News, Advice and Resources for HBS MBA Applicants

 


Harvard HBS MBA

 


Information is subject to change. Please verify all data with the schools.


HARVARD BUSINESS SCHOOL (HBS)

~13% accepted

~90% yield


HBS Application & Essay Tips

Vince's Harvard Business School (HBS) MBA Admissions Essay and Interview Strategy Videos ▸ http://j.mp/HBS_tips


 
 

Vince's HBS interview tips videos and mock interview sample answers ▸ http://j.mp/HBS_interview_tips

 


Vince's Harvard Business School (HBS) MBA links ▸ https://delicious.com/admissions/hbs


 

 

 

 

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ARCHIVE

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Essays

There is one question for the Class of 2016:

  • You’re applying to Harvard Business School.  We can see your resume, school transcripts, extra-curricular activities, awards, post-MBA career goals, test scores and what your recommenders have to say about you.    What else would you like us to know as we consider your candidacy?

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.

(found at http://www.hbs.edu/mba/admissions/application-process/Pages/written-application-introduce-yourself.aspx; accessed 2013/05)

  

Dee's comments from her blog "From the Admissions Director - MBA - Harvard Business School"

That’s it.  No word limit.  Use your own judgment as to how much to tell us.  We have neither a “right answer” nor a “correct length” in mind.  We will review all the elements of the written application to decide who moves forward to the interview stage of our process.

Why the reduction in number of essays?  Sorry to repeat myself but “it’s not an essay-writing contest”.   There is always –and will always be - great variance in both subject matter and degree of polish in the essays of admitted candidates.  Maybe there will be admits this year who say we don’t need to know anything else beyond the credentials they have already submitted – for them, the application may be “essay-less”.  I also think that removing the word limit brings this process closer to the way things work in the Real World which is always our goal.

This is also a chance to remind everyone that the written application is just the first stage of our selection process.  We review written applications in order to determine who moves forward to the interview stage.  We predict that this will be roughly 1800 candidates this year - as it has been for a number of years.  From this group we select the admits – roughly 1100 in order to matriculate a class of 930 or so.  Our interview process is customized, careful and subject to continuous improvement.  All interviews are conducted by members of the Admissions Board and we make a significant investment in their training and development.

 

Here’s the second innovation in this year’s application: only two recommendations.  We’ve required three for a long time.  I think we can do our job with two and I hope that this may remove at least one hurdle for prospective candidates who come from organizations where there is not a tried-and-true path for talented folks to leave for business school.

 

A few other notes:

We’ll be doing the Post-Interview reflection again.  We liked it.

Dates: Please note that the Summer Round is only for 2+2 candidates.  Here are the details about eligibility for this Program for college seniors.

Webinars:  These are online information sessions conducted by the Admissions Board that are essentially the same format as our on-campus and on-the-road in person presentations.  A good opportunity to ask questions.  Details are on the events section of the website.

So here we go.    Hope this finds you eager to get started.   Please sign up for a webinar so I can hear what’s on your minds.

(found at http://www.hbs.edu/mba/admissions/Pages/from-the-admissions-director.aspx; accessed 2013/05)

 

 

 


Vince's HBS essay analsys and tips 

 

How to best position yourself for the HBS Class of 2016

 

Part 1:  The Essay

 

Welcome

 

Creativity

Commitment

Vince HBS results since 2008

 


 

Harvard

2015 :

4 comp

2015 :

4

interview

2014 :

4

comp

2013 :

1

comp

2012 :

4

comp

2011 :

1

comp

0

14 comprehensive



 


 







THE QUESTION

 

“You're applying to Harvard Business School.

 

We can see your

  1. resume

  2. academic transcripts

  3. extracurricular activities

  4. awards

  5. post-MBA career goals

  6. test scores, and

  7. what your recommenders have to say about you”

 

“What else would you like us to know as we consider your candidacy?”

 

“Use your judgment as to how much to tell us.

We don't have a "right answer" or "correct length" in mind.

We review all the elements of your written application to decide who moves forward to the interview stage.”


 

VINCE SAYS

 

What else is item #8

 

What is your item #8?


 

 


 

HOW DO THEY EXPECT TO GET TO KNOW YOU WITH ONLY THIS MUCH INFO?

 


 

 

Three things I like about this essay and three things I don't like about this essay

 

Things I like:

 

  1. Open ended question

 

  1. Simplification of the process

 

  1. PIR stays: Harvard is still dedicating the same resources to the interview process

 


 

Things I do not like about this essay:

 

  1. The fact that HBS admissions board will now have even less information about you

 

  1. Cynical end game: why involve humans in admissions decisions at all?

 

  1. Narrative matters in business and life, so why not in HBS admissions process?


 

 

 

Question: is HBS limiting the number of participants in online Q&A chats ?

 

 



 

THE QUESTIONS BEHIND THE QUESTION

 

Do you understand the HBS admissions criteria?

 

1. leadership potential

2. strong academic ability

3. personal qualities and characteristics

(found at http://www.hbs.edu/mba/find-answers/Pages/default.aspx; accessed 2013/06)

 

Do you understand yourself?

Caveat - figure out your strategy before engaging an AIGAC consultant; unlike some admissions couseling services, we don’t pretend to know more about you than you do


 

Two types of applicants

 

Type one:

 

  • What do you WANT to tell us?


 

This type of person would be nvited to interview if there were no humans involved in the process at all

 

There are very few people like this

 

Don't worry about it

 

Vince’s Bottom Line - have no regrets


 

Type two

 

  • What do you NEED to tell us?

 

This applicant has pluses and minuses, strengths and weaknesses

 

Use the essay to minimize one or more of the weaknesses and hopefully also add one or two strengths



 

Which type are you?



 

My advice - ask and answer your own question

 

  1. First, evaluate your profile from the Admissions Board’s perspective

 

  • What will they perceive to be the weaknesses of your profile?

 

  • Determine what you MUST tell them

 

  • Then, consider what else you might WANT to tell them




 

The best way to position yourself for HBS Class of 2016

 

Step one - know the program


 

HBS learning model

  1. Case method

  2. Sections: curriculum structure

  3. Academic environment

  4. Events and networking opportunities

  5. Student life

(found at http://www.hbs.edu/mba/find-answers/Pages/default.aspx; accessed 2013/06)






 

Step two - know thyself and to thine own self be true

(Know yourself, and keep it real)




 

I can imagine at least two scenarios

 

If you are already highly competitive, you can spend time identifying the stories that you WANT to share with HBS Admissions Board readers

 

If you are on the margins, mostly competitive but with some issues to explain, you MUST spend time addressing topics that you NEED to explain to HBS Admissions Board readers


 

What constitutes a highly competitive applicant?

 

Class of 2015 Admissions profile

  • Total MBA Enrollment 941

  • Applications 9,315

  • % Admitted 12%

  • Yield 90%

(found at http://www.hbs.edu/mba/admissions/admission-requirements/Pages/class-profile.aspx; accessed 2013/06) *As of June 3, 2013 - data subject to change




 

 


 

PATH 1

 

Highly competitive profile

 

What do you want to explain?

 

1. leadership potential

2. strong academic ability

3. personal qualities and characteristics

(found at http://www.hbs.edu/mba/find-answers/Pages/default.aspx; accessed 2013/06)


 

 


 

For example, are you a female 26 year old Mckenzie consultant with a 750 GMAT and a 3.9 GPA in a STEM subject from an Ivy plus university (8 Ivy League, plus Stanford, MIT)? (If not, don’t worry about it, just skip to Path 2 analysis and tips :)

 

 


 


 

Class Composition

  • Women 41%

  • US Ethnic Minorities 25%

  • International 35%

 

  • Average Age 27

 

  • GMAT Score Range 550-780

  • Median GMAT 730

(found at http://www.hbs.edu/mba/admissions/admission-requirements/Pages/class-profile.aspx; accessed 2013/06) *As of June 3, 2013 - data subject to change



 

STORYTELLING TIPS

 

Answer a question you wish we had asked

 

First you need to remember who you are

 

Surprise your readers by sharing a story or explaining up an aspect of your personality characteristics background or experience that would not otherwise be obvious

 

I encourage you to first take stock of the important decisions that you made in your life




 

  • What choices have you made that often require a little bit of extra explanation to your peers, friends, colleagues, mentors, family, etc.?



 

To paraphrase Stanford GSB admissions director Darrick Bolton: tell a story that only you can tell

 

I would add to that my own advice: tell a story that is not otherwise obvious from other parts of your application

 

I would represent a nontraditional HBS applicant

 

This has been true throughout my career

 

But people with my profile do get it admitted to HBS (though I have yet to hear of an admissions consultant being admitted :)

 

If I were applying to HBS, I would ask and answer this question

 

What are the three most important decisions you have ever made in your life and why?

 

Here is my first attempt at and answer


 

  1. Important decision 1: When I was 20, I decided to become a history teacher

 

  1. When I was 27 I joined a Shakespeare Company (The American Shakespeare Center in Virginia)

 

  1. When I was 32, I decided to move to Tokyo, Japan and start work as an educational consultant






Hint 

 

Make the most of the Awards and Recognition section:

 

 

Awards and Recognition


Instructions: Please list all distinctions, honors, and awards (academic, military, extracurricular, professional, community) in order of importance to you (i.e., list the most important first). You may list up to three awards.


Award/Recognition 1

Title

Date

Basis of Selection

 

(found at https://apply.hbs.edu/apply/app?awards; accessed 2013/06)

 

 


 

PATH 2

(2.1 - 2.5)

 

Strengths and weaknesses

 

  • What do you NEED to tell us?

 

This applicant has pluses and minuses, strengths and weaknesses

 

Use the essay to minimize one or more of the weaknesses and hopefully also add one or two strengths

 

What constitutes an unconventional or borderline applicant?





 

How will my application be evaluated?

 

When selecting students we put an emphasis on

1. leadership potential (Vince says, this is shown through selectivity of your academic and career placements, plus performace at each placement)

2. strong academic ability (Vince says, GMAT + GPA + selectivity)

3. personal qualities and characteristics (Vince says, these topics might become the essay focus for a Path 1 applicant; Path 2 applicants might also SHOW personal qualities and characteristics through well chosen examples)










 

2.1 If you have made unconventional academic choices

 

Educational Background

 

  1. STEM 39%

  2. Economics/Business 43%

  3. Humanities/Social Sciences 18%

(found at http://www.hbs.edu/mba/admissions/admission-requirements/Pages/class-profile.aspx; accessed 2013/06) *As of June 3, 2013 - data subject to change

 

"Does the reputation/history or my undergraduate institution or company affect my chances of being accepted? Our goal is to admit a class that offers a variety of perspectives. Therefore, we carefully consider individuals from a wide spectrum of academic and work experiences."

(found at http://www.hbs.edu/mba/find-answers/Pages/default.aspx; accessed 2013/06)

 

No published GPA average for the class

 

“GPA is only one of many factors that the Admissions Board uses in evaluating an applicant.”

(found at http://www.hbs.edu/mba/find-answers/Pages/default.aspx; accessed 2013/06)

 

No minimum GMAT or GRE score

 

GMAT Score Range 550-780

Median GMAT 730

(found at http://www.hbs.edu/mba/admissions/admission-requirements/Pages/class-profile.aspx; accessed 2013/06) *As of June 3, 2013 - data subject to change

 

You can list only your best GMAT or GRE score (everything self reported until admission)

(found at http://www.hbs.edu/mba/find-answers/Pages/default.aspx; accessed 2013/06)

 

Minimum TOEFL/IELTS/PTE test score

"HBS MBA Admissions Board discourages any candidate with a TOEFL score lower than 109 on the IBT, an IELTS score lower than 7.5, or a PTE score lower than 75 from applying."

(found at http://www.hbs.edu/mba/find-answers/Pages/default.aspx; accessed 2013/06)







 

 


 

 

2.2 If you have made unconventional career choices

 

Pre-MBA Industry

  1. Consulting 19%

  2. Venture Capital/Private Equity 16%

  3. Financial Services 14%

  4. High Tech/Communications 11%

  5. Consumer Products 7%

  6. Gov't, Education, & Non-Profit 7%

  7. Industrial/Heavy Manufacturing 7%

  8. Healthcare/Biotech 6%

  9. Military 5%

  10. Energy/Extractive Minerals 4%

  11. Other Services 4%

(found at http://www.hbs.edu/mba/admissions/admission-requirements/Pages/class-profile.aspx; accessed 2013/06) *As of June 3, 2013 - data subject to change



 

“The Admissions Board will look at the nature of the applicant's work experience when evaluating the applicants' ability to handle the academic rigor of our MBA program.”

(found at http://www.hbs.edu/mba/find-answers/Pages/default.aspx; accessed 2013/06)


 

“Rather than focus on specific categories of work experiences, applicants should focus on their roles, responsibilities, and what they have learned from the types of work experiences that they have been involved in.”

(found at http://www.hbs.edu/mba/find-answers/Pages/default.aspx; accessed 2013/06)




HINT 

 

Make the most of the online data form short answer questions

 


Employer
Organization Name
City
State
Telephone
Dates of Employment

from 
to
Starting Position
Ending Position
Starting Compensation

Annual Base in $U.S.
Annual Bonus in $U.S.
Ending Compensation

Annual Base in $U.S.
Annual Bonus in $U.S.
Industry
Job Function
Website
Description
Reason for Leaving
(50 words maximum)
 
Key Accomplishments
200 characters remaining
 
Most Significant Challenge
200 characters remaining
 
I am a founder or co-founder of this organization
 
This position is (was):
 
Company/Organization Size
 
Annual Revenue


(found at https://apply.hbs.edu/apply/job; accessed 2013/06)

 


 

 


 

 

2.3 If your work history is well below or well above the average

 

HBS asks for the following short answer in the Class of 2016 online application data form

 

“Please provide an explanation for any gaps in your employment history: 1000 characters”

(question from the HBS Class of 2016 online application data form)


 

“Class of 2015 Average Age 27”

(found at http://www.hbs.edu/mba/admissions/admission-requirements/Pages/class-profile.aspx; accessed 2013/06) *As of June 3, 2013 - data subject to change

 

“It is important for candidates to assess their own readiness when deciding to apply: there is no universal "right" time.”

(found at http://www.hbs.edu/mba/find-answers/Pages/default.aspx; accessed 2013/06)


 

“Work experience includes opportunities in which students have been able to develop their professional and leadership skills.”

(found at http://www.hbs.edu/mba/find-answers/Pages/default.aspx; accessed 2013/06)


 

“How many months of post-college full-time work experience will you have upon enrolling?”

(question from the HBS Class of 2016 online application data form)

 

If you graduate at 22 and apply at 26, that means that you will likely have had 48 months of post-college full-time work experience

 

Of course, that assumes that you have never stopped working full-time since college

 

Bottom line - focus on roles, responsibilities, and what you have learned from the types of work experiences that you have been involved in






 

 


 

 

2.4 If you plan to make an unconventional career move post-MBA


 

THE “WHY MBA” QUESTION

 

“Instructions (found in online application data form; accessed 2013/06): Please account for your most meaningful full-time professional experiences. You may include up to three roles.


 

Organization Name

Dates of Employment

  • Employer

  • How many months of post-college full-time work experience will youhave upon enrolling?

  • Are you currently an employee of Harvard Business School?”





 

Vince says, please note that HBS no longer gives your multiple short answers to explain

 

  • Nature of Business: (200 characters)

  • Your Responsibilities: (200 characters)

  • Key Accomplishments: (200 characters)

  • Most Significant Challenge: (200 characters)


 

HBS still gives you two drop down menus plus 500 characters to explain your goals

 

  1. Intended Post-MBA Industry (50 choices available)

  2. Intended Post-MBA Function (36 choices available)

  3. How does pursuing an MBA support your choices above?


 

Intended Post-MBA Industry (50 choices available in drop down menu on HBS Class of 2016 online application data form)

 

Accounting/auditing

Advertising/marketing/public relations

Aerospace/aviation/defense

Agribusiness

Arts/film/music/culture

Automotive/transportation equipment

Beverages/food

Biotechnology

Broadcasting/cable-television/multimedia

Chemicals

Commercial banking

Community/economic development

Construction

Consulting

Consumer products

Diversified financial services/insurance

E-commerce

Education

Energy: alternative energy/renewables/cleantech

Energy: oil/gas

Government: non-US

Government: US (federal/state/local)

Health providers/services

High-technology electronics/equipment/networking

Highly diversified manufacturing and service

Hospitality: lodging, restaurants, tourism, theme parks, gaming

International development/release

Internet Services

Investment banking

Investment management

Legal services

Machinery and heavy equipment

Medical Healthcare Services

Military

Mining/extractive minerals/metals

New media/social networking media

Other nonprofit

Paper and forest products

Pharmaceuticals

Printing/publishing

Private equity

Real estate

Retailing/wholesaling

Software

Sports and sports management

Telecommunications

Trading/import/export

Transportation services and logistics

Utilities

Venture capital

 

Intended Post-MBA Function (36 choices available in drop down menu on HBS Class of 2016 online application data form)

Accounting/control

Consulting

Engineering

Finance: investment management

Finance: investor relations

Finance: lending

Finance: mergers and acquisitions

Finance: research

Finance: sales and trading

Finance: treasury/analysis

Finance: underwriting/advising

Finance: wealth management

Fundraising/development

General management

Human resources

Information services management

Investment advising

Legal services

Logistics

Manufacturing/operations

Marketing: brand/product management

Marketing: communications

Marketing: general

Marketing: research

Marketing: sales

Medical services

Other

Product development

Professional advising-Religion

Project management

Public relations

Purchasing

Research and development

Software engineering

Strategic planning

Teaching





 

 


 

 

2.4.1 If you plan to run a family business or return to your current employer

 

Why is this the most interested and challenging future you can imagine? What opportunities exist that excite you, and necessitate an MBA now?





 

 


 

 

2.5 If you are are a reapplicant

 

How have you improved your candidacy?

 

“Re-applicants do not have an advantage or disadvantage in comparison to other applicants.”

(found at http://www.hbs.edu/mba/admissions/application-process/Pages/reapplication.aspx; accessed 2013/06)

 

“While previous applications may be retained on file and consulted at the MBA Admissions Board's discretion, a reapplication must stand on its own merits as a complete and independent application.”

(found at http://www.hbs.edu/mba/find-answers/Pages/default.aspx; accessed 2013/06)

 

“If you are invited to interview, that’s when your older application is coupled with your current application.”




 

 


 

 

Additional Information...  

NOT another essay?

 

 

Additional Information

500 characters

 

“In which part of the application may I enter additional information, including special circumstances?

Please enter important information that you want the Board to know in the Additional Information section of the application.”

 

“Instructions (found in online application data form; accessed 2013/06): Use this section to include any additional information that you believe is important for the MBA Admissions Board to have in evaluating your application, but that you were unable to include because of the constraints of the online application.”

 

“Please limit your additional information to the space in this section. Do not send HBS any additional materials (e.g., additional recommendations, work portfolios, etc.), as they will not be considered in your application and will delay processing of your application.”







 

 


 

 

Vince's Bottom Line

 

Please do your best, and remember who you are

 

Find a way to enjoy the application process if you truly want your readers to hear your true voice

 

Write the best essay you've ever written

 

Deep in your heart, you know that this is the best essay you've ever written because it's probably the most important (though I hope you face even greater writing challenges in the future :)

 

Spend as much time on it as you possibly can

 

A month before the deadline, show it to people that you trust

 

Get their feedback

 

Finally, remember the kid test: think about your future daughter or son reading this essay

 

Years from now, he or she says, "Hey how did you get in the Harvard business school?"

 

You show them your application

 

You explain to them that numbers matter and experience matters and self-expression matters

 

Most of all, you discuss the admissions process, let them know how valuable HBS was for your life and your career, and you encourge them to do their best to find their true voice, which will guide their admissions process to selective high schools, colleges, and graduate schools

 

 

Please do your best, and let me know if you need anything

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

for reference

HBS 2015 Application & Essay Tips

  • Please watch these two videos and read the tips below

 

Part 1 of 2

  • HBS admissions criteria
  • Application data forms: Why MBA?
  • Essay 1: Something you did well

 

 

 

 


 

Part 2 of 2

  • Essay 2: Something you wish you had done better
  • Additional information
  • References
  • Interviews
  • Post-interview self-reflection

 

 

 


Summary

1.    Application data forms matter more than you think

2.    HBS wants to see believable and ambitious post-MBA goals

3.    Accomplishment and leadership stories support goals

4.    Setback stories demonstrate leadership potential

5.    Avoid providing additional information if possible

6.    Recommendations matter at least as much as essays

7.    Interviews are designed to make you feel confused and defensive; you can avoid the traps if you prepare with experts

8.    Why HBS added a post-interview self-reflection, and how Vince can help you prepare for it

 
 
 
 

 

Who am I?

Vince Ricci, VincePrep.com

·      Stanford BA, History 1992

·      NYU MA, Design for Education, 2001

·      Admissions Advisor since 2002

·      AIGAC Member since 2007

 

 

What do I know about HBS?

·      10 comprehensive clients admitted since 2007 (on my website)

·      More than 15 total since 2002

·      These numbers do not include clients who only use my interview training services

 

 

How do I help my clients get admitted to Harvard?

