HBS must have liked the responses to last year’s excellent essay question. This year’s question is the same. Indeed there is very little change in the broad strokes of HBS’ application this year. The essay is again required and there is NO word limit.
The deadlines are only slightly different from last year. The Round 1 deadline is Sept. 6, 2017, one day earlier than last year.
My tips are in blue below.
There is one question for the Class of 2020:
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:
1. Review Harvard’s criteria for admission.
2. Watch the embedded video on the case method at HBS.
FYI: I think this is a great essay question. It allows you to choose what you want the school to know about you without having to fit that information into a framework mandated by question that doesn’t really fit your story. It also allows you to demonstrate judgment and communications skills. Finally this 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 guidance, 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.
• 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 regarding this 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:
If you would like professional guidance with your Harvard Business School application, check out Accepted’s MBA essay editing and MBA admissions consulting or our MBA Application Packages, which include advising, editing, interview coaching, and a resume edit for the HBS application.
***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.