This HBS 2+2 Application tip post is one of a series of posts providing MBA application and essay advice for applicants to top MBA programs around the world. Check out the entire 2012 MBA Application Tips series for more valuable MBA essay advice.
The Harvard 2+2 application is now online. While it still consists of four questions, three are entirely new or at least a little different, and there are no elective questions in this year’s application.
Harvard’s instructions and question are in black below; my comments and tips are in blue:?
1. Tell us about three of your accomplishments. (600 words)
This is a variation of what has been for year’s Harvard’s signature question. In the past HBS asked, “What are your three most substantial accomplishments and why do you view them as such?”
Obviously you want to include “substantial accomplishments.” I strongly encourage you to also provide some indication of why you think they are important enough to include on your Harvard MBA 2+2 application.
This essay, like almost all MBA essays, has to balance narrative and analysis. If an event is important enough to relate in the little bit of essay real estate that you have, ensure that the reader knows why you include it. It may be obvious from the story. If it isn’t, combine critical events with insightful analysis to create a revealing, compelling essay.
At least two of the three accomplishments should show leadership and/or teamwork with the emphasis being on leadership. I also like to have this essay show some breadth. My ideal would be to have one professional/internship, one community, and one personal accomplishment in this essay, but that breakdown is neither set in stone nor imperative.
2. Tell us three setbacks you have faced. (600 words)
“Oh no! They want me to write about setbacks!!!! I’m supposed to be a super-star.”
True, but real super-stars are resilient. They can handle a set-back and they frequently view failures as hurdles to overcome, not as the end of the world, or their future. They rebound. They learn from mistakes, failures, and bumps in the road and turn them into nothing more than …. well than a setback on the road to achievement, accomplishment and success.
So in addition to the three achievements discussed in response to #1, write about three setbacks. The word “setback” implies that you then moved forward. In your essays briefly describe what went wrong and then go into more detail on how you set it right. Finally, what did you learn on the rebound?
3. Why do you want an MBA? (400 words)
What do you intend to do with the degree? Do you have solid, well-reasoned motivations for pursuing an MBA? Do you have experience that connects to your MBA goal. Include them in your response.
Your reasons should show that you share Harvard’s commitment to leadership. Do they also demonstrate that you need the transformative education provided by Harvard Business School to achieve your goals?
4. What would you like the MBA Admissions Board to know about your undergraduate academic experience? (400 words)
When introduced, I thought this query was going to produce monotonous, boring pieces, but it didn’t. To my pleasant surprise, I reviewed several responses as part of our quality control program, and they were revealing, excellent essays.
Your topics will clearly vary depending on your experience and the rest of your application, but my ideal answer will discuss a leadership experience from your undergrad career to show that you are a natural leader. Remember: HBS wants to develop leaders, not create them. It wants to admit people in the “habit of leadership.” Show that you are one of those people.
This essay should complement your other essays and reveal another dimension of your personality and experience.
Round Due Date Notification
Summer Round July 6, 2011 September 2011
Round 1 October 2011 December 2011
Round 2 January 2012 March 2012
Round 3 March 2012 May 2012
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