HBS Deadlines, Essays & Analysis (Class of 2013, Starting Fall 2011)

DEADLINES[table id=45 /]


"Essays for the Class of 2013

As an opportunity to present your distinctive qualities, your essays are an important part of your MBA application. You will be asked to submit your personal statements online with the balance of your application materials. Essays should be single-spaced. Please limit your response to the length indicated.

All applicants must submit answers to four essay questions. The first two questions are required of all applicants. The remaining two essays should be in response to your choice of the next five sub-questions.

Joint program applicants for the Harvard Medical School, Harvard School of Dental Medicine, Harvard Law School, and Harvard Kennedy School must provide an additional essay."


What are your three most substantial accomplishments and why do you view them as such? (600-word limit)

Analysis: Clearly, this essay can be a cornerstone of the leadership portfolio that HBS so highly values. And chosen correctly, the topics can serve as much more than a "greatest hits" list. Basic considerations include:

- balance between personal and professional - for more experienced applicants, I recommend emphasizing professional, perhaps 2:1 - timing - more recent accomplishments will have more impact - variety - your choices should reflect a range of accomplishments and skills, most notably leadership

A more subtle consideration is how much your accomplishments support your career vision (see below), if you choose to answer that question, i.e., your accomplishments can show the progress you've already made towards your goals. In that case, you should consider ordering them chronologically. Your reasons for choosing these accomplishments will vary from person to person, but they should show what you value, how you think, and how those things differ from other applicants with similar accomplishments.

Editing hint: for powerful storytelling in such a short space, concentrate on action, action, action, with just enough context to understand the situation, results, and, of course, the importance of the accomplishment to you.

Please see: The MBA Leadership Essay

What have you learned from a mistake? (400-word limit)

Please see: The MBA Failure Essay

Please respond to two of the following (400-word limit each):

What would you like the MBA Admissions Board to know about your undergraduate academic experience?

Analysis: Of course the direct approach of discussing your thesis or classes is fine if you have something substantial to say about them and/or they demonstrate your intellectual capacity. At the same time, the topic can be much broader than that, including paid work during school (especially if you paid for school yourself), overseas study or travel, internships, athletic or artistic accomplishments, community involvement/leadership through clubs, campus organizations, volunteering, student government, etc. If your undergraduate GPA is below average, such topics can also help explain why.

What is your career vision and why is this choice meaningful to you?

Analysis: The main difference between this question and a typical MBA goals essay is the edict to explain your personal connection to your goals. HBS has included this component for many years, but it takes on added importance in such a competitive application environment. (Wharton introduced their version last year.) Want to be a consultant? Drive the re-birth of the finance industry? Start a non-profit? So do thousands of other applicants. How are your reasons different from theirs? How do they connect to you? Don't be afraid to get personal here. In fact, the more personal the better. And here's the kicker: if your reasons are that strong, then there should hopefully be evidence of your commitment somewhere else in your application, most likely among your "three substantial accomplishments".

Please see: The MBA Goals Essay

Tell us about a time in your professional experience when you were frustrated or disappointed.

Analysis: Since you have to reflect on your own mistake above, I assume the frustration or disappointment in this case should be directed outwards, towards a co-worker, boss, your or another team perhaps, or even a social problem (e.g., poverty, disease). You can't simply describe what bothers you, though, (e.g., laziness, irresponsibility, inefficiency, miscommunication, unethical behavior) without including your successful efforts to fix whatever was broken, either in that or a future instance. After all, leaders don't complain. They improve.

When you join the HBS Class of 2013, how will you introduce yourself to your new classmates?

Analysis: A pretty free-ranging question, analogous to last year's "cover letter to the Admissions Board" essay, but directed at your future peers, who might very well be more interested in your expertise on micro-breweries of the Pacific Northwest, than in your work accomplishments. For HBS, this seems like a pretty "soft" question, but one of a trend I see among top MBA programs (examples from last year include Booth's slide presentation, UCLA's audio/video essay, Cornell's "Your Life Story") designed to draw out sides of you that would otherwise remain hidden.

Joint degree applicants:

How do you expect the joint degree experience to benefit you on both a professional and a personal level? (400-word limit)

HBS LOR Questions can be found here.