Harvard Business School Admissions is not adverse to change and here are a few elements in the 2016-17 application that are different:
• The essay question itself is different and much more straight-forward than last year’s question. It is very similar to the question posed two years ago, which I thought was an excellent question.
• HBS 2+2 applications will only be reviewed R3. There is no advantage to 2+2 applicants applying in Round 1 or 2.
• Unlike the last few years, there is no advice on the Direct form the Director blog giving insight into the question. The silence is probably because the current director, Dee Leopold, is leaving this position shortly, and the new director, Chad Losee (HBS MBA 2013), will assume the director role in June.
• The deadlines are only slightly different from last year. The Round 1 deadline is Sept. 7, 2016, just two days earlier than last year’s Sept. 9 round 1 due date.
What has stayed the same:
• The essay is required, unlike two years ago, and like last year.
• There is NO word limit.
There is one question for the Class of 2019:
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?
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.
Before you begin to write I have two suggestions for you:
- Review Harvard’s criteria for admission.
- Watch the embedded video on the case method at HBS.
I’d also like to quote one piece of advice Dee offered for last year’s question that is highly relevant to this year’s question for HBS and actually for most b-school essay questions: “The essay is a chance to get to know you beyond the elements of the application that feel fixed and stationary.”
I think that’s true this year too. The essay is a chance for HBS to get to know you beyond your resume and the limited and limiting boxes.
Now THINK. What else – really and truly — do you want HBS to know about you? The HBS admissions committee has told you what it wants to know in the other sections of the application. What do you want the HBS readers to know? The answer to that question is not something I can give or even suggest to you in a blog post aimed at the many. (For individual advice, please see Accepted’s MBA Admissions Consulting.) It should be different for each of you. Again, refer to the HBS criteria, as you contemplate possible topics, but the options are infinite. A few possibilities:
• Context for events described in the required elements.
• Motivations for the decisions or commitments you have made.
• Challenges you have faced.
• Something you would like to do at HBS.
• More depth on an activity or commitment that is particularly important to you.
Please don’t limit yourself to these suggestions. I am offering them to stimulate your creativity, not to shut it down.
Since I’ve been in MBA admissions consulting (over 20 years now), HBS has valued concision. And, in today’s tweet- and sound-bite-driven world, it is requiring even shorter responses, at least in the other portions of the application. Don’t take the absence of a word limit on this essay as a license for verbosity. Make every word count. If you must pull a number out of me, keep it under 1000 words. And if you can say what you need to say in less than 1000 words, do so. A few caveats and warnings on the essay. It is not:
• Stanford’s “what matters most to you and why?” or Columbia’s #3.
• The kitchen sink in which you throw everything.
• An autobiography.
• A resume in prose or a rehash of your transcript and honors.
Post- Interview Reflections:
***Disclaimer: Information is subject to change. Please check with individual programs to verify the essay questions, instructions and deadlines.***
By Linda Abraham, president and founder of Accepted and co-author of the new, definitive book on MBA admissions, MBA Admission for Smarties: The No-Nonsense Guide to Acceptance at Top Business Schools.