Early Thoughts on Harvard Business School’s 2016-2017 Application Essay Question

Harvard Business SchoolApplication season at Harvard Business School is officially underway with the release of the school’s 2016-2017 essay question. Let’s discuss from a high level some early thoughts on how best to approach this year’s new essay prompt. HBS is mixing it up again this year with a slightly different essay prompt that maintains the same spirit of last year’s essay question. With only one question, it is critical that applicants make the most of the limited real estate available, here.

Essay 1:
As we review your application, what more would you like us to know as we consider your candidacy for the Harvard Business School MBA Program? (no word limit)
Open-ended prompts such as this are often the most stressful type of essay question MBA applicants receive – couple that with the inherent pressure that comes with applying to Harvard, and this essay may be viewed as one of the more nerve-wracking questions of the application season. The challenge here for many will be just the sheer simplicity of this question. This essay prompt is a good example of why it is important to really just pay attention to the advice the HBS Admissions Committee offers:

“Don’t overthink, over-craft and overwrite. Just answer the question in clear language that those of us who don’t know your world can understand.”

HBS has really gone out of its way, particularly through Dee Leopold’s blog (soon to become Chad Losee’s blog), to emphasize a desire for authenticity and transparency in the essay-writing process. Candidates who are able to channel their approach in a compelling and natural way will stand out from the flock of impersonal, inauthentic and overly-curated essays the school is bound to see.

This approach tends to fly in the face of what the expectation is at other business schools, but in this case, candidates who are unable to adhere to the guidance provided by the school will struggle with securing admission to HBS. Breakthrough candidates will answer this specific question posed in the manner the school has outlined – your response should be brief, conversational, and really provide the Admissions Committee with insight into aspects of “you” that are not currently represented elsewhere in the application.

Harvard has set the tone of an almost casual “blog-style” approach to their essay, and last year, even focused their prompt around having candidates write from the perspective of communicating with their future classmates. Even though the prompt, itself, is a bit different this year, maintain the spirit of this communication style to really make your essay stand out. At its core, this question is honestly about getting to know you, so don’t miss the opportunity by trying to craft a seemingly “perfect” but dispassionate answer for the Admissions Committee.

These are just a few thoughts on the new essay from HBS – hopefully this will help you get started. For more thoughts on Harvard and its application essay, check out our Essential Guide to Top Business Schools for free, here.

Applying to Harvard or other business schools? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today, or take our free MBA Admissions Profile Evaluation for personalized advice for your unique application situation! As always, be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTubeGoogle+ and Twitter.

Dozie A. is a Veritas Prep Head Consultant for the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. His specialties include consulting, marketing, and low GPA/GMAT applicants. You can read more articles by him here.

What MBA Class Size is Best for You?

In ClassThere are many different characteristics that can factor into selecting the right business school for you. From school reputation, recruiting, and alumni network to teaching style and professors, MBA programs come in all shapes and sizes. One aspect that is often overlooked in the business school search process is class size – not to be confused with the size of individual classes within a school or by the size of the entire student body.

Why is this so important?  The class size of your MBA factors into many aspects of your business school experience and will continue to influence your career many years after matriculation. MBA programs like the Tuck School at Dartmouth or the Johnson School at Cornell boast tight knit cultures that offer small class sizes. By contrast, programs such as Harvard Business School, Columbia Business School and the Wharton School at Penn boast large class sizes with deep alumni networks.

So what type of environment is right for you? Only you can say, but consider the following:

Personality
What setting do you thrive in? For some, a bigger class size would be too overwhelming, while others might thrive in this setting but feel intimidated by the intimacy of a smaller class size. The decision to pursue an MBA is an intensely personal one, as is the type of program you choose, so be sure to reflect on your preferences to ensure the class size of the program you choose will mesh well with your unique personality.

Career
How will the class size of your target program impact your future career options? With a larger student body often comes more resources and access to a wider breadth of recruiters, however, such large a large student population also brings the risk of potentially finding yourself “lost” in the crowd of your classmates. Do some research and ensure the programs and recruiters necessary to support your career development align with the type of class you are looking to join.

Network
Are you more inclined to build small, closer relationships or broadly connect with many? Bigger programs can allow you to better address both of these options, while smaller programs may restrict your ability to accomplish the latter.

However, it is important to note that the culture of a school’s student community may play a more important factor than even overall class size. For example, Northwestern’s Kellogg School (a program with large class sizes) has historically been known to have very collaborative students, which counteracts the stereotypes commonly associated with programs of its size. This just goes to show that an MBA program can’t always be judged on its size.

As always, research is the key go beyond common stereotypes associated with programs of all sizes and make an informed decision as you construct your target school list or make a matriculation decision.

Applying to business school? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today, or take our free MBA Admissions Profile Evaluation for personalized advice for your unique application situation! As always, be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter.

Dozie A. is a Veritas Prep Head Consultant for the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. His specialties include consulting, marketing, and low GPA/GMAT applicants. You can find more of his articles here.

Breaking Down the 2017 U.S. News Ranking of Top Business Schools: Part 2

US News College Rankings

Make sure you check out Part 1 of this article before you begin reading more of our thoughts on the recently released U.S. News and World Report‘s 2017 ranking of Best Business Schools. Now let’s take a deeper look at some of the surprises this year’s rankings presented:

 

Ranking surprises 
We were quite surprised to see Columbia (#10) come behind Tuck and Yale this year (ranked #8 and #9 respectively). Columbia has a very high yield of admitted applicants who choose to attend the school, and it has been working hard to foster a more collaborative culture. However, Tuck’s employment statistics and remarkably high percentage of graduates receiving a signing bonus (87%!) play well to the U.S. News methodology. We shouldn’t sell Tuck short, though, as other intangibles at Tuck not included in this ranking — such as student satisfaction, alumni network, and tight-knit culture — also rate among the highest of any MBA program.

Yale snagged Dean Ted Snyder from Chicago Booth back in 2011 after he presided over its precipitous rise in the rankings. His magic potion seems to be working at Yale as well, and we’ve dubbed him the “Rankings Whisperer.” He thoroughly understands the drivers of rankings and pushes all levers to the max to improve the standings of his schools. Yale has begun to move away from its ties to the social and nonprofit sectors, driving up average starting salaries and recruitment percentages, but perhaps distancing the program from its roots.

University of Virginia’s Darden School always seems to be the sleeper success story, and this year is no exception. With its best placement in more than a decade, Darden came in at #11. Darden’s reputation amongst peer schools and recruiters is not as strong as most other programs ranked in the top 15, but it has a very strong starting salary/bonus and other statistics.

Be wary of average salary numbers
The U.S. News ranking incorporates average salary plus signing bonus in its rankings, which in theory, is not a bad thing. After all, many applicants desire to gain an MBA, at least in part, to improve their salary potential. However, we recommend that you look at salaries just like the rankings themselves—by using the numbers in a broader context. After all, the difference in average salary and bonus between Harvard (ranked #1 overall) and Cornell (ranked #14 overall), is less than $5,000 per year.

If you analyze the data industry-by-industry (as we have), you’ll find that there’s little difference in salaries coming out of the top 10 to 15 programs. The biggest difference is the percentage of graduates who are able to land positions in highly selective industries, such as private equity. But here’s the rub: most of these highly selective industries are looking for extremely qualified candidates who have pre-MBA experience that fits their needs. So even if you manage to squeeze into Harvard or Stanford, if you don’t have the pre-MBA experience that these firms are looking for, then you’re going to have a tough time getting an interview, much less landing a job, in the highest paying private equity or venture capital positions.

Also, some roles, such as in investment banking, do not have as high of base salaries or signing bonuses, but a high percentage of your income will come from performance-based quarterly and annual bonuses. Other roles simply pay less, such as marketing and product management, but remain very attractive to a significant number of MBA graduates. Schools with a higher percentage of graduates taking these roles, such as Kellogg, can have lower overall salary averages, when their graduates make as much or more than peers within their chosen industry. None of this information can be captured in the U.S. News ranking.

Bottom line: Are you likely to make more money coming out of a program ranked #5 than ranked #20? Yes. But should you let this number dictate your decision between #7 and #12? Not necessarily. There are many other factors to consider, such as whether your target companies, industries, and so forth.

