Harvard MBA Essay Question: Now Required and New

Harvard Business School

Harvard Business School

And the Harvard MBA essay question 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.

You can read Dee Leopold’s full thoughts on this question at on her blog, Direct from the Director, as well as her reasons for making this required as opposed to optional, as its been for the last 2 years.

Dee also reviews the purpose of the essay. On one had its a chance for you the applicant to reflect, organize your thoughts, and relate them as you embark on the adventure of business school.  In addition and something that is critical for you to realize as you start that reflection process and choose what to write: 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.”

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Linda AbrahamBy Linda Abraham, president and founder of Accepted.com and co-author of the definitive book on MBA admissions, MBA Admission for Smarties: The No-Nonsense Guide to Acceptance at Top Business Schools


A Window into Life at Harvard Business School

Click here for more mba student interviewsThis interview is the latest in an Accepted.com blog series featuring interviews with current MBA students, offering readers a behind-the-scenes look at top MBA programs. And now for a follow up interview with Tim Massey, who is about to complete his first year at Harvard Business School. (We first met Tim last year – you can read our first interview with him here.)

Accepted: Since we last spoke you applied to and got accepted to HBS. Congrats! How has your first year been so far? It b-school as you expected it to be? Any surprises? 

Tim: The first year has been an incredible ride. I’ve really enjoyed pretty much every aspect of it so far and I haven’t regretted my decision to study in the US for a second. The students here are an incredible bunch of people, and it’s really evident that the professors love teaching here. We’re fortunate enough to meet many of the protagonists of our cases or leading business leaders who come to visit our campus. The worldwide draw of HBS really enhances the experience. Without particularly seeking these opportunities out I’ve been able to listen to Peter Thiel (founder of Paypal and hugely successful investor), and Alan Mullaly (former CEO of Ford and Boeing).

HBS also is far more friendly and collaborative than I expected. It has a reputation for being a tough dog-eat-dog place, and that’s not really been my experience at all. Yes, it’s competitive but certainly not at any cost.

My biggest surprise is quite how busy I’ve been (despite HBS’ reputation) – it’s very different from my undergraduate studies and I’ve barely had a minute to myself from when I started right up until the Christmas break at the end of the first semester.

Accepted: Which MBA programs did you end up applying to? Was HBS your first choice? 

Tim: I described HBS originally as my joint first choice. As an engineer, I was also keen on MIT, but MIT made it an easy decision for me! I had a few other applications that I withdrew from early as I knew where I was going to be, and HBS is pretty much one of the first decisions you get in Round 1.

Accepted: If you could change anything about the program, what would it be?

Tim: My least favorite aspect of the whole MBA experience has undoubtedly been recruiting season. In contrast to many other parts of the experience, which tend to focus on self-growth and really achieving something meaningful, this seems very much stuck in the past.

I am sure this is borne out of necessity to compete with other schools and maintain league placing high up the recruitment league tables that applicants look at. But depth of support is really variable between traditional MBA industries (finance/consulting) and other more creative directions. It is very much at odds with the rest of the course and HBS’s mission to ‘educate leaders who make a difference in the world.’

I have a strong suspicion this is not unique to HBS and I think the competitive stats-based ranking system for admissions to the top business school really influences behavior here. Any school that deviates from promoting the top highly paid starting salaries and internships will suffer from a disadvantage in these metrics, and this promotes a ‘groupthink’ approach.

Accepted: Are you involved in any clubs on campus? How central to student life is club involvement?

Tim: There is a pretty huge array of clubs on campus to join, HBS definitely benefits from its size in this respect with members forming based on range of different interests. The majority are based around either professional/career interests (e.g. VCPE club (venture capital/private equity), Tech club), geographical locations (e.g. Euro club/LatAm club) or sports, with some special interests thrown in.

I’m been involved in helping to organize several of these, which is a bit of a throwback to my undergrad days when I was also heavily involved in the student body.

The main difference is a slightly more ‘professional’ edge than undergraduate clubs, with most designed to help navigate and network amongst the diverse student body, and attract specific career opportunities to campus.

Accepted: Can you tell us about  your experience with HBS’ FIELD program?

Tim: So far, I’ve travelled to Chengdu in China on FIELD 2, working with a social enterprise focused on promoting recycling electronics (I wrote about this in a little more detail on my blog here). It was a great project and really allowed me to get a unique perspective on awareness of environmental issues in China. As a whole experience, it really challenged some perspectives I had before I went.

At the moment I’m in the thick of FIELD 3, in the early stages of starting my own business with a group of other students. I’ll be sure to write more about it as we make progress!

Accepted: Have you been keeping up your blogging? Can you direct us to one or two posts that will further help us get up to date with your b-school adventure?

Tim: In addition to my post about FIELD above, I wrote down some of my perspectives on the first semester here.

