Snag Your Seat At Harvard Business School!

If you’re aiming to attend Harvard Business School in 2016, then you’ll want to check out our recent webinar, Get Accepted to Harvard Business School.

Watch the webinar!In her presentation, Linda Abraham, CEO & Founder of Accepted.com, offers important advice on how to gain a competitive edge to a top b-school in general, and Harvard Business School in particular.

View Get Accepted to Harvard Business School now!

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Harvard Business School: Engaged Community Citizenship

Register for our upcoming webinar "Get Accepted to Harvard Business School" now!This is not about “community service” — it’s not about doing halo-worthy things in your free time. (Though neither HBS nor I will discourage that, and “engaged community citizenship” and “community service” certainly can overlap.)

Community service is an activity that you do; engaged community citizenship is a quality that you embody. Doing community service does not automatically mean you possess the quality of engaged community citizenship.

Harvard Business School explicitly seeks this quality in its applicants – announced in bold letters on its “Who are we looking for?” page.

Plaudits to HBS for the directness and clarity. Yet it’s a complex idea. Let’s see exactly what “engaged community service” means by examining each element.

Engaged: Showing up. Participating, with your heart and mind as well as your actions. When you ask questions or make a comment, it’s not just for participation brownie points; it’s thoughtful, pertinent, contributing. You share doubts and fears as well as offer solutions. You know how to listen, you do listen, and you synthesize what you hear. You check your ego at the door, knowing it’s not about you, it’s about the issue or project or process.

Community: Your organization and your team or department within it. Your social circle. Your sports team and/or religious group and/or music ensemble and/or hobby club. Your service organization. Not least, your school – including the HBS classroom. It is also your neighborhood. And your country. It’s the people around you on the subway platform. It’s every group formal or informal with which you have a connection.

Citizenship: A sense of responsibility. A sense of ownership. The values that inform and drive your engagement with your community. First and foremost, you care. About the community at large, the people within it, and, yes, yourself. You act on that caring and your actions reflect that caring. Therefore, you are ethical and honest. You are reliable and generous. In a nutshell: You can be counted on to pitch in and do the right thing for your community.

Actually, the quality of engaged community citizenship is something that any b-school adcom will value. So how do you express it effectively in your application? Use example and anecdote. For HBS, focus on it in your responses to your “Three most…” questions in the body of the app. Also, try to bring it out in your resume and your interviews. Ask your recommenders to highlight it.

If you have it – let it enhance your candidacy.

Watch the webinar of 'How to Get Accepted To Harvard Business School' today!

Cindy Tokumitsu By , author of numerous ebooks, articles, and special reports. Cindy has advised hundreds of successful applicants in her fifteen years with Accepted. She can help you assess your strengths and weaknesses and develop a winning MBA admissions strategy. She is a member of the Association of International Graduate Application Consultants.

Related Resources:

• Harvard Business School 2016 MBA Essay Tips & Deadlines
• What Does Harvard Business School Want?
• Harvard Business School: The Habit of Leadership

Harvard Business School: Analytical Aptitude And Appetite

Learn How To Get Accepted to Harvard Business School!So HBS wants “analytical aptitude and appetite.” What is there to add? I mean, it’s pretty obvious. We didn’t really need HBS to say it. Yet they did say it.

Maybe it’s not as obvious as it sounds. Let’s take a look.

Analytical: This concept encompasses a range of things – quantitative methods, various tools and processes such as decision trees and FMEA, mental objectivity, an exacting attitude. Parsing the relationship between a whole and its parts. Pursuing root causes.

Aptitude: Ability, innate and/or learned.

Appetite: This is the really interesting word, because it’s open to interpretation. We can read it as meaning to enjoy, to savor, to be open to, to relish, to hunger for, to have capacity for. Here are some of its practical implications and nuances (in question form):

• Do you use objective analysis in understanding past events, planning future actions and strategies, and making decisions?
• Do you respect results and outcomes determined by analysis when they don’t jive with your preconceptions, ideologies, or preferences?
• Does your analytic mindset allow you to be comfortable with – even relish – ambiguity and uncertainty?
• Do you help your teammates understand and use analytic approaches and thinking?
• Perhaps most important, do you use language effectively as an analytic tool, e.g., when the team is facing a muddle, are you the one who can verbally separate the threads, clarify them, and guide the team to understand their relative weight and importance?