A holistic approach
We’ve provided a bit of context and analysis around this year’s ranking, and we encourage you to use these lists as merely a starting point in your research process. We encourage you to take advantage of our Veritas Prep Essential Guide to Top Business Schools to assist in your process, as it’s now available for free on our website!

In addition, if you’re interested in finding out your chances of admission to the top schools, you can sign up for a free profile evaluation to explore your individual strengths and weaknesses. Veritas Prep has worked with thousands of successful applicants to the top business schools, and we look forward to assisting you on your own journey!

Travis Morgan is the Director of Admissions Consulting for Veritas Prep and earned his MBA with distinction from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. He served in the Kellogg Student Admissions Office, Alumni Admissions Organization and Diversity & Inclusion Council, among several other posts. Travis joined Veritas Prep as an admissions consultant and GMAT instructor, and he was named Worldwide Instructor of the Year in 2011. 

Harvard Business School Application Essays & Deadlines for 2015-2016

MBA applicants, start your engines. A handful of the top U.S. business schools have already released their application essays and admissions deadlines, it’s that time of year when we start digging into them for you. Today, we’re going to start with the business school with the biggest name and the earliest Round 1 deadline: Harvard Business School.

After years of slimming its essays down to the point where it had only one essay and even made it optional, HBS has changed course this year. The school has an all-new essay prompt, and it’s no longer optional. The essay becoming mandatory again actually isn’t huge news; in a recent blog post, HBS Admissions Director explained that, not surprisingly, every applicant submitted a response. So, no point in making the essay optional and confusing the issue. There’s one essay in the application (not counting the Post-Interview Reflection), and you’re going to write it if you want to get into HBS.

Without further ado, here are Harvard’s deadlines and essays (including the “Post-Interview Reflection”), followed by our comments in italics:

Harvard Business School Admissions Deadlines
Round 1: September 9, 2015
Round 2: January 6, 2016
Round 3: April 4, 2016

Harvard still has the earliest Round 1 deadline in the business, although the school’s Round 1 and Round 2 deadlines are exactly the same as they were last year. To give you an idea of how much this deadline has crept up over the years, back in 2008 HBS’s Round 1 deadline came on October 15! Harvard’s Round 3 deadline moved up two days this season, but that’s the only change this season.

Harvard Business School Admissions Essays

  • It’s the first day of class at HBS. You are in Aldrich Hall meeting your “section.” This is the group of 90 classmates who will become your close companions in the first-year MBA classroom. Our signature case method participant-based learning model ensures that you will get to know each other very well. The bonds you collectively create throughout this shared experience will be lasting. Introduce yourself. Note: Should you enroll at HBS, there will be an opportunity for you to share this with them. We suggest you view this video before beginning to write. (No word limit)

    Harvard went with an entirely new essay prompt this year. Last year’s “What else would you like us to know?” question seemed effective, but this change tells us that the HBS admissions committee is still trying hard to break applicants out of the habit of writing overly formal essays that don’t tell them anything interesting. While Harvard is normally a trendsetter, this year the school follows in the footsteps of schools such as Stern and Fuqua, which have used similar questions in recent years.By trying to put you in the shoes of students who have already gotten in and are now introducing themselves to their classmates, HBS wants get you to write with as natural a voice as is possible. In fact, in the blog post that introduces this question, Dee Leopold urges you to imagine “saying it out loud.” Of course, you will (and should) put more thought into this essay than you would put into what few words you might say to break the ice in Aldrich Hall.

    Any essay you write here still needs to help you do at least one of the two things that all successful MBA applicants do — demonstrate fit with HBS and also stand out in a very competitive field of applicants. Resist the urge to go for a gimmick, but don’t be afraid to truly listen to Leopold and actually let your hair down a bit. What brought you to this point in your life? What do you want to do after HBS? (Remember, write in the voice of someone who’s already gotten in.) What do you like to do outside of school and work? What gets you up in the morning? What would you say in your verbal introduction to get a laugh out of your new friends?

    Of course, the challenge is that there’s a lot that you would normally emphasize in a more traditional essay (“Why an MBA? Why now? Why HBS?”) that you probably wouldn’t say as you’re speaking to your new classmates. While in a traditional essay you might want to go on and on about how your minimal community involvement is actually something you’re really passionate about, how much time would you really spend on that in a verbal introduction? So, those things need to come out in your resume, your recommendations, and — should you get that far — your admissions interview.

    Overall, we bet that applicants will still err on the side of being too formal (and to wordy!) with this essay. One way to combat this is to actually record yourself doing a verbal introduction of yourself, and then, once you have a complete draft of an essay, compare it to see how much it matches it in terms of tone and length (not necessarily in terms of exact content). If your written piece is much longer or much more formal than your verbal sample, you know you have a bit more work to do to get to what the Harvard Business School admissions committee wants to see. We expect that most great responses will take up less than 1,000 words (maybe even more like 500 words) here.

  • Post-Interview Reflection: Within 24 hours of the interview, candidates are required to submit a written reflection through our online application system. Detailed instructions will be provided to those applicants who are invited to the interview process.

    The Post-Interview Reflection gives you a chance to include anything you wish you had been able to mention in the interview, and to reframe anything that you discussed but have since thought about a bit more. You will submit this piece within 24 hours of your interview.Especially since this letter has no word limit, the temptation will be for you to cram in half a dozen additional things that you wish you had covered in the interview. However, less is always more — keep the note limited to no more than two or three core ideas that you want to highlight. Ideally you covered all of the important things in the interview already, but of not, then this is a chance to hit on those here. Keep in mind, though, that sharing these ideas in the interview is always going to be more effective than cramming them into this note.

    Finally, be realistic about how much this letter will help you. Chances are that it won’t turn a dud of an interview into a terrific one in hindsight. Do NOT go into the interview with this note already drafted; let it truly be a reaction to the discussion, which was hopefully an interesting and provocative one. If your interviewer reads this note and it sounds like a replay of an entirely different discussion than what he or she remembers, that will only serve to hurt you come decision time.

Read more of our thoughts on the HBS essay here.

Every year we help dozens of applicants apply to Harvard Business School. Want to see if you have what it takes to get into HBS? You can get a free profile evaluation from a Veritas Prep MBA admissions expert. And, as always, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

By Scott Shrum

Harvard Business School Admissions Essays & Deadlines for 2014-2015

And just like that, the new MBA admissions season is starting to happen. Harvard Business School has announced its application essay prompt and Round 1 deadline for 2014-2015. Last year we made much of the Great Essay Slimdown, in which many business schools cut their number of required essays or reduced word counts. Harvard went down to just one essay last year (and made it optional!) meaning that there wasn’t much more slimming down the school could do, short of eliminating the essay altogether.

Not only has HBS kept one essay this year, but it has also kept the exact same essay prompt. When a school carries over an essay from one year to the next, that means admissions officers like what they’re seeing in the essays they receive. Based on what we’ve learned from our clients over the past year (many of whom were admitted!), we feel very good about the advice we’ve been giving on this essay, so our advice mostly remians the same.

Harvard Business School Application Deadlines
Round 1: September 9, 2014
Round 2: January 6, 2015
Round 3: April 6, 2015

Is that Round 1 deadline seems awfully early to you, it’s because it is. It is one week earlier than last year, which was already the earliest the school had ever made its Round 1 deadline. To give you an idea of how much this deadline has crept up over the years, back in 2008 HBS’s Round 1 deadline came on October 15! Also, note that HBS moved its Round 2 deadline back by one day, from January 5 to January 6, to make things slightly easier for everyone coming back from the holidays.

Now, here’s that optional essay, followed by our comments in italics:

Harvard Business School Application Essays

  • You’re applying to Harvard Business School. We can see your resume, school transcripts, extra-curricular activities, awards, post-MBA career goals, test scores and what your recommenders have to say about you. What else would you like us to know as we consider your candidacy? (No word limit)

    HBS still calls this an “optional” essay, although the admissions office hasn’t given any concrete indication of what percentage of applicants (especially successful applicants) chose to skip this essay altogether. We bet that the number of brave souls who skipped this essay is very low. However, it is indeed conceivable that you could skip this essay. After all, this question is worded very similarly to how many MBA programs phrase their optional essays, and we always advise applicants to only use those ones if necessary.