I’m trying to keep up the blogging, but the strain on my time commitments makes it a bit more difficult to find time than it used to be! I try to write once a month or so – I’m in an incredibly fortunate position to write about what’s it like on the inside – I try to answer the questions I had as an applicant, and if anyone has any suggestions of things they’d like to know more detail about, I’m happy to take requests!

For one-on-one guidance on your b-school applications, please see our MBA Application Packages.  To read more about Tim’s b-school journey, please check out his blog, The Adventures of a MBA Student. Thank you Tim for sharing your story with us! 

Check out our free webinar: Get Accepted to Harvard Business School!

Accepted: The Premier Admissions Cosultancy
Related Resources:

• Best MBA Programs: A Guide to Selecting the Right One
• What Does Harvard Business School Want?, a video
• Life as an HBS MBA Student

U.S. News 2016 Best Graduate Business Schools

U.S. News released its graduate school rankings today. Let’s see how our top b-schools fared…

Top 20 U.S. B-Schools – 2016

Visit our b-school zone page for info on the top business schools.1. Stanford GSB (1)
2. Harvard Business School (1)
3. UPenn Wharton (1)
4. Chicago Booth (4)
5. MIT Sloan (5)
6. Northwestern Kellogg (6)
7. UC Berkeley Haas (7)
8. Columbia Business School (8)
9. Dartmouth Tuck (9)
10. UVA Darden (11)
11. NYU Stern (10)
11. Michigan Ross (11)
13. Duke Fuqua (14)
13. Yale SOM (13)
15. UCLA Anderson (16)
16. Cornell Johnson (17)
17. Texas McCombs (15)
18. UNC Kenan-Flagler (19)
19. Washington Olin (22)
20. CMU Tepper (18)

25% of US News rankings is made up of survey responses from business school deans and directors; 15% is based on recruiters’ survey responses. The remaining 60% is based on statistical data reflecting program selectivity and placement success. (For details, read up on U.S. News methodology.)

Here are some highlights from the Poets & Quants article on the rankings:

• Last year’s three-way Stanford/Harvard/Wharton tie was broken this year with each school taking one of the first three spots (Stanford in first, HBS in second, and Wharton in third).

• The P&Q article states that Wharton’s slip to third is due to lower peer assessment and corporate recruiter survey scores.

• Wharton also reported an acceptance rate of 20.7%, up from last year’s 18.7% — this is another metric used by U.S. News in their methodology.

• Another factor contributing to Wharton’s position this year is its position regarding salary and bonus. Last year it took top slot at $141,243, while this year it slipped to fourth place at $142,574 – yes, higher than last year, but this year, Harvard, MIT, and Stanford reported even higher salaries/bonuses (HBS took the cake at $144,936 this year).

• Stanford’s top stats this year: average GMAT – 732; average GPA – 3.74; acceptance rate – 7.1%.

• In the top 20, there weren’t significant changes beyond a given school moving up or down a couple places. But further down in the rankings there were some big shifts. Texas A&M jumped 10 places to 27th place (tied with Carlson); Wake Forest jumped 13 places to 45th place; and Louisville moved up at least 31 places to 71st place – it was previously unranked.

• Big drops include Missouri Trulaske which fell 21 places from 58th to 79th place; Pepperdine Graziadio which fell at least 25 places, from last year’s 76th place to its unranked position this year.

Wondering how much rankings should play a roll in determining where you apply? Watch the video below for Linda Abraham’s answer:

Are You Misusing the B-School Rankings?

Accepted: The Premier Admissions Cosultancy

Related Resources:

• Financial Times Global MBA Rankings 2015
• What’s an MBA Really Worth?
• PayScale: How Much Can You Earn, and How to Earn It?

An HBS Entrepreneur Promoting Career Flexibility

Click here to listen to our conversation with Allison O'KellyPeople looking for traditional 9 to 5 desk jobs almost seem to be the exception in 2015. HBS grad and entrepreneur Allison O’Kelly is all for the change.

Want to know more? Listen to the full recording of our talk with Allison, Founder/CEO of Mom Corps and champion of the Flexibility Movement.

00:01:31 – Introducing Allison O’Kelly and Mom Corps.

00:04:13 – The value of the “traditional route” of spending a few years in the workforce before launching a startup.

00:05:41 – How an I-don’t-know-what-I-want-to-do-with-my-life moment shaped Allison’s future.

00:07:27 – Pros and cons of “staffing up” your small business.

00:10:37 – How helpful is b-school for an entrepreneur?

00:16:10 – What people simply get wrong about Harvard Business School.

00:17:46 –The “flexibility movement” – beneficial for employers and employees.

00:20:52 – Want to join the flex movement? Here’s what you need to do.

00:24:23 – Thoughts on enhancing your profile for HBS admissions.

00:26:56 – Advice for future entrepreneurs. (And a word to those who “don’t have it in their blood.”)

