Tips on Cross Registering for an HBS class (Navigating an Unnecessarily Complex Process)

You in an HBS class

I’ve gotten quite a few questions about how to navigate HBS’s byzantine cross registration process, so I thought I would share some words that I sent to a fellow classmate in case anyone else was interested.

First, don’t be afraid! Cross registration can be daunting, but once you get to the class, it’ll be worth it.

ZERO STEP: Peruse the Course Listing
Check out the many interesting HBS classes, and find one that is open to cross registrants. The class I took was “Leading and Governing High-Performing Non-profit Organizations” and was taught by Alan Grossman. I highly recommend it!

FIRST STEP: Scheduling
Make sure the class fits in your schedule. HBS’s schedule is ridiculous and, I suspect, purposely difficult for anyone outside of the HBS world. They have classes that fall on “X” days and “Y” days, which are not compatible with HKS’s schedule at all — or any schedule that makes sense. X classes are generally M, T, W during the time block, while Y classes are generally W, Th, F. The only way you can fit an HBS class into your schedule is if you don’t have another class during the same time block all week — for example, my class last year was at 8:30-9:50 am, X schedule, so some weeks the class was M&T, others it was M&T&W, and still others it is T&W. Since I had no other classes all week between 8:30-10, I was fine.

SECOND STEP: Contact the Professor
I would contact the professor and tell him/her that you are interested in cross registering. If the class was like my class last fall, all non-HBS students had to apply to join the class, and they only had a limited number of spots. Email the professor and give him a brief blurb about why you want to take the class and how your experience will add value to the class — HBS is all about “adding value.”

THIRD STEP: Go to Class
Then just go to the first day of class, and obtain the professor’s signature for your petition form. There might be an application or lottery. My professor made us write a short essay with our experience and how we’d add value to the course. Make sure you talk to professor after or before class, tell him who you are, and reiterate how much you want to take this class.

After a couple of days, the professor will inform you if you made the cut, and you have to obtain his/her signature. After you get the signature, you just submit the form to HBS’s registrar office, and that’s that.

In terms of the actual class… That’s a whole ‘nother story. Some cross reg students felt really behind on some of the business school jargon and financial aspects of the class. Case method takes a bit to get used to, but once you get the hang of it — and how cutthroat HBS’ers are — it’ll be fine. I’ve attached an unofficial guide to HBS case method for cross reg students, which you’ll probably get if you get into the class.

One other thing, when you get to class on the first day, the seat that you sit in will be your seat for the rest of the semester. The best seats to sit in are in the middle section and not the front row. HBS’ers generally will get to class WAY early to snap these seats up because they are valuable. The professor generally calls on the middle seats the most because those seats are in plain sight. It’s harder for him to see people who sit in the front rows and also on the side seats. Get to class early and snap up a middle seat. This is also a good way for you to meet some HBS students. I wish I knew this because I sat in the front row off to the side, and it sucked. Almost all of the cross reg students sat on the sides or the front rows because we didn’t know.

Lastly, don’t get intimidated. The HBS class I took last year was one of the best classes I’ve taken at Harvard! And it’s great to get out of the HKS bubble! Let me know if you have any questions, and good luck.


UPDATE: Link for the list of HBS classes is here, and link to find out what time each HBS class meets is here.

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