Harvard MBA

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Harvard Business School – Introduction


When people think about the MBA degree, the very first school that springs to mind is Harvard Business School (HBS). HBS is synonymous with the degree and literally sets the pace for the industry. As you might expect, the admissions standards at HBS are exceedingly high, with just 11% of applicants being admitted. That’s the second lowest acceptance rate after Stanford’s Graduate School of Business.

For now, no changes in the admissions process are yet evident but former HBS admissions chief Dee Leopold liked to change things up every year or so. So it’s likely that after getting one admissions season under his belt, Losee would do the same. HBS currently requires just one essay without a word limit, asking applicants to inform the school of any additional information not already contained in the application itself. In a typical year, Harvard interviews slightly more than 1,600 applicants, admitting slightly under 1,073 candidates to get a class of about 930. If you get an interview, you have a 50% to 60% chance of gaining an invite.

Good Facts:

  • The average base salary for MBA graduates from HBS is $137,200 per year,
  • The average scholarship award at Harvard is $37,000, and the university paid out $34 million in MBA scholarships last year alone. Also, you can receive up to $30,000 from an outside scholarship before HBS starts to reduce your in house scholarships. Some students are able to get the total sticker price down to $100,000 or slightly less.
  • The name speaks for itself and will be a great addition to your CV.

Not so good facts:

  • Only 932 students out of 9315 were accepted at HBS, and you will need a GMAT score well over 740. While getting into this program is extremely difficult.
  • As one would expect with a top MBA from one of the best schools in the world, it is expensive to get a Harvard MBA. Total MBA cost at Harvard is estimated at $158,000. Annual tuition is approximately $72,000. This is a 13% increase from a few years ago. However it can easily cost more than that with cost of living and other added expenses.
  • Many students rave about the quality of the Harvard MBA but others say the program is very high pressure, intense and time intensive. It can lead to some students experiencing very high anxiety.
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US News ranking

Harvard MBA Sample Essays


Describe an internal conflict (or difficult decision) that you have faced. How did you resolve the situation? What did you learn from this? (500 word limit)

I frequently encountered the need to make decisions of considerable importance during both my managerial and my military work. However, one of the most difficult decisions I ever made was a personal decision that concerned my future. This internal conflict could better reflect who I am.

In the last four years I have progressed, with great effort, in two areas: the business-managerial area and the political area. In both fields I have accomplished, considering my age, significant achievements. In the business area, I served as Vice President in a private company owned by my family. In the political area, I worked in a few positions in my municipality, and as an assistant to the Deputy Minister of Defense. My aim was to acquire diverse experiences and knowledge, and this aim was achieved.

A year ago, I reached the conclusion that it was time to decide if in the near future (in 10-20 years), I wanted to attain a career in business management or a career in politics. I reached a point where without setting a general goal, I could not progress to other decisions (my next job, my masters degree field etc.).

To resolve this conflict, my first step was to decide to make my decision by the deadline I set (June 2000). I realized that my years of experience in both areas were a part of a learning and searching process that granted me the necessary instruments to make this decision. My conflict was very sharp, because I knew that any decision I would make would mean giving up one area of activity and one career aspiration- political or managerial. Moreover, much data concerning the future was naturally missing and my decision had to be rather arbitrary  a very difficult situation for a strictly rational person. Nonetheless, I knew that having numerous options could be a dangerous situation. Not concentrating on one career option, out of fear of missing the others, might leave a person behind in all areas, and this contradicted my ambition…Continue Reading Here

Harvard MBA Interviews


It was a very humbling atmosphere to be in at Harvard. I have lots of opportunity to chat with other interviewees and hear about what they’ve done. Everyone there was very accomplished in their own field, and it was amazing to be with a group of people that’s so diverse. It was hard for me to really feel competitive with any of them (granted I have a very specific and non-tradition industry background) because of how different everyone’s backgrounds were. Really at this point it seems more like an exercise in “how do we want the class structured” than “do they deserve a spot”.

The class visit was great, very engaging. Learned a bit about stock price valuation based on DCF versus Comparables methods. Afterwards a couple fellow Canadians (one from my undergrad university) came up and had a chat with me which was nice.

