Fall 2019 Intake                             

Round 1: 05 September 2018

Round 2: 04 January 2019

HBS 2+2

09 April 2019


Let’s deal with the elephant in the HBS room. I have had a lot of people come up to me in shock and say, “I can’t believe they dropped Round 3. If I can’t make the application for Round 1, am I in trouble?” The short answer is absolutely not. The third round accounted for a tiny percentage of offers at Harvard, and the remaining two rounds are more or less equally weighted in terms of the number of applicants they accept. You can read a more in-depth analysis here.

While Harvard’s essay remains unchanged, it’s important to keep in mind that, just like open water, an essay that’s open in the topic and the word count is very easy to drown in. Make sure to approach this topic very carefully.

If you need help formulating your Harvard essay, you can contact us to speak with one of our expert admissions advisors.

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 limit)

Let’s deal with the first major hurdle in this essay. What does Harvard mean by “no limit?” In concrete terms, for most candidates, that translates to somewhere between 400 and 1500 words, with the extreme ends being rare among submissions. It’s important to understand that HBS appreciates concision. However, that doesn’t mean that they don’t appreciate a colorful essay. For Harvard, there is an immense gap between padding a story and making it come alive.

The next step is to understand how to deal with identifying a theme or themes for the essay. In order to do so, you need to take time to understand what HBS is looking for, and what advantages and disadvantages your profile presents. It could be valuable to find ways to either insert your strengths or to find stories that balance obvious weaknesses.

Another approach to this essay involves identifying a passion and utilizing it as the cornerstone of your writing. Oftentimes, the best Harvard candidates are those who demonstrate a drive, whether in their professional or personal lives, that helps further a deep-seated goal. Though, if you choose this strategy, you must make certain that you have the necessary examples and proper rationale to illustrate your commitment to your goal.

In terms of its applicants, Harvard appreciates those who can show themselves to be accomplished leaders. In the essay, however, this calls for some caution; note that HBS asks for “what more” you’re willing to add, so simply including examples that appear on your resume or in your recommendation letters would most likely not be of great benefit.

While there are many ways in which you could approach this essay, they should all lead to an engaging and honest portrayal of you. If you can, have someone else read your essay or leave it be for a few days before trying to read it yourself; now ask, “Can you clearly imagine the person who wrote this? Can you empathize with what he or she felt? Can you truly see an individual or just a collection of footnotes?”

Post-Interview Essay: You’ve just had your HBS interview. Tell us about it. How well did we get to know you?

From the admissions committee: “Following the interview, candidates are required to submit a written reflection using our online application system. This must be submitted within 24 hours following the completion of the interview. Detailed instructions will be provided to those applicants who are invited to the interview process.” (No limit, recommend 400-600 words)

• We will be much more generous in our reaction to typos and grammatical errors than we will be with pre-packaged responses. Emails that give any indication that they were produced BEFORE you had the interview will raise a flag for us.

We do not expect you to solicit or receive any outside assistance with this exercise.

Once your interview has concluded, you’ll have one full day to submit a response to this essay. This might seem like a stressful assignment, but this is in fact one of the few opportunities in the admissions world where you can show added value post-interview or make up for a missed chance that you had during the interview process.

The best way to prepare for this section is in advance. However, I don’t mean writing the essay ahead of time because that might lead to it seeming inorganic or, even worse, irrelevant; instead, as you’re preparing for the interview, take note of all the topics that you’d like to discuss. If you end up missing an opportunity to mention or explain something during the interview, you might include that in your response.

Once it’s the day of the interview, keep track of everything occurring before, during and after the meeting, especially if your interview takes place at Harvard. Anything and everything might ultimately be relevant, so don’t hesitate to take notes. Afterward, you can connect your experiences with your profile to illustrate your further value.

As a final note, do keep in mind that this is a reflection. You’re not expected to write a polished essay or to recycle any portions of your application.

Published On: November 8th, 2018 / Categories: Harvard Business School, MBA / Tags: , /