·      By teaching critical thinking and storytelling skills, as I have done since 1990

 

I help clients understand the relationship between three aspects of the admissions process

1.    Criteria (HBS has 3)

2.    Contents (tell the right story at the right time in the right way)

3.    Culture (can you contribute to the academic, student, and alumni communities?)

 

"A habit of leadership"

·      You demonstrate leadership ability and leadership potential

·      Essay 1 shows both, if it is good

·      Essay 2 shows leadership potential: your ability to admit failure and learn from mistakes

·      Effective post-MBA goals utilize your leadership ability and stretch your leadership potential  

 

"Capacity for intellectual growth"

·      Can you do the work, and enjoy the process?

·      Undergraduate academic performance not only GPA but the courses you took

·      Harvard requires you to think and talk at the same time

·      Schools that emphasize case method (HBS) and group work (Kellogg) care more about TOEFL

·      HBS asks, “How many times have you taken TOEFL?”

o   There is a drop-down menu asking you to select a number from 1 to 10 or more than 10

o   If you select 10 ore more, you may be called by the admissions board for an spontaneous phone call to confirm your English skills

 

"Engaged community citizenship"

·      How do you contribute to the communities that matter most to you?

·      How do you relate to people from different cultural and functional backgrounds?

·      Will you be engaged at Harvard?

o   Three extracurricular activities

o   Awards and recognition

·      Do you fit HBS academic, student, and alumni culture?

 

What is fit?

·      My story – why I turned down a chance to attend Harvard… twice

·      Undergrad – history. I wanted to join the up and coming program, not the established leader

·      Grad school – design for education. I wanted action-based learning, not only educational theory

 

 



 

 

What type of contents will help you gain admission?

 

Application data forms

They matter more than you think, so register now!

·      Show interest

·      Get updates and event invitations

·      Begin gathering your materials

·      Analyze how their admissions criteria relate to their requests for certain types of information

 

 

Past Employment

·      Company/Organization Information:

·      Nature of Business: (200 characters)

·      Company/Organization Classification:

o   Industry:

o   Function:

 

 

·      Dates and Salary Information: (check online)

·      Job Description:

o   Job Title: (Please do not use all uppercase letters.)

o   Your Responsibilities: (200 characters only)

o   Key Accomplishments: (200 characters)

o   Most Significant Challenge: (200 characters)

o   Reason for Leaving: (200 characters)

 

 


 

 

Future Employment

·     HBS asks to you to identify FUTURE job before they ask about your CURRENT and PAST jobs

·      Why?

 

 


 

 

Screenshot 1

Post-MBA Industry

 

 

 

 


 

Screenshot 2

Post-MBA Function

 

 

 


 

Does HBS care about your post-MBA goals?

 

2014 essay

o   "Why do you want an MBA? (400 words)"

 

2015 application data form short answer question (NOT an essay)

o   Intended Post-MBA Industry and Function:

o   How does pursuing an MBA support your choices above? (500 characters ≈ 100 words)

 

What is a “good” post-MBA goal?

o   Believable and ambitious

 

 


 

All goals fit one of these two general categories 

1.  Advance pre-MBA career (vertical move)

2.  Change pre-MBA career (lateral move)

·      Join consulting

·      Join finance

·      Join industry

·      Join or launch a start-up

 

 


 

Why MBA?

·      Avoid the food court analogy

·      Focus on the new technical, analytical, and interpersonal skills you need to achieve YOUR goals

·      NO: "I need to expose myself to various viewpoints."

·      YES: "I need to learn to motivate system engineers and sales managers so we can make my new venture successful."

 

 


 

Essays

 

Essays required for all applicants:

·      Tell us about something you did well. (400 words)

·      Tell us about something you wish you had done better. (400 words)

 

Joint degree applicants only:

·      How do you expect the joint degree experience to benefit you on both a professional and a personal level? (400 words)

 

Dee Leopold says, “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.”

 

Essay 1

Tell us about something you did well. (400 words)

 

1. Something you did well could be

·      accomplishment (individual achievement) or a

·      leadership story (influencing and motivating others to achieve a common goal)

 

2. Most importantly, tell a story that supports your goals

·      my silly and fake example: Vinnie’s Pizza

 

As you brainstorm possible stories, remember and write down all of the times when you

o   Made something better (qualitative or quantitative turnaround)

o   Started something new (new idea or start-up)

o   Went beyond expectations (taking initiative, adding value)

o   Convinced others to support your idea (persuasion)

o   Put your ideas or knowledge into action (ideation)

o   Developed a team whose performance exceeded expectations (motivating others)

o   Made a difficult professional decision (critical thinking, judgment, involving others, asking for help)

 

As you revise and edit, ask yourself

·      Does my leadership or accomplishment story support my goals?

·      Can I add more details to emphasize results (quantitative) and impact (qualitative)?

·      Details prove impact

o   quantify (profit, savings) 

o   qualify (first, youngest, only, best)

·      Are my turning points clear and interesting?

o   Biggest mistake – skip the turning points because you think you do not have enough words to show what really happened

o   Solution – tell the whole story, and leave time to cut words

·      Are my lessons and "takeaways" too flat and obvious?

o   I learned that communication is important. (You did not know that already?)

o   I learned HOW to communicate with seniors, juniors, engineers, or cross-cultural peers. (OK, I see. How exactly did you do it?)

 



 

 

Essay 2

Tell us about something you wish you had done better. (400 words)

 

Why do they ask the question?

·      Setback stories demonstrate self-awareness and interpersonal skills

·      Show that you are humble, flexible, and resilient

 

Admissions officers wear many hats

·      Marketing is the fun part

·      Gatekeeping is the hard part

o   They do their best to avoid admitting students who cannot do the work

o   Easy to deny based on the numbers (GPA, GMAT, TOEFL)

o   Subjective judgment is harder

§  Do you fit the academic and student culture?

§  Will your cohort peers be able to learn from you?

§  Will your cohort peers like you?

§  Like families, HBS cohorts self-regulate, but AdCom does it’s best to deny over-confident candidates before they get admitted

o   Essay 2 is one of their filters

 

 

Failure, mistake, and setback stories should demonstrate

1.    Damage to others (lost time, money, reputation)

2.    Some amount of personal responsibility for outcomes

3.    Persistent struggle and slow growth, rather than sudden breakthroughs

4.    (Proof of learning)

 

Time for an example?


As you brainstorm your possible stories, ask yourself, “Do I wish I had done better when …”

·      working as a team member?

·      working cross-culturally?

·      working cross-functionally?

·      managing my time, or the time of others?

·      handling details? For instance, did I let the "small stuff" overwhelm me?

·      considering the larger context of my actions?

·      I was afraid to present bad news to others?

·      I was afraid to confront others about some important issue?

·      I procrastinated beginning new tasks?

·      I lost energy in the middle of an important project?

·      I was impatient with myself or others?

·      I was unable to persuade subordinates?

·      I lost valuable time or failed to achieve a desired result because I could not influence my seniors?

·      I failed to close an important project or deal because I lacked the necessary technical, analytical or interpersonal skills, and I was too busy or too proud to ask for help?

 

When you show your failure or setback essay to friends and advisors, ask them

·      Do you understand what happened?

·      Would you want me on your team, based on how I appear in this essay? Why or why not?

·      Do you believe that I learned a lesson from this experience?

·      If you were my supervisor of mentor, what other lessons would you suggest I learn next?

o   What types of activities and behaviors should I purse to ensure that I learn those lessons?

 

 



 


Additional Information

Additional information is NOT desired, but it might be necessary

 

HBS says, “Response length limited to 500 characters

·      Use this section to include any additional information that you believe is important for the MBA Admissions Board to have in evaluating your application, but that you were unable to include because of the constraints of the online application.

·      Please limit your additional information to the space in this section. Do not send HBS any additional materials (e.g., additional recommendations, work portfolios, etc.), as they will not be considered in your application and will delay processing of your application.”

 

I encourage you to leave this section blank unless you need to explain issues like

 

  • Extenuating circumstances affecting academic or work performance
  • Explanation of why you do not have a Letter of Reference from your current direct supervisor
  • Explanation of criminal conviction, criminal charges sustained against you in a juvenile proceeding, and/or court-supervised probation
  • Explanation of academic suspension or expulsion

 

 

 



 


Recommendations

Use the questions to help you decide whom to ask

1.    Please comment on the context of your interaction with the applicant. If applicable, briefly describe the applicant's role in your organization. (250 words)

2.    How does the candidate's performance compare to other well-qualified individuals in similar roles? (250 words)

3.    Please describe the most important piece of constructive feedback you have given the applicant. Please detail the circumstances and the applicant's response. (250 words)

·      Use this question to decide whom to ask for references

·      If a recommender never showed "tough love," he or she is not qualified to recommend you to HBS

·      This question reflects HBS culture. Other schools use it, too, but I feel that it is particularly relevant given the fast paced, discussion-driven environment that exists at HBS

4.    Please make additional statements about the applicant's performance, potential, or personal qualities you believe would be helpful to the MBA Admissions Board. (250 words)

 

 

Do recommendations matter more than essays?

 

1. Recommendations are longer than essays

·      3 recommendations

·      4 recommender questions

·      12 “essays” about you, told by others

·      max 250 words per answer

·      = 1,000 words per recommender

·      x 3 recommendation letters

·      = up to 3,000 words for LoRs

·      vs. 800 words for required essays

 

2. The questions are unchanged from last year, unlike the essays, which were cut by 50%

 

 



 


Interviews

·      Mandatory for admission

·      By invitation only after review of written application

·      At HBS or in TBD hub city locations, or in some cases, Skype

·      30 minutes

·      Conducted by an Admissions Board member

 

 

Rapid-fire questions

·      As many as 20 questions in 30 minutes

·      As short as 40 to 60 seconds per answer (most interviewers ask follow-up questions when they want more information)

o   Prepare 10 core stories you want to tell

o   Identify 3 to 4 strengths across your entire life (high school, college, every career phase)

o   Be ready to articulate 3 weaknesses that appear in different ways in different situations

§  Vince example: time and expectation management

§  How I have improved, and where I still need growth

 

Self-awareness questions

·      Something you should stop doing, keep doing, and start doing

·      Constructive feedback that you agreed with and constructive feedback that you disagreed with

·      What preconceived notions did you have about [X] - one which turned out to be true and one that turned out to be not true.

·      Assess every major choice you made in your life

o   Why did I make each decision?

o   What was I thinking at the time?

o   How have my thoughts changed since then, and why?

 

Some HBS AdCom interviewers try to make you defensive

·      HBS: "Some of my colleagues think you have an easy job. Would you agree?"

·      Applicant: "I can see how some people might get that impression. Here is what I find challenging and interesting about my job…”

 

 



 

 

Post-interview self-reflection ("NOT AN ESSAY")

·      Following the interview, candidates are required to submit a written reflection using our online application system.

·      All interviewees will be asked: "You've just had your HBS interview. Tell us about it. How well did we get to know you?" (no word limit) (found at http://www.hbs.edu/mba/admissions/blog.html#post-2012-06-29; accessed 2012/06)

·      This must be submitted within 24 hours following the completion of the interview.

·      Why did HBS add this post-interview self-reflection, and how can Vince help you prepare for it?

 

My offer

·      HBS interview training you share your feedback in writing, then I send you mine

·      It works like this:

·      You send me your application

·      I prepare 20 customized questions based on what I would ask if I were your HBS Admissions Board interviewer

·      You send me an email after our HBS mock interview session answering this question

o   "You've just had your HBS mock interview. Tell us about it. How well did Vince get to know you?" (no word limit)

§  What did you forget to mention?

§  What misperception do you think Vince might have about you, and how do you plan to minimize the chance that your HBS interviewer might share that misperception?  

§  How do you plan to improve your answers and your performance before the real interview?

§  How can Vince help you improve?

·      I will provide written feedback based on your self-assessment

·      Why am I making this offer?

o   I agree with Dee Leopold that you should NOT write your answer before the real interview

o   But that doesn't mean you cannot practice using one of our mock sessions as the basis for your self-reflection

o   Please see my website for details

 



 

 

How do I help my clients get admitted to Harvard?

·      By teaching critical thinking and storytelling skills, as I have done since 1990

·      My mission: "Change your story, change your life"

o   Change your story by building your critical thinking and storytelling skills

o   Change your life by getting admitted to HBS

 

1. What is critical thinking?

·      Analytic training to break problems down to their roots

o   I hope my website and video channel serve this function for you. Do they?

·      Mastering detachment to question conventional wisdom

o   I am trying to alter your negative perceptions of yourself

o   I also want to expand your perceptions of the schools you hope to attend

 

Why do critical thinking for HBS admissions?

·      Do you fit HBS' profile and do you match their stated admissions criteria?

·      Are you applying for the right reasons, and with the right contents?

 

2. What do I mean by storytelling?

·      The oldest and most effective art form that enables us to convey messages, truths, information, and knowledge to our audience

o   Who is your audience?

o   What messages are you trying to convey?

 

How did I learn storytelling?

·      "Improv Wisdom" from Stanford's Patricia Ryan Madson

 

What does storytelling have to do with admissions?

·      80% of applicants meet admissions criteria

·      Only 13% were admitted to HBS in 2012

·      Effective storytelling is the art that moves you from the admitable pile to the admitted pile

 

How do I use storytelling to help clients get admitted to HBS?

·      Are you showing good judgment in your choice of essay topics and your choice of recommenders?

·      Are you conveying consistent, interesting, and authentic messages about who you are now, who you want to become in the future, and how an MBA helps you get there?

·      Are you under-explaining, or over-explaining, issues that might be of concern to AdCom readers? 

 



 

 

Summary

1.    Application data forms matter more than you think

2.    HBS wants to see believable and ambitious post-MBA goals

3.    Accomplishment and leadership stories support goals

4.    Setback stories demonstrate leadership potential

5.    Avoid providing additional information if possible

6.    Recommendations matter at least as much as essays

7.    Interviews are designed to make you feel confused and defensive; you can avoid the traps if you prepare with experts

8.    Why did HBS added a post-interview self-reflection, and how Vince can help you prepare for it

 

Please contact me if you think I can help you.

 

 


 

 

Congratulations! 

You have been invited

to interview with HBS. 

 

Now what? 


 

 

  • I provide school-specific training for HBS interviews

  • I am receiving many inquiries from new clients who want help preparing for an HBS interview

    • First, l need to take care of my comprehsensive clients

    • If time allows, I would be happy to prepare a few interview-only clients, as well

  • Please follow the six sign-up steps below if you would like to secure my time

 


 

And please watch these short videos, where I explain how I help clients pass HBS interviews 

 

 


 

 

 

STEP ONE

CONTACT ME

AT LEAST 10 DAYS

BEFORE YOUR INTERVIEW

 

  • Please complete my intake form

  • Let me know when you plan to interview, and when you want to practice with me

  • I will confirm if I have the capacity to help you

 
 
 

 

STEP TWO

DECIDE HOW

MANY SESSIONS

YOU WANT

 

  • One HBS mock interview training session lasts 60 minutes

    • I ask customized questions for the first 30 minutes

      • Why 30 minutes?

        • Because that is how long your real HBS interview will last

  • We spend the last 30 minutes reviewing your answers

  • I can help you brainstorm more effective ways to answer the questions I asked

  • We can also discuss other ways that HBS AdCom members might ask you to discuss the same information (different questions that solicit the same core contents that I wanted you to discuss during our 30 minute mock interview)

  • Finally, if time permits, we can discuss other types of questions that might be of concern to you

 

 

Not sure how many sessions you need?

  • Most of my successful clients practice HBS interviews with me for at least 3 hours (three sixty minute sessions)

  • Some need as little as 1 hour (one sixty minute session), which is my minimum charge

  • Others practice for 5 hours or more (five sixty minute sessions)

 

 

 


STEP THREE

ARRANGE PAYMENT 

 
My fees are listed here
 
 
 
HOW TO PAY
  • Clients in Japan pay via bank transfer or cash

  • Clients outside Japan pay via PayPal

  • Japan-based clients that want to pay via PayPal are subject to a 5% handling fee to cover PayPal charges

 
 
 
 
 
 

STEP FOUR

SCHEDULE OUR FIRST SESSION

TO OCCUR AT LEAST 5 DAYS

BEFORE YOUR HBS INTERVIEW

 

  • I will give you access to my Google Calendar once payment clears

    • All times are JST (Tokyo time)

    • If you do not find a convenient time, please email me several options

    • I will do my best to accommodate

  • Finally, please follow my cancellation policy

    • If necessary, requests to reschedule appointments should be made at least 24 hours in advance of the originally scheduled appointment time

    • Rescheduling requests made less than 24 hours prior to an appointment will be granted at Vince’s discretion

 
 
 
 
 

STEP FIVE

SEND ME

YOUR HBS APPLICATION as a 

SINGLE MS WORD or GOOGLE DOC file

 
HBS AdCom members read your entire application before interviewing you. I want to do the same. 
 
Once our session is scheduled, please attach and send me your 
  • resume

  • application data form short answers 

  • transcript

  • essays

 
Also, if you have access to your recommendation letters, please send those, as well
 

 

After reading your application, I will prepare a custom list of questions to fit your case.

 

  • I ask questions that test your ability to discuss issues that might be of concern to the HBS Admissions Board

  • I also assess your communication skills

  • I cannot predict what questions the Admissions Board will ask at your real interview, but I can help you boost your confidence by practicing with an expert who understands what HBS expects from admitted applicants

  • When I met with a veteran member of the HBS Admissions Board at her on-campus office in May 2011, she mentioned that HBS wants to admit applicants who will be able to participate in fast-paced classroom discussions

  • Therefore, in HBS mock interview sessions, I will check your logic and presentation style to find weak points that might be of concern to Admissions Board interviewers

 
 
After your interview, I will destroy all hard and soft copies to maintain client confidentiality
 
 
 
 
 

STEP SIX

PRACTICE BEFORE and

AFTER EACH SESSION

 

 

 

How to prepare?

 

 

 

  • I ask questions that test your ability to discuss issues that might be of concern to the HBS Admissions Board

  • I also assess your communication skills

  • I cannot predict what questions the Admissions Board will ask at your real interview, but I can help you boost your confidence by practicing with an expert who understands what HBS expects from admitted applicants

  • When I met with a veteran member of the HBS Admissions Board at her on-campus office in May 2011, she mentioned that HBS wants to admit applicants who will be able to participate in fast-paced classroom discussions

  • Therefore, in HBS mock interview sessions, I will check your logic and presentation style to find weak points that might be of concern to Admissions Board interviewers

 

 

  • The HBS Admissions Board sometimes claims that you cannot prepare for their interviews since the questions are never the same

  • The fact is, you CAN and SHOULD prepare for your HBS interview, but not in the same way you would prepare for a blind interview like you would experience with StanfordKelloggColumbiaChicago, or Tuck

 

 

  • HBS questions are mostly "common sense"

  • HBS Admissions Board members sometimes ask MIT-style behavioral interview questions

  • Unlike MIT, HBS interviewers have also been known  to ask about your industry and other "macro" issues to check your critical thinking skills

 

 

 

  • HBS interviews conducted on campus often contain at least one "curve ball" question, like, "What is your favorite cartoon"

  • HBS interviewers do not usually ask McKinsey-style  "brain teaser"  questions to check your quantitative reasonaing skills, like, "How would you move Mt. Fuji?"

 

 

 
 

 

PLEASE NOTE

 

  • I will keep the time of our mock trainings to 60 mins exactly (30 mins of questions and 30 mins of feedback / tips / next steps)

  • I will review your HBS application free of charge

  • I will also not charge to create a custom question list based on your situation

  • If you are not my comprehensive client, I will not be able to engage in lengthy email exchanges with you between or after our sessions

  • In short, you are only paying for my "face time" (whether in person or via Skype)

  • I am adding the prep time (up to 30 mins per session), free of charge

  • Therefore, I feel confident that my service offers good value

 

 

 

 


 

CANCELLATIONS

 

  • If necessary, requests to reschedule appointments should be made at least 24 hours in advance of the originally scheduled appointment time

  • Rescheduling requests made less than 24 hours prior to an appointment will be granted at Vince's discretion

 

 

 


AFTER YOUR INTERVIEW

PLEASE HELP ME

IMPROVE MY SERVICE

 

  • Please note that I would appreciate hearing from you after the interview

  • I will send you a short one page feedback request form that asks if you experienced any surprise questions and/or challenging follow up questions that I could done a better job prepare your to handle with confidence

  • I will keep your replies confidential and use them to improve my service (internally, not externally on my website)

  • Finally, I expect you will tell me about their final admission result after HBS informs you

  • By knowing your result, I will know if my service was effective or not

  • I aim to provide the best HBS interview training in the world

 

 

 

 

Other HBS interview tips

 
 
Here are some other tips that my past admitted clients have found to be helpful
 
  • As you listen to the question, start asking yourself, "How can I bring this back to my core message / key selling points?" 

