Category Archives: Harvard Advice

How to Make a Positive Impression on HBS Admissions Team

Round one application deadlines are less than two months away at most top MBA programs, and that means many candidates are currently hustling to put together an application package that will make a powerful impression …

Round one application deadlines are less than two months away at most top MBA programs, and that means many candidates are currently hustling to put together an application package that will make a powerful impression on the admissions committee at their dream school.

HBS interview adviceIf Harvard Business School is on your shortlist, take a look at two new articles published by Business Insider that share my experiences with the interview questions asked by HBS, as well as the ten qualities Harvard looks for in applicants.

While everyone knows HBS is looking to admit the leaders of tomorrow, you may not realize that the program also places a high priority on candidates with self-awareness and a commitment to service.

For those fortunate to receive an invitation to interview at HBS, you’ll want to know the best ways to answer some of the questions about past experiences, present attributes, and future goals that will surely come your way.

Maturity, accomplishment, and leadership are highly valued qualities at Harvard Business School, so make sure you know yourself, know HBS, and know how to match the two to demonstrate your fit for the school.

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2015 Harvard Business School MBA Application Essay Tips

HBS Admissions Director Talks GMAT/GRE Scores

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Tuesday Tips: 2015 Harvard Business School MBA Application Essay Tips

This year Harvard Business School has decided to continue with one open-ended essay. The question has changed slightly and focused emphasis on the case method and your interaction with classmates. The HBS admissions director blog …

This year Harvard Business School has decided to continue with one open-ended essay. The question has changed slightly and focused emphasis on the case method and your interaction with classmates. The HBS admissions director blog notes that the “optional” element was dropped because: “this season, every applicant submitted a response. We get it. You want to tell us things.”

The most challenging part of this essay is remaining disciplined. With unlimited space to make your case, you may be tempted to compose a laundry list of everything interesting or impressive you have ever done. That urge could backfire, as the essay is used to determine who isn’t a fit for HBS as much as those who deserve the chance to move into the interview round. Maturity, accomplishment, and leadership are highly valued qualities and this essay is your chance to display those qualities through the stories you choose and the voice coming through your writing.

There is one question for the Class of 2018 application essay:

It’s the first day of class at HBS. You are in Aldrich Hall meeting your “section.” This is the group of 90 classmates who will become your close companions in the first-year MBA classroom. Our signature case method participant-based learning model ensures that you will get to know each other very well. The bonds you collectively create throughout this shared experience will be lasting.

Introduce yourself.

Note: Should you enroll at HBS, there will be an opportunity for you to share this with them.

A note on word count: HBS values brevity in essays. Do not be tempted to go overboard with a 2,000 word essay, rather focus on concise and clear writing and consider keeping this essay to 1,200 words or less. Our clients have successfully composed essays anywhere from 500-1,300 words, though you should take a pass through your essay to cut any unnecessary words if you find yourself on the upper end of that range.

The goal of this essay is to know yourself, know HBS, and know how to match the two to demonstrate your fit for the school as you introduce yourself to your classmates. Your first task should be to evaluate all of the other aspects of your candidacy – what is the story your resume tells? What do you think recommenders will say? How does your transcript communicate your skills, accomplishments and interests? Then you need to evaluate how to fill the gaps with the essay.

When you view the recommended video on the case method you can see that diverse perspectives are valuable to the case method experience. Think about what diverse experience you bring. We have found that both personal and career oriented topics can work, and most candidates tell more than one story in the essay. Consider that from your classmates’ perspective the most interesting information will be both personal and professional. You will be studying together and socializing together. Later, you will be professional contacts in your classmates’ career network. In the past we have observed that successful HBS essays also demonstrate of a core driving passion.

As you consider possible stories to tell in this essay keep in mind that HBS has always been highly focused on leadership and wants to accept candidates who have a track record of leadership impact and a success trajectory that indicates upper management potential. Accomplishments have traditionally been a strong focus of HBS essays, and using at least one accomplishment story in this essay may be a good strategy, particularly if your accomplishments are not obvious when reading your resume or transcripts.

A note on what not to do: We see many applicants tempted to include “why HBS” type information in HBS essays. Explaining why the case method specifically is a good fit for you and your learning style is absolutely appropriate, but more detailed “why HBS” content has never been asked for in an HBS application essay question. HBS admissions is quite clear on the value of an HBS degree, and they would rather see you use the space to provide more information about yourself and your candidacy.

