"As we review your application, what more would you like us to know as we consider your candidacy for the Harvard Business School MBA program?"

HBS MBA Application & Essay Tips

for 2021 starters

  • 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)

THE QUESTIONS

BEHIND THE QUESTION

First of all, I like the change. The previous iteration of this question ("What else would you like us to know as we consider your candidacy?”) always struck me as somewhat confrontational. The burden was entirely on you, the applicant, to understand how HBS admissions officers think and what might impress them.

Plus, the "optional" nature of the essay in the previous two application cycles seemed somewhat disingenuous. Like they had better things to do than get to know you, the applicant. Isn't that their job?

Sorry, I am sounding snarky here, I know :)

So, on to my analysis of the new "Introduce yourself" essay.

First of all, I love concise self-introductions, as noted here on my VincePrep YouTube channel.

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

HBS MBA 2016 Preliminary Class Profile

  • Applications 9543
  • Total MBA Enrollment 940
  • % Admitted 12%
  • Yield 90%
  • Women (389/940) 41%
  • US Ethnic Minorities* (234/940) 25%
  • International** (333/940) 35%
  • Average Age 27
  • Countries represented 72

Industry Background - Pre-MBA

  • Consulting (167/940) 18%
  • Venture Capital/Private Equity (158/940) 17%
  • Financial Services (133/940) 14%
  • High Tech/Communications (125/940) 13%
  • Government, Education, & Non-Profit (73/940) 8%
  • Healthcare/Biotech (67/940) 7%
  • Consumer Products (44/940) 5%
  • Energy/Extractive Minerals (48/940) 5%
  • Other Services (47/940) 5%
  • Industrial/Heavy Manufacturing (40/940) 4%
  • Military (38/940) 4%

(found at http://www.hbs.edu/mba/Lists/Blogs/Attachments/229/2016%20Preliminary%20Class%20Profile.pdf; referenced 2014/08)

Vince's HBS essay analsys and tips

THE OLD QUESTION – still useful to understand their logic

“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
  2. Simplification of the process
  3. 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
  2. Cynical end game: why involve humans in admissions decisions at all?
  3. 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
  2. When I was 27 I joined a Shakespeare Company (The American Shakespeare Center in Virginia)
  3. 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

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

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

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

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

Most Significant Challenge:

200 characters

Reason for Leaving:

200 characters

b. Company/Organization Information:

c. Company/Organization Information:

Resume

Upload a copy of your most recent resume. Please limit your resume to 2 pages maximum.

Transcripts of academic work

GMAT/GRE test scores

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)

Please note: Do not send an extra copy of your essays to our office, as this will complicate the processing of your application.

Additional Information

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.

Additional Information:

Response length limited to 500 characters - , as this may truncate your answers and prevent them from being viewed by the Admissions Board)

Statement of Application Integrity

I hereby certify that the information presented in my application is accurate, complete, and honestly presented. I authorize all persons and entities herein named to provide information to Harvard Business School HBS) or its agent to verify any aspect of my application and/or my credentials for admission. I understand and agree that any inaccurate information, misleading information, or omission will be cause for the rescission of any offer of admission, or for discipline, dismissal, or revocation of degree if discovered at a later date.

Offers of Admission: HBS Policy

Admissions decisions are communicated to candidates online; admitted candidates also receive a hard copy letter with signature. The hard copy letter is the only official offer of admission.

Admissions decisions are communicated only to applicants.

The MBA Admissions Office reserves the right to rescind offers of admission of any candidate between the time of admission and matriculation if we become aware of any conduct that we reasonably determine to be inconsistent with the values of HBS.

The MBA Admissions Board does not provide individualized feedback to candidates who are denied admission.

I have read the above statement of application integrity and HBS policy regarding offers of admission and, in submitting my application, accept these terms.

Signature

Date

3 recommendations

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)

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

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.

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.

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.

(found at http://www.hbs.edu/mba/admissions/blog.html; accessed 2012/05)

9 important decisions that will determine your HBS admission result

Understand your audience – how certain pieces of information influence admissions decisions