00:29:14 – What the future holds for Mom Corps.

Listen to the full conversation to learn more!*Theme music is courtesy of podcastthemes.com.

Related Links:

Mom Corps

Related Shows:

• Entrepreneurship at Stanford GSB: Carlypso Drives Down the Startup Street
• Making International Student Loans a Prime Investment
• Entrepreneurship at UCLA Anderson
Valentine’s Day, Economics, and Stanford GSB
• MBAs Across America: Entrepreneurs with a Heart
• Life as an HBS MBA Student
MBA Search: Matchmaking for MBAs and Businesses

Leave a Review for Admissions Straight Talk:

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Check out our free webinar: Get Accepted to Harvard Business School!

Accepted: The Premier Admissions Cosultancy

An HBS Reapplicant’s Success Story

Read more MBA student interviews here!This interview is the latest in an Accepted.com blog series featuring interviews with current MBA students, offering readers a behind-the-scenes look at top MBA programs. And now for a chat with Prerit Jain, a future MBA student at Harvard Business School.

Accepted: We’d like to get to know you! Where are you from? Where and what did you study as an undergrad? What is your current job?

Prerit: My parents moved to New Delhi when I was less than a year old. This is where I grew up, went to school, college and have worked. In fact, it’s the only city I have ever lived in. (Well, you have to discount living out of a suitcase as a management consultant; more on that later.)

I went to the Indian Institute of Technology Delhi to study mechanical engineering, and did quite well academically, graduating at the top of my class.

Hoping to get diverse experiences, early in my career, I chose to start my career in consulting. Booz & Company had just opened its office in India, and seemed like an exciting opportunity. I worked there for more than three and a half years, before moving to my current role in early-stage venture capital with the First Light Accelerator Fund. I have been in my new role for only about a year now.

Accepted: Can you tell us about your application/reapplication experience? Where did you apply the first time around? What was the outcome? Where did you apply the second time?

Prerit: I submitted my first set of applications in Sept.-Oct. ’13 (R1 for the class matriculating in fall ‘14). I had worked at Booz for about three years, had been promoted twice, had a clear idea about my long-term goals and how an MBA would help. I was sure that I needed the MBA and the time was right. I applied to four schools: HBS, Wharton, Booth and Kellogg. I was interviewed by all four schools and in my view they all went well. I felt confident of getting admitted to more than one school. However, when the decisions came out, HBS put me on a waitlist and the other three said “thanks but no thanks.” I thought the world had come to an end and spent the next 2 weeks sulking!

Thankfully, I came out of that feeling in a couple of weeks, and began looking ahead. I decided to reapply. However, I realized that my learning curve at Booz had plateaued, and I needed to pursue something else. I was lucky to quickly find an exciting new opportunity (in venture capital), and by February, I had kick-started my new role.

Six months later, I reapplied in Sep ‘14 (R1 for the class matriculating in fall ‘15) to three schools: HBS, Booth, and Columbia. I was interviewed at all three schools, and finally received admits from HBS and Booth. I will be heading to Boston in the fall!

Accepted: What do you think went wrong the first time and what did you do when you reapplied to improve your candidacy?

Prerit: We can only speculate here! When I applied for the first time, I had only worked in one over-represented industry – consulting. Moreover, in hindsight, I perhaps did not practice my interviewing as much.

When I reapplied, I had gained some diverse work experience, and had some more interesting stories to tell. Also, I put in hours of practice before the interviews. I got several of my friends to interview me and I video recorded myself to observe softer elements such as body language and posture.

Accepted: Can you share some tips about applying to b-school as an over-represented minority? 

Prerit: Being an Indian-male-engineer-consultant, I knew I was indeed in a fiercely competitive pool. I knew I needed to show that I am both competent and interesting. I looked through the different parts of the application – the resume, application, essays etc. – and made choices about how I would use each of them.

Hard facts and stats went into the CV and the application form. The more differentiated and interesting personal qualities and experiences went into the essays.

Accepted: I see you got a 760 on your GMAT – amazing! What are your top 3 GMAT tips?


• A few weeks of dedicated preparation go farther than months of insincere efforts

• Practice those 4-hour full-tests. The GMAT is also a test of stamina.

• Right from day 1 of your preparation, get used to working under time constraint. Never attempt a GMAT question without having a timer in front of you.

For one-on-one guidance on your b-school application, please see our MBA Application Packages. For specific advice on how to create the best application for Harvard see:

You can read more about Prerit’s journey by following him on Twitter at @preritjain1988. Thank you Prerit for sharing your story with us – we wish you loads of luck!

MBA admissions tips for Indian applicants! Download Free.
Accepted: The Premier Admissions Cosultancy
Related Resources:

• Best MBA Programs: A Guide to Selecting the Right One
• Get Accepted to Harvard Business School, a free webinar
• Harvard Business School 2015 MBA Questions, Deadlines, Tips