HBS has not changed its essay question (one of my favorites) this year, BUT it has provided a word limit (900 words). Per Chad Losee, Director of HBS Admissions, the admissions staff hopes that “including a limit provides applicants with a little more direction and eliminates the stress about how much is too much to write.”
It should. 900 words gives you ample room, but will also prevent you from confusing quantity and quality.
He also emphasized that if you can tell your story in 500 words, that’s fine too. You are not required to use all 900 words.
For the last several years Harvard has been one of the few, if not the only, school with just two rounds. HBS uses an April deadline exclusively for HBS 2+2, its deferred admission program. Chad Losee, HBS Admissions Director, did not indicate in his announcement when the final 2+2 deadline would be.
Harvard is #2 in Accepted’s Selectivity Index. However, that second-place selectivity 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 non-COVID-affected class is more than double Stanford’s.
Let’s talk about Harvard’s MBA application
On to the Harvard MBA application and essay question itself: HBS clearly likes the responses it has received to the last several years’ excellent essay question because this year’s question is identical. The essay is again required, and there is a 900-word limit.
Harvard Business School MBA essay tips
There is one question for the HBS Class of 2025:
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?
The website provides the following advice as well:
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 complete your application I have two suggestions for you:
- Review Harvard’s criteria for admission, and its MBA Application Tips: Essay video.
- Watch the embedded video on the case method at HBS.
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 communication 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. In fact, as Chad Losee says in his essay tip video, they want to get to know you through your essay. That’s the essay’s purpose.
Now THINK. What else – really and truly – do you want Harvard Business School to know about you? The HBS admissions committee has told you what they want to know in the other sections of the application. “What more” do you want the HBS readers to know?
Please note that your essay has to be additive. “What more” are the key words in the prompt. It shouldn’t be a resume in prose. And it shouldn’t be a series of vague generalities and assertions that would apply to many others. Finally, it can’t be a series of anecdotes with no meaning or significance associated with the experiences. It should reflect at least part of your unique story, the part that you want HBS to know. Finally, your essay should reflect your motivations, values, and dreams.
The answer to HBS’ 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 must 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 (28 years now), HBS has valued concision. And, in today’s tweet- and sound-bite-driven world, it is requiring short responses in the other portions of the application. Don’t take this essay’s generous word limit as a license for verbosity. Make every word count, no pun intended.
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.
For expert guidance on your Harvard Business School application, check out Accepted’s MBA Application Packages that include advising, editing, interview coaching, and a resume edit for the HBS application. Looking to score some scholarship money while you’re at it? Accepted’s clients received over $3.5 million dollars in scholarship offers in the last application cycle. Explore our services for more information on how Accepted can help you get into HBS.
Harvard Business School 2022-23 application deadlines
|Round||Application Deadline||Decisions Released|
|1||September 7, 2022||December 8, 2022|
|2||January 4, 2023||March 29, 2023|
Stay on top of MBA deadlines with the MBA Admissions Calendar!
* Applications must be submitted online by 12 noon Boston time.
***Disclaimer: Information is subject to change. Please check with individual programs to verify the essay questions, instructions and deadlines.***
HBS class profile [Class of 2023]
Here’s a look at HBS’s Class of 2023 taken from the Harvard Business School website:
Number of applications: 9,773
- United States: 63%
- Asia: 13%
- Europe: 8%
- Mexico, Central & South America: 6%
- Canada: 3%
- Africa: 3%
- Middle East: 3%
- Oceania: 1%
US minorities: 52%
Average GPA: 3.69
Average years work experience: 5.0
Percent of class taking GMAT: 71%
- Verbal range: 28 – 51
- Quantitative range: 32 – 51
- Total range: 590–790
- Median verbal: 41
- Median quantitative: 49
- Median total: 730
Percent of class taking GRE: 29%
- Verbal range: 147 – 170
- Quantitative range: 146–170
- Median verbal: 163
- Median quantitative: 164
Breakdown of undergraduate majors (137 domestic universities and 158 international universities)
|Business / Commerce||21%|
|Math / Physical Science||15%|
|Art / Humanities||4%|
Breakdown of pre-MBA industry
|Venture Capital / Private Equity||15%|
|Manufacturing / Industrial / Energy||11%|
|Consumer Products / Retail / E-commerce||9%|
|Nonprofit / Government / Education||8%|
|Healthcare / Biotech||7%|
|Media / Entertainment / Travel||2%|
Harvard Business School’s typical class size is around 930 students. HBS gave all the incoming Class of 2022 students the option to defer, and that class was one of the smallest in recent history – 732. The incoming Class of 2023 is therefore larger than typical. In fact at 1,010 students it’s HBS’ largest class ever. HBS expanded the class so that it could make room for the deferred applicants from last year while admitting roughly the same percentage of applicants as in previous years.
- 29% of students applied using the GRE. Clearly HBS couldn’t care less if someone applies with the GRE or the GMAT. Choose the test on which you will earn the highest score.
- The percentage of women in the class edged up to 46%, 2 points higher than last year.
- Application volume increased roughly 5%, a healthy increase, but nothing record-breaking. It’s possible that applicant fears of a smaller intake due to the large number of deferrals from the previous class put a damper on application volume.
- The percentage of international students in this year’s class went from 33% to 37%. That increase represents a return to “normal” and increased availability of visas and comfort with travel.
Are you considering applying to business school?
We have the resources to help you navigate the options and make the right choice for you:
- M7 MBA Programs: Everything You Need to Know
- Harvard, Stanford, Wharton: What’s the Difference?
- GMAT, GPA, and MBA Acceptance Rates: The B-School Selectivity Index
Is HBS at the top of your wish list?
Get the competitive edge with HBS-specific advice and inside information:
- Sample Essays from Admitted HBS Students
- “I Wish the Admissions Committee Had Asked Me…”: How to answer open-ended MBA essay questions
- What Harvard Business School Is Looking For: Engaged Community Citizenship
- What Harvard Business School Is Looking For: Analytical Aptitude and Appetite
- What Harvard Business School Is Looking For: The Habit of Leadership
- 7 Important Tips for Your HBS Post-Interview Reflection
Hear directly from Harvard alumni in these inspiring blog posts:
- An MBA Success Story Reflects on His HBS Experience, 7 Years Later
- A Harvard MBA’s Experience & Advice on Writing the Perfect Essay
- Entrepreneurship at HBS: How Stride Will Help You Fund Your Future
- How to Leverage an HBS Education: The Story of LeverEdge
- Ida Valentine: Investment Banker, Inspirational Speaker, HBS 2021
- The Journey from India to Harvard MBA
Do you need help gaining admission to Harvard Business School or any other top MBA program? That’s what we do! Explore our MBA Admissions Consulting Services and work one-on-one with an experienced admissions advisor who will help you GET ACCEPTED.
By Linda Abraham, president and founder of Accepted. Linda earned her bachelors and MBA at UCLA, and has been advising applicants since 1994 when she founded Accepted. Linda is the co-founder and first president of AIGAC. She has written or co-authored 13 e-books on the admissions process, and has been quoted by The Wall Street Journal, U.S. News, Poets & Quants, Bloomberg Businessweek, CBS News, and others. Linda is the host of Admissions Straight Talk, a podcast for graduate school applicants. Want an admissions expert to help you get accepted? Click here to get in touch!