If you’re a rising college senior who hopes to get into Harvard Business School’s HBS 2+2 Program, you’re probably already knee-deep in writing and editing your admissions essays. (The deadline is just two weeks from today! Before you know it your summer will be over!) While most of your candidacy is set in stone at this point — your GPA, the work experience you’ve accumulated to date, and probably your GMAT score — there’s still plenty of time to improve your chances with terrific essays and meaningful letters of recommendation.
So what can you do or say at this stage that will make a difference? A lot, really. While the applicant pool is very competitive — and will likely be significantly larger than last year’s — the good news is that you’re going up against a lot of other young, inexperienced (albeit bright and accomplished) applicants. They may be talented, but many of them probably don’t know how to approach the admissions process strategically. That’s where you can gain an advantage.
Here are three things you should keep in mind as you put the finishing touches on your HBS 2+2 Program application:
- Sure you’re smart. But you need to bring more to the table. This might very well be the first time in your life when you’re judged on much more than just your grades and standardized test scores. If you’ve done well in school and have a GMAT score that puts you in contention for the HBS 2+2 Program, then you’re probably pretty bright. But Harvard (and all top business schools, for that matter) really wants to find young professionals who make a positive impact on the community around them, no matter where they come from. So, while having a 4.0 in biomedical engineering may get you into most top graduate schools, it won’t be enough to get you into the HBS 2+2 Program unless you also can show a track record of getting involved in your community (and we use the term “community” pretty broadly here, including your college, a company where you worked, or the actual neighborhood in which you live). That’s what will separate the merely “smart” applicants from the truly impressive ones.
- You’re young. Don’t try to hide that fact. While the HBS admissions office seeks candidates with impressive experiences and strong potential, they also realize that you’re 20-21 years old. HBS built programs such as this one to help the school find high-potential young professionals such as yourself, before you fall into the arms of another top business school or other graduate program. They know you haven’t done and see everything yet, so don’t pretend to be someone you’re not. They DO want to see that you are bright, are curious about the world, and you’re the type to get involved and make things happen. But they realize that many of your stories may see a little silly or trivial compared to those of a 26-year-old professional. That’s okay. As long as you project maturity, your actual age doesn’t matter.
- If you don’t get in, that doesn’t mean HBS hates you forever. The acceptance rate for last year’s HBS 2+2 applicant pool was 14% and may even go lower this year), so no more than one in seven applicants will get in. For many, many of those applicants, Harvard Business School will like what they see, but simply won’t be able to admit them over even better qualified applicants. So, if you’re admitted and HBS tells you “Try again in a few years,” the admissions office really means that. And devote those years to demonstrating the leadership, initiative, and maturity that Harvard wants to see. Do that, and you will be in a good position to apply again after a couple of years of full-time work experience under your belt. You will have NO negative baggage associated with your candidacy if you apply to the traditional MBA program a few years from now.
Right now we’re assisting many applicants as they put the finishing touches on their HBS 2+2 Program applications. For more advice on getting into Harvard Business School, download our HBS Annual Report, one of 15 completely free guides to the world’s top business schools. If you still could use some help pulling it all together (and there is definitely still time for you to make a difference!), call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today!