The Secrets to Short Admissions Essays

5 Tips for Writing a Concise B-School Admissions Essayessay-writing-2

Remember padding your high school essays to reach an assigned word count? Back then, we thought it’d be so much better if we could write less. Well, times have certainly changed!

These days, it seems like business schools want you to respond in haiku form. Harvard, Wharton and Ross are slashing the number of application essays. And Columbia has cut one essay from 500 words to 250 words. So how can you differentiate yourself and share all of your accomplishments and dreams in such a small space?

The answer may be counterintuitive. According to US News and World Report, one strategy is to start out with more examples than you need and then whittle the word count down. That way, according to Dave Bolick of, “an applicant can review the examples with others and evaluate which sound best.”

Similarly, admissions officers are reducing essay lengths to remind students to prioritize. Soojin Kwon, director of admissions at the University of Michigan’s Ross School, cautions that, “So many people were spending a lot of time on the essays and probably not as much time thinking about the other things, like their interviews or talking to their recommenders or even studying for the GMAT.” In other words, essays were just one piece of the puzzle. And devoting too much time to one area made them vulnerable in others.

The best essay advice comes from Brandon Royal, who wrote Secrets to Getting Into Business School: 100 Proven Admissions Strategies to Get You Accepted at the MBA Program of Your Dreams. Brandon notes that writing an essay is all about remembering what’s important to the audience:

“It all boils down to have you told the admissions committee who you are, where you’re going, what have you done and why our particular school is the right fit for you?”

Yes? Then cut the rest.

Source: US News and World Report

Harvard Business School Receives $10 Million to Revise the Second Year of its MBA Program

Harvard's Baker Library

Harvard’s Baker Library

Why mess with success?

Well, that’s one school of thought. Here’s another: In an era of disruption, no organization can rest their reputation on past success. And that includes everyone…even Harvard.

This week, the Harvard Business School announced that it had received a $10 million gift to revamp its second year curriculum. The gift was made by the family of the late William F. Connell, a 1963 HBS graduate whose previous donation helped start up the school’s Leadership Initiative.

According to Business School Dean Nitin Nohria, Connell’s gift will help “enhance our second-year curriculum and make it a deeper, more cohesive, and more innovative experience.” The school’s press release adds that the $10 million dollars will be used in “support of new course development and case writing needs, new technology applications or platforms, and increased faculty development efforts.” The school estimates that it will take three years to re-design and implement it.

The second year curriculum, which is comprised of electives selected by students themselves, will also be integrated with the first year curriculum. In 2011, a revised first year program was implemented at HBS, which introduced a three-module course called Field Immersion Experiences for Leadership Development (FIELD). FIELD provided first year students with real world experience in leadership, global marketing and entrepreneurship. Using a small team method, this program sends first years overseas to assist a real company, along with requiring them to launch a “microbusiness” over 15 weeks.

However, Harvard is not alone in redesign their business school curricula. According to Bloomberg Businessweek, major curriculum changes have recently occurred at Wharton, Haas, Kellogg and Columbia. Our prediction: Expect more schools to follow suit.

Sources: Harvard Business School Press Release, The Harvard Crimson, Bloomberg Businessweek

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