Harvard Business School just announced the deadlines for the class of 2020, and the essay question, which is unchanged from last year. It’s worth trying hard to hit the first round deadline when there is a lower volume of applicants and therefore more time for the admissions committee to evaluate your candidacy. You have just a few months until the September 6th deadline.
The most challenging part of the HBS essay is remaining disciplined. With unlimited space to make your case, you may be tempted to compose a laundry list of everything interesting or impressive you have ever done.
That urge could backfire, as the essay is used to determine who isn’t a fit for HBS as much as those who deserve the chance to move into the interview round. 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.
Class of 2020 admissions essay 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? (no word count limit)
A note on word count: HBS values brevity in essays. Do not be tempted to go overboard with a 2,000 word essay, rather focus on concise and clear writing and consider keeping this essay in the ~1,000 word range. Our clients have successfully composed essays anywhere from 500-1,300 words, though you should take a pass through your essay to cut any unnecessary words if you find yourself on the upper end of that range.
Because there is no stated word count you do have the flexibility to take extra space if you are telling a compelling story that needs it.
The goal of this essay is to know yourself, know HBS, and know how to match the two to demonstrate your fit for the school. Your first task should be to evaluate all of the other aspects of your candidacy – what is the story your resume tells? What do you think recommenders will say? How does your transcript communicate your skills, accomplishments and interests? Then you need to evaluate how to fill the gaps with the essay.
HBS is devoted to the case method, and published a video a few years ago, which is worth watching now. The video clearly shows that diverse perspectives are valuable to the case method experience. In your essay preparations consider what diverse experience you bring.
Check out the incoming class profile for some idea of what a “typical” HBS student is like. We have found that both personal and career oriented topics can work, and most candidates tell more than one story in the essay. In the past we have observed that successful HBS essays also demonstrate a core driving passion. HBS students are ambitious, motivated and never boring.
As you consider possible stories to tell in this essay keep in mind that HBS has always been highly focused on leadership and really loves candidates with a track record of leadership impact and a success trajectory that indicates upper management potential and a passion for impact in both business and society.
Accomplishments have traditionally been a strong focus of HBS essays, and using at least one accomplishment story in this essay may be a good strategy, particularly if your accomplishments are not obvious when reading your resume or transcripts.
A note on what not to do: We see many applicants tempted to include “why HBS” type information in HBS essays. Explaining why the case method specifically is a good fit for you and your learning style is absolutely appropriate, but more detailed “why HBS” content has never been asked for in an HBS application essay question. We believe it’s more effective for you to use the space to provide detailed information about yourself and your candidacy.
Looking for guidance on your HBS application? Contact us to learn more about Stacy Blackman Consulting.
Image credit: Michael A. Herzog (CC BY-ND 2.0)
This entry was posted in Application Tips, Harvard Advice and tagged advice, application tips, applications, career goals, Essay Tips, Fall 2018 MBA Essay Tips, Harvard Business School, HBS, MBA application.
Bookmark this post..
Columbia Business School Essay Topic Analysis 2016-2017
With the recent announcement of the 2016-2017 Columbia Business School essay questions, this season’s Essay Topic Analysis series is officially underway.
While the length of each of CBS essay prompts has been modified, the spirit of each question remains very similar to their questions over the previous few years. Covering both professional plans and personal history–as well as the various reasons for one’s interest in earning Columbia MBA–these essays allow the applicant to cover a fair amount of material. Overall, CBS has allowed applicants more space to expand on their career goals and specific interests in the program. Across the set of essays, it’s important to maintain balance and avoid repetition.
Let’s take a closer look at each prompt:
Goal: What is your immediate post-MBA professional goal? (51 characters)
Making its sixth appearance on the CBS application form, this question asks applicants to speak directly about the job they wish to have upon graduating from business school. The adcom offers several sample answers to illustrate the sort of direct response they’re seeking. Given a short and strict limit of 51 characters, you’ll want to clearly and concisely describe your short-term goal, making sure that it aligns with what you write in Essay 1.
Essay 1:Through your résumé and recommendations, we have a clear sense of your professional path to date. What are your career goals going forward, and how will the Columbia MBA help you achieve them? (100-750 words)
Making its second consecutive appearance in the CBS application, this prompt declines the brief synopsis of work history that many applicants provide as part of their career goals essay. Instead, the adcom asks applicants to focus almost exclusively on their career goals and interest in the CBS MBA. We say “almost” here because a bit of context will be important. For example, applicants might remark on how their professional experiences to date have informed their interest in their post-MBA path, and might also comment on transferrable skills they’ve gained on the job that will apply to their future posts. In short, make sure that your comments build on rather than repeat material that the adcom can find in your recommendations or résumé.
