How to answer the only essay question on the Harvard Business School application

Harvard studentsFlickr / Elliot MargoliesHarvard students contemplate assignments on campus.

Harvard Business School (HBS) is often pegged as one of the toughest business school’s to get into.

That may not be welcome information for applicants to the class of 2019 currently hoping to receive acceptance letters.

But at least this year, the only HBS admissions essay, one of the mandatory application components, seems pretty straightforward. The prompt reads:

“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?”

The simplicity may be an attempt to rectify an overly complicated prompt from last year, Stacy Blackman, founder of Stacy Blackman Consulting told Business Insider via email. Her firm helps clients earn admission to top MBA programs, like HBS.

Last year’s essay question read:

“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.”

“I think that the more ‘creative’ format of the introduction may have muddied some of the answers, wasting word count being cute, setting up a conversation, etc,” she wrote.

Even though the question is pared down this year, applicants still need to ensure they understand HBS and its case method so that their essays invoke the the qualities admissions officers value.

Blackman directed us to her blog for more tips, where she has written in-depth about the 2016 essay.

“Maturity, accomplishment, and leadership are highly valued qualities and this essay is your chance to display those qualities through the stories you choose and the voice coming through your writing,” she wrote on her blog.

One of her recommendations is to watch a video that describes the HBS case method before writing the essay.

She further advised brevity, noting that while Harvard does not have a word limit, applicants should write 1,200 words or less.

Finally, she warned applicants not to write an essay on why they chose HBS. Instead, the essay should focus on the applicant and the particular qualities and candidacy.

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