Application 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.
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.
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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.