Around the Web: the new HBS essay

By Kyle Watkins (last updated: December 17, 2013)

There’s been no shortage of coverage around HBS’s new essay prompt, so we thought it would be helpful to summarize all of the web’s best advice in one place. We’re still waiting to hear from a few sites, but here’s our summary of what we’ve read so far:

Clear Admit

  • It’s important to take advantage of the essay prompt if your application has a red flag.
  • A 1,000-word essay is too long.
  • Don’t recycle essays from other schools
  • Don’t repeat information from elsewhere in your application: “Think about any quantifiable positive change you’ve created that is not adequately described in your other materials.”
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MBA Admit

  • Write about a blend of your experience and credentials.
  • Avoid unnecessary overlap with the rest of your application.
  • Some candidates should discuss positive achievements; others may discuss a major flaw.
  • Less than 300 words or more than 4,000 words and you’ve missed the mark.
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The HBS Guru (via Poets & Quants) –

  • It will likely hurt 10%, help 20%, and confirm what the adcom already knew for the other 70%.
  • It could be helpful if you have powerful extra-curriculars or an adversity story that requires additional writing and explains how you got “your values, who your mentors were, how you evolved as a thinker and doer, and also how that impacts your goals.”
  • It could be hurtful because it makes it easier to drift into trouble so be careful when getting into “personal story telling, quirky affectations, ‘literary’ style, and bragging.” It’s also dangerous for explainers who make too many excuses.
  • The template answer here is: this is who I am, where I came from, and how my values and goals were formed by the influential people in my life.
  • Writing close to 750 words “lets them know you aren’t blowing it off.”
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The MBA Exchange

  • The new essay is higher risk, higher reward and means your recommenders have to do more of the heavy lifting.
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Stacy Blackman

  • The essay is a test of judgment: “I don’t see this as a ‘no essay.’ I see it as a very important exercise in presenting oneself, knowing what needs to be told and what can be left out.”
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Adam Markus

  • Don’t repeat information represented by other parts of your application.
  • Focus on at least one of these four topics: diversity, habit of leadership, analytical aptitude and appetite, engaged community citizenship.
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Military to Business

  • Differentiate yourself from other applicants with similar profiles.
  • Focus on the future.
  • Make sure your letters of recommendation are stronger than ever.
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Our analysis is available here, and of course we’re interested in hearing what you think. Tell us in the comments section, on Twitter, or on Facebook!

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