Candidates will want to use the bulk of this response to outline their short- and long-term post-MBA goals, as well as the reasons they’re applying to CBS. As always, the adcom will be looking for applicants to showcase their knowledge of the school’s MBA program. Because people applying to Columbia are often also considering other first-tier schools like Wharton, Chicago Booth, and NYU Stern, it’s especially important for applicants to convince the Columbia adcom of their sincere interest in their program. The most effective way to do so will be to pack your essay full of school-specific details about CBS courses and clubs that would facilitate success upon graduating. Taking the time to learn about the school’s curriculum, special programs, and extracurricular activities–whether through a campus visit, conversations with current students, or reading Clear Admit’s Columbia School Guide–will pay dividends here.
A note on length: While CBS set a limit of 500 words last year, applicants have a wider range of 100 to 750 words now. Given the amount of ground to be covered in regards to goals and interest in CBS, anything under 250 words will seem paltry and insufficient. Whereas solid, informed content in the range of 500-750 words will convey the right message of interest. Applicants should be wary of exceeding the 750-word limit; while +/-10% is generally a good rule of thumb in terms of word limits, such a broad range conveys harder markers for length.
Essay 2: Columbia Business School’s students participate in industry focused New York immersion seminars; in project based Master Classes; and in school year internships. Most importantly, they are taught by a combination of distinguished research faculty and accomplished practitioners. How will you take advantage of being “at the very center of business”? (100-500 Words)
Appearing for a third year, this prompt frames CBS as the center of business — and of this essay. That is, the primary focus of this response should be how Columbia’s course offerings, faculty, visiting speakers, and industry access will serve as a springboard for one’s career. It may even make sense to consider this response to be an extension of Essay 1, as an applicant’s comments here should continue to demonstrate a link between their professional objectives and the benefits of studying at CBS. Of course, this response allows applicants to introduce volunteer or community involvement as well by highlighting student organizations and other offerings that align with their interests and values. Of course, including one or two comments about the benefits of the program’s location remains a sound strategy, as the NYC factor does differentiate CBS from many of its competitors. This is particularly true for applicants with existing personal or professional ties to the city.
Essay 3:CBS Matters, a key element of the School’s culture, allows the people in your Cluster to learn more about you on a personal level. What will your Clustermates be pleasantly surprised to learn about you? (100-250 Words)
This question asks applicants to reveal an interesting element of their backgrounds. The prompt also features a brief video of students discussing CBS Matters, a program through which students share something–anything–about themselves with their cluster. The video also includes the subtitle “What Matters to You Most?” Naturally, applicants might think about what they would actually discuss in this context and build their essay around that.
Though there are myriad potential topics to discuss here, applicants should consider the balance of subjects they have covered across their other essays and choose a topic that provides new insight into their overall candidacy. For example, if the majority of content in the previous essays is focused on your professional life and accomplishments, this would be an opportunity to showcase and highlight your extracurricular passions or interests. Although not directly requested, applicants would be wise to comment on why the particular achievement/trait/interest they share would be a pleasant surprise, i.e. something that will be valuable to their cluster–whether academically, socially, athletically, or professionally–as well as the CBS community at large.
Reapplicant Essay (Reapplicants are NOT required to submit additional essays. Only the reapplicant essay is required): How have you enhanced your candidacy since your previous application? Please detail your progress since you last applied and reiterate how you plan to achieve your immediate and long term post-MBA professional goals. (500 words)
This prompt is focused on proactive improvement in one’s candidacy since the time one last applied. This response should therefore be fairly action-oriented, with a focus on describing the steps that one has taken to become a stronger applicant to CBS since being denied, as well as the results of these efforts in terms of new knowledge and strengthened skills. Applicants are also asked to restate their goals and the steps they’ll take to accomplish them after an MBA; this part of the discussion will likely also include a restatement of the reasons for the applicant’s interest in CBS–and poses an opportunity to demonstrate an enhanced familiarity with and commitment to Columbia’s MBA program.
Clear Admit Resources
Thanks for reading our analysis of this year’s Columbia Business School essay topics. As you work on your Columbia MBA essays and application, we encourage you to consider all of Clear Admit’s Columbia offerings:
Posted in: Essay Tips & Advice, Essay Topic Analysis, Essay Topics, Essays