    On the flip side, be careful about the signal you send by not submitting anything: This is a huge opportunity to embark on a transformational experience early in your career. You really don’t have anything else to say? Harvard is one of the few business schools that don’t need to be convinced that you really want to attend, but not having anything to say is consistent with being a casual applicant, one who is applying for the heck of it, just to see if you get in. Don’t paint yourself as one of those applicants.

    Assuming you do tackle this essay, what should you write about? Notice that they didn’t ask, “What ONE THING would you like us to know?” in the prompt. You should, however, resist the temptation to cover half a dozen things here. Many applicants’ essays have had a high word-to-value ratio, and Harvard Business School has been trying to correct this by reducing the number of essays and the expected word counts. (When we say “value” here, we mean information that helps admissions officers get to know applicants better.) Keep this trend in mind as you decide what to write about here… Hitting on more than one theme here is fine, but resist the temptation to go beyond 1,000 words. (In fact, we expect that the best essays will be closer to 500 words than to 1,000.)

    We always tell every applicant that they need to do two things to get into HBS or any other top MBA program: Stand out vs. other applicants (especially those who are most similar to the applicant) and show fit with the school. If you come from a very common background — think management consultant, or IT consultant from Asia — then you need to stand out more, and this essay is your chance to do it. If your background makes you unusual vs. the typical HBS class profile — perhaps you have more than the typical amount of work experience or have zero quantitative abilities to point to — then you need to use this essay to demonstrate that you will fit in and thrive at Harvard.

    Also, If you have a real sore spot in your application, such as a low undergraduate GPA, then you should expect to devote some words to that here. Don’t dwell on it, and don’t sound like Mr. Excuses, but do address it and move on.

  • Post-Interview Reflection: You just had your HBS interview. Tell us about it. Did we get to know you?

    Note that the HBS admissions team has said little about whether the post-interview reflection will change or be replaced this year, but our assumption is that it will stay. Here we analyze last year’s post-interview prompt.

    While the above essay is optional, this post-interview reflection is required. It gives you a chance to include anything you wish you had been able to mention in the interview, and to reframe anything that you discussed but have since thought about a bit more. You will submit this piece within 24 hours of your interview.

    Especially since this letter has no word limit, the temptation will be for you to cram in half a dozen additional things that you wish you had covered in the interview. However, less is always more — keep the note limited to no more than two or three core ideas that you want to highlight. Ideally you covered all of the important things in the interview already, but of not, then this is a chance to hit on those here. Keep in mind, though, that sharing these ideas in the interview is always going to be more effective than cramming them into this note.

    Finally, be realistic about how much this letter will help you. Chances are that it won’t turn a dud of an interview into a terrific one in hindsight. Do NOT go into the interview with this note already drafted; let it truly be a reaction to the discussion, which was hopefully an interesting and provocative one. If your interviewer reads this note and it sounds like a replay of an entirely different discussion than what he or she remembers, that will only serve to hurt you come decision time.

Every year we help dozens of applicants apply to Harvard Business School. If you’re just starting your HBS research, download our Essential Guide to Harvard Business School, one of our 14 guides to the world’s top business schools (it’s free!). Getting ready to apply? You can get a free profile evaluation from a Veritas Prep MBA admissions expert. And, as always, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

By Scott Shrum

Harvard Business School Application Essays and Deadlines for 2013-2014

Last week Harvard Business School released the details of its application for the 2013-2014 admissions season. While there was some moderately interesting news around Harvard’s admissions deadlines, much of the chatter has been about Harvard’s drastically revised essays. Make no mistake — this is a very different application than what HBS has used in the past, but keep in mind that Harvard still wants to see the same qualities (across your entire application) that it has been looking for in applicants for years. Harvard still wants to find bright budding leaders who are ready to undergo a transformational experience. The admissions committee is just going about finding those applicants a little differently this year.

Without further ado, here are Harvard’s admissions deadlines and essays for the Class of 2016, followed by our comments in italics:
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Why I Chose Harvard Business School

Harvard Business SchoolToday we feature a guest post from Veritas Prep MBA admissions consultant Tiffany Singleton. Tiffany currently serves as the Senior Director of National Campaign at Year up, a nonprofit organization. She has served as an alumni interviewer for Management Leadership for Tomorrow, and has recruited undergraduates and MBA candidates for JP Morgan. Tiffany has also represented HBS at various admissions events. Before receiving her MBA from Harvard Business School, she went to Dillard University and received a Bachelor’s degree in Economics and Finance.

The experience as a prospective student – in addition to the interview! (see more below) — most memorable to me was the HBS Immersion Program (aka IXP), specifically the New Orleans trek. I had the incredible opportunity to attend a seminar held in early December 2006 because of my collaboration with the Dillard team and Tim Butler, Director of Career Development Programs.
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Harvard Business School Essays and Deadlines for 2012-2013

HBS EssaysTime flies… The last applicants of the 2011-2012 admissions season are still finding out their fates, and Harvard Business School has already released its admissions essays and deadlines for the 2012-2013 application season. Big news here: Consistent with what we predicted earlier this month, this year’s HBS application includes fewer essays… Just two required ones this year! (Back pats all around here at Veritas Prep headquarters!)

Here are the new Harvard essays and deadlines, taken from Harvard’s site. As usual, our comments follow in italics:
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Another Good Reason to Apply to the HBS 2+2 Program: Flexibility

An article that appeared in yesterday’s edition of The Harvard Crimson described an interesting phenomenon that is happening in the first cohort of students who were admitted to the HBS 2+2 Program back in 2008. Rather than entering Harvard Business School as first-year students last fall, a surprising number decided to keep working and delay their matriculation for another year.

According to the article (which mentions some former Veritas Prep students!), of the 106 students who were accepted in the HBS 2+2 Program’s first year, 65 entered HBS this past fall, 40 postponed matriculation, and one dropped out. And the trend is growing: For the group that is supposed to start at HBS this coming fall, more than half have decided to postpone matriculation.
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What’s New at Harvard Business School?

Dean Nitin Nohria has only been at the top spot at Harvard Business School for about a year, but the effects of his projects and initiatives are already starting to be seen. He has declared that his priorities are around five core themes: Innovation. Intellectual Ambition, Internationalization, Inclusion, and Integration. What does this all mean specifically for you as an HBS applicant?

The visible changes at Harvard that are at least in part due to Dean Nohria’s influence include:

A move beyond the case method
What was sacrosanct at Harvard for generations was that 100% of courses were taught using the case study method. As Veritas Prep predicted when Dean Nohria arrived in Summer 2010, the curriculum is undergoing change. Starting with the class matriculating in Fall 2011, students will now have “field method” experiences as a counterpart to the case-based teaching. The first change to the curriculum is a year-long first-year course called FIELD, for Field Immersion Experiences for Leadership Development. FIELD features small-group opportunities for students to put what they learn into practice. The Class of 2012 will also see a reduction in the number of case-based courses and the introduction of new labs, similar to what schools like MIT have offered for some time.
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Harvard Begins Construction on New Tata Hall

Late last week Harvard Business School broke ground on Tata Hall, the new facility that will house HBS’s executive education program. Tata Hall is named in honor of Ratan Tata, whose cluster of companies and nonprofit organizations (all of which bear his name) donated $50 million toward construction of the new building.

In some respects, Ratan Tata is uniquely qualified to help steer the construction of the new building, since he is a 1975 graduate of Harvard’s Advanced Management Program for senior executives. As one of India’s (and the world’s) most successful businessmen, he no doubt was eager to leave a lasting legacy at Harvard.
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HBS to Open Second-Year Classes to Visitors

Harvard Business School Admissions GuideWe always tell applicants to visit their target business schools before applying. After all, how can you claim to really know an MBA program well — and be certain that you want to go there — when you’ve never even visited the school? This is especially true for the most competitive programs, where being an informed applicant may make the difference between an acceptance letter and heartbreak.

Harvard Business School has always presented a bit of a problem for applicants, particularly over the past few years, when its Round 1 application deadlines has crept up to the beginning of October. Harvard’s famous case-study method makes for a unique classroom experience, and the school does open some first-year classes to applicant visitors, but Harvard doesn’t do this until after its Round 1 deadline has already passed. Unless they visit the HBS the previous academic year, Round 1 applicants have to submit their applications before they ever set foot in a classroom and see the case-study method for themselves.
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Ever Wonder What HBS Professors Read Over the Summer?

