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Part 1: Harvard Business School Application Essay Tips

Posted by Chioma Isiadinso

Harvard Business School Application EssaySo Harvard Business School application essays are out and a few changes are worth noting. The standard accomplishment essay is back with one slight variation.

Last year they asked you “What are your three most substantial accomplishments, and why do you view them as such?” This year HBS asks you to “Tell us about three of your accomplishments” (600 words).

The school changed last year’s mistake essay, “What have you learned from a mistake?”to this year’s “Tell us three setbacks you have faced” (600 words).

Last year’s career essay is back but slightly reworded from “What is your career vision, and why is this choice meaningful to you?” to the new essay of “Why do you want an MBA?” (400 Words).

The final essay for this year is “Answer a question you wish we’d asked” (400 words).

Unlike last year when applicants had the option to pick two out of four essay topics, this year applicants must tackle all four essays.

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The joint degree program essay is essentially the same: How do you expect the joint degree experience to benefit you on both a professional and a personal level? (400 words)

Applicants this year will be writing 200 more words than last year’s applicants as well as three mini setback essays instead of one mistake essay.

 – Accomplishment Essays: Accomplishments vary from person to person. There is the myth that you need to have one from your professional life, another from your academic life and the third from your community service life.

There isn’t a formula to follow with accomplishment essays. You have to consider what you value and view as achievements over the course of your life.

Make a comprehensive list of all of  your achievements and then look for the ones that represent who you are and the brand message you wish to communicate to the admissions board.

Don’t forget to share insight into why you care about them. You don’t have to actually write “This is meaningful because….”, but the way you tell a story can reveal the values and motivations behind your actions.

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 – Setback Essays: A set back can be something you created (jumping too quickly into something and finding out later that you needed to have done more investigation to avoid the mishap that resulted) or it can be out of your control (dealing with an impoverished background and the limitations it may have placed on you.)

The key point is to focus on how you handle problems and challenges. That is the main point of this essay.

The outcome of the story can be a major achievement. So remember, this essay doesn’t have to be negative.

 – Why MBA Essay: Why you want the MBA requires you to articulate where you are headed and the rationale for why an MBA fits into that vision.

You are not expected to know precisely what your short term, middle term, and long term steps will be for  your career.

Having said that, applicants will need to convey a sense of awareness about the career they wish to pursue and what it will take to succeed in it.

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They will also need to communicate why the MBA is necessary towards achieving that goal.

 – Open-ended Essay: The “Answer any question you wish we’d asked” is a great opportunity for applicants to proactively market their brand.

I recommend completing this essay last, after you have reviewed the other essays to identify whether there are any holes to your story or if there is a message you wish to highlight about your profile as a way to differentiate yourself.

The new essays can be handled successfully as long as you maintain a strategic approach to selecting which topics you wish to cover and ensure that your personal brand, who you are, comes through.

Start early and give yourself enough time to make any changes and expect to rewrite your essays multiple times.

I will share more in my next blog about the ingredients necessary for writing winning Harvard Essays. Happy Essay Writing!