As the HBS website indicates, for HBS, analytical aptitude is not a solitary feast (regardless of how hearty the analytic appetite). You’ve got to bring your analytical chops to the table, i.e., to classroom debates and case studies, projects, etc. Therefore, you must be able not only to read and play the analytic score – but also to improvise, on the spot and with other virtuosos.

The adcom will grasp your analytic aptitude from your transcript(s), test score, and resume. But if you feel these elements don’t properly show this dimension, use other parts of the application (essay, short answers, additional info, recommendations) to amplify it.

As for showing analytical appetite:

• Your resume may reflect this quality, depending on your work.
• Invite your recommenders to discuss this quality and to provide examples.
• In your essay(s) use a story or two that demonstrates analytical appetite.

And be assured, it won’t hurt to let other programs you apply to appreciate your analytic aptitude and appetite!

Watch the webinar of 'How to Get Accepted To Harvard Business School' today!

Cindy Tokumitsu By , author and co-author of numerous ebooks, articles, and special reports, including Why MBAand Best MBA Programs: A Guide to Selecting the Right One. Cindy has advised hundreds of successful applicants in her fifteen years with Accepted.com, including many successful applicants to HBS.

Related Resources:

• What Does Harvard Business School Want?
Harvard Business School: The Habit of Leadership
• Harvard Business School 2016 MBA Essay Tips & Deadlines

Harvard Business School: The Habit Of Leadership

Register for our upcoming live webinar on How To Get Accepted To HBS!Thank you, Harvard Business School. IMHO, that’s what applicants should think when they visit the program’s website and find “habit of leadership” on its “Who are we looking for?” admissions page.

It’s common knowledge that HBS values leadership, but with this phrase, the adcom succinctly expresses how they view leadership – dynamic, deep, intrinsic, long-term. It’s something you possess and bring to your experiences, not something that happens to describe your involvement in a few isolated incidents (i.e., the proverbial “leadership experience”). Not just HBS applicants, but all b-school applicants can benefit from reflecting on the phrase – and then determining how they embody it in their actions.

There are a gazillion excellent articles and treatises on the meaning of leadership. And most of them are valid. I’m focusing on the other word. The key to this message is habit. First, it’s active. It’s something done. It’s not something bestowed upon you (like the title Team Lead) and it’s not something ascended to (advanced to Project Manager). Whether good or bad, habits are something you do.

Second, a habit is reflexive, a part of you. You may think about it objectively in your mind, but it’s also behavior. Yet that doesn’t automatically mean it’s innate – a habit may be learned (you probably know someone who trained herself to become more patient or more decisive or less defensive). Therefore, if you aren’t a “born leader,” you can still develop the habit of leadership.

A habit knows no boundaries. You exercise the habit of leadership in school, in your family, with friends, at work, in your community. It means that when something needs doing or when you perceive an opportunity for positive impact, you shift into gear to make it happen – even if it’s hard, even if it’s not your designated role, even if you’re not sure exactly how you’ll do it. Simply, it’s what you do.

Because it’s action oriented, not title or ego oriented, the habit of leadership, ironically, may sometimes seem invisible, a hidden force. Routine and regular. Example: your friends, tired after a long day of canoeing on the Delaware River, squabble about where to go for dinner. You gently draw the group’s focus to the two most feasible options, proposed by two different members of the group; everyone starts to feel enthusiastic again. They may not consciously recognize your leadership; in fact, the person who proposed the “winning” idea might feel like the leader! (More irony: real leadership often allows others to feel like the top dog.) Of course, the opposite is also true sometimes: your leadership habit may require you to visibly assert an opposing vision or emphatically convince people to join you in taking a risk.

While this quality is something HBS explicitly seeks, any b-school adcom will value it – after all, someone with “leadership experience” isn’t necessarily a leader fundamentally, but someone with the “habit of leadership” is. All b-schools want leaders.

Having the habit of leadership is great, but it’s only helpful to the application if you express it effectively. That means – you’ve heard it from us ad infinitum – use example and anecdote. Look for opportunities to weave in the message of your habit of leadership, even in essays on other topics. Also, try to bring it out in your resume and your interviews. Ask your recommenders to highlight it. It can only enhance your application and your candidacy.

