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Holistic HBS essay strategy

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Joined: 11 Jul 2008
Posts: 211
Location: United States
Concentration: Entrepreneurship, Technology
Schools: Haas '15
GMAT 1: 680 Q47 V37
GPA: 3.6
WE: Engineering (Computer Hardware)
Holistic HBS essay strategy [#permalink]

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New post 23 Aug 2008, 22:21
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Hi Paul,

Firstly I wanted to let you know that I purchased your book a few weeks ago and it has proven to help immensely in my essay writing thank you!

I have a couple quick questions on my overall essay strategy for HBS:

1. In each essay I am emphasizing (to varying extents) examples of leadership I have displayed. I am wondering if incorporating the leadership value into all four essays will be detrimental to my application. In other words, would this be viewed as trying too hard to sell myself as a leader?

I know this may be difficult to address without further details, but I should note that I am exemplifying leadership in each realm of my life (work/professional, community/EC, and personal) without too much (if any) anecdotal redundancy.

2. I'm still debating whether to answer the "undergrad academic experience" or "career goals" question. Having attended a lesser known undergrad school (Oregon Tech) I wanted to make sure they know that I attended mostly due to a prestigious in-state scholarship from Intel (where I went on to work after graduating). I also have some great examples of leadership at the school which would showcase abilities from an early stage of my life (~at age 19, I am now 25).

On the other hand, I am simply skeptical of skipping the "career goals" essay. I understand HBS made this essay optional for a reason, but nevertheless I deem it important to justify my reasons for leaving software engineering for business. (Which, in a nutshell, is because I'd like to have a more direct impact on people's lives, something that is difficult to experience as a SW engineer.)

Do you think it would paint a stronger picture to answer "career goals," relegating my undergrad school choice and leadership experiences to another essay or pulling them out altogether?

I'm sure this is difficult to address without knowing what I cover in other essays, but any of your thoughts or suggestions on my holistic strategy would be very much appreciated.

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Joined: 20 Apr 2003
Posts: 5901
Location: Los Angeles CA
Re: Holistic HBS essay strategy [#permalink]

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New post 29 Aug 2008, 13:02

Thanks, I'm glad the book has been helpful. If you feel like posting a short review on I'd be eternally in your debt: ... 608&sr=8-1

I think it's wise to emphasize leadership in every essay that you can for HBS, but that doesn't mean repeating stories/examples or repeating the same leadership lessons from essay to essay. You need to emphasize different types and aspects of your leadership.

I always recommend that people address the career vision essay. Maybe you can get your recommenders to mention the scholarship. Plus they will see the college leadership in the data section of your app as well as on your resume. You could also tackle *both* the career vision and undergraduate essays (i.e., drop whatever other essay topic you were going to address in addition to undegraduate experience).

Good luck,


Linda Abraham
Accepted ~ The Premier Admissions Consultancy

Co-Author of: MBA Admission for Smarties: The No-Nonsense Guide to Acceptance at Top Business Schools

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Re: Holistic HBS essay strategy   [#permalink] 29 Aug 2008, 13:02
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