  1. Should you apply? (2 of my admitted clients would not have applied if I had not encouraged them to do so; if you want to apply but lack confidence to do so, remember my “no regrets” rule)
  2. When to apply? Which year? (Sometimes tell someone to wait a year, or to consider other schools. 2+2 gives clear guidance); Which round? R1 is not better if you are not ready to show your best material, including tests scores, application data, essays, and references)
  3. The numbers (GPA, scores, age) – power to change the things you can change and mitigate the things you cannot – maximize your scores in as few test sittings as possible. Take TOEFL and GMAT as few times as possible (10 or less for TOEFL – 109 is not strictly enforced); “send scores” to 5 schools every time you take the test You cannot change your undergraduate academic performance. But you might want to enroll in pre-MBA quant courses if GPA and/or GMAT is low; HBS sometimes extends conditional admission offers, requiring pre-MBA English courses if they are worried about your communication skills and/or courses like accounting and finance if they are worried about your quant skills)
  • Once you submit your application, you may not change the scores that will be considered. Scores more than two years old will not be accepted
  • How many times have you taking the TOEFL? There is a drop-down menu asking you to select a number from 1 to 10 or more than 10
  • Vince's note: from my discussion with admissions board members I understand that if you select more than 10, you may be called by the admissions board to confirm your English skills
  1. Application data forms and resume (employment history, intended post-MBA industry + function, aka short-term goal, plus up to three extracurricular activities, what you did and how you were selected; and up to three awards and recognitions, including basis of selection)

Extracurricular Activities

Up to three allowed

List the most important first

Please indicate whether the role was

  • Elected
  • Appointed
  • Volunteer
  • Participant
  • Member

If desired, you may also include a brief description of the activity and your responsibilities (up to 250 characters)

Awards and Recognition

Include as many as three

  • Title
  • Date
  • Basis of selection (200 characters)
  1. Required essays (two behavioral essay questions – “one thing you did well, and one thing you wish you had done better”, plus a standard statement of purpose for joint degree applicants – how the joint degree will benefit you personally and professionally)
  2. Additional information (up to 500 chars in the online application data form – use discretion; most of my admitted clients leave this blank for HBS; depends on the school.)

Additional Information: (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.
  1. References (show good judgment about who you ask and what they write - which 3 to ask? how to support them in providing new insights on your candidacy; choose referees who have shown “tough love,” not just unqualified praise; mentors challenge us and help us grow; never pick someone only because he or she went to Harvard)

3 recommendations

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

4 Recommender 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)
  1. Interview (where? attend the hub if invited; visit campus at another time; how to prepare)
  2. Final essay - post-interview reflection (show 1. gratitude, 2. self-awareness, 3. humility, 4. confidence, and 5. commitment to attend HBS if admitted)

Final essay: Post-Interview Reflection

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

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.

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."

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

LINKS

  • Are you preparing for an HBS interview? Please read Vince's latest HBS Interview Tips and watch sample interviews here
  • Vince's comprehensive HBS Admissions Tips are here
  • Need help with school research? Please check Vince's HBS links ▸ http://j.mp/HBS_links

Link highlights:


Videos highlighting various aspects of the HBS experience

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

More About the Post Interview Reflection (NOT NOT NOT an essay!)

Date:

June 29, 2012

Yes, we are getting lots of questions. And your questions have actually been helpful as we put the finishing touches on this exercise. Here's where we are now - and some thinking behind it.

  • This is the question that all interviewees will be asked: "You've just had your HBS interview. Tell us about it. How well did we get to know you?"
  • There will be no word limit.
  • We think the instruction memo will look something like this: "This is not an essay. Think of this as an email you might write after a meeting. We will be much more generous in our reaction to typos and grammatical errors than we will be with pre-packaged responses. Emails that give any indication that they were produced BEFORE you had the interview will raise a flag for us. We do not expect you to solicit or receive any outside assistance with this exercise."

Here's what we're thinking:

This is NOT another essay. We want your response to be much more like an email. Why? In the Real World, it is unlikely that you will be given months and months to craft essays of any sort. It just doesn't happen. In the Real World, it is almost a sure thing that you will be asked to write emails summarizing meetings and giving your opinion in a short time frame. Since HBS tries to be as "close to practice" as possible, this shift from essays to more real time writing feels appropriate.

I know this is hard to hear but this should NOT be a cause for anxiety. We want your genuine reaction to the interview experience. As is always the case in the Real World, this means there is no right answer to the question. There is no formula, no template. But, we can tell you what the WRONG approach is: to get lots of coaching and prepare the response in September for an interview in November. To have lots of people edit and tweak it. To avoid answering the question but instead jam in six more accomplishments or copy and paste an essay from another school. Please understand that we really do plan to be very generous and kind about typos and grammar. We're not looking for a polished response.

We'll continue to have our webinars which are about the application process in general. We welcome your questions and will do our absolute best to be as clear as possible as we get closer to interview season.

(found at http://www.hbs.edu/mba/admissions/blog.html#post-2012-06-29; accessed 2012/06)

One possible strategy

  1. Thank them for the opportunity
  2. Reflect on your performance
  3. Clarify anything you failed to mention or any misperceptions you may have given about your candidacy
  4. Perhaps confirm your commitment to attending HBS if admitted

DISCLAIMER

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