At HBS, there are around 940 students in each class. Before coming here I worried a little about the large class size, because it’s a pretty overwhelming number. Sometimes a large number of students doesn’t necessarily translate to immediate friendships. Coming from a large state school, I was also concerned about feeling like a number rather than a student in the classroom.
Once I got to HBS I realized that it feels big in all the right ways and small in all
the right ways. What I mean is that there are inherent benefits to being a part of a big school: an autonomous campus, large group of potential friends, (nearly) perfected infrastructure and resources, clubs for anything you could be interested in, and a massive alumni base. I’ve experienced all of these things so far. It also gives you the benefit of numbers. There are proportionately more students interested in the things I am because of the class size. You are definitely not trapped into an insular community or restricted to existing clubs or activities.
It feels small because of the section experience. I cannot emphasize the benefit of section life enough. The fact that we all take every class together is actually a huge advantage, not just because of shared knowledge, but also because it creates a cohesive experience in which we can all bond, celebrate, and commiserate together. At the section level, we’ve had a wide variety of events outside of class, ranging from the section-wide retreat to small group dinners to discussions on women in the workplace to tutoring sessions for finance.
My best friends are mostly my section mates. Generally, friendships formed when I had the opportunity to spend more time with them in small group settings and found that we clicked. This happened in coursework during simulations and other non-case assignments. This also happened during social events, by career interests, and through seating assignments. Bonding occurs on so many levels and differently for each person, but the section is such an incredible and unique dynamic. It’s a big part of my first semester experience.
Additionally, I’ve met people in other sections and second years (EC’s) through shared interests and student clubs. This is an easy way to take advantage of the large school while still creating a smaller circle of friends and acquaintances through things that excite you.
I also didn’t realize how the class size at HBS impacts the alumni network. With 900+ students graduating each year, it’s vast. This is something that I completely overlooked when applying to schools and deciding where to go. I didn’t understand how the alumni network could be relevant to what I want to do. I was wrong. The pure size of the alumni network is astounding. Since I have been at school, I’ve experienced the power of that network first-hand. I’ve set up multiple calls with alums in real estate all around the USA and they’ve all been willing to pass my information to their contacts within the industry. It’s been quite remarkable.
I had a phone call with a recent alum when I was deciding between two schools and he explained the size in a great way: While another school might have a larger percentage of their class interested in real estate, that doesn’t mean there are more alums working in real estate. In fact, given the size of the HBS network, he could almost guarantee that there are more HBS alums in real estate than most other smaller schools. It’s just a numbers game.
But, if you’re still nervous about the class size at HBS, try to think of it as a class of 94, not 940. For the first year, and especially the first semester, that is the size of your HBS world. The other 850 students are there. They are equally (almost) as cool and interesting as your section mates and you have the chance to meet them if you want, but in reality, the large class size really enables HBS to offer a variety of courses, activities, clubs, networks, and career paths. I truly believe that anyone can fit in and thrive here.