Tag Archives: Harvard

HBS Student Stories

By Vincent Ho-Tin-Noe (last updated: March 24, 2015)

As Harvard Business School is about to release a new batch of admissions offers, we thought that prospective applicants would enjoy watching this video. It was released by Harvard in Q4 2013 on youtube, but it still provides a pretty accurate of what HBS is about. Kyle and I even recognized some of our classmates… Please do not hesitate to share your thoughts with us after watching it; we would love to hear from you ! Good luck to everyone expecting an email from the school this round.


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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Submitting your MBA application (Harvard Business School)

By Vincent Ho-Tin-Noe (last updated: September 6, 2015)

Just a few hours before the first application deadline for Harvard Business School, 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

[Author’s Note] Although we initially wrote this article with HBS in mind, it has now been edited to meet the needs of applicants to most MBA programs. Please let us know if you disagree with its content or think we missed anything. Thank you!

1. Thoughts About The Introduce Yourself Essay (Specific to HBS)

We recently covered the new application essay and overall HBS application process in several posts. Make sure to check them out. Continue reading

Analyzing the Applications: the HBS Recommendations (PART II)

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

Yesterday we published part one of this post analyzing the HBS recommendation questions for Class of 2016 applicants. Today we pick up where we left off and break down the second (and more difficult) recommender question:

Please describe the most important piece of constructive feedback you have given the applicant. Please detail the circumstances and the applicant’s response. (250 words)

This is such an excellent question, and one HBS used last year, too. I expect it produces a whole lot of terrible answers and perhaps only a handful of truly excellent ones. Let’s consider it from the perspective of each of the main players in the admissions process:

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Analyzing the Applications: the HBS Essay

By Kyle Watkins (last updated: September 4, 2014)

The HBS application for the Class of 2016 is live, officially marking the beginning of a new admissions season at Harvard. Here on the Founders’ Blog, it also marks the start of a new, recurring series, which will break down the applications of several top business schools.

Given the significant changes to HBS’s application this year, it seems as good a place as any to start the series by analyzing Harvard’s new essay question:

“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?”

When I applied to HBS in 2010, I was required to complete four essays, and while I bemoaned the task at the time, in hindsight it seems far simpler than trying to navigate the minefield that is this single, word limit-less prompt. Why? Because the new prompt requires extraordinary judgment — and, frankly, I always thought it was difficult to be an objective judge of my own application while I was in the midst of writing it.

Nonetheless, the HBS admissions committee has staked out a pretty clear position: the essays don’t add much value to the application. Dee Leopold has been espousing some version of this view for years now, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see even more extreme manifestations of it in the years to come. But for this year’s applicants, the key to writing a good essay will be demonstrating good judgment and keen self-awareness.

The purpose of your essay should be to advance one of two storylines the HBS adcom looks for in each applicant. First, the admissions committee wants to know whether you can hack it in the classroom. Do you have the analytical capabilities to keep up with the quantitative and understand the qualitative? Second, it wants to know whether you will add value to the school’s culture and case discussions. Do you bring a unique or particularly insightful perspective, or will you actually distract others from learning?

Fundamentally, those two questions are what the HBS application process is all about, and any essay you submit should seek to advance one storyline or the other. However, because the admissions committee will already have a pretty clear picture of your analytical abilities from your GMAT, GPA, and professional history, it will likely serve most applicants better to write about how they will add value. If your application doesn’t speak as loudly as you’d like toward your analytical strength, the best place to address it is not in the essay, but rather in the recommendations – a topic we’ll get into during our next post in this series. In fact, the biggest mistake applicants could make is to use this essay prompt as a place to apologize for a weakness. As we advocate in our 10-step guide to writing killer essays, it’s critical that you use essays to highlight your strengths and added value. For example, your essay could focus on:

  • Something unique you did before school — an extracurricular activity, social enterprise, a family business, TFA, government, etc. — and therefore how you bring a different perspective to the classroom.
  • Something unique you want to do after school, although the bar for what defines “unique” is set quite a bit higher here and will require specificity and support from the other parts of your application, such as what you’ve done in your career thus far.
  • Why you want to attend business school, if it’s not readily apparent. For example, this may be the case for applicants who’ve already been successful entrepreneurs or who are borderline mid-career managers. These types of applicants may need to prove they are as eager to learn from the HBS experience as their 2+2 peers; otherwise they risk being perceived as know-it-already applicants who could detract from classroom learning.

There are certainly many options beyond these broad categories, and many applicants should avail themselves of them. However, before you embark on your writing, invest heavily (and skeptically) in asking yourself whether the topic you’ve chosen advances a new line in the story of how you will add value to the HBS case discussion and to the community as a whole. At the very least, don’t write an essay that demonstrates you’ll detract value from the classroom by, for instance, building a laundry list of your accomplishments and appearing arrogant or unfocused.

A recommendation on your word count: aim for between 750 and 1,100 words (more on that here!). The adcom sent a pretty clear sign last year that shorter tends to be better (and they are absolutely right). A paraphrased version of a Blaise Pascal quote seems apropos: “I apologize for writing such a long letter; I didn’t have time to write a short one.” Focus on a single, important, persuasive essay topic. Avoid broad themes that are only meant to disguise a laundry list of accomplishments. Be thoughtful and targeted about what you include in your essay; anything else will demonstrate a lack of self-awareness at best and poor judgment at worst.

As you think more about writing your essays, don’t forget to check out our 10-step guide for additional advice, and of course feel free to contact us for a free consultation if you have any questions we didn’t address here. We’ll also be breaking down the rest of the application for HBS and other schools in the coming weeks so keep watching this space! In the meantime, check out our custom algorithm to calculate your odds of admission. Next, we’ll be breaking down the HBS recommender questions and explaining why the school expects so many more words from your recommenders than they do from you…