Harvard Business School, home to some of the brightest business minds in academia. What could all of those brains possibly do during the summer, when they don’t have to worry about teaching courses and can instead focus on pure intellectual pursuits (and perhaps consulting gigs)? An article in the June, 2011, edition of the HBS Alumni Bulletin asked just that question, and the answers make for an interesting read… and just might inspire your own summer reading list.

We most enjoyed reading what authors, books, and magazines made it onto each professor’s “guilty pleasure” reading list:
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Harvard Business School Essays and Deadlines for 2011-2012

HBS EssaysIt must be spring, because Harvard Business School has just released its application essays and deadlines for the 2011-2012 admissions season. Note that these are for Harvard’s traditional MBA program; we covered the HBS 2+2 Program application a couple of weeks ago, although the two applications have become very similar to one another.

Here are the new essays and deadlines, taken from Harvard’s site. Our comments follow in italics:
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HBS 2+2 Program Admissions Essays and Deadlines for 2011-2012

HBS 2+2 ProgramThe Harvard Business School admissions committee has just released its admissions essays for the HBS 2+2 Program for the coming year. Today we’ll dig into the program’s application deadlines and those essays.

Regarding deadlines, note that the big change since last year is that there are now four deadlines, vs. one single summer deadline for the program. Even though the window in which you can apply is now more wide open, note that the program is still designed with current college juniors in mind. (HBS phrases it as anyone who will “be graduating from your college or university between October 1, 2011 and September 30, 2012,” which mostly applies to those who are just wrapping up their junior year in college.)
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Know These 4 Things Before You Apply to HBS

HBSHarvard Business School doesn’t need to do much to market itself to applicants. Outside of the extensive work the HBS admissions team has done in recent years to spread the word about its relatively new HBS 2+2 Program, Harvard is more concerned with identifying which applicants fit the school best than with encouraging applicants to apply.

Here at Veritas Prep, we have no shortage of inquiries from clients who are certain they want to go to HBS. Once we dig a little deeper to get at their reasons, though, many of them realize they still have a lot more homework to do. Without a doubt, it doesn’t get more prestigious than HBS. But, before you apply, you really need to understand a few important things about the HBS experience.
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Reader Poll: How Much Would You Pay for a Spot at HBS?

Harvard Business School Admissions Guide
How much would you pay to go to Harvard?
With Harvard Business School releasing its Round 1 admissions decisions yesterday, we thought it would be fun to post the following question: How much would you pay for a seat in the HBS Class of 2013?

Of course, Harvard doesn’t sell seats in its class (unless you get a building named after you; we’d have to think that wouldn’t hurt your admissions chances). But what if you could write a check to guarantee yourself a spot in next year’s entering class? $100? $1,000? $1,000,000?
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HBS Admissions Essays and Deadlines for 2010-2011

Harvard Business School GuideIf you were wondering whether the 2010-2011 MBA admissions season could really upon us already after Wharton released its application deadlines last week, then wonder no more. Yesterday Harvard Business School announced its application deadlines and admissions essays for the 2010-2011 season. Here they are, taken from Harvard’s site. Our comments are in italics:

Harvard Business School Application Deadlines
Round 1: October 1, 2010
Round 2: January 11, 2011
Round 3: March 31, 2011


This year’s Round 1 deadline is exactly the same as last year’s. We wonder if a top school will soon move its deadline into September? Round 2’s deadline is about one week earlier than last year’s, meaning applicants will have a bit less breathing room after the holidays pass this year. The Round 3 deadline has also crept forward by about a week.

Harvard Business School Application Essays

  • What are your three most substantial accomplishments and why do you view them as such? (600 words)

    This question has remained unchanged for years. It’s a great opportunity for you to spell out three main themes that you want to emphasize in your application. This being HBS, at least one of your examples should highlight leadership, but don’t discount stories that also demonstrate other traits that admissions officers look for, including teamwork, innovation, and maturity. Remember, the “why” in your story is even more important than the “what,” so be sure to spell out why these accomplishments are so critical to describing you as an emerging leader. Also, ideally you will be able to draw upon multiple types of experiences — not only on the job, but also from your community involvement, your hobbies, and even, in some cases, your personal life. Finally, don’t be intimidated by that relatively tight word count! Harvard’s word limits force you to focus on your most important experiences!

  • What have you learned from a mistake? (400 words)

    This question also carries over from last year. An okay essay will answer the question and describe what you have learned, but a great one will then discuss how you put that lesson to work in a later experience. This allows you to move away from this essay being purely hypothetical to discussing another achievement in your young career.

  • Please respond to two of the following (400 words each):

    1. What would you like the MBA Admissions Board to know about your undergraduate academic experience?
    2. What is your career vision and why is this choice meaningful to you?
    3. Tell us about a time in your professional experience when you were frustrated or disappointed.
    4. When you join the HBS Class of 2013, how will you introduce yourself to your new classmates?

    The first two questions carry over from last year. The first one has “Optional essay for applicants with problematic undergraduate transcripts” written all over it. Only use it if you’re in this situation. The second one is not too different from other school’s “Why MBA?” and “Short-term/long-term career goals” questions. This is a perfectly fine question to choose, but avoid speaking in over broad generalities or in grandiose terms — e.g., “To solve world hunger” — that admissions officers will find hard to believe.

    The third question is an interesting because, on the surface, it doesn’t seem very different from the “What have you learned from a mistake?” question. We recommend that you answer this one only if you can do what we describe for that other question: Don’t only describe a time when you were disappointed, but also discuss what you learned from it and how you put that lesson to work.

    The last question essentially replaces last year’s “Write a cover letter for the admissions committee” question, and we like it the slightly less formal slant that this version takes. What do you think are your most memorable experiences or attributes? How do you want to be known by your classmates? It will be interesting to see how applicants tackle this one, but we recommend erring on the side of being less formal — friendly, written in the first person, and maybe even a little humorous.

Every year dozens of Harvard Business School applicants turn to Veritas Prep for help in getting into HBS. For more advice on getting in, download our HBS Annual Report, one of 15 completely free guides to the world’s top business schools. If you’re ready to start building your own candidacy for Harvard or another top MBA program, call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today!

HBS Names Nitin Nohria New Dean

Yesterday Harvard Business School announced that Nitin Nohria, the Richard P. Chapman Professor of Business Administration at HBS, will become the School’s 10th dean, replacing current Dean Jay Light on July 1, 2010.

Nohria, currently the co-chair of the school’s Leadership Initiative, gained notoriety last year when he co-authored a Harvard Business Review article that ultimately led to the creation of the MBA Oath. His reputation for being willing to ask tough questions about ethics and the social of managers that makes him an attractive choice to lead HBS in the post-financial-meltdown world.


Nohria has been at HBS for the past 22 years, joining the faculty as an assistant professor in 1988 after earning his PhD at MIT Sloan, with an emphasis in behavioral sciences. He earned tenure in 1997, and was named to the Chapman Professorship in 1999. Most recently he has served as the Harvard’s senior associate dean for faculty development and chair of its organizational behavior unit.

As expected, the HBS community has been very supportive of Nohria’s announcement, all the way up to Light, who had this to say in written statement:

Nitin Nohria will be a wonderful dean of Harvard Business School. He is widely respected within our extended community as a perceptive scholar of leadership and as a thoughtful and able academic leader. He believes deeply in the distinctive mission of the School and its role in the world. He will effectively carry forward the objectives and the strategies that make this institution a very special place.

In a statement accepting the role, Nohria set the tone for his new role:

I feel a profound sense of responsibility for continuing Harvard Business School’s proud legacy of groundbreaking ideas and transformational educational experiences. With business education at an inflection point, we must strive to equip future leaders with the competence and character to address emerging global business and social challenges. As we enter our second century, I look forward to working with the School’s faculty, staff, students, and alumni to forge a vision for Harvard Business School that will enable it to remain a beacon for business education for the next 100 years.

Every year we help many applicants get into Harvard Business School. For more advice on getting into HBS, download our HBS Annual Report, one of 15 completely free guides to the world’s top business schools. If you’re ready to start building your own candidacy for Harvard or another top MBA program, call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today!