  • Before the interview, list the key points you wish to make (key words of your main strengths / selling points, with examples/stories you want to be sure to tell them before the interview is finished)

  • Take a few slow deep breaths before you speak

  • Remember, about 93 percent of your communication in non-verbal so pay close attention to the signals you may be sending through your body language and vocal cues

  • When responding to the "loaded question," it is best not to rephrase and repeat what you heard

  • Loaded questions are often confrontational and filled with negative language

  • The worst thing you can do is get defensive or hostile in your voice or body. In your own words, relate to the issue and be concise

  • You may want to begin with something like, "I wouldn't describe the situation like that." A statement like this to begin with will also allow you to buy a little time think through your response

  • Bottom-line: Prepare yourself!

  • In any situation always remember to respond rather than react

  • Don't let your defenses get the best of you

  • Remain calm and take some slow deep breaths so you can think before you speak. How you say what you say really does matter

 
(modified from content found at http://publicrelationsblogger.com/2009/07/make-sure-your-public-relations-is.html; accessed 2010/11)
 
 
 
 
 
 

SAMPLE HBS INTERVIEW 


 

SAMPLE HARVARD BUSINESS SCHOOL INTERVIEW 

 
I asked one of my HBS admitted clients a slightly modified list of the questions he answered at his actual Harvard interview. Here are the answers that got him admitted.
 
In this first of three sections, he discusses his motivations for MBA and HBS.
 
Please note - HBS adcoms do not usually start interviews by saying, "walk me through your resume."
 
Why? They have already read your entire application. Still, in the case of this mock interview, we decided to start that way to give viewers a general introduction to the applicant and set the context for follow-up questions and answers.
 
In the second of three sections, he discusses his perspectives on Japanese trading companies, his goals, his personal weakness, and his potential contributions to the HBS community. Please watch.

In this third and final section of our mock HBS interview, my client answers questions related to his future plans at his company, his academic skills, and his test scores. HBS adcoms can sometimes try to make applicants defensive during interviews.

I think my client did a decent job of answering the questions without taking them personally. Finally, he answers the famous "anything else?" or "surprise me" question that often comes at the end of an HBS interview.   

We hope you find these videos useful. Please subscribe to my YouTube channel for the latest updates. 


 

 

 

 

 


HBS Interview Reports

 
You are welcome to read the reports below, but PLEASE remember that HBS adcoms will prepare questions JUST FOR YOU based on what you sent them (and what you DID NOT send).
 
 


 

Frequency Analysis of Harvard Business School Interview Questions

 

Based on a sampling of interviews conducted with Japan-based applicants since 2000

 

 

A

B

C

1

Genre

Question

#

2

Introduction

Tell me briefly about your career to date.

8

3

Goals

Tell ma about your future career goal.

4

4

What motivates you?

2

5

Why MBA

Why do you need MBA?

4

6

Why HBS?

2

7

Job

Why did you choose your present job?  

2

8

Tell me more about your first task.

3

9

What are your job responsibilities?

2

10

Explain your typical day.

3

11

What are good things with your work in XXXX?

6

12

Do you have any problems with your present job?

7

13

What changes would you make to your organization and why?

2

14

How do you manage a conflict?

2

15

Tell me about your recent project.

2

16

What is the difficult point in that project?

2

17

Why do you think you were chosen as a corporate-sponsored MBA candidate?

2

18

Leadership

How did you lead a team to a success?  

6

19

Tell me about your leadership style.

2

20

How would people describe your leadership style?

2

21

Tell me about a leader you respect and why?

3

22

Take me through your leadership resume.

2

23

Relationship

Give me 3 traits that your boss would say to describe you as.

2

24

Show me example when you grew a subordinate effectively.

2

25

How do you interact with people you do not like?

3

26

How did you cope with that situation?

2

27

Is there a misperception of you from other people?

2

28

The difference of your reputation between before and after somebody knew you.

2

29

Experience

Tell me about a failure and what you learned from it.

4

30

What is the biggest risk you have taken?

4

31

How did you become interested in… (from resume)?

2

32

What did you do most earnestly at college?

2

33

Life in HBS

Many people says that they worry about case studies. How about you?

3

34

What do you think are the challenges for you in HBS?

5

35

What contributions will you make to HBS, your classmates?  

3

36

Who would you like to sit next to during class?

3

37

Application

How did you feel about your application process?

2

38

What was the most difficult aspect about the application process?

2

39

How did you prepare for the interview?

6

40

Why did you pick your recommenders?

2

41

Did you apply to any other school?

2

42

Future

If you were to write a book 20 years from now, what will you write about?

4

43

How would you like to be remembered?

2

44

Finishing Q's

Any questions you wish I had asked? (what do you want to tell the interviewer that you have not already mentioned?)

7

45

Surprise me (a different variation on "any questions you wish I had asked you" in other words, your chance to tell something new about yourself that you hope will leave a strong final impression)

3

46

Any questions for me? (your chance to ask the interviewer some questions)

 

12

 

 

 


 

 

R1 applicant w/ AdCom in Tokyo 2009



Location: HBS Tokyo Research Center

Questions:

  1.  Tell me about your professional experience
  2.  What did you learn from your experience in previous assignment?
  3.  Who helped you to build network with government?
  4.  Tell me about your recent projects
  5.  What is the difficult part of the project?
  6.  How do your think about your recent projects?
  7.   What is your long term goal?
  8.  Tell me more about the company you’re planning to establish.
  9.  How to you view HBS?
  10.  What are you good at (strengths)?
  11.  What are you not good at (weaknesses)?
  12.  How will you prepare for HBS case study in term of communication?
  13.  How do you think about your quantitative skill?
  14.  If you can visit a place where you’ve never visited, where do you like to go?
  15.  Will your company allow you to go there?
  16.  Is there anything you’d like to add?
  17.  What is you favorite sport?
     

 


 

 

R1 applicant w/ AdCom in Shanghai 2009


Location: Shanghai
Interviewer: AdCom

The interview was a little bit different from what I expected. Overall, I did not get stuck and I was honest (in a good way) so no matter what the outcome is, I am happy. Thank you for your support.


The interviewer had been with HBS Admissions for more than 12 years and also presented at the Reception. She first told me that the Admissions Board has read the application and has come up with some questions, and to bear with her because she might stop me during my answer or jump to random questions. 

 

  1. How is your work these days?
  2. What is your leadership like?
  3. As a student coming from Japan, how do you think other HBS students will view Japan and how can you contribute?
  4. Is there anything we have not touched that you need to tell me?
  5. What are your concerns if you were to attend HBS?
  6. What is the most important thing you have learned at your work?
  7. What do you like the most about your job?
  8. Which country, other than the ones you have been to, would you want to go?
  9. If you can do anything tomorrow, what do you want to do? She added that she wants to intentionally keep it broad.
  10. What are you most proud of ? Again, she said that she wants to keep it broad.


Overall, she did not ask for the typical questions on achievement, failure, leadership but it seemed like she was testing my personal side.

 


 

 

R2 applicant w/ adcoms in Tokyo 2/27 2009


I just finished HBS R2 interview. The interviewer was adcom. She was very friendly and conversational. However, I sensed some formalness behind the nice smile. I noticed she didn't go into details on why why why, but rather a whole range of different questions. The best thing I can say is to be prepared for the basic interview questions.

 

  1. Tell me about your past, present, and future.
  2. Do you like your job?
  3. How do you manage a conflict?
  4. Explain your typical day.
  5. Give me 3 traits that your boss would say to describe you.
  6. What would your boss say is your weakness?
  7. Give me 3 traits that your friends would say to describe you.
  8. What motivates you?
  9. What is the biggest risk you have taken?
  10. What do you do in your free time?
  11. Is there a misconception of you from other people?
  12. Surprise me.
  13. Any questions you wish I had asked?
  14. Any questions for me?


 


 

 

R2 applicant w/ adcoms in Tokyo 2/25 2009

 

  1. Past Experience (Including why I made those choice).
  2. The things you like about your work.
  3. Why you think your company is focus to people rather than organization.
  4. Tell me more about your first task (sales activity).
  5. Tell me about the risk that you currently took.
  6. Describe your typical day.
  7. 5 ways your supervisor describes you.
  8. What will you do if you have to choose other profession?
  9. The time people misperceived you
  10. The interesting conversation you had within a week.
  11. Please surprise me.
  12. Anything you would like to talk about? (I told her about my goals and also why MBA + HBS).
  13. Questions? (I could only ask one question).


 



 

R2 applicant w/ adcoms in Tokyo 2/27 2007


I had the interview with HBS admissions on Monday. Thanks to you, I think it went well. The female interviewer was kind and the interview went in a relaxed way.
 

  1. Why are you interested in chemistry and why did you change your career to [a leading consulting firm]?
  2. What are good/bad things with your work in XXXX?
  3. How do you see your colleagues?
  4. How do you interact with people you do not like?
  5. Are there any areas that you would like to be asked by admissions?
  6. Who do you respect and why?
  7. Are you prepared for the interview?  How did you prepare?
  8. Why do you need MBA?
  9. What do you think are the challenges for you in HBS?
  10. Many people says that they worry about case studies. How about you?
     

 


 

Need more hints?

 

Here are some reliable sources

 

Be sure to read

 

 




NON-INTERVIEW LINKS

 

 
Link highlights:
 

 

 

 


The Harvard Harbinger

Published by Vince Ricci

 

 


 

 

TESTIMONIALS

from Vince's Comprehensive Clients

 


Harvard Business School Class of 2012

Preparing admissions essays for MBA programs can be a lonely process, involving much introspection and contemplation. Throughout this process, Vince was an invaluable partner to me, providing objective and professional advice that was critical to my success; ultimately, I gained admissions to 5 top programs in the US, including HBS, Wharton and Northwestern’s JD-MBA program.

Initially, I was somewhat skeptical of receiving advice from essay counselors. I had been educated in the US through college and had confidence that I could pull it off all by myself. Yet, once I started working with Vince, my initial doubt quickly dissipated, as I realized the importance of having a good listener and thinker give objective feedback and advice. I could not have integrated my myriad of ideas into coherent essay portfolios without Vince’s support.

I was also impressed by Vince’s professionalism. He gave tremendous personal attention (almost to a fault!) and usually worked outside of designated time slots; I believe this separates him from other commercially-minded essay counselors.

Having advised many successful, top-notch Japanese clients in the past, Vince has an excellent understanding of the MBA application process and a keen insight into what admissions officers from top programs look for in candidates. Such intelligence could be hard to gather in Japan, where only several hundred people apply to MBA programs each year.

Last but not least, Vince possesses a dry sense of humor that made every one of my twice-a-week face-to-face sessions enjoyable.

 


Harvard Business School Class of 2012

(also admitted to Wharton)


In short, Vince Ricci:

  • knows what admission committees think and feel: he said, "Essay is an art as well as a science."

  • leverages technologies as a Stanford alum: non-Tokyo based applicants can work with him without stress.

  • is a nice guy: he has a broad network which helps applicants learn about target schools.


Overall, by working with Vince, I experienced great results, good ideas for essays and strategies for interview, and a lot of networking opportunities.

 


 

Harvard Business School MBA Class of 2009

The two greatest aspects of Vince and his counseling are his capabilities to push the client to his/her best potential and his abilities to listen and cheer for the best results.

My first confident essay draft was so easily referred to by Vince as “a mess”. This pure shock hit me hard to realize that he was not there to help and support me no matter what, but was there for me to convince him (later myself and the admissions) that I could make it into business schools. The difficulty of business school preparation is fundamentally changing the mindset to think deep in who you are and what makes you valuable to an admit, and Vince was capable to push me each time I tried to slack off the process. Not to mention that without him convincing me, I would have not applied to Harvard Business School/third round, where I am now today.

Also, business school prep move forward by multiple waves. I could not always execute what I had promised Vince the week before whether it was due to work, or emotional fluctuations. Within each one hour counseling session, I sometimes spent the time just talking with Vince about what was going on in my life in general. This helped me through the tough times and kept me from completely falling apart. Vince is truly a great listener and the best cheerleader I had during my prep period.

Vinceをカウンセラーとして起用して良かった点 は、私の魅力を最大限に引き出してくれた事と、私の話をいつも聞いてくれ、励ましてくれた点です。彼の 所に最初に持っていったエッセイは自信作であった割には「it’s a mess」とコメントされ、沈没でした。駄作であったとしても、よいものに直してくれるであろうと気楽に構えていたのですが、ビジネススクール合格はそん なに簡単ではありません。まずは、Vinceを乗り越えなければ合格にたどり着かないのだなと、その時強く思いました。ビジネススクール受験の辛さは今ま でのマインドセットを変え、自分の経験と将来像を深く考え、いかにビジネススクールに進学する事が自分にとって重要なのかを合理的に追求していく事です が、ちょっと手を抜くたびにVinceが後ろから押してくれていました。HBSへ3rdでも出したほうがよいと、彼にしつこく説得してくれなければ私は今 日HBSで勉強をする事ができなかったでしょう。

ビジネススクール受験はよく言わる通りに、マラソンであり、幾度も山や谷を経験しま す。Vinceに約束したことさえも実施できない週が続く事もめずらし くありません。そんな時に彼はセッションの時間の中で、私の悩みを辛抱強く聞き、励まし、エッセイカウンセラー以上のアドバイスを下さいました。この時間 がなければ機能低下はもちろんの事、受験もあきらめていたかもしれません。Vinceは人の話を聞いてくれますし、一緒になって受験をがんばってくれま す。

 

 


 

 

HBS R1 interview timeline

20 AUG 2012

 

  • October 17 and 24 - interview invitations will go out via email. This invitation will give you details about how to use the online interview scheduler which will go live the next day. We already know the planned locations for Round One: London, Paris, Dubai, Shanghai, Sao Paulo, Palo Alto, New York City and - always — on campus here in Boston. What we can't promise is that there will be enough spots in hub cities for everyone to be accommodated - we make travel plans early and make our best guess as to what capacity will be needed in each location. For those of you choosing to come to Boston for your interview, there will actually be some formal programming on the interview days to help you get to know the school better.

  • On October 24, all candidates who are not moving forward to the interview stage will be released, which means that this is where the process ends for them and they can move on to other plans. Also on that date, some candidates will be invited to join the waitlist and may be invited to interview in Round 2. Everyone in that position will be directed to our Waitlist Manager who will provide more detail.

  • Last week in October through mid- November - interviews will be conducted.

  • December 12 - Round One decisions will go out at noon, Boston time to all interviewed candidates. Decisions may be yes, no or an invitation to join the waitlist. We use the waitlist quite aggressively in Round One since we can't see Round Two applications until January. As stated above, our Waitlist Manager will be the contact point and will provide more detailed information.


(found at http://www.hbs.edu/mba/admissions/Pages/from-the-admissions-director.aspx?showall=1; accessed 2012/10)

 


 

 

22 OCT 2012
 
Round 1 - waitlist details
 
  • We anticipate that approximately 100 Round 1 applicants will be asked to join the waitlist on October 24. This is essentially a "further consider" category and it means we'd like to re-review your candidacy after we see Round 2 applications.

  • A meaningful number of this group will be invited to interview on the Round 2 timetable.

  • If we do not invite interview you to interview, you will be notified of your release in mid-February.

  • We know that a good number of you may get good news from other schools in December - at any point along the way we understand that you may choose to remove your name from our waitlist.

  • Last year, we interviewed 48 Round 1 candidates who were placed on this early waitlist before interview and admitted 24 of them.

 
(found at http://www.hbs.edu/mba/admissions/Pages/from-the-admissions-director.aspx?showall=1#Oct22172; accessed 2012/10)

 


 

 

18 OCT 2012 

 

  • HBS R1 interview dates in Shanghai: Monday, 19 November through Friday, 23 November

 


 

15 OCT 2012 

 
  • Round 1 interview invitations will go out around noon Boston time on October 17th and October 24th.

  • Only those two dates. Nothing in between.

  • No secret patterns as to which go out on the 17th vs. the 24th.

  • Detailed instructions will be in the invitation email.

(found at http://www.hbs.edu/mba/admissions/Pages/from-the-admissions-director.aspx?showall=1#Oct15171; accessed 2012/10)

 

 

 

 


 

-Updated by Vince on 11 Nov 2013

 
 
  • I am a graduate admissions consultant who works with clients worldwide

  • If you would like to arrange an initial consultation, please complete my intake form

  • Please note that initial consultations are not offered for interview training and second opinion services

  • Meanwhile, please watch my admissions-related videos on YouTube, and be sure to subscribe for the latest updates

 

 

 

 


 

 

2012-2013 archive for reference only

Vince HBS Application & Essay Tips

 

 

Part 1 of 2

  • HBS admissions criteria
  • Application data forms: Why MBA?
  • Essay 1: Something you did well

 

 

 

 


 

Part 2 of 2

  • Essay 2: Something you wish you had done better
  • Additional information
  • References
  • Interviews
  • Post-interview self-reflection

 

 

 


 

Harvard videos about the HBS experience

 

 
 
 

 

From HBS Admissions Board:

 

Class of 2015 (including 2+2): here's the application!

We are thinking of the Class of 2015 application process as three stages:

1) Introduce Yourself
This is the written application. These are the components:
  • All the demographic data gathering you expect!

  • Resume

  • Transcripts of academic work

  • GMAT/GRE test scores

  • 2 essay questions

  • 3 recommendations


 

2) Tell Us More

This is the interview process. Interviews are:
  • By invitation only after review of written application

  • On our campus or in TBD hub city locations, or in some cases, Skype

  • 30 minutes

  • Conducted by members of our Admissions Board


 

3) Have the Last Word

This is new. AFTER the interview, candidates are asked to do a written reflection on the interview experience which will be submitted via the online application system. This is a chance for you to have the "last word," so to speak.
We'll be hosting weekly Q+A webinar sessions. To sign up, please visit our Events page.
We will hold on-campus admissions information sessions throughout the summer every Monday and Friday at 1:00 pm, Boston time. No advance registration required. For details, please see our Visit HBS page.
Our process is the product of an admissions team that is always in design/development mode. All throughout the year we meet and dream up ways that will make it easier for you to feel "understood" and undertake assessment steps that map to what we do here in the classroom and what you will do in your careers. We're always trying to tweak and improve, and this is what we've come up with for the Class of 2015. Welcome to the starting gate.
(found at http://www.hbs.edu/mba/admissions/blog.html; accessed 2012/05)

 

ESSAYS

 

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.

 

Essay Questions

All applicants must submit answers to two essay questions listed below. Joint program applicants for the Harvard Medical School, Harvard School of Dental Medicine, Harvard Law School, and Harvard Kennedy School must provide an additional essay which can be found below.

Essays required for all applicants:

  • Tell us about something you did well. (400 words)

  • Tell us about something you wish you had done better. (400 words)

 

Joint degree applicants only:

  • How do you expect the joint degree experience to benefit you on both a professional and a personal level? (400 words)

 

Final essay: Post-Interview Reflection

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.


Recommender Questions

Recommendations must be completed online. The recommendation form includes the following four essay questions, along with other types of questions.

  • Please comment on the context of your interaction with the applicant. If applicable, briefly describe the applicant's role in your organization. (250 words)

  • How does the candidate's performance compare to other well-qualified individuals in similar roles? (250 words)

  • Please describe the most important piece of constructive feedback you have given the applicant. Please detail the circumstances and the applicant's response. (250 words)

  • Please make additional statements about the applicant's performance, potential, or personal qualities you believe would be helpful to the MBA Admissions Board. (250 words)





INTERVIEWS

After your written application has been submitted and reviewed, you may be invited to an interview. The interview is a positive indicator of interest, but is not a guarantee of admission; it serves as one element among many that are considered as we complete a final review your candidacy. All interviews are conducted by invitation only, at the discretion of the Admissions Board. If invited, however, you must participate in order to complete the application process.
Interviews may be scheduled on campus, in domestic or international hub cities or via Skype. Neither the timing of your interview invitation nor its format, whether in-person or via Skype, implies anything about the status of your application or affects your candidacy. Interviews are 30 minutes and are conducted by an MBA Admissions Board member who has reviewed your application. Your interview will be tailored to you and is designed for us to learn more about you in the context of a conversation.

Candidates will be required to submit a written reflection after their interview.


Final essay: Post-Interview Reflection

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.

 

 


INTERVIEW TRAINING

I am receiving many inquiries asking about my HBS interview preparation service. If you have been invited to interview with HBS, I would be happy to help you prepare.

  • If you want my help preparing for your interview, please email interviews@vinceprep.com
  • Let me know when you plan to interview and when you want to practice with me
  • I will confirm if I have the capacity to help you
  • My interview service details and fees are here
  • Please note that initial consultations are not offered for interview training

 


 

THE NUMBERS

 
Entering Full-Time MBA Students: 918 Students
 
11.2% accepted = 2nd most selective program*
84.3% yield = #1 yield rate*
9.524 applicants
1,071 accepted 
903 enrolled
*among 50 US MBA programs with lowest admit rate
(found at http://poetsandquants.com/2011/04/22/the-50-most-selective-mba-programs-in-the-u-s; accessed 2011/08) 
 
Average GMAT: 680 to 770
Median GMAT: 730
 
Average Age: 26
Average Work Experience: 41 Months
 
% Students who are Women: 36%
% Students who are International: 36%
% Students who are US Ethnic Minorities: 22%
 
Rankings
Bloomberg Businessweek: 2
U.S. News & World Report: 2
Financial Times: 3
 
Employment
25th% Base Salary: $100,000
Median Base Salary: $110,000
75th% Base Salary: $125,000
Median Signing Bonus: $20,000
% Receiving Signing Bonus: 66%
Median Other Guaranteed Comp: $23,000
% Receiving Other Guaranteed Comp: 25%
 
(found at http://www.beatthegmat.com/mba/school/harvard-business-school/a/info; accessed 2011/07)
 
 

 

PROFILE

 
The so-called “West Point of Capitalism” is the business school that is a university onto itself, with 33 separate buildings on 40 acres of property along the Charles River. Harvard’s case method curriculum is designed to prepare students for the challenges of leadership in the real world. Through this engaging and proactive learning environment, students develop the knowledge, skills, and confidence to face a variety of difficult decisions that they’ll encounter throughout their careers.
 