Prior to the interview, there were lots of people who were clearly anxcious sitting in a room with me. We chatted a bit in the 5mins leading up to the interview, but obviously it got a little tense.

The interview itself I felt went really well. My interviewer asked a lot of questions, and they were mainly directed at filling in details behind things only touched upon in my application. The type of stuff that doesn’t make it on to your 1 page resume in detail anymore because it was 5 years ago. I choose to believe (haha) that was because she was just trying to make my case stronger, and that my references and I had adequately described my last few years of work experience. Between questions the interviewer did watch the clock, felt as though that was mainly to make sure we kept to the 30min time limit because some of her questions went down the rabbit hole based on my previous answers.

When did you get in to Boston?
Did you attend a class?
Why did you choose X engineering?
Did you have any internships while completing your undergraduate degree? Tell me about them
Why did you choose to work for Company Y?
Questions about early rotations at Company Y and specific roles that weren’t written about much in my application
Tell me about your experience during the Natural Disaster Z
What were your recognition awards at Company Y for?
Tell me about your new/current role at Company A
What do you find most challenging about your current role?
Why did you get a dog?..Continue Reading Here

Harvard MBA Application Essay Tips


Harvard Business School has confirmed that the essay question for the class of 2022 remains unchanged from last year. The most challenging part of the Harvard MBA essay is remaining disciplined. With unlimited space to make your case, you may be tempted to compose a laundry list of everything interesting or impressive you have ever done. That urge could backfire. The admissions committee uses the essay to weed out those who aren’t a fit for HBS, as much as those who will move into the interview round for a closer look.  Who is Harvard looking for? The admissions committee writes that “Habit of Leadership, Analytical Aptitude and Appetite, and Engaged Community Citizenship” are the common characteristics of a successful applicant.

Harvard MBA Essay Question: 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? (no word count limit)

A note on word count: HBS values brevity in essays. Don’t go overboard with a 2,000 word essay. Rather, focus on concise and clear writing and consider keeping this essay in the ~1,000 word range. Our clients have successfully composed essays anywhere from 500-1,300 words. If you find yourself on the upper end of that range, review your essay to cut any unnecessary words. Because there is no stated word count for the Harvard MBA essay, you do have the flexibility to take extra space if you are telling a compelling story that needs it. The goal of this essay is to know yourself, know HBS, and know how to match the two to demonstrate your fit for the school. Your first task should be to evaluate all of the other aspects of your candidacy – what is the story your resume tells? What do you think recommenders will say? How does your transcript communicate your skills, accomplishments and interests? Then you need to evaluate how to fill the gaps with the essay.

Learn More about the current students

Check out the incoming class profile for some idea of what a “typical” HBS student is like. We have found that both personal and career-oriented topics can work. In fact, most candidates tell more than one story in the essay. In the past, we have observed that successful HBS essays often demonstrate a core driving passion. HBS students are ambitious, motivated, and never boring. As you consider possible stories to tell in this essay keep in mind that HBS has always been highly focused on leadership and really loves candidates with a track record of leadership impact and future potential.

If you can demonstrate a success trajectory that indicates upper management potential and a passion for impact in both business and society, use that material. Accomplishments have traditionally been a strong focus of Harvard MBA essays. An interesting and revealing accomplishments story would work well for part of this essay. This holds true particularly if your key accomplishments are not obvious when reading your resume or transcripts. All of that being said, the goal of this essay is to understand who you are. “Be genuine” advises the HBS admissions blog, and continues: “Yes, we want you to put your best foot forward, but be careful not to be so “polished” that we can’t get to know the real you.” Setbacks and lessons learned can be just as informative as success stories if the stories reveal more about what motivates and inspires you.

A note on what not to do

We see many applicants tempted to include “why HBS” type information in the Harvard MBA essay. Unlike most MBA programs, HBS has never asked “why HBS” in an application essay question. You might explain why you prefer the Case Method learning style, if appropriate. However, avoid lengthy explanations about how HBS is your top choice. Instead, use the space to provide detailed information about you and your strong candidacy.

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