Sandy’s Take On The New Harvard Business School Essay Book

EssayWritingOver the next several days, Sanford Kreisberg, the HBSGURU and beloved odds-maker here at Poets&Quants, will be reviewing the essays in The Harbus e-book to give us his idea of what made them work or not.

The new book of 23 application essays from Harvard Business School admits in the Class of 2016 was published this week (see For Sale: Successful HBS Applicant Essays). We asked Sandy to have a look at the book and provide a tell-it-like-it-is tear down of each essay. His analysis is, as always, irreverent, penetrating and filled with important lessons on how to craft an ideal essay, whether you are applying to the Harvard Business School or any other top-ranked MBA program. And if you have no intention of completing a business school application, his assessments is laugh-out-loud entertainment.

In preparation for this project, we asked Sandy what he thought of the e-book, now being sold for $50 a pop. 

So, Sandy, what is your general impression?

Well, first, reading this book will probably confirm the myth that anyone can get into HBS with some odd or quirky essay, since several of the 23 essays reprinted here are lousy and odd and badly written and hard to follow because the editors have taken out company names. Plus we know nothing else about the person writing the essay, e.g., what their stats were, where they went to school or worked, what country they came from, etc.  The editors could have done a much better job if they had included a blurb about the writer, even if they wanted to preserve the writer’s anonymity.

Sandy Kreisberg, founder of

Sandy Kreisberg, founder of

OK, what is good about the book?

Hmmmm, it will certainly relieve kids writing essays now of the delusion that essays need to masterpieces and finely polished. They do not, they just need to serviceably present your story and not be annoying of odd or offensive or confusing.

What do you think is missing from the book?

As noted, what is missing from the book is some background information about the writers which really could help you understand the context of the essay, and especially would explain how some of the worse essays, and some of these are real clunkers, as I note, wound up not sinking the writer. What I also would have liked to see, although this is just a dream, is essays by kids WHO DID NOT GET IN, who shot themselves in the foot by writing DAMAGING essays. 

How do you know that happens?

I’ve read those essays, by applicants who send me their entire app for a ding report.  There are cases where essays are damaging, and I don’t mean because they contain hate speech or racial slurs (that almost never happens), they are damaging because they out of control, disorganized, off point, or attempt to explain some issue, e.g. a zig-zagging career through three jobs,  in an extended and monomaniacal way and unconvincing way. 

Is the book worth $50 for applicants to HBS or any other business school? 

Definitely, it can loosen you up, show you some useable gimmicks, and prove that you do not need some extensive career road map and belabored rap on why HBS, although some writers below did manage to speak about why HBS with real personality and passion, for instance the woman who wrote Essay 3 below. 

I’d also like to see, in the comments section, some agreement or push-back on analysis from people who have bought the book and read the actual essays, which you need to do to really understand what I am talking about. 

Soooooo, without further ado, here is my opinion on the first 10 of the 23 essays in the book. I’ll be chiming in on the rest over the next few days. 

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