Students spend their first two terms completing the required curriculum with a “section” of 90 students to which they are assigned. This group of students takes all first-year classes together and becomes an intellectual and social circle. During the second year, students choose up to five courses per semester from a list of course offerings to build their elective curriculum of choice.
 
MBA Program Consideration Set:
  • Stretch Schools: None
  • Match Schools: Stanford, Chicago, Wharton, Columbia, Dartmouth
  • Safety Schools: Northwestern’s Kellogg School, MIT Sloan, Berkeley, Duke, Virginia
 
(found at http://poetsandquants.com/2010/12/09/harvard-business-school; accessed 2011/08)
 

 

HBS Videos

 
Please watch these videos to learn how two of Vince's clients gained admission to HBS.


 

HBS TOEFL policy

During my recent campus visit to Harvard Business School, I spoke to Eileen Chang from the HBS MBA Admissions Board. She covers East Asian countries, including Japan.

During our one-hour meeting in her office, she informed me of a new policy that HBS will be implementing from 2011.

New HBS TOEFL policy: If an applicant has taken TOEFL more than nine times, meaning 10 times or more, The Admissions Board will require a pre-interview over the phone before meeting an applicant for an official one-to-one admissions interview. In fact, Eileen said, The Board reserves the right to "cold call" an applicant in order to confirm his or her English skills even if the applicant has only taken TOEFL three or four times. 

When I met HBS Admissions Director Dee Leopold at the AIGAC Conference in June 2011, she confirmed this new policy. Then, I was informed that Ms. Chang repeated this policy during her June 12, 2011 presentation in Tokyo.

It seems HBS is trying to send a clear message that applicants should stop taking real TOEFL exams as practice.

Vince's advice: Join an ongoing TOEFL class that teaches skills, not templates. One good example is Donald Miller's E4TG. Then, use mock exams to practice. Make every test count.

 


 

PREVIOUS DEADLINES

The application deadlines for the MBA Class of 2014 are:

Application Periods: Application submitted online by 12 noon Boston time: Notification of the MBA Admissions Board's decision:
Round 1 Monday, October 3, 2011 Monday, December 19, 2011
Round 2 Tuesday, January 10, 2012 Thursday, March 29, 2012
Round 3 Tuesday, April 10, 2012 Thursday, May 17, 2012

Please note that each "round" represents a distinct period in which you may apply, not a succession of steps for your application. You may apply in one round only, one time in an application year.

Given past experience, we anticipate that many candidates will submit their online application materials very close to 12 noon on submission deadline dates. To avoid heavy server traffic and potential delays, we encourage candidates to submit application materials as early as possible.

Applications received after 12 noon on October 3, 2011 will be considered in Round 2. Applications received after 12 noon on January 10, 2012 will be considered in Round 3. Applications received after 12 noon on April 10, 2012 will not be considered.

When Should I Apply?

To avoid overwhelming server traffic generated by the high volume of applications we receive, candidates are encouraged to submit their application as early as possible prior to the deadline of each round.

We encourage applicants to apply in the first or second round, as space in the class may be limited by the third round. In addition, applying in the earlier rounds will give candidates more time to address the following:

  • International candidates needing visas will find that applying in Round 3 makes the timing of their visa application stressful.
  • International candidates admitted in Rounds 1 and 2 find that it's helpful to have the additional time to work on English proficiency.
  • Some candidates may be required to complete preliminary course work prior to their enrollment.
  • Many deadlines for outside (non-Harvard Business School) fellowships are in early spring. Only students who have been accepted are eligible for these fellowships.
  • Financial aid is available regardless of when students are admitted. However, since admitted students may apply for financial aid only after they are admitted Round 3 admits have less time to prepare their application.
  • Harvard Business School residence halls and Harvard University-affiliated apartments are assigned by lottery. Deadlines for both of these housing options precede Round 3 notification, and you must be admitted to HBS before you can enter these lotteries.

(found at http://www.hbs.edu/mba/admissions/applicationdates.html; accessed 2011/06)

 


 

ESSAYS

HBS Essays (MBA applicants only):

All application questions below are required.

  • Tell us about three of your accomplishments. (600 words)
  • Tell us three setbacks you have faced. (600 words)
  • Why do you want an MBA? (400 words)
  • Answer a question you wish we'd asked. (400 words)

Joint degree applicants:

  • How do you expect the joint degree experience to benefit you on both a professional and a personal level? (400 words)

(found at http://www.hbs.edu/mba/admissions/writtenapplication.html; accessed 2011/05)

 


 

VINCE'S HBS ESSAY TIPS

 
If you plan to apply to Tuck, I suggest you write those essays first because the essay topics will apply to other schools, including HBS. Tuck also allows flexible word limits, which helps since it is often easier to write a long essay than a short one.

Kellogg is another good first essay set because the essays are typical (except for essay 3) and the word limits for goals and leadership essays are more generous than HBS.

If you are not considering Tuck or Kellogg, you might consider brainstorming, outlining and drafting Harvard essays now.

Aside from the strict word limits, which you should ignore for now, HBS offers a decent mix of stories to tackle for your first essay set.

The HBS set requires you to share at least seven stories about the past, plus your future goals / why you need an MBA.
  1. three accomplishments, which can include stories that show your leadership and teamwork skills, as well as your technical and analytical skills
  2. three setbacks, which demonstrate your perseverance and ability to learn valuable life lessons
  3. one balance topic (“Answer a question you wish we'd asked”) that allows you to highlight a story that demonstrates a unique selling point
  4. why you need an MBA
How will you identify the ideal mix of seven or eight stories to include? Please read my tips below to learn more about my counseling style and approach to HBS essays.

Please note, HBS does not number their essays. To help you follow my analysis, I will number them as follows:

Essay 1: Tell us about three of your accomplishments. (600 words)
Essay 2: Tell us three setbacks you have faced. (600 words)
Essay 3: Why do you want an MBA? (400 words)
Essay 4: Answer a question you wish we'd asked. (400 words)

First of all, please note that HBS adcoms now require all applicants to answer the same four essay questions. This is a significant change. For the past few years, you were asked to select several questions from a list of options. By removing this step, the Board now sends a clear message about what types of stories they want you to tell. Next, I assume that HBS adcoms might have wanted all you to answer the same questions in order to standardize their admissions criteria since they can now compare the same four essays across the entire applicant pool. This strategy mirrors Stanford GSB and MIT Sloan.

 
 
 
ESSAY ORDER
 
I advise my clients to answer “Why MBA?” first, followed by “three accomplishments”, then “three setbacks.” Save the “choice” essay for last.

Here is my suggested order for answering the 2014 HBS Essay Questions:

Essay 3: Why do you want an MBA? (400 words)
Essay 1: Tell us about three of your accomplishments. (600 words)
Essay 2: Tell us three setbacks you have faced. (600 words)
Essay 4: Answer a question you wish we'd asked. (400 words)

Start with your goals ("Why MBA?") story. Why? Two reasons.
 
First, it will set the tone for your entire essay set. the process of answering the question will clarify your motivations. By assessing your skills and identifying gaps in your personal and professional development, you can set the stage for the other essays in the HBS essay set. That said, you should ignore the 400-word limit for now. Just write.

Second, I advise my clients to answer "Why MBA?" questions first because all other essays are logically dependent on them. In other words, you cannot decide what accomplishments and setbacks to highlight until you know your purpose in applying to school. Accomplishments make your goals sound believable. Setbacks make you human and allow the reader to want to root for your continued success.

Here are my methods for answering HBS Essay 3: "Why do you want an MBA? (400 words)

I love helping clients write HBS goals essays because they require self-reflection. I am somewhat introverted myself, so I enjoy helping others get in touch with their inner voice and guiding principles.

At the risk of over-simplifying, I would say that HBS adcoms look for applicants that can lead their current industries. Stanford might look for you that have the potential to create new industries. How can you combine existing best practices from different disciplines to impact lives and change communities for the better?

A good goals essay should be both believable and exciting.

Here is how I help my clients write 400-word “Why MBA?” HBS essays that get results.

First, a bit of history. HBS made goals essays optional when they  introduced the 2+2 program in 2006. Now, they are required, but the question has been simplified.

Before writing their "Why MBA?" essay, my clients usually create (or update) their resume. Here are my
best resume tips.
 
 
THE POWER OF DIALOGUE
 
My clients answer the “Why MBA?” through a series of dialogues. Dialogue is the most powerful tool in figuring out your life goals. I ask my clients to tell me:
  • What are you good at now?
  • What do you want to do right after earning your MBA?
  • What do you want to do after that?
  • Why are you not able to achieve these short and long term goals now?
  • What skills do you need to develop to achieve your goals? In other words, what critical weak points do you need to overcome before realizing your leadership potential?
  • Why is MBA the best place to develop the skills that you need?
  • Why is this school your best fit?
  • Why you? What is your deeper motivation?
 
Next, send Vince several options for your short and long term goals. After discussing your ideas, you can choose and focus on one set of short and long term goals. Ideally, your long term goal represents the next logical step after completing your short term goal.

 
Why MBA?

First, identify what skills you need from your MBA.

What are your strengths and weaknesses? (Please see this link for comprehensive tools
http://www.vinceprep.com/interviews/strengthsweaknesses)

Can you create a skills-based argument?

For example,
  • I need technical skills such as: finance and accounting
  • I need analytical skills: corporate strategy, strategic planning (long term thinking)
  • I need interpersonal skills: to lead cross-cultural and cross-functional team (organizational behavior) to motivate experts in finance, accounting, sales, marketing, engineering, and operations....
     
Study the HBS curriculum

http://www.delicious.com/admissions/curriculum+hbs

For example
  • Still, I need an MBA from HBS to create the right partnership model, secure and manage the JV funding and scale my new venture to cover demand in Japan and eventually other parts of Asia. To capitalize on my idea, I plan to use my time at HBS to explore the right JV partnership, funding and profit sharing schemes, and develop supply-demand optimizing models.


Why now?

Why do you need an MBA now? Why is this the ideal timing to pursue formal management training in a full-time program? Why is this the right time to study management in a two-year, full-time graduate school program?

You need to answer this question directly, but your answer can be short (two sentences). Think about:

 
  • Internal factors (pushing you to get an MBA now): I have mastered certain technical, analytical and/or interpersonal skills; I am now ready to develop my skills and knowledge in new (specific) areas as stated above
  • External factors (pulling you to get an MBA now): what makes this the ideal market timing for implementing your great business idea after you earn your MBA from this particular school?
For more hints, please see http://www.delicious.com/admissions/Ynow
 
Short term goal

Outline your short term goal (STG). Your readers (admissions committee members, aka adcoms) want to confirm the following:
  • Are you qualified (credible)?
  • Are you competitive (ambitious)?
  • Are you a good fit for their program (aware of how your own strengths and weaknesses relate to those of their program)?
 
Start with your direct goal on graduation. Adcoms want to see a goal that is both believable and ambitious. If your goal is simply to continue what you are doing now, that is too realistic. It is a waste of a Harvard MBA. If your goal, however, is to do something radically different from what you are doing now, and there is not a clear sense of how you are going to get there, that is too ambitious.  Many of my clients use MBA to change careers. Others want to lead their current industry.

Having a detailed short term goal is also crucial to explain how this school best prepares you to achieve your goals.

 
Long term goal

Outline your long term goal. This is your mission in life. Try to show that you are confident to achieve these goals with or without business school (though earning your MBA from their school certainly increases the scale and scope of your future success)

Your long term goal can be general, but should still express your visions and insights about the industry you would like to work in, perhaps in 10 years

A good LTG = the logical next step after your STG

For example

 
  • After growing Tokyo operations to 200-300 staff within 5-10 years, I will expand my service into other parts of Asia.


Why HBS?

Adcoms do not ask you why they want a MBA from HBS, but I still advise you to write a few concise and salient reasons why they feel Harvard is the best fit.

Start by making a complete list of all the things that can help you achieve your short and long term goals.

1. Curriculum / professor (1 or 2)
2. Special programs (1 or 2)
3. Network / student culture (1 or 2)

Use "BEST / ONLY" logic: "I could confirm my interest in School X through my ongoing conversations with Mr. FirstName LastName (Class of '07), who told me about (specific aspect of school). This perfectly fits my (specific goal / learning objective) because..."

Use a combination of logic and emotion to convince them of your “fit” with the school
Passion is SHOWN through detailed examples that prove you have done your homework.

HBS’s unique combination of
  • Curriculum / professor(s)
  • Special programs
  • People
 

...best prepares me to (restate goals)...

I suggest you focus on “people", such as a particular professor, current students and/or alumni.

For example

  • I have known Mr. A before, during, and after he attending School X's MBA program. I saw how it impacted him in terms of (specific hard and soft skills). I have also seen how he applied those new skills and perspectives in his career. I hope to have a similar transformative experience that only (this program) can provide.
     


Next, be sure to show that you have done your homework by reaching out to current students and alumni. Just be careful not to waste their time. They are busy and receive many such inquiries. Instead, ask if they agree with an idea you have, and ask for any suggestions or tips to help you make your idea better.

Finally, synthesize your findings into a few sentences that prove your “fit” with HBS.

For example

 

  • I could confirm my interest in HBS through my ongoing conversations with Mr. FirstName LastName (Class of '07), who told me about (specific aspect of school). This perfectly fits my (specific goal / learning objective) because...
  • Through my recent campus visit and ongoing networking with X (‘09) and Y (‘11), I am convinced that only Harvard gives me the skills necessary to break through my company’s silo-based organizational structure. To persuade 40,000 professionals across different functions and cultures, I need to introduce new goal-based teamwork models to persuade entrenched opinion leaders to embrace changes that will yield new opportunities. I also recently participated in HBS Club of Japan’s Business Awards Ceremony, where I felt strong alumni bonds that extended across generations. After graduating from HBS, I plan to work with the executive director of The HBS Japan Research Center to transform my company into the world’s most innovative SCM service provider.


Need more hints? Check out Vince's links here http://www.delicious.com/admissions/YSX

 


 

ESSAY 1

 

"Tell us about three of your accomplishments. (600 words)"


For nearly ten years, I have helped clients write about their accomplishments in HBS MBA essays.

Even the successful ones get stuck. Clients often ask me the following questions:

A. How do I identify the three best accomplishments to include?
B. How do I explain each accomplishment in a way that is clear and interesting for my readers?
C. How do I present the most impressive mix of achievements and personal characteristics?
D. How can I persuade adcoms that I will succeed at their school, and achieve my future goals?

I will answer each concern below, one by one.

A. How do I identify the three best accomplishments to include?

First, ask yourself some thought provoking questions as you begin brainstorming which stories to include in your answer to HBS’ “three accomplishments” question:

1. What moments in your life made you feel truly proud?
2. What are the most pivotal decisions you have made in your life? Think about the turning points that made you who you are today. These could include academic, personal and professional successes.
3. How have you helped others? You can emphasize accomplishments earned you praise and awards, but adcoms also like to read accomplishment stories that involve mentoring, training and supporting others. After all, you are getting an MBA in order to learn how to lead organizations. You might want to select a story that shows your current leadership ability.

Make a list of eight to ten options, with a brief explanation of each one (beginning, middle and end).

Then, share your ideas with Vince ASAP. Vince will provide feedback based on what the Admissions Board wants to hear. Through a series of conversations, Vince will help you determine which stories present the best balance of personal and professional, growth and mastery.

B. How do I explain each accomplishment in a way that is clear and interesting for my readers?

When you tell a leadership story, be sure not to skip the turning point. How did you convince others to do something that they did not want to do? Show the step-by-step details. It is never easy to change someone’s mind. How did you get your boss, coworker or client to agree with your idea? What obstacles did you face, and how did you overcome them? Show tension. Build drama. It keeps your reader interested, and it makes your accomplishment sound significant.

C. How do I balance my accomplishments to convince adcoms of my ability to succeed at their school and to achieve my future goals?

Try to include at least one accomplishment that demonstrates your leadership ability. You might also find an accomplishment that highlights your teamwork skills.

Accomplishments can emphasize concrete, quantifiable results. They can also show impact, how you changed yourself or others.

Impact stories can include stories that display leadership and teamwork.

Clients often ask me to help them differentiate between leadership and teamwork. I believe that accomplishment stories should emphasize results (quantitative) and impact (qualitative). Next, leadership stories prove your future management potential, and your ability to achieve your goals. Finally, teamwork stories demonstrate your ability to get along with peers and to contribute to MBA life.

 

What is leadership?

I believe that leaders display some combination of integrity, self-awareness, courage, responsibility, intellectual curiosity and tolerance for ambiguity. They motivate and develop others, create and articulate a vision, and communicate effectively. They also balance multiple constituencies, identify and capture opportunities, and envision new approaches and possibilities.

We study great leaders in business, politics, literature and popular culture. Think of leaders from classic films like "Saving Private Ryan", "The Godfather", ""Dead Poet's Society", "Lord of Rings", "Schindler's List", “Star Wars”, and "Erin Brockovich". (Add your own favorite title here.)

More hints here:
http://www.delicious.com/admissions/brainstorming_leadership
 

 

What is teamwork?

One dictionary defines teamwork as "a joint action by a group of people, in which each person subordinates his or her individual interests and opinions to the unity and efficiency of the group."

I often discuss movies with my clients. I ask them to think of a favorite sports movie, like “Slap Shot”, “The Bad News Bears”, “Miracle”, or my personal favorite, “Remember the Titans.”

Since I have a young son, I spend a lot of time watching children’s movies. Many of them include themes of teamwork. I am thinking of “A Bug’s Life”, “Finding Nemo”, and “Toy Story”.

Need more hints? Here is my favorite team-building website:
http://www.teachmeteamwork.com/teachmeteamwork/news

More hints here: http://www.delicious.com/admissions/brainstorming_teamwork

Final note: HBS adcoms used to ask applicants, “What are your three most substantial accomplishments and why do you view them as such?”

They longer ask you to explain why you view each accomplishment as "most significant", but I encourage you to explain the logic behind each selection.



 


 
 

ESSAY 2

"Tell us three setbacks you have faced. (600 words)"

 


“Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising up every time we fail.” - Ralph Waldo Emerson

'You have learned something. That always feels at first as if you have lost something.' - George Bernard Shaw

 

Did you lose a job, a business deal, an important competition, or a loved one? How did you regain your confidence?

Failure, mistake, and setback stories are among the hardest admissions essays to write. My clients struggle to find the right stories that showcase their ability to survive and thrive in the face of obstacles and frustration. They also wonder how much responsibility to take for what happened, and how to prove that they have learned their lessons well.

In past years, the HBS Admissions Board (adcoms) required you to discuss what they have learned from a (single) mistake. Now, you must explain three setbacks in only 600 words. As always, ignore the word limits when you begin brainstorming and drafting your answers.

 
In general, adcoms ask about failures, mistakes, and setbacks in order to assess the applicant's maturity and teamwork skills. The Harvard MBA experience requires you to work alongside the same 90 peers for an entire year. Your cohort becomes your family. The group self-regulates. If you are rude or inconsiderate to others, the group will ostracize you.
 
Adcoms act as gatekeepers. They need to select students who will contribute their ideas without intimidating others. Fifty percent of HBS grades are based on class participation. Adcoms work hard to ensure that they admit students who will make meaningful contributions to class discussions. For this reason, HBS adcom interviewers sometimes ask questions that are designed to make you defensive. They want to see if you can clarify your ideas without overreacting. In a similar way, in this year's essay questions, HBS adcoms are asking you to share three setback stories because they want to understand:
 
  • How do you react when you do not get what you want?
  • Can you remain flexible and optimistic when you face unexpected obstacles?
  • Can you maintain a gracious attitude as you watch your best laid plans come to nothing?

 


 
 
What is a setback?
 
Some dictionaries define a setback as an unanticipated or sudden reversal or check in progress. The word “setback” implies a change from better to worse. It usually involves an unfortunate happening that hinders or impedes. Setbacks often cause us to feel frustrated or defeated.
 
Is a setback your fault? Not always. We encounter setbacks at the hands forces beyond our control: disease, natural disasters, and acts of war. Other times, we are intentionally or unintentionally blocked by others. Worst of all, we sometimes get in our own way. Did you hinder your progress due to your own misjudgment, carelessness, or forgetfulness? Did you fail to consider some outcome that others could have seen? Were you overly optimistic about your ability, or the ability of others?

