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Tackling the Harvard Business School Essays

Posted by Chioma Isiadinso

Tackling the Harvard Business School Essays If you’re applying to Harvard Business School in round one, you’ve already delved into the essay questions.
However, before you submit your responses, take a moment to review my notes on what each question is truly driving at and what the Board hopes to discover about you.

Understanding the Board’s interests and expectations will allow you to craft responses that excite readers about your candidacy.

 – Achievements. As you consider your achievements, attempt to share stories from a variety of areas in your life (ie. work, personal, community, etc).

Remember that you are more than your job and that the Board is looking to see you excel in a variety of ways, not simply as a professional.

Also, as you are selecting stories to tell, choose those which are most recent.

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As you dive into committing your stories to paper, ensure that you go well beyond the story’s set-up: spend a greater number of your word allowance on how you achieved and the outcome than you do on telling what led up to the achievement.

The achievement essays are “make or break” components of the HBS application, so choose wisely and spend the time to craft thoughtful responses that highlight your leadership, skills, and commitment.

 – Setbacks. As with the achievements, consider sharing stories from all areas of your life.

For instance, you may share about an entrepreneurial failure, a difficult relationship and how you coped with health problems.

Vary the content to show learning and growth throughout your life.

In these essays, focus your attention on how you dealt with the disappointment or challenge, what you learned from it, and how it shaped you as you moved forward in life or your career.

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 – Why MBA? Be honest, genuine, and to-the-point.  Take a moment of reflection for yourself.

Think deeply about why you truly want to obtain your MBA and commit those thoughts to paper.

There is no need to add fluff or frills to this essay, simply be forthright in your motivation for applying to Harvard and explain why and how you see your MBA propelling you forward in the future.

 – Final Essay. As you tackle this essay, be strategic and thoughtful.  This is your opportunity to think about the brand that you have established.

What stories have you not yet shared that would help round out the brand for the reader?  What is the last impression that you’d like to leave the reader?

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Remember, this is your last opportunity to make a positive impression, so don’t focus on lengthy apologies for your weaknesses.

Simply excite the reader about your passions, incorporate your extracurricular activities, and highlight any aspects of your brand that may not have come across previously.

I hope that in reading the above you can now review your own essay responses through the eyes of the HBS admissions board.

Make changes and updates that will help the reader become a champion for you among your competition.

And, remember that if you decide you need more time to craft high quality essays, it’s OK to wait until round two!  Related:  Round One or Round Two?