets twice a semester. Outside of the formal programming, we have happy hours, small group dinners, and an annual NYC trek where we meet with awesome speakers and program alums.
Bhargav: The JD/MBA community is phenomenal. There are about 40 of us total. So far, my peers in the program have been both the best role models and friends I could ask for.