Whether the setback was due to your error, or whether it was no one’s fault, your outlook matters most. Can you view setbacks as opportunities for learning? If you view setbacks as insurmountable failures, you can become paralyzed. Can you change your mind set? Are you ready to move forward?

 
When I read a failure, setback or mistake essays, I ask myself:

1. Do I believe? Did this example truly cause pain to the writer? Is she sharing a real setback story, or using an accomplishment story she wrote for some other school?
2. Do I care? Were others affected? Was something damaged? (loss of money, loss of time, loss of reputation, loss of business)
3. Do I want to work with this person on a project or study team? Did she learn something real about herself because of this experience? Did she deepen her understanding about herself, or others? In the process of recovering from this setback, did she gain new hard or soft skills? Is she resilient? Can she prove her learning by sharing another example to show how she applied the lessons she learned from this setback?

Many good setback stories involve personal transformation. Did you change your role (external change) and/or your attitude toward people or problems (internal change)? Did you become more aware of your self-limiting tendencies or bad habits that hold you back from achieving your full potential? Are you now more able to recognize and compensate for personal limitations that might otherwise lead to future mistakes or setbacks?

 
To show personal transformation, try adding details that display a clear "before" and "after".
 
BEFORE - how you were   
AFTER - how you changed   
IMPACT  - how does this accomplishment prepare to contribute to MBA life and achieve your  career goals?

 

Here are some questions to get you started.
  • Did you face setbacks when working as a team member?
  • Did you encounter significant challenges when working cross-functionally?
  • Did you face setbacks when working cross-culturally?
  • Did you struggle to manage your time, or the time of others?
  • Did details overwhelm you?
  • Did you fail to consider the larger context of your actions?
  • Did you face a setback because you were afraid to present bad news to others?
  • Did you face a setback because you were afraid to confront others about some important issue?
  • Did you procrastinate beginning new tasks?
  • Did you lose energy in the middle of an important project?
  • Did you face a setback because you were impatient?
  • Did you encounter a setback because you were unable to persuade your subordinates?
  • Did you lose valuable time or fail to achieve a desired result because you could not influence your seniors?
  • Did you fail to close an important project or deal because of your lack of technical, analytical or interpersonal skills?

Business and self-help books are full of other cliches, like “Winners never quit and quitters never win”, and “If at first you don't succeed, try, try again.” While they seem over-used, these aphorisms contain wisdom.

A popular motivational speaker named Willie Jolley recently wrote a best-selling book called “A setback is a setup for a comeback.” He emphasizes “faith, focus, and follow-through." Here is an edited excerpt that might help you organize your ideas and write your “three setbacks” essay for HBS.
 
How to Survive and Thrive Through any Business Setback: The four-step Process of Turning a Setback into a Comeback by Willie Jolley   
 
Has your business ever had a setback? Of course it has. Perhaps your right-hand person left to work for your biggest competitor. Maybe your top sales person quit without notice and took a few key accounts away. Even worse, perhaps you lost everything because of a bad business decision.
 
Whatever happened, whether it was a large or small setback, how you dealt with the issue most likely determined where you are today. Those who realize the setbacks are simply part of the business process usually thrive, while those who dwell on the problems of setbacks routinely falter.
 
A setback is a change that needs to occur in order to move forward. No matter what industry you're in, you're bound to have things change. The key is to remember that these temporary setbacks can empower you to reach greater levels of future business success. No matter what obstacle has plagued your business, following this four-step process can help you survive and thrive.
 
 
1. Focus Your Vision
 
Where you focus your energy determines where you will go. If you focus on the setbacks and challenges it brought you, your business can't move forward. However, when you focus on what you want your business to become, then you are using the setback as a transition.
 
 
2. Make a Decision
 
Both success and failure are decisions. Once your vision is in place, you have to decide you're going to win despite the setback. The truth is, successful business people choose to be successful. They understand that decision and choice are integral parts of the success formula.
 
 
3. Take Action
 
A decision without action is simply an illusion, and an action without a vision is mere confusion. Yet, a vision plus decisive action can change the world.
 
Unfortunately, many business people never act on their decisions. While they have the best of intentions, they lack the determination and persistence that comes with taking action.
 
By taking action on a decision, you're also taking responsibility for the setback. Once you take responsibility for your actions, you're ready to move forward and attain your next goal.
 
 
4. Keep the Desire
 
Desire is the degree of energy you're willing to exert in order to reach your goal. Many business people give up because their desire falters. Either a new idea strikes them and they lose focus, or they encounter another minor setback and become discouraged. In order to reach the new business goal you have set for yourself, you must have the desire to follow through with every action, even if it involves a degree of risk. While taking a risk might be intimidating, especially after a setback, it's a necessary ingredient to reaching your new business goal.
 
All successful business people have had setbacks. If you view a setback as a chance for future growth, you can bring every challenge to a positive outcome, and make a stunning comeback.
 
(found at http://www.allbusiness.com/management/786751-1.html; accessed 2011/07)
 
Need a break? If you get stuck while brainstorming, outlining, drafting, revising, or editing your setback essay, you might find it helpful to watch one of these famous “setback” movies.
  • Rocky I (1976) and Rocky II (1979)
  • Chariots of Fire (1981)
  • Cars (2006)

In each one, the characters encounter and overcome significant setbacks, and emerge stronger.

Still stuck? Here are some good brainstorming sites:
http://del.icio.us/admissions/brainstorming_failure


 

 

ESSAY 4

"Answer a question you wish we'd asked. (400 words)"

HBS ends their set of four required essays by asking you to make a choice. What story best balances your overall application? You might re-use a favorite essay from another school's application, but be sure to chose the one that best represents your selling points.

Stories related to accomplishments and setbacks would add little value.

Try to include a story that only you can tell. It can cover an ordinary topic, but be sure to demonstrate your ability to go above and beyond expectations to add value to your community, and society as a whole.

Many of you will write about personal topics, but be sure to balance the contents of this essay with the personal accomplishments and setbacks presented in essays one and two.

Some of you might decide to write 400 words about why they wish to attend HBS, or how they plan to contribute to the school. Does such a story represent you at your best? Does the Admissions Board want to read about Harvard? They work there. Why do they want to read about their employer? HBS essays are not reviewed by current students, and the adcom members we have met are quite confident about the quality of the HBS MBA degree. Be careful.

Depending on what stories and examples you have told in other essays, you might consider answering a question like, “What do you do outside of work?” or “How do you add value to your community?”

 

 

21 DEC UPDATE

 

To help you brainstorm possible questions to ask yourself, then answer in Essay 4, I collected previous HBS essay questions from 2005-2010 that the Admissions Board did NOT ask this year.

Perhaps one of them could form the basis for your answer. Just be sure you are not repeating anything you already said in your previous answers.



HBS MBA Class of 2013

  • Tell us about a time in your professional experience when you were frustrated or disappointed.
  • When you join the HBS Class of 2013, how will you introduce yourself to your new classmates?
     


HBS MBA Class of 2012

  • What would you like the MBA Admissions Board to know about your undergraduate academic experience?
  • Tell us about a time when you made a difficult decision.
  • Write a cover letter to your application introducing yourself to the Admissions Board.



HBS MBA Class of 2011

  • Discuss how you have engaged with a community or organization.
  • What area of the world are you most curious about and why?
     


HBS 2+2 Class of 2011

  • How have you experienced culture shock?
  • Discuss a defining experience in your leadership development. How did this experience highlight your strengths and weaknesses?
  • What global issue is most important to you and why?



HBS MBA Class of 2008

  • Discuss a defining experience in your development as a leader.
  • In your career, you will have to deal with many ethical issues. What are likely to be the most challenging and what is your plan for developing the competencies you will need to handle these issues effectively?
  • What are your strengths and weaknesses as a leader?



HBS MBA Class of 2007

  • Provide a candid assessment of your strengths and weaknesses.

 

 

 
 
 

RECOMMENDATION LETTERS

 
 
Recommendation Instructions
Please answer the following questions in a separate document and upload that document into the system. 
• Most recommendations are 1-2 pages in length, but you are welcome to write more if you wish. 
• Single-space your responses. 
• Please include the question or question number in your response. 
 
Recommendation Questions
  1. Please comment on the context of your interaction with the applicant. If applicable, briefly describe the applicant's role in your organization. (250 words)
  2. How does the candidate's performance compare to other well-qualified individuals in similar roles? (250 words)
  3. Please describe the most important piece of constructive feedback you have given the applicant. Please detail the circumstances and the applicant's response. (250 words)
  4. Please make additional statements about the applicant's performance, potential, or personal qualities you believe would be helpful to the MBA Admissions Board. (250 words)
(found at http://www.hbs.edu/mba/admissions/writtenapplication.html; accessed 2011/08)    
 

 


 

THE HBS INTERVIEW

 
VINCE'S TIPS
 
First, please review HBS's Interview FAQ for useful tips ▸ http://www.hbs.edu/mba/admissions/interviews/faq.html
 
HBS AdComs claim that you cannot prepare for their interviews since the questions are never the same. The fact is, you CAN and SHOULD prepare for your HBS interview, but not in the same way you would prepare for a blind interview like you will experience with Wharton, Stanford, Kellogg, Columbia, Chicago, or Tuck. 
 
How to prepare? I encourage my clients to start by analyzing their applications from an outside perspective. What will others view as your weak points?
 
Here are some other tips:
  • As you listen to the question, start asking yourself, "how can I bring this back to my core message / key selling points?" 
  • In other words, structure any answer to eventually lead to stories that you know you want to tell from the outset.
  • List the key points you wish to make (key words of your main strengths / selling points, with examples/stories you want to be sure to tell them before the interview is finished).
  • Take a few slow deep breaths before you speak.
  • Take control of the situation.
  • Remember, about 93 percent of your communication in non-verbal so pay close attention to the signals you may be sending through your body language and vocal cues.
  • When responding to the "loaded question," it is best not to rephrase and repeat what you heard. Loaded questions are often confrontational and filled with negative language.
  • The worst thing you can do is get defensive or hostile in your voice or body. In your own words, relate to the issue and be concise. You may want to begin with something like, "I wouldn't describe the situation like that." A statement like this to begin with will also allow you to buy a little time think through your response.
  • The bottom-line: Prepare yourself!
  • In any situation always remember to respond rather than react.
  • Don't let your defenses get the best of you. Remain calm and take some slow deep breaths so you can think before you speak. How you say what you say really does matter.
 
You are welcome to read the reports below, but PLEASE remember that HBS adcoms will prepare questions JUST FOR YOU based on what you sent them. 
 
 

 
 

HBS Interview Reports

 

R1 applicant w/ AdCom in Tokyo 11/21 2009

Location: HBS Tokyo Research Center

Questions:

  1.  Tell me about your professional experience
  2.  What did you learn from your experience in previous assignment?
  3.  Who helped you to build network with government?
  4.  Tell me about your recent projects
    •  What is the difficult part of the project?
    •  How do your think about your recent projects?
  5.  What is your long term goal?
  6.  Tell me more about the company you’re planning to establish.
  7.  How to you view HBS?
  8.  What are you good at (strengths)?
  9.  What are you not good at (weaknesses)?
  10.  How will you prepare for HBS case study in term of communication?
  11.  How do you think about your quantitative skill?
  12.  If you can visit a place where you’ve never visited, where do you like to go?
    •  Will your company allow you to go there?
  13.  Is there anything you’d like to add?
  14.  What is you favorite sport?

 

R1 applicant w/ AdCom in Shanghai 11/24 2009

Date: Sat, Nov 24, 2009
Location: Shanghai
Interviewer: AdCom

The interview was a little bit different from what I expected. Overall, I did not get stuck and I was honest (in a good way) so no matter what the outcome is, I am happy. Thank you for your support.
The interviewer had been with HBS Admissions for more than 12 years and also presented at the Reception. She first told me that the Admissions Board has read the application and has come up with some questions, and to bear with her because she might stop me during my answer or jump to random questions. I do not remember all the questions but I think below covers 70% of them (I especially remember the ones that I didn't expect.

  1. How is your work these days?
  2. What is your leadership like?
  3. As a student coming from Japan, how do you think other HBS students will view Japan and how can you contribute?
  4. Is there anything we have not touched that you need to tell me?
  5. What are your concerns if you were to attend HBS?
  6. What is the most important thing you have learned at your work?
  7. What do you like the most about your job?
  8. Which country, other than the ones you have been to, would you want to go?
  9. If you can do anything tomorrow, what do you want to do? She added that she wants to intentionally keep it broad.
  10. What are you most proud of ? Again, she said that she wants to keep it broad.

Overall, she did not ask for the typical questions on achievement, failure, leadership but it seemed like she was testing my personal side.
I won't hear anything from them until Dec. 15.

 


R2 applicant w/ adcoms in Tokyo 2/27 2009

I just finished HBS R2 interview. The interviewer was adcom. She was very friendly and conversational. However, I sensed some formalness behind the nice smile. I noticed she didn't go into details on why why why, but rather a whole range of different questions. The best thing I can say is to be prepared for the basic interview questions.

  1. Tell me about your past, present, and future.
  2. Do you like your job?
  3. How do you manage a conflict?
  4. Explain your typical day.
  5. Give me 3 traits that your boss would say to describe you.
  6. What would your boss say is your weakness?
  7. Give me 3 traits that your friends would say to describe you.
  8. What motivates you?
  9. What is the biggest risk you have taken?
  10. What do you do in your free time?
  11. Is there a misconception of you from other people?
  12. Surprise me.
  13. Any questions you wish I had asked?
  14. Any questions for me?

 

R2 applicant w/ adcoms in Tokyo 2/25 2009

  1. Past Experience (Including why I made those choice).
  2. The things you like about your work.
  3. Why you think your company is focus to people rather than organization.
  4. Tell me more about your first task (sales activity).
  5. Tell me about the risk that you currently took.
  6. Describe your typical day.
  7. 5 ways your supervisor describes you.
  8. What will you do if you have to choose other profession?
  9. The time people misperceived you
  10. The interesting conversation you had within a week.
  11. Please surprise me.
  12. Anything you would like to talk about? (I told her about my goals and also why MBA + HBS).
  13. Questions? (I could only ask one question).

 

 


Frequency Analysis of Harvard Business School Interview Questions

Based on a sampling of interviews conducted with Japan-based applicants since 2000

 

 

 

A

B

C

1

Genre

Question

#

2

Introduction

Tell me briefly about your career to date.

8

3

Goals

Tell ma about your future career goal.

4

4

What motivates you?

2

5

Why MBA

Why do you need MBA?

4

6

Why HBS?

2

7

Job

Why did you choose your present job?  

2

8

Tell me more about your first task.

3

9

What are your job responsibilities?

2

10

Explain your typical day.

3

11

What are good things with your work in XXXX?

6

12

Do you have any problems with your present job?

7

13

What changes would you make to your organization and why?

2

14

How do you manage a conflict?

2

15

Tell me about your recent project.

2

16

What is the difficult point in that project?

2

17

Why do you think you were chosen as a corporate-sponsored MBA candidate?

2

18

Leadership

How did you lead a team to a success?  

6

19

Tell me about your leadership style.

2

20

How would people describe your leadership style?

2

21

Tell me about a leader you respect and why?

3

22

Take me through your leadership resume.

2

23

Relationship

Give me 3 traits that your boss would say to describe you as.

2

24

Show me example when you grew a subordinate effectively.

2

25

How do you interact with people you do not like?

3

26

How did you cope with that situation?

2

27

Is there a misperception of you from other people?

2

28

The difference of your reputation between before and after somebody knew you.

2

29

Experience

Tell me about a failure and what you learned from it.

4

30

What is the biggest risk you have taken?

4

31

How did you become interested in… (from resume)?

2

32

What did you do most earnestly at college?

2

33

Life in HBS

Many people says that they worry about case studies. How about you?

3

34

What do you think are the challenges for you in HBS?

5

35

What contributions will you make to HBS, your classmates?  

3

36

Who would you like to sit next to during class?

3

37

Application

How did you feel about your application process?

2

38

What was the most difficult aspect about the application process?

2

39

How did you prepare for the interview?

6

40

Why did you pick your recommenders?

2

41

Did you apply to any other school?

2

42

Future

If you were to write a book 20 years from now, what will you write about?

4

43

How would you like to be remembered?

2

44

Finishing Q's

Any questions you wish I had asked? (what do you want to tell the interviewer that you have not already mentioned?)

7

45

Surprise me (a different variation on "any questions you wish I had asked you" in other words, your chance to tell something new about yourself that you hope will leave a strong final impression)

3

46

Any questions for me? (your chance to ask the interviewer some questions)

 

12

 

 

Need more reports? Here are some reliable sources

Clear Admit wiki: http://www.clearadmit.com/wiki/index.php?title=HarvardInterview

Accepted's Searchable database: http://www.accepted.com/mba/interviews/search.asp?bhcp=1

Also check here: http://delicious.com/admissions/hbs+interview_reports

Other interview tips: Vince's Interview Blog

and be sure to read

How NOT To Blow Your Harvard Interview | Poets and Quants http://bit.ly/fg0U4r

 

Need more hints?
 
Please read my colleague Adam's excellent post http://adam-markus.blogspot.com/2009/10/hbs-mba-interviews.html

 


 

HBS Videos

Please watch these videos to learn how two of Vince's clients gained admission to HBS.

 

 


 

CRITERIA

Admissions Criteria

Genuine business talent cannot be narrowly defined. Instead of looking for an "ideal" candidate, HBS invites applicants who exhibit a variety of skills, accomplishments, and temperaments. The true common characteristics of our students are demonstrated leadership potential and a capacity to thrive in a rigorous academic environment.

Indeed, to create the most stimulating environment possible for all students, we consciously select a diverse student body, one that not only reflects a variety of backgrounds, cultures, and nationalities, but also a wide range of personal interests and professional ambitions.

1. A Habit of Leadership

We recognize — and welcome — leadership that may be expressed in many forms, from college extracurricular activities to academic or business achievements, from personal accomplishments to community commitments. We appreciate leadership on any scale as well, from organizing a classroom to directing a combat squad, from running an independent business to spearheading initiatives at work. In essence, we are looking for evidence of your potential - a portfolio of experiences, initiatives, and accomplishments that reflect a habit of leadership.

2. Capacity for Intellectual Growth

Harvard Business School is a demanding, fast-paced, and highly-verbal environment. We look for individuals who will thrive on sophisticated ideas and lively discussion. Our case-based method of learning depends upon the active participation of prepared students who can assess, analyze, and act upon complex information within often-ambiguous contexts. The MBA Admissions Board will review your prior academic performance, the results of the GMAT or GRE, and, if applicable, TOEFL IBT and/or IELTS, and the nature of your work experience. There is no particular previous course of study required to apply; you must, however, demonstrate the ability to master analytical and quantitative concepts.

3. Engaged Community Citizenship

So much of our MBA experience - including the case method, section life, and student-organized events - requires the active collaboration of the entire HBS community. That's why we look for students who exhibit the highest ethical standards and respect for others, and can make positive contributions to the MBA Program. The right candidates must be eager to share their experiences, support their colleagues, and teach as well as learn from their peers.

Please note that there is no minimum or maximum work experience requirement for the MBA Program. Successful candidates are able to demonstrate strength in the criteria outlined above, regardless of their number of years of work experience.

It is important for you to assess your own readiness when deciding when to apply


(found at http://www.hbs.edu/mba/admissions/admissioncriteria.html; accessed 2011/07)

 

 


 

HOW TO GET INTO HBS AND STANFORD GSB: TWO LEADING MBA ADMISSIONS CONSULTANTS SHARE THEIR EXPERTISE

On March 26, 2011, my friend and colleague Adam Markus and I held a joint presentation on admission to HBS and Stanford for Japanese applicants. My presentation focused on HBS and Adam's focused on Stanford. I think both presentations are worth your time and attention. Below is an edited transcript of my presentation. While some of this presentation is very specific to Japanese applicants at HBS, much of it applies to any applicant.

VINCE SPEAKS ABOUT THE HBS ADMISSIONS PROCESS
FROM HIS PERSONAL AND PROFESSIONAL PERSPECTIVE

Vince Ricci, one of Tokyo’s most experienced and successful MBA admissions consultants, shares some of his insights into what it takes to get into HBS. He will discusses common themes among the admitted candidate profiles, shares his knowledge of the application process, and provides some insights into how he has helped clients obtain admission to HBS.

 


HERE IS THE AUDIO FROM VINCE'S MARCH 2011 PRESENTATION

Adam Markus
I’d like to introduce Vince Ricci. Vince and I started working together in 2002.  Vince is someone who I think is really like, if somebody comes to me and they can’t work with me, I would want to send them to Vince.  For me it’s just like basically my clients use him for interview practice and he’s helped many of my clients get in the school.  We have separate businesses but we collaborate and we think it works because we really both believe I think that it’s a one-to-one process.  one of the things with Vince is the amount of care and attention that he gives to his clients is very one-to-one and it’s really intense and it’s great.  Without further ado, Vince Ricci.

Vince Ricci
Thank you Adam.  How are you all feeling today?  Doing okay?  I want to thank you.  We are really glad we could do this event.  As you know, we were supposed to be here a week ago and it’s been an amazing couple of weeks.  Amazing is not the right word.  Just happy to be alive, happy to be here, happy you guys could come, and thanks for giving up your free time on a weekend to hear us talk on and on about these particular two schools.  Thank you guys for coming.

