Harvard Business School Essay Tips

What are your three most substantial accomplishments and why do you view them as such? (600-word limit)

With this essay you want to show Harvard Business School that you understand how to set goals and reach them. Clearly Harvard Business School is a school for leaders with accomplished alumni. You want to assure them that you are also going to make an impact post-graduation by demonstrating how you have already accomplished significant goals. Moreover, you want to reveal your range of interests and your values. Generally it is a good idea to include one professional event, but you should also consider accomplishments from community service experiences (the more recent the better) or even personal hardships you have overcome. Most importantly, be sure to write about each experience succinctly and focus on WHY you view these events as accomplishments. Applicants often make the mistake of writing only about the event. Harvard Business School is interested in your reflection and why this event is significant to you. They are looking to understand your values and priorities. Finally, pay attention to the word limit and budget 200 words per accomplishment.

What have you learned from a mistake? (400-word limit)

The point of this essay is to communicate your lessons learned from an experience. Similar to the first essay, set up the event quickly and then dedicate most of your words to your reflection. As with so many MBA essays, it is not as much the what as the why? Ideally, you would even show how you have applied these lessons learned. Be savvy about what mistake you choose (keeping in mind what topics you used for Question 1) so that you continue to show the admissions committee different aspects of your life.

Please respond to three of the following (400-word limit each):

In approaching these essays, consider the overall picture you are trying to communicate about yourself. Look across your life and think about your priorities, significant experiences, and also any red flags or complicated areas in your background. These essays present a great opportunity to reveal your values, mitigate any potential red flags in your application, and give the admissions committee reasons to believe you are going to be an accomplished, thoughtful student and alum.

Discuss a defining experience in your leadership development. How did this experience highlight your strengths and weaknesses?

As with the Harvard Business School essays before, pay attention to the word limit. Set up the experience quickly and focus on the strengths and weaknesses. The reflection is the key to this essay. Also, weaknesses are as important to include as strengths. Omitting the weaknesses would reveal a lack of self awareness. Be sure you address all pieces of this essay question.

How have you experienced culture shock?

With this Harvard Business School essay you can show your critical thinking, sensitivity, and self-awareness. You want to provide a surprising experience when you found yourself out of your element and learned something about your assumptions. Show how you changed as a person by learning from others.

What would you like the Harvard Business School Admissions Board to know about your undergraduate academic experience?

This is a good opportunity to mitigate any issues from undergrad such as a low GPA, changes in major, etc. That said, in explaining any issues stay away from being negative. Emphasize other opportunities you were exploring or if there was a personal issue, then focus on lessons you learned. This essay is also a great way to discuss a significant academic interest and/or extra-curricular interest you developed that is still in your life. Be sure to keep the focus on the academic piece of your undergrad and do not veer to much into all of your activities.

What is your career vision and why is this choice meaningful to you?

When presenting your career vision be concrete and ambitious. Moreover, dedicate a significant portion to why is this choice meaningful to you. Further, this meaning should be part of a pattern; you must show a connection to your personal background and/or prior experiences (work, travel, service).

What global issue is most important to you and why?

In answering this question you must demonstrate a sophisticated understanding of the issue ”“ be able to succinctly present varying sides or arguments. Again, recognize that they have asked you “why” so you must show a connection to your background, interests, and prior experiences.

What else would you like the Harvard Business School Admissions Board to understand about you?

Because this is such an open question, you have the opportunity to round out your application by discussing a surprising aspect of your background or mitigating a red flag. Again, focus on the positive lessons learned from any experience. Show Harvard Business School your self-awareness, resiliency, and passion for living a well-rounded life.


Click for more posts containing Application Advice for the Harvard Business School.
To see our Harvard Business School Essay Guide for MBA Applications, click here.
To see our Harvard Business School Interview Guide, click here.

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