What’s New at Harvard for the 2018-19 MBA Application Cycle
The big news about the upcoming 2018-19 application cycle at Harvard Business School is that it is dropping its third round for all MBA applicants except 2+2 applicants.
This past MBA application cycle all 2+2 applicants were reviewed after the Round 3 deadline but non-2+2 MBA applicants could also apply. For this upcoming cycle the last deadline will be the exclusive 2+2 deadline, unless Harvard changes something. In 2018, that deadline occurred on April 2.
Ironically, MIT Sloan, Harvard’s neighbor in Cambridge, only added a third round a couple of years ago. Until then MIT had only two rounds.
Harvard Business School, ranked #1 by US News, is, according to Accepted’s B-School Selectivity Index, the second hardest MBA program to get into, following Stanford GSB. That status reflects HBS’ second lowest acceptance rate (11%), the third highest average GMAT for accepted students (729), and second highest GPA for accepted students (3.67). However, that second-place status is misleading. The Harvard brand is matched perhaps only by Stanford, and the second-place standing is probably accounted for by class size more than anything else. Harvard’s class is more than double Stanford’s, and Harvard simply accepts more people so its acceptance rate is higher (Data is from the US News 2019 Rankings for the class that entered in 2017).
On to the Harvard MBA application and essay question itself: HBS clearly likes the responses it has received to the last two years’ excellent essay question because this year’s question is identical. Indeed there is little change in HBS’ application this year, period. The essay is again required, and there is NO word limit.
The round 1 and round 2 deadlines are only slightly different from last year. The Round 1 deadline is Sept. 5, 2018, one day earlier than last year.
Harvard Business School MBA Essay Tips
There is one question for the Class of 2021:
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.
My two cents: 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 required by a question that doesn’t really align with your story. It also allows you to demonstrate judgment and communications skills, which are critical given Harvard’s residential culture, study groups, and case method. 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 will 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:
• Provide context for events described in the required elements.
• Delve into your motivations for the decisions or commitments you have made.
• Discuss experiences that shaped your dreams for the future, which may just benefit enormously from an HBS education (caveat: HBS doesn’t ask why you want to attend Harvard).
• Examine challenges you have faced. These could be personal challenges, or perhaps interpersonal challenges.
• Envision something you would like to accomplish at HBS.
• Provide 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, no pun intended. 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 cautions and warnings regarding this essay — it is NOT:
• Stanford’s “what matters most to you and why?”
• The kitchen sink in which you throw everything.
• An autobiography.
• A resume in prose or a rehash of your transcript and honors.
• An ode to the awesomeness of Harvard. They don’t need you to tell them they have a great institution that you would be honored to attend. They’ve heard it before.
Harvard Post-Interview Reflections
For expert guidance on your Harvard Business School application, check out Accepted’s MBA Application Packages, which include advising, editing, interview coaching, and a resume edit for the HBS application. We’ve helped hundreds of applicants get accepted to the Harvard MBA program and look forward to helping you too!
|Application Deadline||Decisions Released|
|Round 1||September 5, 2018||December 11, 2018|
|Round 2||January 4, 2019||March 26, 2019|
***Disclaimer: Information is subject to change. Please check with individual programs to verify the essay questions, instructions and deadlines.***Linda Abraham, president and founder of Accepted and co-author of the definitive book on MBA admissions, MBA Admission for Smarties: The No-Nonsense Guide to Acceptance at Top Business Schools.