One More Reason to Apply to HBS While You Are Young

MBA Admissions
If you’ve been reading our blog for a while, you no doubt have picked up on the fact that Harvard Business School has been the most vocal among top business schools about trying to attract younger applicants. By “younger” we mean that, while the mean number of years of work experience for students entering top business schools is still around 5 (note that’s the number of years of full-time work experience at matriculation, not when they submit their applications), Harvard has made a point of encouraging applicants to apply with fewer than three years of experience. In fact, nearly half of the Class of 2011‘s 937 students has no more than three years of full-time work experience.

As if being an “old” applicant (i.e., someone with 5+ years of work experience) doesn’t seem tough enough these days, now comes word that HBS is encouraging college seniors to apply in Round 3. As Dee Leopold wrote on the HBS Admissions Blog the other day:


If you are a college senior who wants to go to HBS – but not right away – then applying in Round 3 could be a smart choice.

Why?

  1. The positive outcome is going to be “deferred admission” — a guaranteed spot in the class of 2014 with the stipulation that you work for two years before matriculation.
  2. No target or cap on the number of deferred admit spots we will offer. Last year 43 college seniors were offered deferred admission.
  3. No downside: If you aren’t admitted, apply again in a couple of years — lots of denied college seniors are successful in the future.
  4. The application fee is only $100.
  5. GMAT/GRE scores are good for 5 years – why not take the test in college while you are still in test-taking mode?


Applying to HBS or any other top MBA program in Round 3 can be daunting enough on its own, but this doesn’t help. However, this is great news if you’re a college senior who missed the boat on the HBS 2+2 Program before your senior year.

Overall, if you’re an older applicant, stop reading this post (lest you just make yourself more stressed). If you’re a college senior or a fresh-out-of-college applicant, however, this is one more reason to think about applying to Harvard Business School sooner rather than later, provided that you’re truly ready. This means that you have a competitive GMAT score, already have an idea of who can write great letters of recommendation for you, and have some good experiences to draw upon to demonstrate your leadership abilities and your maturity. If you already have these things (or have an idea of how you can get them within the next year), Harvard’s signal is clear: They would rather that you apply now, rather than a few years from now.

For more advice on getting into Harvard Business School, download the free HBS Annual Report, one of 15 completely free guides to the world’s top business schools, available on our site. If you’re ready to start building your own candidacy, call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today!

Harvard Business School Dean Jay Light to Step Down

Harvard Business School Guide

Yesterday Jay Light, who has served as Dean of Harvard Business School for the past five years, announced that he will retire next June. The announcement comes nearly 40 years to the day after Light first joined the HBS faculty.

Jay Light’s relationship with HBS goes back to 1966, when he was working at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California and decided to apply to the school. He was accepted, but ended up joining a new doctoral program between HBS and Harvard’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences. His long and distinguished career at Harvard has included serving as Chairman of the school’s Finance department, Senior Associate Dean and Director of Faculty Planning, and Senior Associate Dean and Director of Planning and Development. Back in the 1970s, he took a two-year leave of absence to serve as the Director of Investment and Financial Policies for the Ford Foundation.


Harvard University President Drew Faust released an announcement yesterday on the HBS site:

I wanted to take this moment to express my own deep appreciation, and the University’s, for Jay’s extraordinary career of service to Harvard.

Jay has been an exemplary leader in a school dedicated to the understanding and practice of leadership. In his years as dean, and throughout his decades at Harvard, he has done a great deal to define the distinctive character of Harvard Business School and to guide its strategy and progress in everything from MBA education to innovative executive programs, from global engagement to initiatives focused on health care and science. He has brought to all he does a powerful devotion to the school he loves – and has inspired a similar devotion in others. He has also been a strong and influential voice within our deans’ council on matters of university-wide concern, and someone whose organizational and financial expertise has long benefited not just the Business School but the University more generally. He has been and will remain a valued colleague and friend, for me and for a great many of us across Harvard.

In an interview with the Harvard Gazette, when asked what decisions his successor, will have to make, Light answered:

I see three big areas. The first is the MBA program. How do we adapt the curriculum to ensure we’re preparing students to address the leadership challenges they’ll face in a rapidly changing, global world? How do we supplement what goes on inside the classroom, through small group or field-based experiences? The second is executive education. What kinds of programs should we be offering? Should we be doing less of some? Are there new opportunities in fields like health care and the management of science-based businesses? And the third would be in the School’s publishing division. Obviously, all publishing enterprises are having to rethink what they do and how they are structured as they move more and more of their content online. Harvard Business Publishing is no exception to that challenge, and the next few years will be critical.

In her announcement, President Faust indicated that the search for a new dean will begin right away, and that she’ll look far and wide to find his replacement. We expect that the school will make every effort to at least announce Light’s successor before he steps down in June.

To learn more about Harvard Business School, take a look at Veritas Prep’s HBS Annual Report, one of 15 completely free guides to the world’s top business schools, available on our site. If you’re ready to start building your own candidacy, call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today!

Three Things that Harvard Business School Looks For

Harvard Business School GuideHarvard Business School’s Round 2 deadline is still almost two months away, but we know that thousands of applicants are already gearing up for their Round 2 HBS applications. We thought this would be a good time to share some snippets from Veritas Prep’s Annual Reports, our in-depth insider’s guides to 15 of the world’s top business schools. Our Annual reports are absolutely free — all you have to do is register to access all of them — but we thought we’d share some snippets here to help get you started in your HBS research.

Today we break down the main characteristics that HBS looks for in its applicants. Obviously, HBS is highly selective and can afford to look for “perfect” candidates. In addition to the common metrics such as GPA and GMAT score, the school specifies a handful of qualities and traits that it seeks in an applicant.

Three things that HBS looks for may seem obvious, but are all extremely important in successfully applying to the school:

  • Habit of Leadership. As mentioned in the HBS Approach, the business school is highly focused on leadership. Professional leadership experience is the most common and transferable, but extracurricular, personal, and community leadership accomplishments and qualities are recognized as well.
  • Capacity for Intellectual Growth. This is the portion of the HBS admissions process that puts a candidate’s undergraduate performance (reputation of institution, major, course work, GPA, trends, and so on) and GMAT scores under a microscope, to ensure that the candidate can thrive in the demanding case method-based courses. While HBS does not state a preferred major or career path, it demands a comfort with and aptitude for quantitative, analytical, and communication skills.
  • Engaged Community Citizenship. This element is as simple as it sounds: HBS is looking for people who have shown the ability to impact their communities and who will continue to do so both as a student and an alumnus. While this can be demonstrated in a host of settings and ways, paramount is a sincere commitment to helping others, viewed as an integral component of the responsibilities of leadership.

While demonstrating all three of these attributes won’t guarantee that you’ll earn a spot at Harvard Business School, NOT demonstrating these traits is a sure way not to gain admission. Think carefully about how persuasively you can demonstrate all of these attributes when you build your HBS application.

Today’s installment was clipped from our HBS Annual Report, one of 15 guides to the world’s top business schools, available for purchase on our site. If you’re ready to start building your own candidacy, call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today!

HBS Admissions Interview Update


On Friday Harvard Business School’s Dee Leopold posted a brief update on the HBS admissions blog regarding the admissions office’s plans for Round 1 interview invitations. The key takeaway is that Harvard is not yet done sending out invitations, although the number of remaining invitations is certainly dwindling:

I know I promised an update about interviews. They are in full swing on campus and elsewhere. We are still sending out interview invitations — maybe 50 or so more may go out before December 15 — plus waitlist invitations to some of those who have not received an interview invitation. In terms of “where” these interviews might be held, we anticipate they would likely take place on campus in Boston during December or via telephone.

We also want to share with you the list we just compiled of the undergraduate schools represented in the last three classes at HBS.


If you don’t receive an invitation by December 15, all is not necessarily lost. On October 22 Leopold posted that around 100 Round 1 applicants may go straight to the waitlist without an interview. Obviously this is not what you were dreaming of when you submitted your application, but know that there still may have a shot if you don’t get invited to interview!

For more advice on getting into Harvard, download Veritas Prep’s HBS Annual Report for free. If you’re ready to begin working on your HBS application, call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with the Veritas Prep MBA admissions consulting team today!