Part 1: Introduction – Who is Vince?

Who am I?  As Adam said, I am an admissions coach, also known as an admissions counselor.  Adam and I have worked together, and we both started our admissions counseling careers at the same place and around the same time.  I have been in Japan since 2002.  

Why am I talking about Harvard?  I did not go to Harvard.  I went to that other school.  But like Adam, I have a track record of helping Japanese clients specially get into Harvard over the years and some have gone to Stanford as well.  In terms of Harvard, I am probably the only guy you will know or meet, perhaps, I’m ready to be proven wrong, but I am the only guy I know who has been admitted twice to Harvard University and not gone.  My wife thinks I am the biggest idiot in the world.  For my own personal reasons when I was 18 and when I was 29, I said, no, thank you to that particular university.  I know how to get in myself and I know how to help my clients get in.

Having said that, it is not easy.  A lot of this process is based on hard work.  You are here in March, which is good for you because it’s still a bit early, right.  The application is due October 1st for round 1 and January-something for round 2.  You have got time.  

The admissions process is absolutely like running a marathon.  It is absolutely a crushing experience to run 50 kilometers to cross the finish line and get admitted.  It’s early in the game.  You have got to pace yourself.  Today, you are here hopefully getting some good information and getting a clear perspective on what exactly you need to be doing for the next 6 to 9 months to cross the finish line and be admitted.

I work in Japan, but not exclusively with Japanese clients.  I do not have a popular blog.  I am not well-known outside Japan, I do not think.  I pretty much work with Japanese clients because I am here.  I have an office which is near the University of Tokyo, not on the campus, but in an apartment building nearby the campus.  I meet clients near The University of Tokyo because it happens to be located close to my home.  I do not live near The University of Tokyo, but I commute there because it is convenient for where my family lives in Tokyo.  

I also do a little bit of teaching at the University of Tokyo but only five times a year.  It is not my full-time job, but I do it because I enjoy teaching.  I teach technical writing to engineers, mostly masters and some Ph.D. level students.  I do the same thing I do with my clients.  I help those students over at The University of Tokyo write better and express themselves better.  It’s the same core skill set that I use in counseling MBA applicants.

In terms of Harvard, you can see in the handout that since 2002, I have helped 13 Japanese get admitted.  

RESULTS FOR CLIENTS VINCE HELPED
Since 2002, Vince helped a total of 13 Japanese get admitted to HBS (not including interview clients)
Since going independent in 2007, Vince helped 6 (not including interview clients)
Total admits per year
·       2013: 1
·       2012: 4
·       2011: 1
·       2009: 2
·       2008: 3
·       2005: 2

There have been others who were interview clients, some came to me just for interview, but I am not counting those.   

Since I went independent in 2007, I have helped 6.  Last year there were 5, including 1 for interview, but 4 just for the full-time – my full-time clients who I worked on for essays and interviews and recommendations and everything else.  There were 4 of those and 5 including 1 woman who came to be just for interview training.  You can see the numbers here.  There’s been years I have had 0.  There’s been years I have had as many as 4.  I do not know why that is, I just keep doing what I do, and it seems to be working out okay.  Every year there is 1 or 2 or more, most of you that can get into Harvard.

DISCLAIMER

I want to give you a lot of information today, but I wish to emphasize that I do not have any affiliation with Harvard University; I do not speak for them.  They do not probably know I exist and that’s fine.  I am an admissions advisor.  I am not an admissions gatekeeper.  I do not have any pull with them.  I never share client information or give names to the admissions office.  I have nothing to do with him. Rather, it simply a fact that I am helping you guys go through the application process.  Maybe it is obvious but I just thought make that clarification.  We got one email from a guy who asked, “Will there be admissions staff there?” No, it’s just us.  that way we can be more honest.  I think it’s better.

Today, I am going to cover six core topics. Here is the list:

·      Part 1: Introduction – Who is Vince?
·      Part 2: The Data – Who gets admitted?
·      Part 3: Admissions criteria  – What do they want?
·      Part 4: Breaking stereotypes
·      Part 5: The Application Process – Vince’s Methods
·      Part 6: Milestones – When do I start each task?



 


PART 2: THE DATA– WHO GETS ADMITTED?

HERE ARE PARTS TWO, THREE, FOUR, FIVE, AND SIX OF VINCE'S AUDIO

The first thing I want to do is go into the data.  As Adam said, Harvard is pretty transparent with the data and the top of this page 3 comes right from the Harvard website.  I did not make this up.  Of course, the Japan is not on the Harvard website. I have been collecting it from my former students, who have been very helpful and generous in getting data to me.

HBS Class of 2012 Preliminary Profile
(found online http://www.hbs.edu/mba/admissions/blog-all.html; accessed 2011/03)

As you can see, 2012 is the most recent that we have and these are the numbers.

YOU CAN FIND VINCE’S COMMENTS between THE ORIGINAL HBS DATA

Total MBA Enrollment 910
·       Applications 9,524
·       Admitted 11%

Harvard, so there is 910 in the enrolled and there were 9524 applications at an 11% admit rate, roughly double Stanford’s admit rate of 6.5%.  

Class Composition
·       Women 36%
·       International 34%
·       US Ethnic Minorities 23%

The HBS entering Class of 2012 is composed of 36% women. That means it is 64% male, right?  It’s 23% US ethnic minorities and 34% international.  I am guessing that if you got an honest answer out of the Harvard admissions committee, would they like to see those three numbers increase, they’d probably say yes.  They would love to have 50% women.  US MBA programs are the only graduate school, professional schools that aren’t balance.  Medical schools became roughly 50-50 more than 10 years ago.  Law schools, 3-year JD programs have been roughly balanced men and women for a long time.

MBA is the last holdout and I do not think admissions officers are happy about this necessarily.  They want to see 50-50.  It’s not equitable to have – there are only 36% women.  That’s my personal observation.  

International, I would assume they would probably like to have more like 40%.  When I look at this number, I would guess that they’d like to have more international students.  But at the same time they need really highly qualified people.  There is always a give and take. 

Countries represented 73
Undergraduate institutions represented 243
GMAT Score Range 510-790; Middle 50% GMAT Score Range 710-750; Average GMAT 724

You can see the average GMAT scores here.  You can see the number of countries represented, the number of universities represented.  I’m not going to read all that data because it’s all right there.  I’ll comment about GMAT scores in a little while though when I talk about the Japan side.

Citizenship
·       North America 70% (United States 66%)
·       Asia/South Pacific 13%
·       Europe 12%
·       Central/South America 3%
·       Africa 1%
·       Oceania 1%

In terms of citizenship, so you can see this is a real difference with London Business School or INSEAD. A lot of my clients want to go to Europe because you are not dealing with 70% English people at London Business School.  At Harvard you are dealing with 70% North Americans and of those 66% US.  We are talking – the other 4% are from Canada and Mexico basically.  That’s a lot of Americans.  if that’s what you want great.  if you really want a really global MBA, a truly global MBA, you may not want to go to Harvard.  I am just saying that, it’s just a fact.  Look at the data and you’ll see the European schools are really beating the American schools in this regard, and that’s again a reason why I think the American schools are clever and they need to adapt, I think you are going to see this 34% international rate going up.

You are already seeing more international cases at these business schools, cases focused on Japan, cases focused on India or other countries.  They are trying to internationalize their program because they have to.  that’s a bit about citizenship.  Asia 13%.  Japan, which you can see the numbers down below, is roughly 1%.  The other 12% that are coming from Asia/South Pacific are every other country in this region.  Europe is 12%, just a little bit behind Asia.  Central and South America 3%.  Africa 1%.  Oceania 1%.

Undergraduate Majors
·       Humanities/Social Sciences 43%
·       Engineering/Natural Sciences/Technical Disciplines 33%
·       Business 23%
·       Other 1%

Undergraduate majors: when I first start working with a new client, I often hear applicants say that they want an MBA because they did major in business, or they have never studied business.  This number shows you that doesn’t matter.  Not studying business in college is not a great reason to get an MBA.  If you want to study general management to become a manager, sure. But just because you studied law or whatever else you studied does mean that must get an MBA.  Business is not medicine.  I do not want a doctor operating on me who has never studied medicine.  But I’ll certainly do business with someone who doesn’t have an MBA.  As you can see, HBS students come from a relatively wide range of undergraduate majors.  A lot of engineering, natural sciences, and technical. The number one undergraduate major is humanities and social sciences, which is a broad field that can include many subjects.   

Pre-MBA Industry

  1. Consulting 22%

  2. Venture Capital/Private Equity 18% NOTE - According to Vince’s clients (current students) for class of 2013, % of PE is decreasing and social enterprise (Non-Profit) is increasing

  3. Financial Services 14% (Includes Investment Banking and Investment Management)

  4. Manufacturing 9%

  5. Non-Profit 7%

  6. Consumer Products 7%

  7. Healthcare/Biotech 6%

  8. High Tech/Communications 6%

  9. Military 5%

  10. Other Services 5%

I reorganized the MBA industry section after hearing some useful feedback from my former students who are currently at Harvard.  One of them suggested that I rank MBA industry in the order frequency, not alphabetically, as HBS does on its website.

You can see the top three pre-MBA industries are 22% consulting, 18% VC and PE, and 14% financial services.  His comment was that it sometimes feels like two-thirds of HBS students come from those top three industries - consulting, VC/PE and financial services. He said it feels like just about everybody you meet is from McKinsey.  It was kind of a joke, but you will certainly meet McKinsey people at HBS, and Stanford, and all of the top MBA programs.

A different client told me that this VC/PE number, 18%, is going down. He has no data yet, but he expects that when the 2013 admit data is published, you will see a drop in the percentage of students from venture capital and private equity, and an increase in the percentage of students who are engaged in social ventures, doing stuff in the non-profit or social sector. I do not think VC/PE is going to shrink to 2%, but he thinks it’s going to go down a bit.  That makes sense if you look at the economy in the last 2 years.  Private equity is a really tough space to be in the last few years with all kinds of problems that you are aware of as business people.  Social enterprise, which HBS calls non-profit, however, represents a great opportunity in a bad economy.  There is a lot of opportunity there. I thought his comment was interesting, and I wanted to pass it on to you.

You can see items 4 through 10 in the list above, there are a variety of various other manufacturing, non-profit, consumer, health/biotech, high-tech, military and other.  But the weight is really in the top 3 industries: consulting, VC/PE and financial services.

Again, this is Harvard’s public data, with my analysis. I encourage you all to go online and see this data for yourself.  It’s on the Harvard admissions blog.  As you may know, many admissions officers, including HBS, maintain their own blogs.  That’s where I found this HBS data.  

You can see a little shortened URL here ▸http://bit.ly/AdComBlog.  Those are my bookmarks.  Whenever I see a good admissions blog run by the admissions office, I bookmark it. There are now around 15 adcom blogs listed there, including Harvard.  Those are good sources of information.  They give you updates.  For example, they might write, “We sent out a bunch of interview invitations today.”  It’s like the way they message you and send you additional information.  It can get confusing though, because it adds another channel of information other than the school’s main admissions website.   

 

THE BEST APPLICANTS SHARE DATA WITH EACH OTHER

The other thing I want to point out about the information is that with information being freely distributed at this point with internet channels being free and accessible, I think one of the biggest challenges for applicants is to sort through all that information, and that’s I think why Adam’s blog is really great because he is actually reading everything and taking the time to write an extensive free resource.  I read Adam’s blog all the time.  I am trying to improve my own website but I have got a long way to go.  But there’s tons of information.  The other great thing about this process is that Japan being Japan, where teamwork is really emphasized, all of you had to go through “yobiko” or “juken” process to get admitted to university, almost all of you.

The whole aspect of sharing information is not strange to you.  It’s your nature.  so use that.  Events like today; hopefully, you guys will have some time at the end for networking, actually meeting each other.  I think the great advantage of the Japanese applicant is this ability to network with other, get together, share information.  I know there are lots of channels for that and I think that’s fantastic.  Use each other as a resource in addition to people like Adam and me.

 

HBS JAPAN DATA

What I think you are probably more interested in today is the Japan data.  That’s down below.  

Japan Data
5 Japanese in Class of 2013 (only includes R1, others pending)
·       3 consulting
·       1 trading
·       1 financial service

In the class of 2013, there are five admitted so far those are all around one people.  One of them was mine.  The other three were – there were three from consulting, one from trading, one from financial service.  Interestingly, among those five, as I have heard, two were outside Japan at the time that they applied.  There were really only three Japan-based applicants, meaning Japanese citizens who were in Japan at the time that they applied.  

13 Japanese in Class of 2012 - Age range 25-33
·       6 consulting
·       3 financial services
·       1 trading
·       1 auto
·       1 PE
·       1 military

There are 13 in the first year; 13 in the class of 2012 and we have the age ranges there.  I do not have the age ranges for the round 1 admits.  We’ll get that later.  The 13 in the class of 2012, youngest is 25, oldest is 33.  I’ll talk about age a bit later, but I want to point this out.  I haven’t crunched this and figured out the average age.  I’ll do that later.  But the point is it’s not a bunch of 26-year olds.  There are people at a wider range of ages.  I’ll talk about this a bit later too but the Japan cohort, as Adam said, is different than the US cohort in terms of this age issue.  In short, please do not worry about age for Harvard.

Six consulting, three financial services, one trading company, one automotive manufacturing, private equity person, and a military person.  I’m curious about this military person.  I do not know if that means “jietai” or what.  I assume so.  That one was a surprise.  But again, my clients are checking all this data for me and I went just through that number in there, in that thing and I said okay.  I’m going to go to Harvard in May.  I’m going to find about – so I’m going to meet most of these people.  We are having a dinner on May 7th on campus.  I will talk about campus visits later.

10 Japanese in Class of 2011 - Age range 26-35
·       2 financial service
·       2 PE
·       2 electronics (1 system engineer)
·       2 auto (1 engineer)
·       1 pharma (researcher)
·       1 trading

Ten Japanese in the class of 2011.  I went to an event last year and I can’t go back.  They do not invite me back anymore.  This is something called Entrepreneur Week.  There is this guy from Stanford named Todd Porter who is also doing – he is doing a TEDxTokyo.  He is the organizer and he is a Stanford grad.  I went to this thing.  He invited me.  it’s called Entrepreneur Week and I am not invited back basically because I offended the speaker.  The speaker was onstage.  I won’t mention his name.  A great guy, famous guy, an economist, very well respected here in Japan, a foreign guy that lived here really long time, speaks much better Japanese than me.  I had no business heckling him.  But he gave out wrong information.  He’s standing there on the stage.  He’s actually the moderator.  He wasn’t the speaker but he spoke more than the real speakers.  He couldn’t stop himself and he threw out a bad statistic.

His information was dead wrong.  He said there is one Japanese in the entering class of Harvard Business School.  This is more than a year ago.  in this class of 2011, he is like rattling off all these reasons why Japan is just dying, which offended me to begin with.  second, he throws out this wrong data which later I found that was from the newspaper.  A Japanese newspaper had published that.  they are getting confused how many undergrads versus how many MBAs.  But he said the word MBA.  He said there is only one in the entering Harvard MBA class. Then, during the QandA, I told him that he was wrong, and that just goes to show, check your data before a public speech.

Here’s the data.  There were 10, a lot more than 1.  The age range is 26 to 35, 2 financial service, 2 private equity, 2 electronics, including 1 system engineer, 2 from auto sector, 1 from pharma, and 1 trading guy.  Always one trading guy it seems, which is good unlike Stanford, right.  there was a time when Stanford took trading people.  It changed when Marie left and Derrick came.  Derrick became the new Admissions Director, new regime, new dean, a new curriculum. I sometimes wonder what they are thinking.  How do you not include trading companies as being important in the Japanese economy? I mean, just look at the numbers.  I am not an economist, but they have a pretty good influence.   

 

HBS WANTS MORE JAPANESE, BUT...

Harvard has an office in Marunouchi.  It’s a small office.  Sato-san is running it.  He says, and I think it’s correct, that the admissions office would like to admit more Japanese.  The reason is very simple.  In their TOM program, which is Technology, Operation, and Management, Japanese are very valuable.  Japanese are also critical in BGIE, which stands for Business, Government, International Economy.  

This 109 thing with TOEFL is real.  I have never known a Harvard admit without 109.  It is kind of a rule, although they claim it’s a guideline.  I simply do not know anyone who broke the standard, got admitted with 108 or 107. As you know, that’s a pretty high bar.  It’s kind of a mixed message.  We want more Japanese but – this thing about the TOEFL. The adcoms are not being snobby.  

CLASS VISITS

If you visit Harvard, which I encourage you to do, and you sit in on a class, the speed of the discourse of the conversation is very overwhelming.  It’s fast.  I sat in on classes a long time ago visiting my neighbor.  My next-door neighbor went there.  This is not a good metaphor in Japan because I do not think you eat a lot of popcorn.  But you have been around a popcorn popper at the movie theater.  You know that moment when the corn starts popping, where it’s just there is like quiet, quiet, quiet murmur and then all of a sudden everything starts going. HBS is like that all the time.  The popcorn is always popping at Harvard.

It’s noisy.  It’s fast.  You do not want to miss a beat.  What happens for a lot of my clients when they get there at first is they are planning in their head, they are thinking about a comment, they get the courage up to make it, and then the topic changes and they do not get called on, and then like five comments later, what you have spent 5 minutes thinking about trying to say is no longer relevant.  It’s very fast.  That’s why the TOEFL is critical for them.  Again, it’s not just that they have this snobby attitude.  It’s the nature of the academic experience. HBS requires a very high listening skill, and a fairly quick connection between your brain and your mouth.  


 


 

PART 3: HBS ADMISSIONS CRITERIA– WHAT DO THEY WANT?

HERE ARE PARTS THREE, FOUR, FIVE, AND SIX OF VINCE'S AUDIO

What I did here was I took the real data of Harvard’s official admissions criteria, and there are only three, and I added my own commentary.  again, there’s a disclaimer, this is my commentary on their criteria.  This whole chart down here is not theirs.  This is mine.  Their only criteria are stated here above.  I do not want to cause confusion or controversy.  I’m just trying to explain what these criteria mean.  

What does Harvard want?  According to them, they want to see a habit of leadership; they want to see a capacity for intellectual growth; and they want to see engaged community citizenship.  I want to help explain what I think these phrases mean, and again this is just my opinion.


HBS ADMISSIONS CRITERIA #1 OF 3: A HABIT OF LEADERSHIP

A habit of leadership implies that leadership experience and leadership potential are ongoing parts of your life.  I think Harvard is pretty good at reading into someone’s activities to see if they have leadership potential.  You do not need to be the leader of a large organization yet, that’s why you want an MBA.  It’s not about your title.  It’s about your leadership potential.  How do you show these things?  The best way to show leadership experience is in a resume.  They are also looking to see your career progress.  They want to see that you are moving up in some way.  Again, they know in Japan, titles are pretty flat.  They are not looking to see that you are Executive Vice President at age 27.  Titles in Japanese organizations are non-existent until a certain age, maybe in your 40s.  You do not have a title yet; they simply want to see that you have increased your responsibility.

Community activities and personal accomplishments do not mean cleaning up the beach in Chiba every Saturday.  Community is as you define it.  You do not need to go and like start donating $10 a week or a month to world vision or something.  You can if you want, but that’s not the way to show it.  There are other ways.  I think Harvard is sophisticated and they realize that the Japanese company, or the foreign company in Japan, is itself a community and then all of the things you are doing in your company to take care about the people, officially and unofficially, is a sense of community activity.  Company sports activities or company gatherings or study groups, 7 in the morning on Fridays, you get people together to talk about something.  Those aren’t organizations in the community but they are community organizations and community activities.  The point is you are not being paid for those things.  Stuff that you do that you are not paid for is what they want to see.  Your incentive to do it is for your own growth or for your own sense of giving back to people.  Personal accomplishment is the same thing.  It’s very subjective.

In terms of leadership potential, I think that’s where goals come in.  They want to see a goal that is both believable and ambitious.  If your goal is simply to go back and do exactly what you are doing now, that’s too realistic.  It’s a waste of a Harvard MBA.  If your goal, however, is to do something radically different from what you are doing now, and there is not a clear sense of how you are going to get there, that’s too ambitious.  It’s a balancing act with goals.

Someone could prove me wrong, but I think that someone’s short-term goal is going to fit into one of these six categories.  

1.  Vertical move

2.  Change career

3.  Join or launch start-up (entrepreneur)

4.  Go into consulting

5.  Go into finance

6.  Go into industry

It’s either a vertical move which is same industry, moving up, having managerial responsibility, a career change from banking to consulting or just something to something else; a start-up activity, either your own start-up or joining a start-up, entrepreneurial type of activity; going into consulting or going into finance or going into industry.  I think pretty much that covers any goal you could tell me.  But again, I would love to hear you challenge that and come up with a goal that doesn’t fit any of these categories.  The kicker is career changer.  I mean that pretty much covers almost everything, unless it’s a vertical move.  Anyway, those are just your short-term goals and I’ll talk about Harvard goals later.  That’s not the essence of the question but that’s a good start.  That’s where the believability comes into play.  Then, some applicants show their ambition in their long-term goal.
 

