Harvard Business School MBA Essay Analysis, Your 2015 App

By - May 23, 10:03 AM Comments [0]

Are you ready to dig into your essays? Application essays are specifically and cleverly designed to get into your head. We like to turn the tables on the admissions committees and get inside their heads. Why are they asking these questions? What are they looking for? Read on as our experts break down application essay questions to help YOU plan the attack.

You’re applying to Harvard Business School. We can see your resume, academic transcripts, extracurricular activities, awards, post-MBA career intentions, 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 set word limit for the essay.

You’re applying to Harvard Business School. We can see your resume, academic transcripts, extracurricular activities, awards, post-MBA career intentions, 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 set word limit for the essay.

Here’s the question again, stripped of all the surrounding fluff?

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

They’re sending a message. To repeat something is to waste an opportunity. You have a shot to do something cool here. To show that you’re a leader, a doer, a “has success written all over him” guy. But so, how do you do it?!

Well, first things first. There’s no word limit on the Harvard Business School MBA essay, true, but there IS such a thing as too long a response here. Let’s put it differently. The guy with insane credentials, insane natural assets won’t need to write much. That may make the guy who DOES feel the need to write a lot seem like he’s…. over compensating? While there’s no word limit, we’re not sure your final product needs to be much more than 600 words or so. 700 maybe as a max, but if you’re going overboard, it’s gonna likely feel strained.

So what do you do with 400, or 500 words?

Well, let us ask you a question. Why do you think you belong at Harvard Business School? Let’s assume for a second that Harvard is the ultimate in business school education, in terms of experience, career prospects, all that stuff. Let’s just pretend, even if you don’t buy it. Pretend it’s the best, and that more qualified people want a seat there than there are seats. What is it about you that makes you feel like one of those seats belongs to you?

Seriously. What?

What STUFF about you makes you feel like you should be rubbing elbows with the elitest of the elite? (It’s a hard question to answer, but as an exercise—skin it that way, see what happens.)

Let’s further pretend that you went ahead with that exercise and generated a bullet point list of STUFF, reasons you belong at HBS. Or a short paragraph. Something. What do you DO with this now? How does this become the beginnings of an essay?

Well, we’re not there yet. This exercise may or may not become anything—but it can be an incredibly interesting thing to articulate in your own head. Put it aside for now, let’s figure out how to WRITE this sucker.

Imagine sitting across from the HBS guys reviewing your app. And imagine saying this to him (literally, say this out loud, feel what it’s like to say/think it):

• You know my GMAT
• You know my GPA
• You’ve seen what I’ve accomplished thus far in my career
• You’ve seen evidence of leadership from my resume
• You’ve heard from others (my recommenders) that I’m a born leader, along with a bunch of other Harvard-worthy things
• You don’t need a reason for why I wanna go to Harvard because it’s like asking someone why they want the best thing instead of the second best thing
• You know all of that—and you’re compelled, but you wanna hear one more thing about me—one other THING about what I’m all about, or what I’ve done, something I have in the works, some… THING to help you realize that offering me a seat is the best decision YOU could ever make; well here goes:

{What follows from all that?}

Any obvious contenders for what fills that space? Is there one obvious thing you simply MUST talk about? Several? Well, choosing this “thing” is gonna be hard. And you may decide the “thing” needs to be captured in three buckets, not just one. But if you go that route, be careful not to spread yourself too thin because too much stuff can start to seem… compensatory. Brevity, strength of position, confidence, all that stuff matters here. This is Harvard, just look at how much they wanna know about you? Very little—so don’t give ‘em the library of Congress.

Give them something substantive. Something assertive. Something badass. Something that makes the reader go… “Yah, that IS a reason to give this guy a seat here.” Or, more practically-speaking, “Yah, that IS a reason to call this kid in for an interview.” (Cuz that’s the main objective here right? Give ‘em JUST enough that they want to MEET you. You’ll never give them enough to offer you an admit-without-interview.)

Before you put pen to paper, let’s talk about one more step. Once you’ve identified the THING or THINGS, ask yourself WHY this should put you over the top. Don’t gloss over it, force yourself to ARTICULATE it. If you can’t, guess what… your “thing” may need some re-thinking. Don’t take this lightly, folks; articulating this is gonna be hard as hell. But if you’re able to do it, you’ll be able to develop your argument much more effectively.

Think about selling a physical product. Like a pen. Or a brand of tea. Or a particular television model. Why should someone own THAT particular brand? Yes, it may have many virtues in the abstract, but why must A CERTAIN SOMEONE actually care about those things? That’s when you start to acquaint YOURSELF with the product’s intrinsic VALUE. Yes this pen can write with this amount of thickness, has ink that will last this long, and on and on and on. But… why must CONSUMER X own it?

Figure out why Harvard must hear about this THING or these THINGS you wanna tell them. If you can’t articulate it… may mean you need to do some more soul-searching. If you can, start making that case, not by articulating that reason—but by DEMONSTRATING it through your storytelling skills.


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