Looking for guidance on your HBS application? Contact us to learn more about Stacy Blackman Consulting.

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HBS Admissions Director Talks GMAT/GRE Scores

Although most of the elite MBA programs now accept either the GMAT or GRE as part of the admissions process, many applicants wonder if business schools really consider the exams equally. In an attempt to …

Although most of the elite MBA programs now accept either the GMAT or GRE as part of the admissions process, many applicants wonder if business schools really consider the exams equally.

In an attempt to clarify the matter, Harvard Business School Director of Admissions and Financial Aid Dee Leopold recently provided a breakdown of just how many applicants submitted each test, and how many were ultimately offered a place in the program, during the 2013-2014 admissions cycle.

“Please don’t over-crunch,” Leopold urges, pointing out that the admissions team isn’t looking so much at the overall score as at the sub-scores in the context of the candidate’s profile. “An engineer with top grades doing highly quantitative work doesn’t need a high GMAT/GRE-Q to convince us he/she is capable of doing the quantitative work at HBS,” says the director.

As logic would dictate, applicants from the humanities with no quantitative coursework or professional experience need to demonstrate preparedness for the rigorous HBS program with a strong GMAT or GRE quant score.

Going forward, Harvard Business School will accept either a GMAT score or GRE score, not both, as were submitted by 140 applicants this past admissions season. “We need to officially verify scores and prefer to do it for only one test per candidate,” Leopold explains.

The Round 1 deadline at Harvard Business School is just a couple of weeks away on September 9th. If you’re still polishing your open-ended essay, take a look at our HBS MBA application essay tips for guidance and inspiration.

You may also be interested in:

MBA Trends at Harvard Business School and Beyond

What My MBA at Harvard Did Not Teach Me

 

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Register for HBS Class Visits Now

Harvard Business School has announced that registration for class visits is now open. In her latest blog post, Director of Admissions and Financial Aid Dee Leopold notes that the first day to visit a class …

HBS application

Harvard Business School has announced that registration for class visits is now open. In her latest blog post, Director of Admissions and Financial Aid Dee Leopold notes that the first day to visit a class is September 10th, which is after the Round 1 deadline.

Applicants shouldn’t be worried though, as a campus visit bears no influence on the HBS evaluation process. Besides, Leopold points out, if you’re invited to interview and come to campus to do so, you’ll be able to sit in on a class at that time.

Also, the initial visits in September are for second-year classes only, in order to give new students a chance to get comfortable with the case method and their section mates. Visitors scheduled in early October will be able to observe a first-year class in action, and registration for these visits will begin in early September.

Leopold writes that second-year students begin leading HBS tours and information sessions in September, so visitors at that time can and should take advantage of hearing from current students about the MBA program, in addition to admissions staff members. You can check the events section of the Harvard Business School website for the schedule of tours and info sessions.

You may also be interested in:

Harvard Business School 2014 MBA Application Tips

MBA Trends at Harvard Business School and Beyond

Harvard Business School Enters Online Learning

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Tuesday Tips: Harvard Business School MBA Application Essay Tips 2014

Harvard Business School has decided to repeat the same essay question this year as originally used in last year’s application cycle. Though the admissions committee said they were planning to change the essay questions every …

Harvard Business School has decided to repeat the same essay question this year as originally used in last year’s application cycle. Though the admissions committee said they were planning to change the essay questions every year, it turned out that the one open-ended essay was helpful enough to use it again.

The most challenging part of this essay is remaining disciplined. With unlimited space to make your case, you may be tempted to compose a laundry list of everything interesting or impressive you have ever done. That urge could backfire, as the essay is used to determine who isn’t a fit for HBS as much as selecting the lucky candidates who make it into the interview round. Maturity, accomplishment, and leadership are highly valued qualities and this essay is your chance to display those qualities through the stories you choose and the voice coming through your writing.

There is one question, technically optional, for the Class of 2017 application essay:

You’re applying to Harvard Business School. We can see your resume, school transcripts, extra-curricular activities, awards, post-MBA career goals, test scores and what your recommenders have to say about you. What else would you like us to know as we consider your candidacy?

