Advice for the Harvard Business School Admissions Essay

HBS essay tips

This probably comes as no surprise to many of you, but Harvard Business School has notoriously low acceptance rates, which is why applicants to HBS must answer the required essay question both thoughtfully and strategically.

Business Insider recently shared my tips for this season’s crop of candidates, who, quite honestly, will probably have an easier time compared to last year’s simply because HBS decided to forgo the creative prompt for a simple, straightforward question.

It’s interesting to note how the essay at this top b-school has morphed over the past three years. Two seasons ago, there was an optional essay question that threw many applicants into a tailspin. Realizing applicants didn’t really want “optional,” the school posed this 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.

I think that the more ‘creative’ format of the introduction may have muddied some of the answers, wasting word count being cute, setting up a conversation, etc., prompting the admissions team to look toward something vastly more streamlined for this year. This is the question for the Class of 2019 application essay:

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?

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.

Is Harvard Business School on your list of target schools this season? If so, follow the link above to the full article on Business Insider to read more of my HBS essay tips!

You may also be interested in:

No. 1 Trait HBS Looks for in MBA Applicants

Image credit: Flickr user Chris Han (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)
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