HBS MBA Essay Analysis 2014-2015


So, for this year’s application, Harvard MBA decided to go ahead and keep the same optional essay format from last year. The admissions director at HBS recently mentioned on her blog that out of over 9,000 applicants last year, only ten decided not to write an essay (and one got in) – the same acceptance rate as the overall class (below 10%).


The questions is: “You’re applying to Harvard Business School.  We can see your resume, school transcripts, extra-curricular activities, awards, post-MBA career goals, test scores and what your recommenders have to say about you.    What else would you like us to know as we consider your candidacy?”


Basically, Harvard is telling you that they care less about your essays and more about:


  • Your professional background – the companies you’ve worked at, your title and your compensation
  • Where you went to college, your grades and your GMAT/GRE scores
  • What the letters of recommendation say about you
  • This makes life easier for people who have gone to well-known universities and worked at big-name companies, and harder for the others.


If you have issues you want to address (from low GPA to an employment gap) you could do it here, but that should not be the focus. I’ve seen people share negative aspects of their profile and just damage their chances of admissions (at Harvard and beyond).

Find something that’s really important to you and talk about it. As much as Harvard’s admissions team like to call this essay “optional,” you would miss an opportunity to share something interesting (and attractive) about your profile if you didn’t use this space wisely. This is prime real-estate and you need to make the most out of it.

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