HBS Dean Jay Light on Harvard's Class Size


On Monday The Harbus ran an interview with HBS Dean Jay Light, covering a variety of important topics ranging from the school’s push abroad to Harvard’s reaction to the recent financial crisis. Most interesting for business school applicants, though, was Light’s answer to a question about whether or not HBS plans to increase its class size any time soon.

A question about rumors that HBS will add another section and expand to 1,000 students per class seemed to touch a nerve with Light:


So facts-so let’s talk some facts. Typically, we target 900 to 910 students. I don’t see the class size increasing to anywhere near 1,000. This year the target was 2% higher, and we have about 937, for a few reasons:

First of all, the number of applications we had was up, with great quality applicants. The first round last year was up 25%. So we said wow, our admit rate is going to be one of the lowest we’ve had; does that make sense?

Secondly, we needed to because of what was going on in the financial markets and the endowment, to cut back on expenditures in the budget. So the question is, how do you reduce the net expenses of the MBA program while still holding fellowships steady? And our solution was to admit a few more students, and that allows you to keep the fellowships. In fact, we increased fellowships by $1 million last year. It was not necessarily an easy thing to do.

We appreciate the fact that he acknowledged that increasing the class size (and bringing in more tuition-paying students) helped HBS cover some budget issues. This is something that was widely assumed, and even given Harvard’s financial might, there’s no shame in admitting that the school needed to make some moves to improve its financial situation, as long as the product doesn’t suffer.

Light went on to say that it’s unlikely that HBS will add an 11th section any time soon, but he acknowledged that it’s something they “talk about all the time.” He even added that they in fact did consider adding a section, but decided against it this year.

Light explained that a classroom with 80-100 students is in fact more ideal than one containing 60 students. While Harvard Business School certainly knows the case study method better than anyone, this argument does seem a bit self-serving… If the school ever were to drop its class size, we could see them easily rolling out a new argument that they’ve found that 60 students is in fact the ideal size for a case-oriented classroom.

Ultimately, given the addition of the HBS 2+2 Program students and the continued growth in applicants to all top business schools, we expect that HBS will eventually add an additional section. 1,000 students is probably a mark that HBS will reach sooner rather than later.

For more information on applying to Harvard Business School, download Veritas Prep’s free HBS Annual Report, which gives you in-depth information on life at HBS. And, be sure to follow us on Twitter!

Is Harvard Going Broke?

The August issue of Vanity Fair is flying off of newsstand shelves due to high profile articles on Heath Ledger’s last days and Sarah Palin’s political turmoil; however, arguably the most interesting article in the magazine is a feature on Harvard’s current financial troubles.

The article (a summary of which is available here), penned by Nina Munk, describes the problems surrounding the school’s endowment and the ramifications on Harvard’s day-to-day budget and aggressive expansion plans. From the ups and downs of the Harvard Management Company to the controversial presidency of Larry Summers to current campus conditions, the profile is packed with fascinating details and is a must-read for anyone who follows higher education.

As an added bonus and happy coincidence, I was in Boston this week and had a chance to go examine Harvard for myself. My question: is Harvard really going broke?

Munk’s article tells a very detailed story about how and why Harvard finds itself in a difficult financial situation. Key elements include: the outsized ambition of Summers, the fact that talented, gun-for-hire traders were run out of the Harvard Management Company, an egregious error made when the administration failed to cancel interest-rate swaps (resulting in a loss of $1 billion), and an expansion plan that calls for new building after new building. Oh, and an $8 billion hit to the school’s famous endowment (as Munk points out, the amount lost by Harvard’s endowment in 2008 is greater than the entire endowment of Columbia University) and another $11 billion in outstanding commitments. The article also has an edge to it, calling out Harvard for double talk — the school avoids words like “cuts” and “layoffs” and instead favors “alignments” and “resizements” (which isn’t even a word).

For all that, what interested me most was how these incredible numbers and stories are impacting current students. What is a first year going to look like at Harvard Law School? What — if anything — will change for a junior at Harvard College? What about prospective students? For all the hand wringing and finger pointing, are things really that bad?

Well, for starters, future students of Harvard College can probably plan on getting their checkbooks back out and once again bookmarking the FAFSA page. One of the most celebrated of Summers’ many moves as president was to offer free tuition to any accepted Harvard student coming from a family whose income was less than $60,000 per year. New president Drew Faust added a policy that gave enormous tuition breaks to any student whose family made less than $180,000 (the policy stated that such students would pay no more 10 percent of their family’s income). Both of the policies are likely to be in serious jeopardy, given that Harvard’s annual budget of over $3 billion is funded in large part by its rapidly shrinking endowment.

Once those students get done paying their way to Harvard, they can expect to find their fair share of turmoil. Every building on campus features the same decor right now — signs of protest. “No layoffs” is the most common, but “save our faculty” is also quite popular. Harvard Law School is currently a sea of activism, even in the middle of July, as message boards call for student involvement to push back against proposed budget cuts and faculty/staff layoffs. Most of these signs direct students to a dedicated blog with information, events, and editorials. Visit the blog at this moment and the front page will highlight a rally that was held this morning (August 6) at the Holyoke Center. Furthermore, a quick chat with any Harvard student — from virtually any program — will reveal that the prevailing opinion on campus is that the university is actually using the endowment trouble as an excuse for “belt tightening” measures. Most students seem to feel that simply reallocating resources and showing some restraint at the top of the food chain is more than enough to correct the current budget problems, but that Harvard is being opportunistic (at best) and trying to squeeze more work out of fewer resources by attacking the bottom of the faculty and staff. Needless to say, it is not the most harmonious place to be at present time.

Finally, there is the issue of facilities. The biggest aim of the Summers regime was to turn Harvard into the “Florence of this century” and the primary method for making that happen was expansion and construction. New buildings are everywhere on campus, outnumbered only by uncompleted construction pits. When will these projects be completed? No one seems to know. Workers tending to the current law school expansion project seem to basically be operating in maintenance mode, trying to make sure that any progress to date is protected from the coming weather changes in late fall and winter. No one is even working on the massive, $1.2 billion Allston campus that will house new HBS facilities in addition to a massive science center. How will the campus look in the months and years to come?

Even if one were to set aside the stunted growth, the controversy, and the likely diminution of financial aid, there is still a nagging sense that Harvard is on hold. The grounds were poorly maintained on my visit, there was trash strewn about, and the focus is on budgets and jobs instead of programs and ideas.

For all that though, one has to assume that Harvard will find a way to resolve this situation and move on quickly, because that is what Harvard has always done. The endowment is down over 20% from this time last year, but it is still nearly $30 billion and larger than that of any other university. All of those recently completed buildings that put the school in this position are still there, ready to improve the learning experience for Harvard students. Not to say that Munk’s article was hyperbolic or that things are all smooth sailing for Harvard right now, but I can’t help but think that this profile features the low point and that things will improve from here.

Of course, even that scenario would have been unthinkable just a year ago. Stay tuned.

HBS Admissions Essays and Deadlines for 2009-2010

Harvard Business School has released its application deadlines and admissions essays for the 2008-2009 season. Here they are, taken from Harvard’s site. Our comments are in italics:

Harvard Business School Application Deadlines
Round 1: October 1, 2009
Round 2: January 19, 2010
Round 3: April 8, 2010

(Harvard’s Round 1 deadline is two weeks earlier than it was last year. However, its Round 2 deadline is nearly two weeks later than last year’s, and its Round 3 deadline is nearly a month later. The Round 3 move is especially interesting since this past year Stanford GSB’s Round 3 deadline was also on April 8. This was almost certainly a move made to match Stanford in trying to grab any last-minute, high-potential applicants.)

Harvard Business School Application Essays

  • What are your three most substantial accomplishments and why do you view them as such? (600 words)

    (This is the same question that HBS has asked for years now, and is a great opportunity for you to spell out three main themes that you want to emphasize in your application. This being HBS, at least one of your examples should highlight leadership, but don’t discount stories that also demonstrate the other three dimensions that admissions officers look for: teamwork, innovation, and maturity. As we always tell our clients, the “why” is even more important than the “what,” so be sure to spell out why these accomplishments are so critical to describing you as an emerging leader. Also, ideally you will be able to draw upon multiple types of experiences — not only on the job, but also from your community involvement, your hobbies, and even, in some cases, your personal life. Finally, the word count is your friend! Harvard’s relatively short essays force you to focus on your most important experiences!)

