The Early Verdict On HBS’ New App

THE NEW FORMAT FORCED APPLICANTS TO BE MORE STRATEGIC ABOUT WHAT INFO THEY SHARED WITH HARVARD

Chioma Isiadinso, founder of EXPARTUS who was once on the HBS admissions board, echoed Bauer’s remarks. “This new format forced clients to really be strategic about the information they presented in different parts of their application.” she said. “It called for more engagement with recommenders to ensure that the right egs were being highlighted as well as greater scrutiny on resumes and the online application. Overrall, clients were apprehensive about the new essays but once they began working on them most of their fears were allayed.”

Kreisberg said most of Harvard’s applicants “spend hours agonizing over which stories to feature and feel that their fate depends on this (story) versus that (story). I sympathize with them. The process is important to applicants. I also believe, that while shorter, these applications are not as much fun to read for the adcom.”

Ultimately, the cutbacks may have done little to reduce the anxiety associated with applying to a highly selective business school. “In the end, everyone was relieved that it was shorter. But there’s still a tendency to underestimate the amount of work it takes to put together an entire application, 800 words or 2,000 words,” said Betsy Massar, founder of Master Admissions. “Plus, managing three recommenders is a project management exercise in itself!”

LESS REALLY CAN BE MORE

David Thomas, co-founder and educational consultant at Forster-Thomas Inc., had a slightly different perspective. “At first,” he said, “most candidates were frustrated that HBS only has two essays this year. They worried that it wouldn’t give them the opportunity to showcase as many accomplishments, or demonstrate how multi-faceted they are. Our response is that we’d love there to be more essays, too. However, great admissions essays are not about showing what you’ve done, but rather how and why you do things.  And for that reason, we love these two questions—they give candidates the perfect opportunity to differentiate themselves from their peers by demonstrating sophisticated insight, depth, and maturity—rather than hitting the Admissions Board over the head with more facts about accomplishments. When we explained it to them that way, our candidates embraced the intent of the essays and pretty quickly got on board.  As long as you know what to do with it, less really can be more.”

Not every consultant saw dissatisfaction with the Harvard changes. “I think that the clients took the changes in stride,” says Stacey Oyler of Clear Admit.  “After the initial surprise, they focused on sharpening their message and telling their stories with the two essays and their resume.  It took some fine tuning, but I think most are happy with the applications they crafted.”

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About the Author...

John A. Byrne

John A. Byrne is the founder of C-Change Media, a global digital media company of higher education content. C-Change now has five websites, including Poets&Quants, and the author or co-author of more than ten books, including two New York Times bestsellers, and is the former executive editor of Businessweek, editor-in-chief of Businessweek. com, and editor-in-chief of Fast Company. He also is the creator of the first regularly published rankings of business schools.