Category Archives: HBS Application (Class of 2016)

Must-Read Advice Before Submitting Your MBA Application

By Vincent Ho-Tin-Noe (last updated: September 4, 2016)

Just a few weeks (or even days) before the first round application deadlines for most top MBA programs, including Harvard Business School, MIT, Stanford, Booth, Kellogg, LBS, and Wharton, we thought that MBA applicants could use a checklist for items to review before hitting the “Submit” button.

View of Harvard University and the Charles River

View of Harvard University and the Charles River

1. Thoughts About Harvard’s Essay

In the past, Dee Leopold, former director of admissions at HBS, tried to offer comforting words to its MBA applicants. She insisted that the essay should not be considered a hit or miss exercise. It is really just meant to add color to your application package. More recently, HBS’ new dean of admissions, Chad Losee, wrote the following: “(…) As in years past, we will read (and re-read) and consider the application in its entirety —application, resume, essay, recommendations, transcripts, interview, post-interview reflection, GMAT or GRE scores, etc. Said another way, no one thing will get you admitted or “released” from our admissions process.” Therefore, do not feel that you have to cover any particular topic in this optional essay. You set the rules here, depending on what you believe will allow the admissions committee to better understand what makes you unique. Interestingly, this year’s essay prompt is similar to the one HBS used just a couple of years ago: “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?”. In 2014, Kyle Watkins had provided advice about  a very similar HBS essay. We also wrote about the overall HBS application process in several posts. Make sure to check them out.

2. Completing The Application Form

Most business schools have a lengthy online application form. You should allocate at least 3 hours to go through it and fill it out properly. You will be asked about past job titles, exact employment dates, and compensation data. You will have to describe your employer, explain why you left the company, detail your key accomplishments and most significant challenges. You already should have some of this on your resume, but in a different format. Although Harvard’s admissions team is telling you not to obsess, you’ll notice that it’s easy to spend 20 to 30 minutes writing a meaningful job description in the space allotted to your answer. And then you will go through the same excruciating process for your extra curricular activities, awards and recognition, and academic experience. Some candidates tend to describe the online form as a collection of mini-essays, and approach the form’s questions as such. Don’t fall into that trap. Do your best, but be ready to settle for good enough, unless you are willing to spend 10 hours filling that form.

In any case, do not panic if the options from a specific drop down menu do not match perfectly your personal situation, and do not sweat over the limited space allocated to describe your work experiences. Filling this form properly is important, but keep in mind that the admissions committee will largely rely on your resume to assess your pre-MBA experience.

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Great MBA Recommendation Letters: Tips and an Example

By Kyle Watkins (last updated: January 1, 2015)

This year’s MBA applicants face fewer required essays and shorter word counts than any recent class of candidates. But applicants haven’t been the only ones facing the squeeze over the past few years. Recommenders, too, have found themselves with less and less space to make an impact: over the past several years, schools not only reduced the number of recommenders a candidate was allowed to have, it also cut the word count allotted to those recommenders. Many of the top programs have also converged around the same two recommendation questions:

  1. How do the candidate’s performance, potential, background, or personal qualities compare to those of other well-qualified individuals in similar roles? Please provide specific examples.
  2. Please describe the most important piece of constructive feedback you have given the applicant. Please detail the circumstances and the applicant’s response. 

What does this mean for this year’s MBA applicants? First and foremost, applicants need to pick the right recommenders to advocate on their behalf. Second, applicants need to make sure they are adequately preparing those recommenders to write great recommendations.

In this blog post, I’ll illustrate the keys to getting great letters of recommendations for MBA applications by revealing a few snippets of a real recommendation from my own business school applications.

The Keys to Getting Great Recommendation Letters for MBA Applications

Each part of your MBA application should demonstrate different qualities to the admissions committee. Your resume is a place to tell your professional story and to illustrate your accomplishments; your essay is a place to show the admissions committee who you are and what you value. Your recommendations, then, must be reserved to demonstrate characteristics that you yourself cannot credibly speak to:

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HBS Round 3 Interviews

By Vincent Ho-Tin-Noe (last updated: April 16, 2014)

Harvard Business Schools will send out interview invitations to third round applicants on April 17, 2014 at precisely noon Eastern Time. Admissions results will be released in barely one month, so candidates should expect to be interviewing very soon. As a former round 3 applicant, I remember how exciting it was to go from submitting my application to receiving my offer in just 5 weeks.

If you receive an interview invitation at HBS, your odds of getting in are pretty high; the admissions ratio after the HBS interview is close to 60%. This is quite a good ratio, and a common saying is that at this point of the admissions process, your HBS offer is yours to lose.

Preparation is therefore essential, and we highly recommend that you have a look at the list of resources we have put together to prepare for the HBS interview.

Should you need help to prepare for your interview, please do not hesitate to let us know.
We offer interview preparation packages for HBS that have helped many successful candidates in the past.

In the words of one of our Round 2 admits: “I wanted to follow up with good news: I got into HBS! The interview itself was, as everyone says, totally impossible to predict (…), but the practice of being nervous and answering impossible-to-predict questions with you guys was invaluable and let me push past my (high) stress level.”

