Application season at Harvard Business School is officially underway with the release of the school’s 2016-2017 essay question. Let’s discuss from a high level some early thoughts on how best to approach this year’s new essay prompt. HBS is mixing it up again this year with a slightly different essay prompt that maintains the same spirit of last year’s essay question. With only one question, it is critical that applicants make the most of the limited real estate available, here.
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 limit)
Open-ended prompts such as this are often the most stressful type of essay question MBA applicants receive – couple that with the inherent pressure that comes with applying to Harvard, and this essay may be viewed as one of the more nerve-wracking questions of the application season. The challenge here for many will be just the sheer simplicity of this question. This essay prompt is a good example of why it is important to really just pay attention to the advice the HBS Admissions Committee offers:
“Don’t overthink, over-craft and overwrite. Just answer the question in clear language that those of us who don’t know your world can understand.”
HBS has really gone out of its way, particularly through Dee Leopold’s blog (soon to become Chad Losee’s blog), to emphasize a desire for authenticity and transparency in the essay-writing process. Candidates who are able to channel their approach in a compelling and natural way will stand out from the flock of impersonal, inauthentic and overly-curated essays the school is bound to see.
This approach tends to fly in the face of what the expectation is at other business schools, but in this case, candidates who are unable to adhere to the guidance provided by the school will struggle with securing admission to HBS. Breakthrough candidates will answer this specific question posed in the manner the school has outlined – your response should be brief, conversational, and really provide the Admissions Committee with insight into aspects of “you” that are not currently represented elsewhere in the application.
Harvard has set the tone of an almost casual “blog-style” approach to their essay, and last year, even focused their prompt around having candidates write from the perspective of communicating with their future classmates. Even though the prompt, itself, is a bit different this year, maintain the spirit of this communication style to really make your essay stand out. At its core, this question is honestly about getting to know you, so don’t miss the opportunity by trying to craft a seemingly “perfect” but dispassionate answer for the Admissions Committee.
These are just a few thoughts on the new essay from HBS – hopefully this will help you get started. For more thoughts on Harvard and its application essay, check out our Essential Guide to Top Business Schools for free, here.
Applying to Harvard or other business schools? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today, or take our free MBA Admissions Profile Evaluation for personalized advice for your unique application situation! As always, be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+and Twitter.
Dozie A. is a Veritas Prep Head Consultant for the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. His specialties include consulting, marketing, and low GPA/GMAT applicants. You can read more articles by him here.
Harvard Business School Essay Topic Analysis 2016-2017
As we announced recently, Harvard Business School has released its essay question for the 2016-2017 application season. This year’s prompt hearkens back to the essay from 2014-2015, again asking applicants for what else would pique the admissions committee’s interest outside of the other application materials. The school has also still maintained its post-interview reflection, which will require those who reach the interview stage to submit a reflection essay within 24 hours following their interviews with the admissions committee.
With such a broad mandate, applicants will need to be careful when determining its topic and length. Let’s take a closer look at the essay question:
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 limit)
The school has provided further advice of which applicants should take note, writing, “There is no word limit for this question. 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.”
This year’s essay leaves applicants with a completely open field, but you can start by considering who HBS states they are looking for: students with a habit of leadership, analytical aptitude and appetite, and engaged community leadership. The first step is for you to assess how you best embody these qualities, and how you may elaborate on them outside of your other application materials, including your recommendations, test scores and undergraduate records.
Of these three categories, leadership should be a priority focus. When evaluating an applicant’s credentials, HBS has traditionally been very focused on leadership qualities as well as the impact that the applicant has had on a project, group, or company. Thus, as you brainstorm potential topics for this essay, it might be useful to think about any quantifiable positive change you’ve created that is not adequately described in your other materials. You might explain the magnitude of a professional or personal accomplishment noted on your résumé, for instance. You could also choose a particularly meaningful activity or project and share why it is important to you, especially given your personal or professional goals. Keep in mind, however, the only real directive from the committee: sharing “what more” you want the reader to know about your file. For this reason, applicants could do well to spend extra time fine-tuning their résumés and working with their recommenders in order to ensure that the essay topic does not overlap with anecdotes or qualities already covered in their other materials.
Given the open-ended length, it is possible to cover more than one meaningful activity, project or accomplishment. However, the fact that HBS has been consistently trimming down its essay set in recent years likely indicates that a 1,000-word essay would be unwelcome. Moreover, it may be tempting to draft a lengthy essay on traditional subjects such as your career goals, greatest successes, and interest in the school; however, your need for an MBA or specific career goals may be adequately covered in your other materials. This should help to narrow your focus, select your topic and craft a succinct essay. You should take care to steer clear of simply “recycling” essays from HBS’s peer schools, such as Stanford or Wharton, as the adcom will probably spot such an essay based on the highly unfocused nature of the HBS prompt and will not respond positively.
In line with the policy instituted in the 2012-2013 season, applicants who are invited to interview will be asked to write a reflection about their interview experience. This essay must be submitted within 24 hours of completing the interview. Additional instructions regarding the reflection will be sent to applicants who receive interview invitations.
To help draft this reflection, applicants would be wise to jot down some notes immediately after interviewing so that they can later refer to a clear record of what was discussed as well as what, if anything, they would have liked discuss but did not get a chance to cover. When it comes time to write the essay, applicants should approach their response as if they are crafting a closing argument—or, in the words of HBS, “[having] the last word”—to their application.
You’ll want to take inventory of the message you’ve conveyed throughout your application materials (essay, résumé, data forms, etc.) and your interview, and then write your reflection with an eye towards emphasizing the key attributes of your candidacy. Lastly, the 24-hour turnaround means that this reflection will require a focused effort from applicants as well as some careful advance planning.
Posted in: Essay Topic Analysis, Essays
Schools: Harvard Business School