Before I arrived at HBS, I had heard a lot about sections and how they really impacted people’s experiences as students here. People who graduated decades earlier told me how they still stay in touch with their section mates and how grateful they were for the community aspect that sections provided.
Without a doubt, my section (Section J, which is the best section, of course!) is one of the main reasons my past two years were as wonderful as they were. As you think about whether HBS is the right place for you, I encourage you to consider how the section dynamic at HBS will impact your learning, as well as the community within a community that a section provides.
The Impact of a Section on Learning
As you may know, there are ten sections in each RC class. This year, that means that each section had about 94 students in it. Sections are assigned by the school, and each is a pretty near microcosm of the school as a whole. At the beginning of your RC year sections hang all the flags from the nations represented within the section on the wall of their classrooms; when my parents came to visit class one day, they were astounded to see the visual representation of just how many places my section mates hailed from. Sections are diverse on every metric ranging from work experience to political beliefs to undergraduate fields of study.
Because you take all your classes together RC year, diversity is critical to the learning experience – and its impact is multiplied by the close relationships formed among the members of each section. I cannot count how many times I walked into a case discussion totally convinced that my point of view was the only justifiable one, and walked out thinking something else due to a persuasive point made by a section mate.
Because sections tend to have a close-knit culture, people feel very safe asking questions when they are confused or challenging each other’s points of view. (We would then often continue the debate over lunch after class!) It was fun knowing which section-mates would jump to defend the libertarian point of view or which section mates had experience in a particular industry that would help the rest of us understand the intricacies of a case. My section definitely helped broaden my horizons and taught me on a daily basis.
The Community within a Community That a Section Provides
HBS can feel like a very large place. In many respects, size is an asset. We have a connection to a huge number of alumni making a difference in so many fields, we have access to a large number of classes and professors, and there is truly something for everyone to do to fill her time. However, the size of HBS can also be intimidating.
Luckily, sections make the school feel much smaller, while maintaining all the advantages that size provides. Although I did make friends outside my section, the 93 other Js became my HBS family. We celebrate each other’s triumphs and support each other during times of need. I know that I could turn to my section mates for help with anything from finding a job to meeting people if I move to a new city, and they would not help me without hesitation.
Sections are also the basis of many HBS students’ social lives. Each section has elected social chairs who are responsible for planning events that make HBS even more fun for the section. From going to my section mates’ homes to Bachelor-viewing parties to happy hours, nearly all of my favorite memories are with members of my section.
I cannot point to anything at HBS that has had as large an impact on my experience as my section, and I will be forever grateful for Section J!