D-Day At Harvard Business School

Dillon House is where Harvard Business School makes all of its admission decisions. Learn about HBS MBA round 1

Dillon House is where Harvard Business School makes all of its admission decisions.

As if by wizardry, the deadline for early bird MBA applicants at Harvard Business School is here. It’s the earliest round one deadline at HBS ever and from all indications, this round will be a big one. It also opens the starting gate for the new 2014-2015 MBA application season at the most highly selective programs.

As Dee Leopold, managing director of admissions and financial aid at HBS, put it today (Sept. 9): “Big day here in Dillon House! We’re ready to go underground and start reading applications.” Admission consultants say that HBS’ decision to set a deadline that is a full week earlier than last year prompted many applicants to work on their apps for other schools far earlier than usual.

“The best news about the early-September Round one deadline at HBS is that it has motivated individuals applying to additional schools to get a head start on those apps that are due in a few weeks,” says Dan Bauer, founder of The MBA Exchange, a leading business school admissions consulting firm. “Procrastination kills!  So, the extra iterations now possible before submitting those apps will make them stronger.”


Sandy Kreisberg, founder of HBSGuru.com, a consultant who closely reads the tea leaves at HBS, says that in the first round he has seen applicants eager to pen “longer essays” that take advantage of Harvard’s decision not to set a word limit on its one “optional” essay. Last year, HBS said about ten applicants decided not to submit an essay in their applications. One candidate who passed on the essay was admitted.

“I’m not totally sure why, but that happens when you repeat the question, and models get out there, and then people start building on the models. There’s also a continuation of the trend where applicants say they want to be innovators, entrepreneurs, and “Steve Jobs”–and regress to banking and consulting by the time graduation rolls around.”

As for some new buzzwords, Kreisberg is seeing in early apps?  “Smart data” (“big data” still around but “smart” is the bastard child with brains), “hybrid intelligence” (people and tech smarts), and “premature exclamation” (well, not a buzz word, what I often  tell recommendation writers NOT TO DO!).”


Only two years ago, Harvard’s round one deadline was in the third week of September. Bauer said that based on his firm’s client work, he anticipates greater interest than usual for the second round, especially because HBS recently revealed that its lowest GMAT for the just entered class was 510. “Now that HBS has lowered their GMAT range to 510, we anticipate a larger and broader pool of applicants for Round 2,” he said. (See Harvard Enrolls A 510 Applicant“).

“While changes in the applicant pool each year tend to be glacial, we’re seeing modest increases in female and non-US applicants to HBS as well as current undergrads targeting the 2+2 program,” adds Bauer. “With Harvard’s Round 1 application deadline arriving earlier than ever, we’re finding quite a few applicants now extending their campaigns to Round 2 so they can more fully optimize their candidacies. And, as HBS is a traditional top choice among applicants, many individuals prefer to ‘warm up’ by first completing their applications to other schools in Round 1.”

Traditionally, Round two attracts the heaviest volume of MBA applications at top schools, though more and more applicants are trying to get their apps completed in the first round when none of the seats in a class are filled. Most admission officials concede that the acceptance rates for round one candidates are usually slightly higher than they are for applicants in later rounds.

In a blog post today, Harvard’s Leopold noted that so far “everything seems to have gone smoothly.” HBS said that it intends to keep access open for recommenders for a couple more days. “We’ll begin to send your application out for review when there is one recommendation,” wrote Leopold. “The second can be added later.” Harvard plans to reveal its Round 1 interview plans by the end of this week.

Questions about this article? Email us or leave a comment below.