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Posted by Chioma Isiadinso
Harvard Business School is among the first out of the gate in releasing information for next year’s applicants, including deadlines and essay information released in mid-May.
Deadlines for 2016-2017 HBS applicants are:
– Round One: September 7
– Round Two: January 4
– Round Three: April 3
September 7 is the earliest Round One deadline we’ve seen yet. If you are applying in the first round, it is time to start thinking seriously about getting your application materials together, from making decisions about your recommendation letters to deciding how you want to approach your essays.
Harvard also released a new admissions essay question for 2016-2017, replacing last year’s question, which asked applicants to introduce themselves to their classmates. Like last year’s essay, however, HBS’ new prompt has no word limit. Applicants can write as much or as little as they choose. The question reads:
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?
As they did last year, Harvard’s admissions committee is only tasking candidates with one essay question, meaning that it is vitally important to make the most of this limited space.
The change in the essay’s purpose – from introducing yourself to your classmates to telling the committee what else they should know – might seem slight but is actually a pretty big deal.
Asking candidates to introduce themselves to their classmates was thought-provoking, but it was also a bit confining for applicants who wanted to share information that did not necessarily fit within the “introduction” style.
Important points – such as why you decided to go to business school, why you are a good fit for HBS or why you made a particular career choice – often require longer explanation that felt cumbersome within the last prompt.
With the new prompt, applicants can still introduce themselves while feeling free to directly address points that are strategically important to their application.
This flexibility is very good news for most applicants and should be something of a relief as you contemplate the HBS essay.
In writing this essay, it is important to focus on the most important points you want to get across to the admissions committee – the keys to your personal brand.
It is also important that you continue to tell a compelling story that draws your reader in. To do this, applicants should keep the following tips in mind:
– Avoid excessive length or explanation: Don’t go on and on about your accomplishments or lay out a laundry list of “important points”. Make sure that you carefully focus your essay, construct it in a logical manner, tie each point to the next and write concisely.
– Avoid an “everything but the kitchen sink” mentality: It is tempting to simply tell the committee every thought, passion or quality that comes to mind, but this will be overkill. Be strategic in choosing 2-3 main points to focus on.
– Allow your voice to shine through: Your essay should truly showcase who you are. Last year’s prompt, with its slightly less formal assignment, made it easier for candidates to showcase their personal voice. That will be slightly harder this year, so make sure you are paying attention to the tone of your final product. It’s okay to be creative and showcase your personality.
– Insight is everything: HBS still wants to understand who you are, how you got here and what makes you tick. They are really keen on getting a clear picture of the motivations and thinking behind the actions you have taken. Remember that they know “what” you have done through your resume, transcripts, etc., but they want to understand “why” it matters to you and “why” they should care in the first place.
This new essay prompt is so broad that it is tempting to do too much and squeeze in every factoid you can think of. The most successful applicants will avoid that temptation and will focus on a few key themes that will set them apart.
Contact us if you’d like help with your HBS essay.