Category Archives: Harvard Advice
June 28, 2016
Harvard Business School continues to provide one open-ended essay question to applicants. This year the essay is required (unlike two years ago) but the essay question has changed from last year, and is instead much …
Harvard Business School continues to provide one open-ended essay question to applicants. This year the essay is required (unlike two years ago) but the essay question has changed from last year, and is instead much more flexible (like two years ago).
Last year the HBS admissions director blog noted 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.
As we review your application, what more would you like us to know as we consider your candidacy for the Harvard Business School MBA program?
From HBS: 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 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. 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.
Last year HBS recommended a video on the case method, which is worth watching now. The video clearly shows 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. In the past we have observed that successful HBS essays also demonstrate a core driving passion. HBS students are ambitious, motivated and never boring.
As you consider possible stories to tell in this essay keep in mind that HBS has always been highly focused on leadership and really loves candidates with 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.
Image credit: Chris Han (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)
March 17, 2016
To apply or not to apply in the final round, that is the perennial question. Harvard Business School‘s Director of MBA Admissions and Financial Aid, Dee Leopold, recently gave a crystal-clear answer…for college seniors, at …
To apply or not to apply in the final round, that is the perennial question. Harvard Business School‘s Director of MBA Admissions and Financial Aid, Dee Leopold, recently gave a crystal-clear answer…for college seniors, at least.
“If you are a college senior who has the bandwidth to complete an application, I think that you should,” Leopold says, noting that there’s really no downside risk other than missing out on the last weeks of college life to prep for the GMAT or GRE.
“The worst that can happen is that you get turned down to the very small 2+2 Program. Many current students at HBS found themselves in that situation, went out and joined the work world, and reapplied successfully,” she adds.
As for candidates with a few years of work experience under their belts, Leopold acknowledges the third round is more complicated since most of the seats in the Class of 2018 have already been taken and it may be difficult to get a visa.
Despite those potential challenges, the director clears up a few myths that may be keeping qualified candidates from considering Round 3. Contrary to popular wisdom, needs-based financial aid is just as available for last-round applicants as it is for Round 1 admits.
If you do apply and are not successful, rest assured you can reapply in the future with absolutely no negative repercussions.
One plus of Round Three is the quick turnaround time between interview invitations going out and final decisions coming down. Invites will be sent by April 20th at noon, and your fate will be revealed on May 11th.
As always, we at SBC suggest candidates submit only once they feel their application is as strong as possible. If you apply in the final round, do make use of the optional essay to explain why you waited so that the admissions committee doesn’t come to the conclusion that this is just a last-ditch effort after failing to receive an admit at another MBA program in an earlier round.
“We ALWAYS admit people from Round 3,” Leopold says. “And they are always very wonderful.”
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Image credit: Visionello (CC BY-NC 2.0)
January 11, 2016
On Friday, Harvard Business School‘s director of MBA admissions, Dee Leopold, shared the following details regarding Round 2 interview invitations: Interview invitations will go out in two waves: January 27 and February 3 All candidates …
On Friday, Harvard Business School‘s director of MBA admissions, Dee Leopold, shared the following details regarding Round 2 interview invitations:
- Interview invitations will go out in two waves: January 27 and February 3
- All candidates not being invited to interview will receive notice of their “release” on February 3
- All 2+2 candidates will receive an invitation or be released on February 3
- Interviews will take place between February 11 and March 4
- Campus Interview Days will offer opportunities for class visits, student and faculty panels, and campus tours
- Hub cities this round are:
- London, Paris, Mumbai, Dubai, Tokyo, Menlo Park, and NYC
Our advice here at Stacy Blackman Consulting for anyone interviewing at Harvard Business School is this:
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.
Good luck, HBS applicants!
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September 9, 2015
Today’s the Round 1 deadline at Harvard Business School, but if you’re still planning on applying in Rounds 2 or 3, you’ll want to take a look at some of the essay advice I shared in a recent Business Insider article.
Unlike last season, when the essay question was completely open-ended—and optional—this year the school has taken a different tack to see if they can really get to know their applicants.
It now asks:
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.
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. I invite you to read the rest on the article on the Business Insider site for several more important tips on how to successfully market your candidacy for this ultra-elite school.
July 22, 2015
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.
If 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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