Thoughts for HBS-and-Stanford GSB-only Applicants

Last year, a client came to me with an enthusiastic but unruly pile of essays for four top schools that he was struggling to finish simultaneously, including HBS and GSB. I saw good core material in there. I also saw that, if he ordered his applications properly, he could build up a foundation of straightforward essays (goals, leadership, etc.) that could help him approach the open-ended HBS and GSB essays more confidently. Happily, he took my advice and we ended up developing essays that helped him get accepted to two of his schools (one with a scholarship), and interviewed (though not admitted) at HBS. I like this story because it illustrates key principles that I share with all of my clients:

  • When starting out, work on one school at a time, one essay at a time – starting with basic essays - so that you can get your feet under you.
  • For any given set of schools, there is usually one or two “best orders” to follow, depending on the difficulty of the essay questions.
  • Save HBS and GSB for last.

But what if, as several of my early clients are undertaking, you are only applying to HBS and GSB? Then I suggest you complete as much of the application as you can before taking on the essays, especially the resume and online application questions*. Completing these things first with an eye towards detailing your accomplishments should give you a good chance at the self-reflection necessary to develop the rich and personally insightful freeform essays that HBS and GSB are looking for.

And when you do start the essays, you might want to start with "Why Stanford?" as a way to work out your "MBA Goals Statement", which can often help you anchor your thinking for the entire MBA application process.**

*as of this writing, both the HBS and GSB online applications are still unavailable; HBS admissions says theirs will be ready "sometime in June or July".

** until the online applications are available, I'll be recommending to my HBS and GSB-only clients that they start here.