HBS adds this tip to the essay prompt:

There is no word limit for this question. We think you know what guidance we’re going to give here. Don’t overthink, overcraft and overwrite. Just answer the question in clear language that those of us who don’t know your world can understand.

A note on word count: HBS traditionally has limited essays to around 400 words each. Do not be tempted to go overboard with a 2,000 word essay, rather focus on concise and clear writing and consider keeping this essay to 1,200 words or less. Our successful clients had essays anywhere from 500-1,300 words last year, though you should take a pass through your essay to cut any unnecessary words if you find yourself on the upper end of that range.

The goal of this essay is to know yourself, know HBS, and know how to match the two to demonstrate your fit for the school. Your first task should be to evaluate all of the other aspects of your candidacy – what is the story your resume tells? What do you think recommenders will say? How does your transcript communicate your skills, accomplishments and interests? Then you need to evaluate how to fill the gaps with the essay.

We advised many successful clients on this essay last year, and those who received an acceptance letter from Harvard Business School pursued a range of topics. Some applicants focused on their career journey and aspirations while others wrote about their personal background. Both highly personal and career oriented essays were successful, and most candidates told more than one story in the essay. One common thread we observed was that all of the successful essays demonstrated a core driving passion.

While comparisons with Stanford’s “What Matters Most” open-ended question may come immediately to mind, HBS is very different and it will be important to know the program. As you consider possible stories to tell in this essay keep in mind that HBS has always been highly focused on leadership and wants to accept candidates who have a track record of leadership impact and a success trajectory that indicates upper management potential. Accomplishments have traditionally been a strong focus of HBS essays, and using at least one accomplishment story in this essay may be a good strategy, particularly if your accomplishments are not obvious when reading your resume or transcripts.

A note on what not to do: We see many applicants tempted to include “why HBS” type information in HBS essays. This has never been part of an HBS application essay question and we don’t recommend including that sort of angle here. HBS is quite clear on why applicants are interested in the school, and they would rather see you use the space to provide more information about yourself and your candidacy.

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HBS Students Offer Interview Tips

When Harvard Business School sent out Round 1 interview invitations last week, the Harbus’s general manager La Keisha Landrum posted an article that afternoon letting those lucky recipients in on some of the secrets of …

Harvard interview tips

When Harvard Business School sent out Round 1 interview invitations last week, the Harbus’s general manager La Keisha Landrum posted an article that afternoon letting those lucky recipients in on some of the secrets of a successful admissions interview.

Here are the key takeaways from current HBS students that Landrum shares to inform your own interview preparation:

“Know your application inside and out. Sounds simple, but review it. Know your story and practice explaining key achievements that you mention  in your resume or essays.”

“To practice, I did 6 simulated interviews with HBS students that proved invaluable in my preparation.”

“Prepare three or four good stories (which could be adapted to answer practically any question), then record yourself on iSight answering 20 minutes of questions. Watch to assess your body language, tone.”

“Know your resume cold. Know your essay(s) cold.”

“If you were reading your application, what questions would you have for yourself? Those are probably the questions you’ll get on interview day.”

“As you think about your strategy for answering interview questions, it’s a good idea to rehearse your answers, but do not memorize them! That will come off as inauthentic and can really hurt your chances.”

“HBS students are expected to be able to think on their feet in the case method. The interview screens for that.”

“You will be asked a lot of questions—often in rapid fire fashion. But don’t forget to get your own message across.”

“ What do you want to convey to your interviewer? Find a way to get your points across in your answers.”

“When preparing for your interview, practice being succinct in your answers. HBS is looking for articulate students who can make convincing statements or arguments without going on and on forever.”

“ Remember, it’s only a thirty-minute session, so your interviewer will get frustrated if you are taking up too much air time.”

As you prepare for your interview, one of the most important tips to remember is to sound natural—not scripted—during the exchange.  Instead of trying to remember and include every last one of your memorized bullet points, focus on succinctly answering only the question at hand.

If you can get from point A to point B in a clear, logical way; maintain an open, friendly, and professional demeanor; dress appropriately; and have an inquisitive attitude about the school and all it has to offer students, you stand a very good chance of coming out of the interview with flying colors.

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Stacy Blackman Consulting offers two valuable eBooks which may help you on your journey to Harvard Business School. Please check out our:

Harvard Business School Admitted Student Profile and Harvard Business School Interview Guide.

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