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My HBS Interview Experience

By Kyle Watkins (last updated: September 12, 2014)

What It’s Like to Interview at HBS

My invitation to interview at HBS came on the first day that the admissions committee began emailing candidates. It was a relief, to be sure, but it also was undoubtedly a bit nerve racking. Three days later, I received a follow up email, this one with a link to an online portal where I would actually schedule my interview. I chose an afternoon spot on a Monday on campus in Boston. It allowed me to fly up from Washington D.C. during the weekend, ensuring I would be settled in and wouldn’t face any logistical snags come interview day.

The morning of the interview I kept completely free. I wanted to make sure I was well rested and unrushed. At noon I attended a luncheon hosted by the HBS admissions committee for applicants interviewing that day. We had sandwiches and made small talk in the back room of the Grille, a staple of the HBS dining circuit. There were a few of us there, and we each took turns asking relatively low-risk questions of the admissions staffer that had joined us.

After an hour or so, lunch wrapped up, leaving me about 90 minutes before I was scheduled to be at Dillon House, the admissions building at HBS. I walked across the Charles River and had a cup of coffee, rehearsing my answers to the most basic interview questions (strengths, weaknesses, why an MBA, why HBS). By that time I was wishing I had scheduled my interview for a little earlier. Time seemed to be passing pretty slowly.

I started heading over to Dillon House about 2pm, arriving 10 minutes before my scheduled interview. When you walk in the door, there is a short hallway with a big glass window on your left, so I could see the receptionist through the glass pane well before I could actually say hi to her. I greeted her warmly, and she told me to take a seat while I waited for my interview to begin. I did, playing with one of those mini Zen gardens you find in offices sometimes to keep my mind from wandering.

Sure enough, at 2:30pm on the dot, an admissions officer walked out to greet me. She walked with me about 30 feet to a small office in the back of Dillon House, and along the way we made small talk about my trip in to Boston that weekend.

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How long should your HBS essay be?

By Kyle Watkins (last updated: September 5, 2014)

The HBS round-one application deadline is less than a week away, leaving a lot of candidates scrambling to make the finishing touches on their essays. Inevitably, applicants also seem to be left wondering whether their HBS essay is the “right length” or what the “ideal word count” is for their essay. Without a suggested word limit from HBS to guide you, it’s a reasonable question to ask.

Ultimately, you have to let the content dictate how long your essay will be, but over the past year we’ve been able to collect enough data at MBA Admissions Advisors to make some reasonable guesses as to how long successful HBS essays typically are. The below histogram represents just that — an educated guess based on a limited sample — and while I cannot guarantee it is perfectly accurate, I hope it serves as a rough guide and useful datapoint as you consider the length of your essay.

But it’s worth stressing again that content is king and should ultimately dictate your essay’s length. If you’re looking for advice on the content of your HBS essay, you can check out our detailed post here or reach out to us through our free consultation service; we’re happy to chat about your essay ideas, essay length, or your profile more generally.

The above represents our best guess — based on a reasonable but limited sample — of how long successful HBS essays are typically.

 

MBA Admissions Essays are Disappearing

By Kyle Watkins (last updated: August 5, 2014)

How to Make the Most of a Shrinking MBA Admissions Application

MBA admissions essays are quickly disappearing. In fact, an applicant applying to the top ten MBA programs today would be required to complete fewer than half as many essays today as she would have just five year ago. And – she’d have to do it in a lot less space, with the average word limit per essay a mere 75% of what it used to be:

Since last year, HBS has no longer required that applicants write any essay (although only 10 of the 9,543 candidates that applied last cycle actually opted not to submit one). Wharton, meanwhile, moved to require only a single essay of its applicants this year. Even Columbia and Haas, the only programs among the top ten that still require applicants to write more than two essays, have reduced the word limit that applicants are allowed.

Why Essays are Disappearing

Having read many applications, I can attest to the fact that you don’t need four essays and 2,000 words to gauge an applicant’s compatibility with a program. So I don’t mean to cynically suggest that business schools’ motives are entirely self-serving here. With that said, however, logic holds that requiring fewer essays and shorter word counts – essentially decreasing the cost to apply – will increase the number of candidates that submit applications. Increasing the number of applicants will, in turn, decrease a school’s admittance rate, making the school seem more selective and helping to keep the top-ranked programs top ranked.

Additionally, there’s no doubt that reducing the number of application essays also reduces the burden on busy admissions staff. Ensuring that there are fewer essays to read will also ensure that fewer resources are required to do so, something any admissions director could get behind.

Finally, admissions committees are likely looking for a more focused story and essay set from their applicants, who can meander quite a bit over the course of 2,000 words. This raises the next logical question, which is what fewer essays should mean for aspiring applicants…

What it Means for Your Applications

The reduction in essays has been a pretty remarkable shift, and it certainly has consequences for applicants applying this year:

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