HBS- Harvard Business School, arguably the most coveted B-School among all students, set ablaze streams of queries and questions among prospective applicants and exam-takers of the GMAT when they announced a major change to the HBS Application procedure for the coming academic year 2013-14.
The HBS application has been reduced from 3 questions, to a single question with no word limit !
From an earlier pattern of 3 questions (600, 400, 400 words), HBS announced their essay question as follows: “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?”
That’s it, folks! A single essay question, with no word limit, and therefore lots of space for free expression. However, this entails more caution than you would feel at first site. Now that the limit has been dropped, there could be both pro and anti effects on the prospective applicants and their HBS applications.
Given no word limit, the first apprehension most of us face is of the HBS application being too short or too long. An applicant is likely to be too precise by limiting it to less than 500 words; on the other hand, one is also likely to be tempted to write a book-long thesis on the essentials, achievements and aims of oneself. Both, needless to say, are not apt for the application. Striking a balance between a too short and a too long essay is essential to solidify your MBA application.
If you notice, the procedure being followed until now was one that comprised questions asking an overview of the candidate in every possible perspective one could think of. It wanted your accomplishments, your career visions, your goals, and your mistakes in life – if you chose to answer them.
A way to tackle the new question, as it struck me while I was reading various suggestions on n number of websites, is to write an all-round answer that gives a gist of everything they asked previously in their applications!
Caution: the suggestion, once again, is not to write pages over pages describing oneself, but to give a short and interesting description of oneself.
Here’s listing 5 steps to make your application one that the admission committee says a “yes” to:
1. Your Harvard Business School application should begin with a 3 to 4 lines introduction about yourself, in likeness to what you would write on a cover letter. Next you could highlight 2 to 3 of your accomplishments. This is what the previous essay pattern required. So we think this is what the committee would be expecting. Let’s stand up to expectations, and give the application an old flavour to start. Follow the rule and state your accomplishments in a way to reflect your work, development and the kind of extra-curricular you have engaged in. Remember, they know your resume already; they’re only waiting to know what’s the special bit in you that makes you unique from others.
2. Highlighting mistakes of your life, which was previously a part of the essay question, usually did not add value. However experts from the committee itself are of the opinion that if you actually have a story that adds value to your life, say addiction and recovery, you could actually score on this one.
I feel however, that it altogether skip this bit, unless you have a valid reason to explain, say a low GPA on your GMAT and how it need not be the defining feature of you. You could validate this by highlighting other aspects of you that you feel are more important than GPA scores, say your engagement with social communities, or developing your personal qualities.
3. Taking guidance from the previous procedure, keep your essay within a minimum limit of 1500 – 2000 words, not exceeding 2200 words. A major flaw noticed in applications is candidates harping about why they want to get into HBS, or why they are applying to HBS. Take it easy, folks! They know why you’re applying and what value HBS holds. This is not a Grad. School that needs to know your thinking about going to their college.
4. You would do good to include some community service that you may have engaged with in your life until now, say some social service organization in your school or college. This is a winner inclusion in the application. Another thing would be to exclude any kind difficult decision making you did in your life, unless you feel that it really added value to your being. Fact remains that they do not care about it if it does not hold significance to the course you’re applying for.
5. Taking another guideline from the previous procedure, another point to be included could be your career vision, which until now was asked exquisitely as part of the choice question. This always adds value to the application, provided you can display your career vision in a way that validates having an MBA- for this, “you need to think MACRO”, as Sandy Kreisberg says. Your vision should entail a foundation on what you have achieved until now in your life, and how an MBA will augment what you ultimately want from life. Again prevent harping about what, why and how HBS will help you.
Referrring to the official gmat website may help, too:
The key is to focus on yourself; inform them about yourself, and not about their institution. Carve a picture of yourself for them such that they want to see the living replica in their institution! Harvard Business School begins accepting applications September, 2013.
All the best!
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