  • What have you learned from a mistake? (400 words)

    (Also a carryover from last year. The key here is to not only describe what happened and what you learned, but also to show how you put that lesson to work in a later situation. That last point allows you to evolve the essay answer from being purely hypothetical to being an opportunity to discuss another achievement.)

  • Please respond to two of the following (400 words each):

    1. What would you like the MBA Admissions Board to know about your undergraduate academic experience?
    2. Discuss how you have engaged with a community or organization.
    3. Tell us about a time when you made a difficult decision.
    4. Write a cover letter to your application introducing yourself to the Admissions Board.
    5. What is your career vision and why is this choice meaningful to you?

    (Of the above questions, the “difficult decision” and “cover letter” questions are new since last year. They replace a question that asked, “What area of the world are you most curious about and why?” which only lasted for one year, probably because it didn’t help the HBS admissions committee learn much new valuable information about its applicants. For the new questions, we like how the “difficult decision” question gives you an opportunity to really show off their maturity. The “cover letter” question is similar to MIT Sloan’s, and provides another good opportunity to sketch out the main themes of your application. However, if you are able to do this well enough with Essay Question #1, then this one may be unnecessary.)

If you would like more information about applying to HBS, visit our Harvard Business School information page. And, for more advice on applying to Harvard, download our FREE Veritas Prep Annual Reports!

The HBR Debate: How to Fix Business Schools

Due to the current state of affairs with the economy, many people have been questioning business school programs. Can we blame them for our economic woes? Should they have done more (or less?) to help us avoid the situation? Do they need to be changed/fixed? Is that even possible? Are they even relevant any more?

In light of such questioning, the Harvard Business Review has begun an online discussion with many experts weighing in. The disucssion is already underway, with two articles (and one audio opinion) having been posted.

I expect this to be an interesting debate, with many different opinions and suggestions coming forth, and I encourage all of our readers to check it out. You can view the articles here (just keep in mind that the articles are listed with the most recent at top). And as always, we’d love to read your opinions on the matter in the comments section.

For more information about business education and MBA admissions, visit Veritas Prep.

HBS Class of 2009 Employment Update

Last week Harvard Business School’s Dee Leopold posted an update on HBS second-year students’ job prospects for this year. This update is especially interesting to anyone who is preparing to leave a steady job this year to enter a full-time MBA program.

According to Leopold, 77% of the HBS Class of 2009’s job seekers (this excludes anyone who will continue academic work or who will return to a previous employer) have found full-time jobs. She went on to write:

I don’t have any more details to offer at this point, but we are proud of both our students and our Career Services team who have helped many of our students discover and pursue their dreams and find new opportunities in the midst of great uncertainty in the market. It is still months from graduation and companies and organizations continue to be a big presence on campus – spring will be lively here at HBS. We will provide updates as the season progresses.

Hopefully for those HBS students — and for students at all business schools this year — spring will indeed prove to be a lively season for recruiting.

For more information on HBS, visit the Veritas Prep Harvard Business School information page.

HBS Admissions Podcast

Recently the Harvard Business School admissions office posted a podcast interview with Dee Leopold, Managing Director of MBA Admissions and Financial Aid.

The interview started off with the question that Leopold hears most often: “What are you looking for in an applicant?” Leopold broke it down into “qualities” and “experiences,” and explained that they look for common qualities but diverse experiences in the incoming class.

For qualities, Leopold highlighted the following:

  • Solid values and integrity — No surprise here. HBS and all other programs won’t even consider someone who may seem unethical.
  • Ability to thrive in an analytical environment and academic setting — As described in Your MBA Game Plan, this is one the key dimensions that you must show in your application. We at Veritas Prep refer to this as “Innovation.”
  • Initiative — How can you show you how you go above and beyond what’s normally expected of you?
  • Curiosity — Another part of what we call “Innovation.” Show that you want to learn more about what makes the world tick.
  • Maturity — This is another one of the four important dimensions that we describe in Your MBA Game Plan.
  • Perspective — Do you have self-awareness? How have your experiences shaped your outlook on the world?
  • Sense of humor — Yes, even HBS wants to see applicants who don’t take themselves too seriously. We believe this a sense of humor is a clear sign of maturity, humility, and self-confidence.

Note that Leopold didn’t mention “leadership.” She went on to explain that, “We’re looking for leaders who have these qualities (above). We don’t think that ‘leadership’ as a one-size fits all or something that is a list of things on your resume. We think that leadership, and the way you lead, is as exciting a dimension of diversity as any of the other things I mentioned.”

There’s a lot of great information in the podcast, and this is just a sample. Go here to listen to the entire podcast.

One other note: Leopold mentioned that HBS is visiting a lot of college campuses this year, to open more undergrads’ eyes to HBS and the value of an MBA. This is just one more sign of HBS’ effort to attract and accept more candidates with very little job experience. Take note of this if you’ve been out of college for a couple of years and are wondering whether you should apply now or in a couple of years. “We are encouraging people to think about business school earlier in their lives,” Leopold said.

While she also went on to say that this is not bad news for more experienced applicants, we believe that HBS’ vision of the typical first-year student has permanently changed vs. ten years ago (i.e., it has become younger). If you apply later in your career, expect that HBS will have a lot of questions about why you waited.

Visit Veritas Prep for more information on Harvard Business School and the HBS 2+2 Program.

Harvard’s Endowment May Face Losses

In another sign of economic stress, Harvard has announced that its $36.9 billion endowment may face “unprecedented” losses in the coming year.

While a Harvard spokeperson declined to comment specifically on how the anticipated losses would affect university operations, the university has confirmed that it will continue to offer free tuition to students whose families earn less than $60,000 a year, and offer reduced tuition to families with annual incomes of as much as $180,000.

Other Ivy League schools are taking additional steps to mitigate students’ pain: Princeton will make more financial aid funds available to students, and Brown will relax rules barring students with unpaid tuition balances from registering for classes. Given the size of Harvard’s endowment, even if it faces losses this year, we wouldn’t be surprised to see the school take similar steps to protect its students.

If you’re applying to graduate school this year, the bottom line is that top schools don’t want to have to turn away anyone because of fianances, even in this economy. Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone and have a frank conversation with the financial aid office at your target school. Chances are that they want to work with you to help you make it work.

For more information on Harvard, visit the Veritas Prep HBS information page and read about the HBS 2+2 Program.

Terrific Profile on Harvard Law School

There is a great feature on Harvard Law School from Sunday’s Boston Globe that puts a whole new spin on the “is Stanford catching Yale?” question asked on this blog just a few weeks ago.

It turns out that blog post might have been about the wrong school.

The Globe makes a pretty compelling case that it is Harvard – not Stanford – hot on Yale’s heels. Which is great news for law students who seek the name brand and prestige of Harvard and are going to discover that in addition to the pedigree, they might be stumbling into a rapidly-changing and stimulating educational environment.

It is worth keeping an eye on, to be sure. And if nothing else, Drake Bennett’s piece is a great read for anyone interested in Harvard, law school, or even higher education in general.

[Update: The WSJ Blog has also linked to the Globe’s Harvard feature and draws similar conclusions. Interested parties can get their take here.]

HBS 2+2 Interview Invitations Sent

According to some of our own clients, last Wednesday Harvard Business School sent interview invitations to select HBS 2+2 Program applicants. (Congrats, folks!)

HBS also sent rejection letters to applicants on the same day, and in the letter the school explained that there were over 600 applicants to the program. Given the estimated number of applicants Harvard will accept, this would put the projected acceptance rate of the HBS 2+2 Program in line with the general school’s acceptance rate (in the low- to mid-teens).

Interviews are happening shortly. Good luck, everyone!

If you are an undergrad considering applying to an early MBA program, be sure to visit the Veritas Prep HBS 2+2 Program information page.

The HBS 2+2 Program

If you’re a college junior with a liberal arts bent, the HBS 2+2 Program could be right for you. This marks the first year of admissions for Harvard Business School’s new program targeting college undergrads. According to our MBA admission consulting team — which offers specialized consulting for students applying to the HBS 2+2 Program — the new program has created quite a buzz on campus.