HBS MBA Admissions Interviews

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

At precisely noon Wednesday October 9, 2013, HBS sent a first wave of interview invitations to many of its Class of 2016 applicants. On Wednesday October 16, at exactly the same time (noon), more invitations will be extended. Unfortunately, no one really knows how many.

Last year the school apparently sent most (some say close to 90%) of its first round interview invitations in the first batch. This year however many believe that the split might be more balanced between the first and second wave of invites. There is no solid basis for this assumption other than data publicly available on GMATclub and other MBA discussion boards. If you receive an invitation today, we would appreciate to read about it. So feel free to leave a comment below or send us a short email.

According to Dee Leopold, “there will also be some “Further Consideration” decisions. This means that [HBS is] unable to invite you to interview now, but [they] wish to keep your application under consideration. In Round 2, [HBS] will be either inviting you to interview – and you’ll move along on the Round 2 timetable – or “releasing” you. (…) There will be information in the Further Consideration decision letter about a contact person (…) in Dillon to answer questions and keep you informed. Of course, you may decline to stay in the process and withdraw your application at any time“. Harvard Business School will also be sending “deny” decisions to unlucky candidates on October 16.

We’d like to wish best of luck to everyone, and for the happy few who receive the coveted email from Dillon House today, it is time to prepare for the last step of your application.

In no time at all, the first group of candidates will indeed be up at Dillon House or at admissions outposts around the globe sitting down to their interviews with HBS admissions committee members. While we have been writing about the HBS interview process for a while on this blog, we thought it would be helpful to bring all of our resources together in one place:

What it’s like to interview at HBS: My own personal account of what it is like to interview at HBS, from receiving the email inviting me to interview to receiving the phone call congratulating me on my admittance.

Mastering Every Admissions Interview Question: Advice and tips on how to best prepare for an MBA admissions interview — at HBS or any other MBA program.

Post-Interview Reflection: Guidance on how to approach preparing for, drafting, and sending HBS’s 24-hour post-interview reflection email.

If you’re still looking for guidance, please reach out to us via our free consultation link or via founders@mbaadmissionsadvisors.com. We’re happy to help, even with last-minute questions and requests. Also make sure to give our MBA Matching Algorithm a try and let us know what you think.

Analyzing the Applications: the HBS Post-Interview Reflection

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

The HBS post-interview reflection is certainly one of the more unique application elements among MBA programs. Since HBS has decided to continue requiring the post-interview reflection from candidates 24 hours after their interview, it’s worth spending some time now considering how to approach this piece of the admissions process.

First, it’s worth noting that the post-interview reflection won’t make or break the application for many candidates. It gives HBS one more data point, but overall it is only a small piece of the equation. Your resume, essays, GMAT, GPA, recommendations, and interview (not to mention the school’s effort to admit a diverse and balanced class) will play a role in whether you are admitted. Unlike the hiring process at a job where the interview is often make-or-break, the admissions process for MBA programs is much more holistic.

With that said, the post-interview reflection provides plenty of opportunities to hurt or help your application, and in a hyper-competitive admissions environment, it’s important to never miss an opportunity to put points on the board.

Most applicants probably won’t do much, if any, prep work for HBS’s post-interview reflection. Fortunately, this is the one part of the application process where not preparing much can actually help you. After all, the exercise is — as HBS makes perfectly clear — meant to be a true reflection. It is not another essay. It is not something that should be prepared prior to your interview. However, there’s one small piece of preparation I’d recommend to every candidate.

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HBS Round One Interviews

By Vincent Ho-Tin-Noe (last updated: December 12, 2013)

[Note] For the latest information regarding HBS round one decisions, please check out our December 9 update.

According to the HBS admissions director, first round “interview invitations will be sent out via email on October 9 and October 16. Candidates invited to interview will receive detailed instructions about the sign-up procedure. The interview scheduler will go live the following day.

On October 16, candidates who will not be invited to interview will be notified of their release. A group of Round One applicants, possibly 100-150, will be placed under “further consideration.” These candidates will be re-viewed in Round Two and either be invited to interview or released on the Round Two timetable.

Round One interviews will be conducted between October 21 and November 22.. (…) In addition to on-campus interviews, we will be interviewing in New York City, Palo Alto, London, Paris, Shanghai, Dubai, Mumbai, Sao Paulo, and Santiago. Candidates who cannot travel may be accommodated via Skype.”

According to Mrs. Leopold: “Interviewing on campus is a great opportunity to get to see life at HBS, but the location of an interview is not a factor in the selection process.”

As a final note, your odds of receiving an invitation are actually fairly high (we’ve estimated that 20% of applicants receive an invitation to interview with HBS). If you are interviewed, you then statistically stand a 60% chance of being admitted. Know your story inside out, and make sure to start reading the Wall Street Journal daily to avoid being caught off guard by a question about a recent piece of news during your interview. Preparation will be key if you do not want to be among the 40% of interviewed applicants who end up having regrets.

Good luck!