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10 Tips for Your HBS Essay (From HBS Students)

This article was originally published on here.

Harbus-LogoIt’s a busy time of year for business schools everywhere, especially here in Boston! Interviews for Round 1 applicants for Harvard Business School’s Class of 2018 just finished taking place around the globe in November, and the January 6, 2016 Round 2 application deadline is just around the corner. That leaves about six weeks for Round 2 applicants to finalize your GMAT/GRE results, gather your transcripts, coordinate your letters of recommendation, polish your resume, and last, but not least, perfect your essay. This last step, the essay, might prove to be the most tedious one of them all, which is why The Harbus, HBS’s student-run news organization, is here to help.

As current HBS students, we can offer tips about the essay writing process, pulling from our own successful HBS application essays.

Although each and every applicant’s background and story is unique, we feel passionate about sharing what we feel will benefit others as they approach this reflective and sometimes overwhelming writing and editing process.

Essays submitted this year for the Class of 2018 will respond to the following prompt:

It’s the first day of class at HBS. You are in Aldrich Hall meeting your “section.” This is the group of 90 classmates who will become your close companions in the first-year MBA classroom. Our signature case method participant-based learning model ensures that you will get to know each other very well. The bonds you collectively create throughout this shared experience will be lasting.

Introduce yourself. (No word limit)


Here are 10 ‘Helpful Harbus Tips’ for approaching your HBS application essay, written by current HBS students:

1. Think about an experience that demonstrates and combines both the things you are passionate about and the strengths that you would bring to HBS.

2. Don’t let the open-ended nature of the essay prompt intimidate you too much. Work a good amount of pre-writing into your schedule so you can try a few different options before honing in on and committing to one. Once you’ve found the right one, material should naturally start to flow.

Applying to HBS? Round 2's deadline is coming up in January. Get a copy of our popular Harbus Essay Guide today!

Applying to HBS? Round 2’s deadline is coming up in January. Get a copy of our popular Harbus Essay Guide today!

3. If you are applying to more than one school, try to make the core learning(s) of your essay applicable to as many of the essay prompts as possible.

4. Consider incorporating a common theme that can be traced throughout the entire application, from start to finish. This will help the essay come full circle.

5. Consult your family and friends along the way to make sure that your various topics of choice are an accurate and genuine representation of who you are. You’d be surprised how much you can learn about your own experience by talking to family members and friends who know you the best.

6. You don’t necessarily have to think about standard workplace experiences when figuring out different situations that demonstrate key skills and qualities. Your best success stories, for example, aren’t always going to be those that transpired during work hours.

7. When brainstorming about examples of your leadership experiences, for example, come up with a list of about five, and decide which situation or experience shows what aspect of your personality is the hardest to see in your application.

8. Write a cohesive story that aligns with both why you want to go to business school and what you want to do after business school with your MBA degree.

9. Not everyone writes about conventional topics in their essays, so don’t be afraid to center your essay around an unconventional one that brought inspiration to you. For example, a current student in the Class of 2017 centered his essay around The Simpsons T.V. show. In the essay, he explores the parallels between themes contained within the T.V. show and those within his philosophical thinking, driving his adolescent curiosities and adulthood decisions.

10. Your essay doesn’t necessarily need to emphasize your professional accomplishments. Remember, your resume, awards, and recommendation letters may already sufficiently do this. Be careful not to repeat as the essay is your opportunity to highlight and communicate aspects of your life that the admissions team doesn’t already know from other material.

11. Bonus Tip: This should be obvious, but make sure you don’t misspell the names of the faculty members you say you dream of working with one day!

The Harbus logoInterested in reading full-length, successful essays written by current Harvard Business School students? Get your copy of the The Harbus’ popular MBA Essay Guide delivered to your inbox today. It has 16 current essays accompanied by individual, student-written analysis to help guide MBA applicants through the various approaches and styles that each successful essay showcases.


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December 1, 2015
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