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.
ROUND 1: 04 September 2019
ROUND 2: 06 January 2020
DECISION 1: 10 December 2019
DECISION 2: 31 March 2020
Essay 1 –
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)
Harvard Business School just announced the deadlines for the class of 2020, and the essay question, which is unchanged from last year. The most challenging part of the HBS 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, as the essay is used to determine who isn’t a fit for HBS as much as those who deserve the chance to move into the interview round. Maturity, accomplishment, and leadership are highly valued qualities and this essay is your chance to display those qualities through the stories you choose and the voice coming through your writing.
A note on word count: HBS values brevity in essays. Do not be tempted to 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. Because there is no stated word count 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. HBS is devoted to the case method, and published a video a few years ago, which is worth watching now. The video clearly shows that diverse perspectives are valuable to the case method experience. In your essay preparations consider what diverse experience you bring.
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 a success trajectory that indicates upper management potential and a passion for impact in both business and society. Accomplishments have traditionally been a strong focus of HBS essays, and using at least one accomplishment story in this essay may be a good strategy, particularly if your accomplishments are not obvious when reading your resume or transcripts.
A note on what not to do: We see many applicants tempted to include “why HBS” type information in HBS essays. Explaining why the case method specifically is a good fit for you and your learning style is absolutely appropriate, but more detailed “why HBS” content has never been asked for in an HBS application essay question. We believe it’s more effective for you to use the space to provide detailed information about yourself and your candidacy.