Tuesday Tips: HBS 2+2 MBA Essay Tips for 2024

HBS 2+2 MBA essay

Are you a college senior with MBA dreams in your future? Why not jump-start your B-school journey right now? The HBS 2+2 deferred MBA program at Harvard Business School is accepting applications until April 25, 2024, for entry in Fall 2026. In this program, admitted candidates work for two years and then start their MBA studies.

The ideal applicant for the HBS 2+2 program adds diversity of background and thought to the school. Harvard is looking for highly accomplished students with unusual paths. For example, candidates from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, first to graduate college, or those with non-traditional career goals like manufacturing or engineering.

HBS 2+2 Program for College Seniors: How to Get In

There is some flexibility around the two-year work deferral, but most applicants work for two years before beginning their on-campus MBA experience.

In the past, the HBS 2+2 essay prompt has been the same as the question asked within the regular full-time MBA application. However, the admissions committee decided to make a change this year. According to Harvard Business School, that’s because:

“The HBS classroom and community thrive when we bring together people who can share a variety of perspectives. We are looking for people who will be good community members, and this new essay format is designed to get to know you better and learn how you will engage at HBS and beyond.”

And, as with the traditional program application essay, the HBS AdCom shares similar advice: “We think you know what guidance we’re going to give here: don’t overthink, overcraft, or overwrite. Please answer the questions in clear and concise language.”

The Stacy Blackman Consulting team includes several experts in the deferred admissions process. Reach out today to talk strategy with a free 15-minute advising session with an SBC Principal Consultant. 

HBS 2+2 MBA Essay Tips

Part 1: Personal Essays (choose two – up to 300 words per prompt)

The HBS classroom and community thrive when we bring together people who can share a variety of perspectives. To get to know you better and how you will engage at HBS, please choose two of the three prompts below to tell us more about yourself:

Option 1: How have your experiences shaped who you are, how you lead, and how you will contribute at HBS?

The essays are your opportunity to reveal yourself. Think about your background, skills, motivations, and the aspects that make you unique. Harvard is interested in who you are as a person.

Choose stories that show your management potential. HBS has always focused on leadership and loves candidates with a track record of leadership impact and future potential. Your goal is to demonstrate a success trajectory to indicate upper management potential.

The stories you choose for this essay can be from almost any part of your life. How have you learned and developed in college? What early influences may have been part of forming who you are? Think deeply about yourself and show that introspection in this essay.

Option 2: What intellectual experiences have influenced your approach to learning and have led you to pursue an MBA?

Because you are a college senior, academics have been your primary focus for the past several years. When you think about your college experience, what first sparked your interest in business and pursuing a graduate business degree at Harvard 2+2? What drives your academic focus, and how do you hope to continue to learn?

Perhaps you took a class in economics or finance, and the topic fascinated you. The intellectual experience could have also been outside the classroom, either in a summer internship or through an extracurricular activity. Ultimately, this question is seeking to understand your interests and motivations.

Did you know? SBC’s stellar team includes two former HBS Admissions Officers who helped launch the 2+2 Program.

Option 3: What communities have you been engaged with that have defined how you invest in others?

Harvard is explicitly looking for non-traditional applicants for the 2+2 program. When you think about communities, this could be part of your cultural or familial background. Or, a community could be chosen, like one focused on a hobby or interest.

Because you are a college senior and have less formal work experience, describing how you engage and invest in communities is a great way to show leadership skills. Consider how you have positively influenced these communities.

For example, leaders take formal leadership roles in school clubs, develop community within a sports team, or volunteer to serve their cultural community. Think about how you might use your experience to demonstrate these skills.

Part 2: Career Essay (up to 300 words)

How do the career plans you shared in the Career Plans section of the application fit into your current long-term career vision? What skills and/or professional experiences do you hope to obtain in the deferral period that will help build the foundation for your post-MBA career?

As a college senior planning your life five years into the future, you should have a strong vision. Most MBA applicants can rely on past experiences to tell their MBA admissions story, while you have limited work experience to draw upon. Therefore, being specific about your Harvard 2+2 goals and plans will add credibility to your application.

“I wanted to ensure that I spent time at a company that would allow me to gain new skills, grow, and create an impact before starting my studies at HBS.” – Carol Wright, 2+2 MBA

First, think about what you aspire to accomplish in your career. Perhaps you want to run your own business or be a senior manager in an industry you admire. Explain why you are drawn to that role and industry. And, how you think your educational background and Harvard 2+2 MBA will help build your skills.

Then, add your plans for the two years between college and the MBA program. How will you choose an industry to position yourself well to benefit from an MBA? What specific roles are most appealing?

With a focused career plan, you could emphasize leadership opportunities or high-visibility roles that give you access to senior leaders. For example, some 2+2 applicants worked in management consulting or as an assistant to a small company CEO. Both positions would provide a wide range of work experience in a short time.

Be as specific as possible about the skills and experience you hope to acquire before you join the MBA program. Think both about hard skills like accounting, finance, or marketing planning and soft skills like working with a diverse team and leading without authority.

When you pull your story together, your educational background, post-college work experience, and HBS MBA should position you for your future long-term career goals.

HBS 2+2 Deferred MBA Program: Get Accepted


We hope our HBS 2+2 MBA essay tips have further awakened your interest in this exceptional deferred MBA program. If you are considering HBS 2+2 and need input from an expert sounding board, we’re here to help! Reach out to set up a complimentary assessment of your candidacy today.

Here’s a snapshot of the caliber of expertise on our SBC team.

SBC’s star-studded consultant team is unparalleled. Our clients benefit from current intelligence that we receive from the former MBA Admissions Officers from Harvard HBS, Stanford GSB and every elite business program in the US and Europe.  These MBA Admissions Officers have chosen to work exclusively with SBC.

Just two of the many superstars on the SBC team:
Meet Erin, who was Assistant Director of MBA Admissions at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business (GSB) and Director of MBA Admissions at Berkeley’s Haas School of Business.

Meet Andrea, who served as the Associate Director of MBA Admissions at Harvard Business School (HBS) for over five years.

Tap into this inside knowledge for your MBA applications by requesting a consultation.


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