On the same day that round three decisions were released, Dee Leopold released her last HBS MBA application essay question for the 2016-2017 application season (class of 2019). Going back to what was asked for the class of 2017, Harvard Business School now wants to know what else is interesting about your profile in addition to everything that is in the application.
A change has also been made to the way 2+2 program applicants are evaluated. As of this year, everyone will be evaluated in round three, so there is no more need to debate whether it is worth taking that extra semester to show additional performance.
Lastly, HBS informed us that they received almost 10,000 applications for the class of 2018.
Question: “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?”
There is no word limit for this question.
How to answer the question
This is an open invitation to tell HBS what is truly interesting about your profile. It is nice to see HBS go back to something similar to what they asked for the class of 2017. While certainly a more narrowly focused question than last year's, this allows you to hone in on what is important and not feel the need to discuss multiple aspects of your profile. I like this question and it should be more fun to write. There may be some overlap with other parts of the application, but this question truly gives you the opportunity to discuss something completely different if you choose. Regardless, do not feel the need to prove yourself professionally here. Successful answers may address something completely different that just happens to be interesting and worth mentioning.
Review the rest of your application to get a sense of what has already been communicated to HBS. This includes your letters of recommendations, short answer questions and resume.
What are some things you could address?
- An interest or passion of yours. How has it made you a better leader?
- What do you love to do outside of work that has developed your character, even before it started to develop your leadership ability? Why did you choose this activity and what do you want to do with it in the future?
- Have you overcome / are you currently battling a serious health issue? What impact has this had on your development and how does this define you? More importantly, what are you doing to help yourself but also help others in a similar situation?
- Do you have a side business that doesn’t quite fit with the rest of your application but shows significant accomplishment?
- Lastly, this does not have to be and most likely should not be completely professional. Given HBS has seen your accomplishments to date, they are interested in what else makes you interesting besides the projects you lead or the promotions you received at work.
What should you keep in mind while writing?
- Would your topic be exciting for an outsider to read about? As I wrote above, last year the admissions team received almost 10,000 applications. I recommend focusing on one thing if it catches the eye rather than discussing multiple topics that may lose the reader’s focus.
- This could be a starting point for an interview conversation. HBS has very detailed interviews that are planned in advance for each applicant and will dive into at least one aspect of your application. Be ready to talk about anything you submit as part of your application in great detail during the interview.
- Show rather than tell. Essays are much more impactful when they describe something about you, showing it in action instead of just stating the facts. For instance, say you tutored 20 young immigrants and helped them excel in school. Rather than listing your accomplishment, start off writing about Giacomo and your weekly interaction with an introverted nervous six year old.
- This essay will be VERY different for everyone. Don’t fall into the trap of trying to write an essay like one you have read in the past or like your friend is writing. There will be a wide range of successful essays this year, and proper execution will be the key rather than simply the content alone.
How long should the essay really be?
- Most essays that work will fall somewhere between 500-1000 words.
- Absolutely consider quality over quantity. If you can write a solid 600 word essay that is powerful and moving, do not feel the need to lengthen it. I have helped many applicants write successful essays on the shorter side.
While not part of this year’s question, I always recommend watching the case method video repeatedly. It is very informative and inspiring. Watching the video helps put you in the mindset of an HBS student and better prepares you not just for the application but the interview. Watch it a few times, especially the day before your interview.
This article was originally published by Personal MBA Coach.