Even after having read hundreds of HBS essays, I still found it worthwhile to read The Essay Guide. For applicants who have preconceived notions of what an admissible essay should be, The Essay Guide will open your eyes to 22 successful and different responses. For applicants who are wondering how on earth they should approach their essay, the guide will give them 22 different answers.
Harvard Business School continues to provide one open-ended essay question to applicants. This year the essay is required (unlike two years ago) but the essay question has changed from last year, and is instead much more flexible (like two years ago).
The most challenging part of this 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.
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 to 1,200 words or less. Our clients have successfully composed essays anywhere from 500-1,300 words, though you should take a pass through your essay to cut any unnecessary words if you find yourself on the upper end of that range.
Last year HBS recommended a video on the case method, which is worth watching now. The video clearly shows that diverse perspectives are valuable to the case method experience. Think about what diverse experience you bring. We have found that both personal and career oriented topics can work, and most candidates tell more than one story in the essay. In the past we have observed that successful HBS essays also 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 a success trajectory that indicates upper management potential.
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.
Best practices in application essay writing indeed exist, although some of them are not obvious and a few may seem counterintuitive. BSchools editors reviewed the analysis, advice from several authorities, and essay examples from admitted students. Although this information is mainly sourced from essays submitted to the Harvard Business School and the Stanford Graduate School of Business, the principles outlined below apply to any top MBA program, whether on-campus, executive, or online.
According to Kreisberg, frequent themes include overcoming adversity, helping others overcome adversity, overcoming victimization, or assisting others in overcoming victimization. In fact, he argues that this theme accounted for as much as 70 percent of recent Stanford Business School essays. In addition, Kreisberg says absent parents, especially absent fathers, embody themes in many successful Harvard essays from 2014 and 2015.
One of the most difficult challenges of application essay composition is figuring out a balance between presenting a string of impressive accomplishments while also being humble. Unfortunately, any form of bragging in an essay amounts to self-sabotage.
Many experts suggest that effective application essays do not need to be exceptionally well-written. They contend that admissions committees overlook less-than-perfect writing as long as applicants deliver compelling pitches. Business schools are interested in selecting and training future business leaders, not Pulitzer Prize-winning writers.
Moreover, the reviewed HBS essays do not appear to be particularly well-written. The errors and defects found in the samples suggested that the authors won admission because of other factors, like their work experience, undergraduate grades, or admissions test scores. Nevertheless, the most successful essays appear to demonstrate many characteristics of good writing, such as:
Consider for a moment why a powerful lead can be critical in this kind of essay. A typical admission committee member might review as many as 30 or 40 of these essays within candidate files on average. A compelling lead not only differentiates an article in the mind of that reviewer, but also grabs their attention.
Stacy Blackman concurs, saying that essays should be under 1,200 words. It is always easier to cut words down than add more during the editing process. A good rule of thumb is to write until the essay feels complete, and then take a second pass through the article essay to cut any unnecessary words.
Focusing on Harvard Business School application essays written by candidates who won admission, our previous guide in this series presented general principles for writing compelling long-form MBA essays. However, this guide takes a different approach. This article presents specific tips for writing short-answer essays constrained by tight word limits.
Luckily, you can talk about almost anything in these personal essays. Applicants will often discuss relationships with friends and mentors. Others might talk about the hardships they overcame or difficult experiences. However, there are some things to avoid which we discus here: 4 Mistakes Applicants Make when Writing the Personal Essay.
End your essay by describing what you have learned from your failure or setback and give an example of how you used your new insight. This is an expected topic even if it is not mentioned in the text of the prompt.
By taking the courage to write honestly and directly about your failures, and then showing how you have put your learnings into action after the failure, you will have tackled this difficult essay topic successfully.
YOUR LIFE . . . IN 300 WORDS OR LESSIt's a daunting task. Even the most seasoned professionals find business school application essays to be among the hardest pieces they ever write. With a diverse pool of talented people applying to the nation's top schools from the most successful companies and prestigious undergraduate programs in the world, a simple biography detailing accomplishments and goals isn't enough. Applicants need clear and compelling arguments that grab admissions officers and absolutely refuse to let go.To help them write the essays that get them accepted into Harvard or any of the country's other top programs, the staff of The Harbus---HBS's student newspaper---have updated and revised their collection of sixty-five actual application essays as well as their detailed analysis of them so that applicants will be able to:* Avoid common pitfalls* Play to their strengths* Get their message acrossWherever they are applying, the advice and tested strategies in 65 Successful Harvard Business School Application Essays give business professionals and undergraduates the insider's knowledge to market themselves most effectively and truly own the process.
This book seeks to demystify the admissions process for applicants by providing a selective but robust sample of HBS essays that have successfully survived the admissions committee in the past. We aspire to show you a variety of writing styles, essay responses, and applicant backgrounds that have been successful in the past, but there are no foolproof prescriptions, shorts cuts, or magic formulas. There are probably as many perfect application essays as there are applicants.
The chosen essays highlight ordinary applicants who have demonstrated potential, vision, integrity, and leadership. While the MBA applicant pool can often swarm with people with business backgrounds, we are positive that this book will also inspire nontraditional applicants because they will realize that there is no such thing as a standard applicant at Harvard Business School. We encourage you to bear in mind that your profession is not what makes the essay special. What makes you special is how you make the big (or small) decisions in life and how they have led to your growth. The only common strain in the successful essays is that applicants have clearly described why each experience is challenging, educational, and transformational. We hope this book motivates you to write great essays by revealing who you really are. Be captivating. Be truthful. Be yourself.
First, make a mental list of the most influential and meaningful events and experiences of your life and begin to map them into your essays, but avoid repetition. While you may want to weave a few over-arching themes in all your essays, use the essays to demonstrate different aspects of your intellectual, emotional, and moral fiber. For instance, if you choose to prove your ability as a competent project manager in one essay, you may wish to discuss a more personal issue like your relationship with your parents or partner in the next. Reach inside yourself for examples of strength, confidence, and accomplishment.
In the end, your fundamental objective is to prove that you are greater than the sum of your individual application parts such as your GMAT score, academic transcripts, or professional laurels. While those parts of the application are significant, your essays will allow you to bring your charisma and individuality to life. So, steer clear of cut-and-paste jobs from the resume.
Once you map out the essays, you will find the word limit excruciating. Although an obstacle, the word count can help you tell your story more selectively and succinctly. After all, does your employer want you to be unnecessarily long-winded and unfocused? Probably not. The essays included in this book will convince you that you can be poignant in few words. We suggest that you create the first draft without a strict word limit. In the subsequent draft, ask yourself repeatedly: What is my core message? Does this sentence improve upon or clarify that message? By doing this, you will be able to distill the key anecdotes and interpretations from a pool of excessive descriptions and unnecessary details. 2b1af7f3a8