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HBS Attendance Policy

April 11th, 2009 · 11 Comments · Uncategorized

… is ridiculous.  Seriously, ridiculous.  Attendance is recorded in every class and HBS (essentially) threatens to dock your grade if you miss a single one!  And nothing’s excused.

  • Sell Weekend?  Unexcused.
  • Interview?  Unexcused.
  • Conference?  Unexcused.
  • Wedding Outside Direct Family?  Unexcused.
  • Funeral Outside Direct Family?  Unexcused.

And my favorite: “Stuck in an airport?” Unexcused.  I’m trying to head back from the Bain Sell Weekend right now (on Sunday) and the outgoing flight board looks like this:

Outbound Flights

Outbound Flights

Bleeding red!  I’ve done a lot of travel in my previous job, but I don’t know if I’ve ever seen something as bad as this.  My flight was supposed to leave at 10am.  We ended up leaving at 1pm.  We sat on the runway until 5pm, then returned to the gate.  It was taking 45mins to deice a single plane!  Incredible:

4 Hrs of Runway Fun

4 Hrs of Runway Fun

Snowy Runway

Snowy Runway

Needless to say, there are tens of thousands of people marooned this weekend, with no other availability on flights heading to within 200 miles of Boston tonight or tomorrow.  Looks like it’s time to notify my professors and bite-the-bullet.  As far as I know, this type of strict policy is completely unique among business schools.  The HBS justification is that “because the case method is so highly dependent on class participation, attendance is necessary for value”.  I can understand that, but I wish there was a bit more flexibility built into this system.

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11 Comments so far ↓

  • Nick

    I’ve been following your blog for a while now – I’m a big fan of your blogging. Congrats on your consulting offers!
    One question: did Google actively recruit at HBS this year? If so, was it for both internships and full-time?

  • rob

    Hey Nick — thanks! As far as Google goes, they do recruit for a product mger role. I don’t think they hire directly for internships, but I think there are enough HBS alumni there (and Google alumni here) that recruiting wouldn’t be a problem. Honestly, though, I’m not sure it would be that attractive of an opportunity for an MBA… It seems to me that the “power” there lies more with the developers than the managers. Which might be a great thing!… Just less of an opportunity to have a sizeable impact shortly out of school. Just my opinion, though.. 🙂

  • Samantha

    I understand that they want students to take the classroom seriously, but the policy does sound ridiculous. I’d be out of there in a second if a friend died. Jeez.

    Congrats on BCG and Bain! I’m sure it will be a positive experience either way.

  • Nick

    Thanks for the insight. I was just curious given the lower recruiting numbers at b-schools this year. Btw, I applied to HBS Round 1 but was unfortunately denied without an interview. On the other hand, I was recently offered a great job with Google (non-engineering role, experienced hire). I might re-apply to HBS a few yrs down the road.

  • JulyDream

    Are you allowed any unexcused absences before you’re docked? Darden is similar in about nothing is “excused”, but you’re allowed 2 unexcused absences before your grade is in true jeopardy.

  • rob

    Nick — that’s awesome! Congratulations… Google did make the BW list this year as the “Most Desired MBA Employer” or something like that, so maybe you’ll find that it’s better to save the $200k+ and skip the HBS resume stamp. 🙂 (Although, if you do decide to apply, feel free to send me a note!)

  • rob

    July — It’s tough to say. If you’re on the border of a 1 (top 15%) versus a 2 (middle 75%), I think even one absence makes a difference. On the other hand, if you’re hovering in the midst of the 2, it’s not a big deal. That’s one of the tricky things about HBS’ winner-takes-all type grading system…! I like the idea of two freebies, though — seems a lot more reasonable.

  • Ruminator

    So this is where the LBS Program Office stole this heinous idea of an ‘attendance policy’…. Outrageous. Pay USD100k to be treated like a 12-year old again. Good job on the offers!

  • B. Leon

    Hi, I have the same problem here in Jerusalem with Hebrew University! This is ridiculous policy – despite my writing letter to the committee explaining (in Hebrew) why such a policy hurts the university’s interest, they maintain they will keep the status quo – I expect my grade to be based on ACADEMIC ACHIEVEMENT ONLY, and not arbitrarily lowered (or not allowed to take the final exam) based on attendance. What, am I in high school? Do they not know that for every one hour in lecture I have at least 3-5 hours of independent study to do? It is simply arrogance on the part of the professors and faculty: they think the whole world revolves around their courses, and that I cannot possibly pass the class without hanging on every word of these arrogant professors who grace us with the “meaning of life”!

  • rob

    Hahaha… Love the rant, and I completely agree! I’ve never understood docking people for understanding everything quicker / different ways than the mandated lecture format.

  • Aditi

    I’d love to hear which firm you chose finally as I’m faced with the same choice!

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