How I survived Harvard Business School’s Credential of Readiness (HBS CORe)

A video of my experiences

Today we’re going to go into the story about how I survived Harvard Business School, specifically their Credential of Readiness, or CORe program.

In order to do this we’re going to give an overview about what CORe is, then go into how I manage my time, and some tips to stay healthy as well if you’re going through the same program.

Who am I?

Hi my name is Jessica, and my pronouns are she/her. I have an MSc in marketing and I also studied at the Harvard Business School, specifically the CORe program. I currently work in the government and public sector although previously I’ve worked at Google, Guardian, and GE. I’ve also taken on some consulting clients too.

So what is Harvard Business School CORe?

The CORe program is their Credential of Readiness course itself is split up into three sections. You have the Business Analytics section, the Economics for Managers section and the Financial Accounting section. There’s weekly assessments, and there’s one final exam which is three hours and is a closed book assessment — it’s pretty full on.

The first of three courses is the Business Analytics course. This takes descriptive statistics through to regression analysis and teaches you along the way there’s some sampling and estimation work to you as well as a real grounding in hypothesis testing. There’s some really exciting real-world case studies from Amazon, Caesars Palace, and Walt Disney.

The second of the three courses covers Economics for Managers. This is all around predicting customer demand suppliers in cost markets, competition and differentiation, and has real-world examples from Danah, New York Times, and penguin Random House — This was personally my favourite bit of the course.

The last piece is around Financial Accounting. There’s accounting equations, transactions recordings, journal entries, and cash flow statements. There’s also a loss around forecasting evaluation — not only on things like stock levels but the companies themselves.There’s some real-world case studies from PepsiCo, Morgan Stanley, and Apple.

The course itself is pitched as really useful for recent graduates or middle management, although I personally used it as a sort of pre-MBA course to give me a refresher or a general overview for what an MBA might be like.

There are two speed settings available; there’s the extended CORe, which is a 17 week course about ten hours per week with a three hour final assessment. Then there’s the normal CORe which is 12 weeks and about 15 hours per week you’re covering the same content however you’re just doing a shortened time. The course is pretty expensive, somewhere between two to four thousand dollars.

My experience of CORe

At the time I studied towards Harvard Business School Credential of Readiness (or HBS CORe) I was working full-time for General Electric which was equating to about 60 hours per week it was a global marketing role so there was working at all sorts of different time zones and not a lot of sleeping involved, and as you might imagine adding 15 hours per week on top of that to study towards this Harvard Business School Credential of Readiness course led to what can only be described as lots of stress!

I’d like to share with you some time management and study tips I’ve personally found these really helpful when I was studying towards HBS CORe and I wanted to share them with you I think these studying tips and time management tips are useful both if you’re studying towards HBS CORe but also more generally.

The first one is you need to get the study time in. In order to get the time in you need to prioritise it, so that means no Netflix, no video games, no hanging out. HBS CORe needs to be the number one thing you do. If you’re working full time like I was, work becomes number one but you need to put some boundaries around that. I appreciate those easier said than done given I just said I was working 60 hours per week but it was better than working 70 or 80!

I found that given I was working quite a lot, micro studying was really helpful. It’s this term where you sort of take any opportunity to pick up a book or pick up some study material. For example you might be at lunch and instead of sitting with people you could go take your books and do some more studying whilst commuting

My favourite in terms of micro study was whilst waiting for work meetings to start. Given we’re all currently remote there’s less aspects of this but when you’re in an office I often found I was waiting for five or ten minutes in order for everyone to be in the room, so I would start studying.

HBS CORe is really great for this because it gives you all the materials you need online so you’re able just to hit this really easy URL and start learning quickly so you can look like you’re clearing your emails whilst you’re doing some more studying.

I found having a physical notepad or notebook per module was really helpful for me. I had physical notepads of different colours to annotate which course I was studying towards whether it was the Business Analytics course, the Economics for Managers, or the Financial Accounting so that when I was on this online platform and I was studying towards it I knew exactly what I was learning, and if I knew that I had to do more of one than the other that week I could make sure I prioritise those books by putting the right colours at the top — I found it really useful to help create distinction whilst learning.

Another thing I found really useful was preparing for the final exam you need a distraction free environment in order to not only do the three-hour exam which is a closed book exam — for my exam I had to go to a physical assessment centre and do it in which case taking the morning off work, or the day before, so I could do some final cram revision was really useful for me.

Throughout the course as well as there are assessed exams online each week which build up towards your final grade so from week one you will be assessed and you therefore want to create this environment where your phone isn’t beeping at you or you’re not in a very busy coffee shop and there’s lots of noise everywhere — at the very least put on some noise cancelling headphones, at the very best build yourself this distraction-free environment.

I found it useful for me to check in with the peers who are on the course. When I took the course a few years ago it was great because we had this online dashboard when we all logged in and it was a map of the world, and we could see who was online at different times throughout the world so I was able to log in be that 2 a.m. in the morning because I couldn’t sleep and be able to do some studying and find people in the right time zone where they actually were awake for their day and I could study with them.

Keeping healthy whilst studying

Finally, I found it really useful to keep healthy during this time as well, not only is there some really high stress environment and is therefore a high risk for triggering something like burnout, which we’ve covered in previous videos, and I really want you to avoid but also just health in general.

I found it really useful to drink lots of water. Staying hydrated will reduce the amount of headaches I have personally, and I believe it might do the same for you, it will also reduce how hungry you feel which is really useful for longer study sessions so you’re not constantly snacking.

Try to minimise the unhealthy snacking throughout the late nights or early morning study sessions — we’ve all been there where we reach for the crisps rather than reaching for the vegetables or fruit but just try to do it — especially when you’re on this intensive course — there’s a phrase that says “garbage in garbage out” and with health this is quite literal! If you don’t fuel yourself with the right foods you’re not going to get the best out of your body in your brain.

I found it really helpful to remove unhelpful apps from my phone — wave goodbye to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. You don’t need those in your life for this short amount of time. You’re not going to miss out on anything by getting rid of them, it’s all going to be there when you get back — You can feed the algorithms later.

I found it really useful to have a bedtime routine — when I’d finish a really busy day at work I got home I had some dinner really quickly and they started studying, and very quickly it became very late at night and therefore having a routine in which I could make my brain remember that I needed to go to sleep and I needed to be in a happy head space was really useful

Don’t forget about the small wins: as well the assessed exams every week, these will really start to take a drag on you especially once work commitments or other study commitments you have up family commitments start ramping up throughout the course the weekly exams will become a pivotal moment in your week and celebrating them I found to be really useful give yourself a cookie when you pass the exam and if your score goes up!

Celebrating finishing the final exam it was a over three hour final exam, from memory I had a question roughly every 60 seconds for the total time of three hours, this was incredibly stressful and celebrating this as a big win was really useful for me not only to celebrate my hard work but as a way to finalise it and say “I am done” and finished with this course now and for me that was going out and having a nice meal with my friends.

Hopefully some of those tips were useful for you, let me know in the comments what you think!

Trans woman in London, building fun things in the Public (Government) sector.