The program has three main benefits to consider: one, it’s an ideal time to apply during your undergraduate years; two, it offers superior access to job recruiting and career advice; and three, it provides students with extra preparation in leadership and practical business skills.

Ideal time to apply: No matter how busy you feel in college while balancing coursework, sports, clubs and social commitments, you will undoubtedly be shocked to find out how busy you are once your full-time career begins. In addition, a couple years after graduating, you will probably find yourself a little rusty at test taking and essay writing. The HBS 2+2 Program application deadline comes during the summer after your junior year in college (this year it comes on July 1, 2008), which can be an optimal time to apply. You are in prime test taking and essay writing mode, you have great access to professors for recommendations, and (as hard as it may be to believe) it is probably easier to find extra time to work on those daunting, time consuming essays.

Access to job recruiting and advisors: Ask any HBS student what the most beneficial thing was about school, and toward the very top of their list would be access to world-class companies and incredible career advisors. As part of the HBS 2+2 Program, you will get access to these companies and coaches as a college senior, supplementing the recruiting opportunities already present on your undergraduate campus. Over 100 of the most prestigious companies participate in the program, eager to hire the ambitious college students accepted into the program. And while working at one of these companies, you are free to focus on your job performance without the distraction of GMAT studying and essay writing that plagues many young professionals stressed about getting into a top MBA program.

Extra preparation: During the summer preceding business school, Harvard hosts extra workshops for members of the program focused on leadership and business skills. In addition to learning critical skills that will differentiate you from other recent college graduates, you will also get to meet a phenomenal group of students who have had experiences similar to your own – a network of students who will likely remain some of your closest friends.

If you have exceptionally strong academic performance, a track record of leadership, and a desire to push yourself even further, take a closer look at the HBS 2+2 Program. Don’t worry if you don’t quite yet know what you want to be “when you grow up” or what you will do with your MBA degree. This program is designed for people like you.

If you want to ace your Harvard application, visit Veritas Prep to learn more about the specialized MBA admissions consulting we provide for HBS 2+2 Program applicants.

HBS Releases Application Essays & Deadlines for Class of 2011

If anything marks the official beginning of the 2008-2009 application season, this is it: Harvard Business School just released its deadlines and application essays for the Class of 2011.

For those of you who are planning ahead, the application deadlines are mostly the same as last year, except for the Round 1 deadline, which is almost two weeks later than last year’s. The deadlines are as follows:

  • Round 1: Oct. 15, 2008
  • Round 2: Jan. 6, 2009
  • Round 3: Mar. 11, 2009

Remember that you want to aim for Round 1 or Round 2. Applying after Round 2 means competing for very few open seats, so you want to do everything you can to apply no later than Jan. 6, 2009. Since the Round 1 deadline is just five months away, it’s not too early to start preparing! That especially goes for the GMAT. Study until it hurts, take a GMAT prep course if you want some extra help, and then nail the GMAT and get it off of your plate. The last thing you want to do is have to cram for the GMAT while you’re also trying to perfect your essays and chase after the people writing your letters of recommendation!

Looking at the HBS application essays, there are now just four required this year, compared to five last year. Two are required, and two can be chosen from a list of four questions.

Required Essays

  1. What are your three most substantial accomplishments and why do you view them as such? (600-word limit)
  2. What have you learned from a mistake? (400-word limit)

Optional Essays (choose two)

  1. What would you like the MBA Admissions Board to know about your undergraduate academic experience? (400-word limit)
  2. Discuss how you have engaged with a community or organization. (400-word limit)
  3. What area of the world are you most curious about and why? (400-word limit)
  4. What is your career vision and why is this choice meaningful to you? (400-word limit)

Of the optional essays, many applicants will assume #1 is only meant as a “Let me explain why my undergrad GPA is low”-type essay, but also consider using this as a chance to discuss a time when you pushed yourself out of your intellectual comfort zone. Looking at #4, the “why is this choice meaningful to you” part is what is most interesting. HBS isn’t looking for you to just rattle off your five-step plan for world domination. Explore why you want to do it, and why you’re passionate about it. This kind of introspection is key to setting yourself apart in HBS admissions officers’ eyes.

If you would like more information about applying to HBS, visit our Harvard Business School profile page. And for more information on business school application deadlines, visit our MBA admissions deadlines page.

Loan Forgiveness Programs: Should Applicants Consider Them?

Obviously, one of the primary factors that govern a graduate school applicant’s enrollment decision is The Almighty Dollar. As in: how much will this cost, what kind of aid can I get, and what sort of earning potential am I looking at once I finish? Analyzing educational cost is a complicated task because students must first identify actual numbers (sticker price – available scholarship and grant money) and then put those numbers in the proper context by understanding loan repayment and properly estimating future salary figures.

See, complicated.

One thing that is further complicating this financial aid stew is the addition of loan forgiveness programs. Popularized by elite law schools, the concept is a relatively simple one: eschew the big paychecks (and long hours) of a big law firm in favor of public interest work and, in exchange, you will get help paying back your enormous graduate student loans. Law schools have discovered that an attractive loan forgiveness program is a terrific marketing tool. This is primarily due to the fact that a huge number of law school applicants (especially those who are qualified to land admission spots in the elite programs) are highly optimistic people who view themselves as truth-seeking, freedom-fighting altruistic beings. In other words, everyone thinks they are going to do public interest work when they first apply to law school.

This poses an interesting question: how much stock should a top-flight candidate put in a school’s loan forgiveness program?

A quick look at any reputable survey (I’m too lazy to find one at present) will tell you that the number of law school graduates who ultimately do public interest work is far, far less than the number of law school applicants who say they will one day do public interest work. There are many factors that play a role in this phenomenon. It is easier for a student at an elite law school to secure a summer associate position at a law firm than with a cutting edge public interest entity. Public interest firms and groups have fewer recruiting resources. The pressure to work in the big legal markets like New York or L.A. force students to search for an accessible path that will also pay the costs of relocating and then living in those cities. There are also simple (and often perverse) economic incentives, career-building considerations, and personal preference factors to consider. But the simple truth is that the number of actual public interest lawyers is so much lower than the number of hypothetical public interest lawyers because – pay attention now – people have no idea what they want to do when they are applying for law school! In fact, it is safe to say that the “actual” number for any subset of the legal profession is substantially lower than the suggested numbers generated by surveys of law school applicants.

It is human nature to change one’s mind, especially after being exposed to hundreds of hours of logical reasoning and critical analysis.

So this takes us back to our initial question, framed in a new way: if students think they might want to do public interest law, but know they probably won

Going GREEN

In the interest of being environmentally aware, both Harvard and Yale have announced new plans for LEED-certified buildings. Harvard has been working with a German company to develop a new science center that will be gold-certified and twice as clean in regards to greenhouse gases as other similar research facilities. Yale has been working with a London-based company, developing a new building for their School of Management, which will triple the size of their business school.

Perhaps some environmentally-savvy businesspeople were behind this?

Source: Harvard & Yale Go Green

Harvard Announces New 2+2 Program

We wanted to bring your attention to the new deferred-admission program launched at Harvard, called the HBS 2+2 Program. The program is designed to reach out to high achieving college juniors, who can get guaranteed admission to Harvard Business School, after graduating college and accruing two years of approved work experience. It seems like a great idea, and will most likely be beneficial to both the targeted students and to HBS.

You can read all about it here.

600 Million Reasons to Remain #1

In three years, Harvard amassed $600 million in alumni donations, which will go toward financial aid, global outreach endeavors, and educational technology, amongst other things. The allocation to financial aid, a whopping $114 million, will directly benefit eighty percent of their students. Such aids allow students to graduate with less debt, allowing them more freedom to pursue non-profit endeavors, should they so choose. Securing this large sum in the form of donations took three years worth of personal one-on-one visits to alumni, to explain the goal of the campaign. However, they managed it, the amazing thing is that they did.

$600 million. Wow.

Source: HBS Campaign Pays Off

How to Lead – How to Live

That was the name of the Harvard Business School’s first ever fully online course. The class was created and offered in the hopes of facilitating better integration of advancing technology with education. The course utilized a message board for discussion of ideas, and the professor was also active in these discussions (as well as being contactable via e-mail). HBS plans to offer the course again next fall, though they are looking at ways to improve on the experience.

Source: HBS Offers First Online Course