HBS ADMISSIONS CRITERIA #2 OF 3: CAPACITY FOR INTELLECTUAL GROWTH

Capacity for intellectual growth is criteria 2, what does that mean?  I think that first of all, it means that they want to see that you have the ability to do the work and, more importantly, enjoy the work.  Five days a week at Harvard, sometimes in the second year if you are clever you could have Fridays off.  But pretty much it’s a 5-day week activity; it’s very rigorous; things go very quickly.  They want to see your grades.  I see a wider range in the GPAs.  I do not have hard data.  But I do not see anyone with 2.6 getting in.  But I do see someone with like around 3.0, like my client who just got in.

Captain of a sports team, they understand you couldn’t work and have like a 3.5, but we are not talking 2.6 either.  Like 3.0 and above, I think, is decent.  Again that’s only one data point though.  But do not worry if you have a 3.0.  Do worry if you have a 2.6.  Still apply but it’s going to be a hard road.  They also look at the rigor of what you studied.  Rigor means like engineering, lot of math, versus something sort of like I studied like history.  I did not do a lot of math in college.  That’s what they mean by rigor like a lot of crunching of numbers.  I certainly worked hard in college but I wasn’t doing problem sets.  TOEFL which we talked about, GMAT which we know about, and then the other thing is like masters degrees or sometimes PhDs or CPA or CFA or CMA certificate.  That’s how they see the intellectual growth part.

Again, it matters because Harvard is a fast moving curriculum and it’s very rigors and it’s very uniform.  You can’t opt into things and opt out of things.  In the first year, it’s pretty well set.  They need to see that you are ready to, like, keep pace with that.  enjoying it is really critical because it’s not just if you do not – the way to get through MBA – I talk to my clients after they get admitted.  I have a bunch of videos.  I’m moving them into my new website, but mostly right now they are in YouTube, and when I talk to my students who are in their first year or like in the middle of MBA, they say there is like two kinds of Japanese students.  There is a guy who is always in the library and then there is the one who balances library work and club activities.  this is what I mean by enjoy the work.

You are going to work hard at Harvard but they do not want you to just be stuck in the library crunching cases all the time.  You got to do your homework, but they want you out and about and mingling and being social and active.  That’s what it means to enjoy the work.  They want to see that ability in the numbers.  The numbers are real, as Adam said.  You can’t hide from the numbers.  There are exceptions to every rule almost.  There are people that do get in with a 630.  But it’s the exception to the rule, it’s not the rule.  you need, obviously as you know, you need high numbers - as high as you can get.

 

HBS ADMISSIONS CRITERIA #3 OF 3: COMMUNITY CITIZENSHIP

The last thing is engaged community citizenship.  Now, what does that mean?  I think it means interpersonal skills.  I think it means diversity.  I think it means fit.  fit is a vague concept which I’ll talk a little bit about.  Interpersonal skills is shown in the interview.  It’s shown in your essays and recommendations and in the application data.  

Diversity/international experience doesn’t mean you have to have lived outside Japan.  Quite a few people admitted to Harvard have not done so.  But diversity, I think, is they really want to see that you are open to the idea to be international, that you are trying to be as international as you can while you are still in Japan.  there is ways to show that and there is various ways to show an open-mindedness even though you are based here. Diversity/international experience recommender can also talk about that.  A recommender could tell a story about a time when you did something that showed your ability to reach out and make connections across cultural barriers. 

 

WHAT IS FIT?

Fit is probably the most heavily used and least understood concept in admissions because it’s quite vague.  It’s emotional.  It’s logic plus emotion.  Fit basically means that you will be stimulated by the university, its atmosphere, the learning culture the whole student life, and similarly you’ll be well positioned to contribute back.  That’s what fit means.  It’s basically a two-way exchange where you are giving and getting from the school at the highest possible level that’s fit.

If you are in the wrong place – the reason I did not go to Harvard twice was undergrad, I knew I was going to study history.  I knew I wanted to teach after college.  I knew I was going to teach history, so I decided to study history.  I visited a history professor at Harvard and I visited a history professor at Stanford and Yale and other places I was considering.  The Harvard guy, I am sitting in his office at age 18, I do not remember his name, some professor in the history department.  I remember it very well, that was a very dark room, full of books.  It was like a very classic image of Harvard.  It was like dark room.  I do not think there was even a light in there, but maybe there was a candle.  Big books on the walls, a dusty musty atmosphere, this sort of older guy, and he asks me, “Where else did you get in?”  I said here and here and here and at Stanford.  he said, “Well, that’s a great university but, you know,” he clears his throat, “It’ll take them 50 years to catch up with us because, pause, we are Harvard.”

I thought to myself, “Decision made, I am not going here.”  I wanted to be part of a university that was growing and changing, not one that was already as proud of itself as Harvard University deserves to be.  It’s the most famous brand in education.  There is a cookie named after it.  Why?  I do not know.  It’s a famous brand.  It’s the Mercedes-Benz of the education world.  Oxford wouldn’t like me saying that or Cambridge or any of these proud old universities in the world, but it’s pretty much in the past 50 years, 100 years anyway since.  

Bottom line for me - I did not think I was going to fit with Harvard’s undergraduate program, so I did not go.  That’s what fit means, right.  you have got to sense that and they have got to sense it too.  Where do you show fit?  You show it in the interview absolutely, and you show it in the goals essay.  We’ll talk about that in a little bit.

I had two things in here that my client forced me to take off and I agree with him.  I am glad he did so.  I had included under fit, campus visit and networking.  his point was a good point.  The school doesn’t care about that.  The school doesn’t care that you have visited.  You may want to visit.  You may want to network.  But they do not evaluate that as part of the fit criteria.  his point was a good point.  I do not think, statistically, visiting has a direct impact.  It could have a direct impact on your motivation and on your information level, but I do not think the school gives you like 10 bonus points for visiting because that wouldn’t be fair economically.  It’s hard to get there for many people.  From Japan, it’s not hard but for some people it’s quite difficult for a variety of reasons, cost and time.  It wouldn’t be fair for them to expect you to visit.  Now, we are done discussing Harvard’s admissions criteria and my comments about Harvard’s admissions criteria.


PART 4: BREAKING STEREOTYPES

HERE ARE PARTS FOUR, FIVE, AND SIX OF VINCE'S AUDIO

I want to break down myths and common misconceptions about Harvard that I believe are out there in the community.

There are four stereotypes.  I had three and another different client of mine added the fourth one.  I was glad he did that because I am not a Harvard business school student, so these were just my perceptions of the misinformation, and he added a fourth one which we’ll talk about.  These are things that basically I think the Japanese applicant community and the global applicant community perceives are true about Harvard and are not necessarily true.

Please Avoid These Dangerous Misconceptions

Misconception / Exaggeration #1: I must apply when I am 25 years old
Fact: New HBS Dean wants to broaden the age range of admitted students. Those accepted from Japan tend to be older because of work experience and fewer 2+2 applicants.

The first one is that you must be 25 years old.  Like there is a clock ticking and when you pass 30, you may not apply.  That is statistically incorrect, as I have shown you, and it’s also I have heard, again unsubstantiated information from my clients who are current students, that the new dean Nitin Nohria has said, and my clients have heard him say but he hasn’t written down yet, that he is not a fan of this move towards younger people, that he actually wants it to be a little bit like it used to be where your classmate may be 5 years older than you or 5 years younger than you and has done a wider range of life experiences.  if it was my money and I was quitting my job and spending all that money to go to an MBA, that’s what I would want quite frankly.  I would want to learn from it.  When I chose graduate school, when I did not go to Harvard, I stayed in New York, I was living in New York, I went to NYU.  My greatest teacher was a guy who is 5 years older than me, a Fulbrighter, a guy from Japan.  It’s the reason I am in Japan actually.  He brought me over here for my first job.

I learned 10 times more from a mentor, a person who was 5 years older than me, than I did from any of my professors.  I think graduate school is absolutely a time and a place to find a mentor for yourself.  A mentor can be a professor, but often it can be a former student.  if everyone is 26 years old, it makes it pretty hard.  The dean is moving away from this and the Japan data shows that among – there were very few 2+2 people from Japan.  I haven’t heard of any.  There must be someone.  But I haven’t met any.  VINCE NOTE - SINCE THIS EVENT, I HAVE HEARD OF AT LEAST ONE HBS 1+1 ADMIT FROM JAPAN.

As for the overall age range, those people as you saw on the other page, there were outliers who are 30 plus, 35 even, 33.  Because they recognize Japan as being strong in certain areas, they want people who have that strong experience in the program.  so that’s good news.  That’s good news for you guys as applicants.  If you are 25, it’s fine.  It’s not a bad news to be 25. But it’s certainly great news if you are 30 plus.  Absolutely do not think about your age when you apply, I would say.  My point is here, they will take you if they want you, right, bottom line. Age is not the most critical factor.

Misconception / Exaggeration #2: I need to have already lived in a foreign country
Fact: Multiple “domestic” Japanese applicants are admitted each year (about half of Class of 2012 are “domestic”)

The other misconception is that you must be a returnee, that you have to be “kikokushijo” or they won’t take you.  Now, because TOEFL is so critical, it so happens that many returnees have better TOEFL scores, therefore many returnees get admitted.  But returnee status itself is not a requirement.  Absolutely not.  you can see here.  My client wrote this.  Multiple domestic applicants are admitted every year and about half of the class of 2012 are “domestic,” meaning mostly Japanese people who have the vast majority of their life, professional and personal, experience being in this country of Japan.  Therefore, it is absolutely not true that you can’t go to Harvard and Harvard cannot be your first significant experience outside Japan.  I have clients living in Cambridge now who are enjoying their first time living outside Japan for any significant amount of time.  It happens every single year.  You please do not think that that is the case.  You still need 109 however.  That’s why you got to go see Donald Miller, or whoever can help you get that score.

Misconception / Exaggeration #3: I am not the kind of leader HBS wants
Fact: HBS looks for signs of leadership potential, not only demonstrated leadership achievement

Misconception and exaggeration number 3 is this whole concept of Harvard-type leader versus non-Harvard-type leader that you must be – it’s great to be the varsity captain of a sport, it’s great to be the president of an organization now or in the past, but again they look for leadership potential.  It’s the comment Adam made and I absolutely believe it’s true is that Harvard being Harvard and therefore being, I’d say, a little bit confident, to use nice a word, believes it can shape you.  They are looking for clay that is not yet molded and certainly not yet baked in the oven.  They believe the power of their 2-year MBA program will shape you into the leader that you are destined to be.  In their wisdom, perhaps, are willing to take someone who has the potential to become a great leader but who has – was Mikitani-san obviously a leader when he applied?  I did not help him.  I do not know what he wrote in his essays.  But could you guess that he would become who he is now.  Hopefully, but was he who he is now at that time?  Absolutely not.  That’s leadership potential and their admissions officers, good ones and smart ones, are trained to look for that potential.   

Misconception / Exaggeration #4: HBS students are hyper-competitive. Everybody wants to shoot one another down to be ahead of the game.
Fact: HBS requires 1st year classmates to work together for an entire year, which creates strong bonds.

The fourth and final misconception, and this was the one my former student added, and this was his personal kind of point that he wants to prove, is that HBS students are not hyper-competitive, meaning that it’s not true that there was this image of everybody waiting with a knife to stab you and take your space in the cohort.  You are in a cohort of 80 or 90 students for a year, it’s like a family.  If you do stab that person, the group will punish you.  That was his comment.  He said the group looks out for itself.  It’s just like a family.  Imagine you had 6 or 7 brothers or sisters growing up.  There may be a bully in that group, but the other members will team up and support each other to protect each other.  There’s absolutely a kind of organic human family feeling at Harvard.  this was my client’s point that he wanted me to make sure I emphasize.  Partly, probably, because he gets tired of people treating him that way like oh, Harvard, I think that he kind of moves away.  “Good for you, great.”  My client’s point is that HBS is not like that.

DOUBLE ADMITS

I skipped something I was going to say back in my introduction and that’s this whole idea of dual admits and why the Japanese go to Harvard over Stanford usually, with exceptions.  There are Japanese that go to Stanford over Harvard, and I personally think that’s a great choice.  I am a Stanford guy.  But why do most Japanese choose Harvard over Stanford?  I think it’s the grandma factor.  It’s what will make your grandmother proud kind of factor.  Stanford, is that in Connecticut?  Oh, where is that?  First of all, what is that?  No one can spell it.  Do they have an N or an F or a D?  How do you spell this school?  Where is this?  their mascot is a tree for crying out loud.  The Stanford mascot is a tree.

No, my point is it’s like what would make your grandmother happy but that’s a silly comment.  What I really mean, though, is like Mikitani-san.  There are many, many more famous Harvard MBA alumni running Japanese companies than they are Stanford, and I hope that would change.  I went to a Stanford event a few weeks ago.  The Alumni Association organized an event. The MC, the organizer, was Toyama-san.  I think he is the closest thing Stanford has to that level of famous things.  We were there.  We heard him talk.  He is a great guy.  He is a hero of mine.  I think the things he is doing for Japan are fantastic.  But there aren’t like four or five of him yet, we hope there will be.  We hope the young Stanford grads will become, will grow into those positions of leadership.  Stanford, certainly hopes so too.

Harvard simply has more numbers.  You are talking 900 versus 400 and Stanford used to be 300 something.  They are taking a few more students.  They have a new building.  Nine hundred times 100 years is a lot more than 300-something times a little less than 100 years, and that’s global, by the way.  The power of that alumni network is pretty convincing and hard to argue with.  But there are people and more power to them who choose Stanford over Harvard for their own personal reasons that could relate to their goals or the location issue or the kind of network they want to have, a variety of factors.  that’s my personal view of why that tends to happen among Japanese.


 


 

PART 5: THE APPLICATION PROCESS  – VINCE'S METHODS AND CASE STUDIES OF ADMITTED APPLICANTS

HERE ARE PARTS FIVE AND SIX OF VINCE'S AUDIO

How Vince's admitted clients overcame challenges and produced results.

NOTE - THESE ARE FICTITIOUS COMBINATIONS OF VARIOUS REAL PEOPLE

When I thought about doing this presentation, I asked myself, “What types of information would be most useful for applicants?” If felt that what would be really useful is to have a sense of the process of applying and what challenges, what roadblocks clients hit while running this admissions marathon.

By the way, I have never run a marathon. If I did, I am sure about one thing - like all runners, I would likely hit a wall. Imagine that you are running 50 kilometers.  At some point, you would probably hit a wall of sheer physical exhaustion.  In the application process, the same thing happens.  At some point, most applicants encounter some aspect of the application process that just seems to be too high to get over.  Therefore, now, I want to point out four different examples of the walls that my clients have hit, and how I helped them climb over those walls.

The first guy I am calling Mr. A.  

Mr. A

  • Needed an ambitious but realistic goal, plus regular face-to-face feedback

  • HBS goals essay question: “What is your career vision and why is this choice meaningful to you?” What is your ideal post-MBA position and why? This should be a clear and detailed plan to be launched after graduation. Beyond getting a job, how do you want to change the world?

    1. Point one – think big (CEO vs. CFO)

    2. Point two – why is the HBS goals essay optional? The Harvard goals essay became optional around the same time that Harvard implemented the 2+2 program

    3. Point three – limited word count (write a longer version of your goals essay first)

    4. Point four – tell HBS why you want to attend their program (even though they do not ask). Just be sure to keep your answer concise and related to your goals

Mr. A came to me and Mr. A did great.  Mr. A got in everywhere but Mr. A when he came to me, did not really have a goal.  He’s a hardworking, smart, sincere guy who quite honestly has a lot of career options open to him.  He did not really have like this really convincing personal mission of changing the world in some particular way, and maybe not coincidentally wasn’t even interviewed by Stanford, did not really have a kind of core mission in his life, just sort of had a great career so far and all kinds of potential in front of him, but he really did not know what he wanted to do or how to explain it.  He was in the process of figuring it out.

Through a series of questioning, lots of questioning from me, and also I introduced him to some of my former students who were at Harvard at that time, he kind of figured out a story.  But his initial story, his first draft that he wrote to me was that he wanted to be a CFO.  He is in financial services.  The highest he would have really ever want to be is like a CFO.  I thought well, it’s a decent goal, why not, but my former client was like absolutely not.  This is CEO country.  You got to think big.  You have got to want to be the head of a large organization or of your own small but powerful organization.  You have got to be sort of hungry and greedy for power but for a good purpose, not just to make as much money as you possibly can but actually do something for society.

My client and I got him to shift his goal a bit.  again was that the reason he – if he had written CFO, would he have been admitted?  Yeah, probably he would have been admitted anyway.

We do not know but the point was with the goal.  We had to push him to sort of think big about the goal and try to have a big impact.  Then he decided to be talking about running his own company or moving from an iBank to private equity, but even that wasn’t enough.  like, what industry does he think needs the most help?  Just a constant process of questioning, me questioning him a lot, him talking to various people in his network, and coming back to me with answers, and me, sometimes rejecting them or at least challenging them.  That’s my job.

That’s what Adam and I do.  We ask tough questions.  But he was up for the game and I kept asking him odd questions and he kept going back and thinking and thinking and thinking and most importantly talking.  This is where then again the network comes in play.

You have got to have people you trust if you are applying secretly.  But he had people in his company who knew he was applying his recommenders and people in his network and people from his undergrad who were already in MBA.  He just kept talking to people.  He was getting a lot of good feedback from people he trusted.  ultimately he made his own decision about what goal essay he wanted to write, and I simply helped him get it focused and clear, and I was sort providing a kind of benchmark, as Adam said to kind of see where the quality was.  I absolutely subscribe to Adam’s method, if I believe it, if I care about it, and if it really sells me, then I think it’s done.  that’s one example of how somebody struggled and then how they overcame the struggle.

The next one is Ms. B.  

Ms. B

  • Needed clear milestones and timelines for each stage of the application process

  • Struggled to balance her story portfolio, especially the question, “What are your three most substantial accomplishments and why do you view them as such?”

  • Domestic applicant, outlier in terms of spoken English skills

  • Ms. B’s secret - hard work. Perhaps Vince’s hardest working ever.

  • Also, needed help selecting and presenting her best information in the application data forms.

Ms. B was someone who was extremely well organized, probably the hardest working applicant I have ever helped.  Just in terms of sheer – I am really not sure when she ever slept if ever.  I could send an email in almost 24 hours a day and almost always get an immediate reply.  I think there were two of her.  She had problems with TOEFL, totally domestic.  She had, in the end though, a 30, 30, 30, 23.  Everything but speaking was perfect, like wow that’s great.  But 23 is a bit low for the speaking score, so we knew the interview was going to be a struggle.  I certainly helped her a lot with the interview training.

The other thing in terms of the essays that she struggled with was balancing her story set.  Could she have the right mix of stories?  originally, I think, because she had a narrow view of the process, she only wanted to write about work things.  this is where this idea of community citizenship comes in, where I bookmark and I study these criteria that these schools have.  I take these seriously because I think they have these for a reason.  When you see this thing of community citizenship, what it made me think of was, and I have had several clients who had a similar story, being involved in a certain organization for like 15 or 20 years at various levels, as a young kid, as an older kid, like as a mentor, as a high school student volunteering, helping the young kids, as a college student, and now as like a OB or OG supporter, a fundraiser or helper in some way.

That’s a great story.  Now, not everybody has a story like that.  In our lives, we move around a lot, very few people have been in one place for 20 years.  I have never been in one place for 20 years.  But some people have.  If you have that kind of story, it’s a great story to use.  She had a story like that.  You can’t make this up.  But I pulled it out over and it turned into a great story that she used for every school and she got into a bunch of them, and it was a good topic at her interviews as well.  It’s a great story because it shows this idea of engaged community citizenship quite well.  she told me I wouldn’t have said this, but she said if she hadn’t worked with me, she probably would not have pulled that story out and used it as an essay.  It would have been in her application data, but it probably would not have been a primary essay that she wrote.  that was nice to hear and that’s where this process of questioning can be useful.

Third, we find Mr. C.

Mr. C

  • Struggled with the mistake essay, especially “what you learned” (self-awareness)

  • Also needed help with the recommendation process (who to ask? how to manage recommenders?); HINT – the most important question on HBS recommendation is, “Please describe the most important piece of constructive feedback you have given the applicant. Please detail the circumstances and the applicant's response.” Pick recommenders who can best answer that question.

Mr. C struggled with the failure essay, the mistake essay, which I’m not going to dig into very much at this moment, but the mistake essay which is only two required essays of Harvard, that’s the second one.  The first one, which I just skipped actually, is the classic, it’s the same as Stanford’s what matters most to you and why, the classic Harvard essay is your three most significant accomplishments, and why you view them as such.  You have to balance.  It’s like show me your chest.  You have to balance the three stories you are going to choose.