Watch the webinar of 'How to Get Accepted To Harvard Business School' today!
Cindy Tokumitsu By , author and co-author of numerous ebooks, articles, and special reports, including Why MBA and Best MBA Programs: A Guide to Selecting the Right One. Cindy has advised hundreds of successful applicants in her fifteen years with Accepted.com.

Related Resources:

• Harvard Business School 2016 MBA Essay Tips & Deadlines
Life as an HBS MBA Student
• What Does Harvard Business School Want?

Harvard Business School 2016 MBA Essay Tips & Deadlines

Click here for more info about Harvard Business School.

Make Every Word Count.

Change has once again come to the Harvard Business School MBA application. For the upcoming 2015-16 application cycle, there is now one required essay.  For the last two years, it has been optional. Also the prompt has changed.

As it did last year, Harvard does not suggest a word limit. It leaves it to your judgment. The operative word is judgement. Harvard has in the past requested a significant amount of information in the boxes on its application and last year (this year’s app isn’t live yet.) there were significant word and character limits.

Also, HBS has virtually the same deadlines this year as last. Its round 1 deadline is so far the earliest at September 9, 2015.

There is one question for the Harvard MBA Class of 2018. Here it is:

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.

Note: Should you enroll at HBS, there will be an opportunity for you to share this with them.

We suggest you view this video before beginning to write.

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.

While the advice offered on the site is good, I also want to quote from additional information Dee Leopold gave on her blog as to why they chose this question:

• It’s just about as straightforward and practical as we can make it. It gives you a chance to tell your story however you choose. Imagine simply saying it out loud.  This is what we mean when we’ve been encouraging you to use your own “voice” when approaching this part of the application.  We have no pre-conceived ideas of what “good” looks like. We look forward to lots of variance.

• It’s useful. You will actually be introducing yourself to classmates at HBS.

Tell us again what the essay is for?

• For you: an opportunity to pause and reflect. Business school is a big experience –  it’s exciting, it’s an unknown, it’s a beginning, it’s an investment in your future. Stopping to reflect and gather your thoughts in writing is a useful exercise. That’s not just our opinion –  it’s what we hear from students all the time.

• For us: a chance to get to know you beyond the elements of the application that feel fixed and stationary. Can also be a starting point for interview conversations.

I think the last element that I quoted is critical. “The essay is a chance to get to know you beyond the elements of the application that feel fixed and stationary. Can also be a starting point for interview conversations”

That quote reminds me of last year’s optional HBS question:

“We can see your resume, school transcripts, extra-curricular activities, awards, post-MBA career goals, test scores and what your recommenders have to say about you. What else would you like us to know as we consider your candidacy?”

Finally, before you approach the question, watch the video about the HBS case method as recommended by Harvard. We embedded it above.

Note the focus on conversation in both the video and Dee Leopold’s advice. How will you start the conversation with your section mates? What would you want them to know about you? Keep in mind that the admissions committee is listening this time, and its members may want to use what you write as a starting point for the “interview conversation.”

Other important themes in the video: preparation, engagement, imaging yourself as the protagonist — the decision maker.   The use of the case method as practice in decision making. If you think other elements of this video are important, please add in the comments box below.

And realize that they want this conversation starter to go beyond what’s in the rest of the application.

So what else – really and truly — do you want both the HBS admissions committee and your future section mates to know about you? What do you want to share  that will show you can participate in the conversation that is the HBS classroom? 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 that may be of interest to your section mates.

•  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.

•  A skill they may be useful to your section

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 required portion of the application. Don’t take the absence of a word limit on the essay as a license for verbosity. Make every word count. If you must pull a number out of me, don’t go over 800 words. And if you can say what you need to say in less than 800 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.

Post- Interview Reflections

2016 Application Deadlines:

Harvard 2016 Secondary Essay Timeline



Wathc the webinar: Get Accepted to Harvard Business School!



Linda Abraham By , president and founder of Accepted.com 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.

Related Resources:

• What Does Harvard Business School Want?
• Harvard Business School: The Habit of Leadership
Some HBS Stereotypes: An Interview with Ben Faw