Harvard Essay QuestionsAs I progress on my Wharton essays, I am including discussions and tips on how to tackle HBS essays.
Harvard is all about leadership. The most difficult part is the restrictive word limit (400 words even on the Why MBA and goals essay).
And you thought essay writing was easy!!The accepted.com blog tips the HBS essay questions follow:
Essay questions for the MBA class entering in the fall of 2006 are:1. What would you like the MBA Admissions Board to know about your undergraduate academic experience? (400-word limit)
This question replaces HBS' question on leadership which has been its question #1 for years and is now #3. I think it reflects somewhat HBS' tilt towards younger applicants, but for all applicants it represents HBS' attempt to see patterns over time. What you choose to include here will obviously vary depending on your experience and the rest of your application, but my ideal answer show a leadership experience from your undergrad career to show that you are a natural leader with a history of leadership -- even if you are several years out of school. Remember: HBS wants to develop leaders, not create them.2. What are your three most substantial accomplishments and why do you view them as such? (600-word limit)
I think HBS has been asking this question for at least the last ten years. At least one and probably two accomplishments should show leadership/and or teamwork skills, with the emphasis being on leadership. I also like to have this essay show some breadth. My ideal would be to have one professional, one community, and one personal accomplishment in this essay, but that breakdown is not set in stone and is not imperative.3. Discuss a defining experience in your development as a leader. (400-word limit)
This is a new one and to a certain extent replaces the old #1. For this question, anecdotally describe the leadership experience showing the impact you had as a leader. Explain why it was defining and how it has influenced your leadership behavior to date. Again, show a pattern of leadership.4. In your career, you will have to deal with many ethical issues. What are likely to be the most challenging and what is your plan for developing the competencies you will need to handle these issues effectively? (400-word limit)
Again, a new one. You will need to show knowledge of your future career path to answer this question well. The key here is research -- into ethical challenges common in your field and how you plan to develop that character strength and competency to respond to these challenges. Don't try to come up with superficial drivel and fool the committee with grandiose but empty hyperbole. The ideal response will show how HBS will help you handle such issues and also demonstrate a knowledge of the HBS program that goes well beyond the brand name and rankings.5. What are your strengths and weaknesses as a leader? (400-word limit)
This is not about your strengths and weaknesses as a marathoner or a significant other or any other description. "Your strengths and weaknesses as a leader. " Show that you can analyze and evaluate yourself. Don't be afraid to show a real weakness, but also take the space to show that you have worked to improve yourself in that area. Make sure the qualities you describe relate to leadership. Briefly provide examples of these strengths and weaknesses. Aim for no more than 2 strengths and 1 weakness.6. What are your career aspirations and how can an MBA help you to reach them? Why now? (400-word limit)
See "Goals in MBA Admissions: A Must
." The MBA is a bridge between where you are now and where you want to go. Show how an MBA (with emphasis on HBS even if not by name) will take you where you want to go. Reveal both clearly defined post-MBA goals and interim goals for your time a b-school.7. What do you wish the MBA Admissions Board had asked you? (400-word limit)
This is a great essay to show a side or experience not discussed elsewhere in the application. This question is a wild card gift given you to show another area in which you shine. Do not waste in on a summary or closing sales pitch.Keep in mind that as you answer these questions, even as you respond to Harvard's obvious emphasis on leadership, you want each essay to disclose a different facet of your background, experience, and interests... of you. Your application mission is to write so that each individual essay compellingly answers the given question and when combined with the other essays and information found on your application adds to the portrait of you as a up-and-coming leader and star.The clearadmit essay tips on Harvard essays below:1. What would you like the MBA Admissions Board to know about your undergraduate academic experience? (new question for this year)
This question seems focused purely on the applicant's educational experience while in college as opposed to part time work or extracurricular involvements (although if you excelled in the class room in spite of having numerous other commitments, this could be worth mentioning). This is your chance to go into some detail about why you chose your school and major and tell the admissions committee about your academic interests and educational milestones. A great essay will underscore an applicant's intelligence and work ethic, as well as incorporate some element of leadership angle in the event that he or she had a significant impact on the department or school as a whole. If you pursued a course of study that is in line with your work experience and/or career goals, this essay could also be a great intro to the rest of your file.2. What are your three most substantial accomplishments and why do you view them as such?
This question isn't anything new. When selecting topics, keep in mind that the HBS adcom has a very results-oriented attitude, and that you'll want to select some examples that involve a lasting, positive impact you made on a project or organization. We would recommend that you lead with a recent professional accomplishment, and include a balanced sampling of examples from various jobs and outside activities.3. Discuss a defining experience in your development as a leader. (slightly new question for this year)
Remember that it's best to use detailed examples whenever possible in your essays in order to make a strong impression on the reader. While one could concievable discuss his or her tenure in a certain role or position over time, the best response to this question will cover one specific event or instance. Make sure that you take care to set the scene and then fully describe your actions, as well as their results. Note that because this is a defining experience, something needs to change between the beginning and end of the story - your leadership skills. This being the case, it's likely that this essay will cover a very valuable lesson you have learned or a significant challenge you overcame. It would also be ideal to comment on the way this experience altered your perspective and has influenced your thought and actions since this time.4. In your career, you will have to deal with many ethical issues. What are likely to be the most challenging and what is your plan for developing the competencies you will need to handle these issues effectively? (new question for this year)
In devising an answer to this question, stay focused on the importance to keep your discussion grounded in your experiences and objectives as opposed to writing generally and waxing philosophical. Unlike most ethics-oriented essay questions that focus on a dilemma you have already tackled, this one calls on applicants to be forward-looking and anticipate ones that they will encounter down the line. It seems like this could be a platform to expand upon one's career goals and comment on issues that are specific to a given function or industry. In explaining the compentencies that will equip you to handle these situations, it's possible for you to draw from past experiences dealing with such issues and comment that Harvard's specific curricular offerings and the diverse student body would be instrumental in solidifying and reinforcing your already sound principles.5. What are your strengths and weaknesses as a leader? (slightly new question for this year)
This question is similar to last year's, except that it now focuses on the applicant's strong points and shortcomings within the context of leadership. A strong essay will introduce two or three positive qualities and provide a brief example illustrating each, and name a weakness that the applicant has taken steps to address along with an anecdote that confirms this improvement.6. What are your career aspirations and how can an MBA help you to reach them? Why now?
This is a fairly standard career goals essay, with the added difficulty of a very restrictive word limit. You will need to summarize your career to date in a very concise manner (think just a few sentences) before moving on to a detailed discussion of your short and long-term goals and the reasons that you are applying to business school at this point in time. There's no room here for a generic discussion of the merits of a business degree in general - all of your comments should be centered on Harvard's program and the way specific classes and clubs would prepare you for your goals.7. What do you wish the MBA Admissions Board had asked you?
This essay is another great opportunity to share some new and interesting information about your candidacy that you have not had a chance to include in response to the other questions. This is not the place to discuss your choice of recommender or that bad semester as an undergrad - save this sort of detail for the "Additional Information" section. Rather, this is your chance to go into detail about that unique hobby, detail the ways that you would contribute to the HBS community or, for reapplicants, highlight the improvements in your candidacy since your last application