The mistake essay of Harvard, which I’m basically going to skip at this point, I am going to put up a post about it, Adam’s post is great about writing a failure or a mistake essay.  My point, though, is for Mr. C, he really had a hard time figuring out what he learned from the experience.  It’s fine to have a mistake or have made a failure, but what you learned from it is really the gold, it’s really the essence, it’s the reason they ask the question.  They are not trying to make you suffer to admit your weaknesses and tell them about your mistakes, they want to see your recovery.  It’s all about recovery.  If you can’t recover if you can’t learn.  The whole mistake question is required by Harvard, I think, because the teamwork aspect of Harvard is actually really important.  if your ego is so big that you can’t admit a mistake or learn from it, they do not want you there because 990 or 900 is big but 80 is quite small.  It’s like you are in that cohort for a year.  It’s like a year of IMD; you are with the same 80 people all the time.  In that group you have to have people who are willing to admit their wrong and learn from their mistakes.  It’s pretty simple.

The other thing Mr. C needed was, and I’m going to talk a bit about this, is the whole recommendation process.  It was very, very challenging for Mr. C.  Who to ask?  How to work with those people?  How to get good work out of his recommender that added value to his overall application process?  Recommendation process is tough.  Adam and I have a lot of experience at helping people to get through this process.  That was how I helped Mr. C.  Again, he told me that.  I asked my clients how I added value and that’s what he said.

Ms. D, is the final person I will discuss in these case studies of my past admitted clients, and how I helped them.  

Ms. D

  • Had a strong life goal and mission when we met

  • High TOEFL, not-so-high GMAT (sometimes OK for HBS)

  • Struggled with interviews – HBS interviewers prepare questions based on your application (not “blind”)

  • Interview Seminars and Mock Training with Vince (balance), plus additional mock training sessions with Adam (self-marketing), and Steve (logic).

  • For reference, Vince’s HBS interview tips are here: http://bit.ly/HBS_interview

When I met her, knew exactly what she wanted to do and why and it was great.  It worked really, really well and it had a clear and powerful logic and I believed it and cared about it and it said exactly what I wanted to hear and what the admissions wanted to hear about her goal.  That wasn’t her problem.  She had a GMAT problem but it did not matter because she had a really high TOEFL.  I think Harvard and Stanford are willing to take you if you have like one really high number.  They want to see ‘a’ high number.  Harvard, I think, more than Stanford.  A super high TOEFL at Harvard, they are willing to overlook a not so high GMAT.  Recently, I helped another client who had that same situation.

What this woman really needed more than anything else was interview training.  She had and has, I do not know anymore, maybe now has, after 2 years of Harvard, no poker face.  You know what I mean by poker face?  If she is happy she looks happy, if she is nervous she looks nervous.  That’s where the interview training came in and she worked with me a lot, she work with Adam, she worked with a friend of me and Adam’s, a colleague of ours, the guy named Steve who is a professor.  He is like Mr. Logic.  With a smile on his face, he will destroy the logic of what you just said, big old smile.  Steve is great.

This person worked with all three of us a lot on the interview and failed some interviews did not pass a few, and finally the only one that mattered homerun with Harvard, got in.  The interview was really tough for her.  Again, not English problem, she speaks with no accent whatsoever.  Harvard, in the interview, tries to make you defensive.  They read your whole essay ahead of time because the case method makes you defensive.  Everything you say will be challenged by others.  They read your essay, they prepare questions, and I think they are not evil, but I think they are trying to figure out what’s going to knock you off your confidence point.

My client who just got in round 1 did not have a very high GMAT, they asked him about it.  Why do you have a 31 verbal score on GMAT, what’s wrong with you?  They did not say it in such a mean way, but they definitely know what’s your weakness is and they are trying to make you nervous to see how you react to those challenges. Why?  Because in the case study method, everybody won’t applaud every time you open your mouth.  Things you say will be challenged, but you can’t take it personally.  The interview is definitely designed to test how you handle that kind of questioning.  Again, that’s why you need a poker face; you need to hide your anxiety and show confidence in your answer.


 


 

PART 6: IDEAL ROUND ONE TIMELINE

HERE IS PART SIX OF VINCE'S AUDIO

Finally, here is a round one timeline of milestones. I hope this might help you stay on track. I made this because people asked me to provide a concrete image for when applicants should be passing certain milestones.  

Please note, this is just a guideline.  You’d like to be done with your GMAT by July.  How many of you will be done with your GMAT in July?  Very few of you, but you would all like to be with GMAT before August if you are going to apply in October.  We’d like you to be ready to write essays soon, but many of you will not be ready to write essays soon.  


WHEN SHOULD I APPLY?

Round 1 versus round 2?  We get this question all the time. In my personal, not necessarily professional view, round 1 is often better simply because the adcoms are fresh.  They are human beings just like all of us and when they read a pile of essays in round 1, their attitude is great, a pile of essays, they are fresh.  Round 2 January, they are like, great, a pile of essays, it’s my job to read them.  Round 3, they are like, more essays.  

Some readers might be more critical in round one, and more generous in round two. That is true. In my personal opinion, for top schools, I think you should try to apply when adcoms are fresh.  Still, you NEVER want to apply before your application is as good as it is likely to become.  Do not apply when you are not ready.  If you have to 520 GMAT in August, guess what, you are not applying in round 1.  Simple, end of story.  

If you want to apply in round 1, you should try to have your GMAT done in the summertime because it takes 3 months to make a great Harvard application.  The application does not only consist of 1800 words of essays.  Thinking about the recommendation letters, the application data forms, and the interview, the whole process is very comprehensive.   


CAMPUS VISITS

Next, I want to discuss campus visits.  Someone asked me the other day.  He said I heard a lot of rumors, you have to visit the school, do I have to visit the school?  You do not have to visit the school.  But you have to network because, again, you have to know why you want to go to a certain school.  

The other thing about Harvard is they do not ask why you want to go to Harvard for the same reason that the history of professor told me when I was 18 that it’ll take any other college 50 years to catch up with them.  By the way, just as an aside comment, when I graduated in 1992, Stanford’s History Department was ranked #1 by US News and World Report. Stanford beat every history department, including Harvard, Yale, and Princeton. But that’s my personal story. 

Anyway, you do not have to visit.  As far as I know, HBS adcoms do not keep a log of who visits and who doesn’t, but for your own personal networking, you might want to visit, and if you want to visit do not go in the summer.  It’s a bunch of buildings in the summer.  There is no life in the summer.  You’ll see the campus, so what, there is YouTube for that, you could see the campus on every video.  If you want to go, go soon, go in May.  In my personal view Japan’s Golden Week (late April, early May) might be the best time to visit campus.  I have two reasons for giving this advice.  First, it is springtime.  Everybody is in a good mood, half of them are about to graduate, half of them are finishing their first year, so they feel relief.  Second, and most importantly, the clubs are really fully operational and they have a lot of momentum.

If you visit, you will definitely meet the Japanese, but do not stop there.  You have to meet the Japanese because if you do not, you might be considered rude.  I think you have to meet the Japanese students, and you want to do so. But please keep going; try to meet the president of the club that you want to join, or lead.  

You want to ask the club president, “What are you guys doing now?  How could I add value to what you are doing now?  This is who I am.  This is what I do.  What are you doing and what do you want to be doing and how could I help?”  

You have got to get that answer because that’s gold, that’s the essence of a contribution.  It is heard to learn that information over email because club presidents are too busy.  Think about it - the club president of the private equity club has his email in a public place.  How many emails does he get a day?  That is the great value of visiting.  If you visit, do not just confine yourself to the Japanese who will take great care of you, but you do not want to stop there.  You want to ask them to introduce you to their friends outside the core Japanese community.

The last thing I’ll say about campus visits is Tuck.  Tuck is probably the only school where if you really want to go to Tuck you actually probably really should visit.  My clients this year, the one who got in November round, was the only one of my clients who visited this year.  She visited in October, did not interview on campus, did not have a goal yet, wasn’t ready to interview, but visited, and had a great visit, and met a bunch of people.  Then applied in November round and got in with a great scholarship.  My client who applied in earlier than her in October, who did not visit, the best I could do in round 1 before she came along was a waitlist and some denials.  I think in Tuck’s case, because it’s hard to get to, if Tuck is anywhere in your top list, visit and visit soon because you do not want to go in November, December, January, or February, you’ll get stuck there.  There’ll be a blizzard and you’ll miss a week of work.  You’ll have to walk back to Boston…

 

VINCE’S MESSAGE

My final message is that you should apply to Harvard because the process will make you grow as a person.  Even if you do not have a 109, apply to Harvard because Harvard needs to hear Japan.  Sato-san and the other folks who work for Harvard here in Japan and Harvard admissions itself, I think, wants to hear Japan’s message and hear Japan’s voice.  There was a time, decades ago, when there were 20 or 30 Japanese in every graduating class.  I do not think Harvard is particularly happy that there are only 10.  Even if you do not have a 109, I think the process of applying is a good experience.  The essays do not take as long as Stanford.  There is no what matters most to you and why.  I think you should just challenge the school simply.

I am working with a guy now who is applying third round.  He almost has 109.  He has been taking the TOEFL nearly every weekend.*
(PLEASE SEE VINCE'S IMPORTANT UPDATE BELOW)

You should apply because this whole process should be about having no regrets.  That’s always what I say.  You are only going to apply to MBA once in your life, hopefully, once.  You are only going to get an MBA once, at least one in America. You might get a second MBA in Japan at some point.  But you are only going to get an American MBA once and if you are going to apply to Harvard, apply.  Just apply and see what happens because they want more applicants.  Again, without a 109, your chances are a minimal but not impossible.  But my point is to apply and my real point is not about Harvard or any school, my real point is about Japan. 

This country needs a lot of help right now.  This country needs a lot of help and the fact that you guys want to go overseas, quit your job, pay crazy money, take a huge risk for Harvard or any other MBA is exactly what you should be doing.  I am afraid that in the next few years fewer and fewer Japanese are going to want to leave because of this earthquake and Tsunami and disaster that this country has experienced.  I think that’s the opposite of what you should be doing.  I think you have to get out and see the world and you have to get skills because there is a lot of rebuilding that’s going to need to be done here, and I think going outside of your country is a great way to get the skills you need.

BOTTOM LINE

Please work hard.  
Please apply to Harvard.  
Please apply to a few schools other than Harvard so you can actually, a year from now, be in a very happy place of preparing to leave and have a great experience.  

In closing, I wish you luck and success.

Thank you.

END


Special thanks to Cripton for professional transcription services: http://www.cripton.com


*Vince's important update re. the new HBS TOEFL policy

During my recent campus visit to Harvard Business School, I spoke to Eileen Chang from the HBS MBA Admissions Board. She covers East Asian countries, including Japan.

During our one-hour meeting in her office, she informed me of a new policy that HBS will be implementing from 2011.

New HBS TOEFL policy: If an applicant has taken TOEFL more than nine times, meaning 10 times or more, The Admissions Board will require a pre-interview over the phone before meeting an applicant for an official one-to-one admissions interview. In fact, Eileen said, The Board reserves the right to "cold call" an applicant in order to confirm his or her English skills even if the applicant has only taken TOEFL three or four times. 

When I met HBS Admissions Director Dee Leopold at the AIGAC Conference in June 2011, she confirmed this new policy. Then, I was informed that Ms. Chang repeated this policy during her June 12, 2011 presentation in Tokyo.

It seems HBS is trying to send a clear message that applicants should stop taking real TOEFL exams as practice.

Vince advice: Join an ongoing TOEFL class that teaches skills, not templates. One good example is Donald Miller's E4TG. Then, use mock exams to practice. Make every test count.

 


 

FAQ

 
FAQ highlights
 
  • "GMAT scores are self-reported, and we do NOT need to have received your official score before the deadline - an unofficial score is fine. We verify scores for all accepted candidates later in the season."
 
 

 

LINKS

 
Link highlights:
 
 
 

 

HBS FIELD 2 Montage

 


The Harvard Harbinger

Published by Vince Ricci

 

 


TESTIMONIALS & HBS ADMISSIONS TIPS

 

 

Harvard Business School Class of 2014

MBA受験をお考えのみなさまへ
 
受験プロセスが終わり、第一希望だったHarvard Business Schoolへの進学が間近となりました。
今後MBAを目指す方々のご参考になればと思い、簡単な体験談及び応援メッセージを送らせていただきます。
 
振り返ってみると、正直なところ、受験のプロセスはとても大変でした。説明会等の情報収集に加え、TOEFL、GMAT、エッセー、面接はどれも全力で、しかもすべて一人で取り組まなければならず、仕事をしながら時間を見つけては準備するというのは、強い意志と根気がいる作業だったと思います。ただ一つ言えるのは、エッセーや面接は、やっていく過程で過去を振り返りながら自分の考えをまとめたり、自分自身のmission statementを作り上げるような作業だったので、予想以上に収穫の多い作業でした。色々な人の話を聞きながら、ここまで自分としっかり向き合う機会は社会人になってからしばらくなかったので、振り返るとすごく贅沢な時間だったようにも思いますし、やって良かったと思っています。ほとんどの人にとって、「しっかり準備しないと受からない」のは事実だと思いますが、「やればできる」プロセスなので、MBAに行きたいけど大変そう・・・と迷われている方は、是非思い切ってチャレンジしてみて下さい。
 
志望校ですが、情報をしっかり集めた上で、まずは受かりそうかではなく、行きたい学校を第一志望にするべきだと思います。特に、スコアがなかなか出ないと、つい安全圏でと考えてしまいがちですが、学校側が集まったapplicationのプールの中で何を重視して選ぶかは出してみないと分からないので、早い段階で妥協せずに準備していくことが重要だと思います。私の場合も、HBSの受験段階で、「あなたは帰国子女でないので、合格はあまり期待しないほうがよい」とある人に言われ、くじけそうになったこともありますが、最後まで諦めなくてよかったと思っています。その他、「ほとんど社費生しか受からない」と噂される学校にも、私費にも関わらず合格できましたし、「面接は対面でやらないと本気だと思ってもらえない」という噂もありましたが、電話面接で合格した学校もあります。ついつい周りの情報に流されそうになってしまうのですが、Vinceの意見やインターネットで手に入る過去のデータ等に基づいて客観的な分析をしつつ、自分の頭でしっかり納得するまで考えて、ownershipを持って受験計画を立てることをお勧めします
 
受験プロセスを終えてみて、エッセーや面接で一番重要だと思ったこと、それは「人との差別化」です。どの学校も、大量のアプリケーションから選考する際に、applicantsのスキルや経験、国籍、年齢、インダストリー、career goal、性別などのdiversityを非常に重視します。なので、コンサルや投資銀行等、MBA生に多いバックグラウンドの方は、いかにその中でoutstandingなapplicantに見せるか、ということを工夫するべきだと思います。一方、MBAに行く人がほとんどいないような会社・職種からapplyするのは、一見困難なようで、その点では実はチャンスは大きいと言えます。人と違うバックグラウンドを存分にアピールしつつ、それでもMBAの中で、前者の人たちに負けないように活躍できる優秀さを証明する必要があると思います。もちろん過去の実績は優れているに越したことはないのですが、「こんなにすごい私です」というより、「こんなにユニークな私です」というアプリケーションを目指したほうが、いい面が引き出されると思います。この点は、私はVinceにドラフトを繰り返しレビューしてもらってエッセーを肉付けしましたが、経験豊富な視点や学校の特色を鑑みた時に厳しいコメントはとても有益なものでした。
 
日本人applicantについても、近年学生数が減少しているような記事も目にしますが、それだけで差別化しやすくなるため、ある意味チャンスだと思います!
最後まで自分を信じて、プロセスを乗り切って下さい。

 


Harvard Business School Class of 2012

Preparing admissions essays for MBA programs can be a lonely process, involving much introspection and contemplation. Throughout this process, Vince was an invaluable partner to me, providing objective and professional advice that was critical to my success; ultimately, I gained admissions to 5 top programs in the US, including HBS, Wharton and Northwestern’s JD-MBA program.

Initially, I was somewhat skeptical of receiving advice from essay counselors. I had been educated in the US through college and had confidence that I could pull it off all by myself. Yet, once I started working with Vince, my initial doubt quickly dissipated, as I realized the importance of having a good listener and thinker give objective feedback and advice. I could not have integrated my myriad of ideas into coherent essay portfolios without Vince’s support.

I was also impressed by Vince’s professionalism. He gave tremendous personal attention (almost to a fault!) and usually worked outside of designated time slots; I believe this separates him from other commercially-minded essay counselors.

Having advised many successful, top-notch Japanese clients in the past, Vince has an excellent understanding of the MBA application process and a keen insight into what admissions officers from top programs look for in candidates. Such intelligence could be hard to gather in Japan, where only several hundred people apply to MBA programs each year.

Last but not least, Vince possesses a dry sense of humor that made every one of my twice-a-week face-to-face sessions enjoyable.

 


Harvard Business School Class of 2012

(also admitted to Wharton)


In short, Vince Ricci:

  • knows what admission committees think and feel: he said, "Essay is an art as well as a science."

  • leverages technologies as a Stanford alum: non-Tokyo based applicants can work with him without stress.

  • is a nice guy: he has a broad network which helps applicants learn about target schools.


Overall, by working with Vince, I experienced great results, good ideas for essays and strategies for interview, and a lot of networking opportunities.

 


Harvard Business School MBA Class of 2009

The two greatest aspects of Vince and his counseling are his capabilities to push the client to his/her best potential and his abilities to listen and cheer for the best results.

My first confident essay draft was so easily referred to by Vince as “a mess”. This pure shock hit me hard to realize that he was not there to help and support me no matter what, but was there for me to convince him (later myself and the admissions) that I could make it into business schools. The difficulty of business school preparation is fundamentally changing the mindset to think deep in who you are and what makes you valuable to an admit, and Vince was capable to push me each time I tried to slack off the process. Not to mention that without him convincing me, I would have not applied to Harvard Business School/third round, where I am now today.

Also, business school prep move forward by multiple waves. I could not always execute what I had promised Vince the week before whether it was due to work, or emotional fluctuations. Within each one hour counseling session, I sometimes spent the time just talking with Vince about what was going on in my life in general. This helped me through the tough times and kept me from completely falling apart. Vince is truly a great listener and the best cheerleader I had during my prep period.

Vinceをカウンセラーとして起用して良かった点 は、私の魅力を最大限に引き出してくれた事と、私の話をいつも聞いてくれ、励ましてくれた点です。彼の 所に最初に持っていったエッセイは自信作であった割には「it’s a mess」とコメントされ、沈没でした。駄作であったとしても、よいものに直してくれるであろうと気楽に構えていたのですが、ビジネススクール合格はそん なに簡単ではありません。まずは、Vinceを乗り越えなければ合格にたどり着かないのだなと、その時強く思いました。ビジネススクール受験の辛さは今ま でのマインドセットを変え、自分の経験と将来像を深く考え、いかにビジネススクールに進学する事が自分にとって重要なのかを合理的に追求していく事です が、ちょっと手を抜くたびにVinceが後ろから押してくれていました。HBSへ3rdでも出したほうがよいと、彼にしつこく説得してくれなければ私は今 日HBSで勉強をする事ができなかったでしょう。

ビジネススクール受験はよく言わる通りに、マラソンであり、幾度も山や谷を経験しま す。Vinceに約束したことさえも実施できない週が続く事もめずらし くありません。そんな時に彼はセッションの時間の中で、私の悩みを辛抱強く聞き、励まし、エッセイカウンセラー以上のアドバイスを下さいました。この時間 がなければ機能低下はもちろんの事、受験もあきらめていたかもしれません。Vinceは人の話を聞いてくれますし、一緒になって受験をがんばってくれま す。

 


- Updated by Vince on 11 Mar 2016

  • I have been a full-time international graduate admissions consultant since 2002

  • Based in Tokyo, Japan, I help clients around the world 

  • In 2007, I launched VincePrep because I wanted to help the best candidates aiming for the top schools

  • To share my insights with a talented team, I rejoined Agos as Consulting Director in 2014 

  • Now, I lead 10 professionals who deliver Japan’s best graduate admissions results

  • I also serve as president-elect of The Association of International Graduate Admissions Consultants (AIGAC)

  • Given my ongoing professional and personal commitments, I accept very few clients

  • Usually, I refer prospects to one of my highly-experienced and successful colleagues   

  • If interested, please complete this intake form

  • Meanwhile, please explore my YouTube channel, and be sure to subscribe for the latest updates

  • Thank you for your interest, and best wishes for your success!

 


Results

 
 
Vince's clients
admitted since 2007
 
Kellogg  24
Stanford d.school 1
Tuck  8
Wharton  26

+8 Fulbright Scholars

Full list here

Testimonials

 

 

"You encouraged me to be genuine, and helped me find the right, true stories that captured who I am. In this way, you offer applicants not only an effective admissions advisory, but also a unique journey of self discovery and empowering dreams."

Harvard Business School Class of 2015, with Fulbright Scholarship (also admitted Stanford GSB)

________________________________
 

"First, you limit the number of your clients so that you can maintain the high quality of your services while many other MBA consultants accept clients almost beyond their capacity. Second, you are really great 'catalyst.' Each question you asked me made me think and thus deepened my stories. Thanks to you, I was able to come up with excellent ideas that I could never come up with alone."

Kellogg Class of 2015 (also admitted Berkeley Haas)

________________________________

More here http://www.vinceprep.com/testimonials

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