How I Got into Harvard Business School
What You Say: “Congratulations! I’m so happy for you!”
What You Think: “Lucky bum! Why couldn’t that be me?”
Too often, that’s our response when someone gets what we want. Along with pride and excitement, we also feel a tinge of envy (or self-loathing). In our private moments, we may even compare ourselves against that person. Most times, we don’t resent the other person’s good fortune. Instead, we’re shocked to learn how close we really were to our dream. It was real. Too bad someone else will be living it.
If you got dinged this spring, you’re probably taking stock of your career – especially if a friend or peer is heading back to campus. On the plus side, you have another year to prepare. You can take classes, re-take the GMAT, volunteer in the community, and pick up extra responsibilities at work. And there isn’t a shortage of business schools either. At the same time, you’re wondering just what it takes to get the call.
Anny Jeung, a senior strategy analyst at PepsiCo, didn’t get a call or email. Instead, she learned that she’d been accepted into Harvard Business School when the school posted its decision online on March 25th. For her, this grand moment was the culmination of 14 months of preparation. Actually, it stretched back even further. “I’d been thinking about business school for a long time,” Jeung tells Business Insider. “I was in consulting when I graduated from college, and it’s a pretty standard route you take. So I started thinking about it as soon as I graduated from undergrad.”
Recently, Jeung shared her advice on how to get into Harvard Business School. From the GMAT to the essays, here are three strategies she used to become a member of the Class of 2017:
The GMAT Takes Time: Jeung calls the GMAT, “the hardest exam I’ve ever taken in my life.” At the time, she tells Business Insider, she was pursuing a promotion – and she quickly learned that she couldn’t push her studying back to the weekend. “I got very little sleep, and it was really rough.” Looking back, Jeung encourages peers to take the test while they’re still in college and “in full student mode.”
Writing the Essay is the Easy Part: For Jeung, the difficulties didn’t come when she was re-writing and polishing her essay. Instead it was the process of self-reflection and determining what truly had impact. “Even before you get to typing a single word on your essay, you have to take a lot of time to think about who you are, why you’ve made the certain life decisions you’ve made, why you are at the place you are today, and what you want to do in the future,” she said.
With the essay (along with the entire application), branding was the real challenge. In fact, it took her three months to finish it. “There’s not that many elements to it, yet it takes you so long,” Jeung tells Business Insider. “Because it’s not the actual content you’re putting together, it’s the strategizing and how you’re going to market yourself and package yourself.”
Maintain a Strong Support System: ‘You are who you surround yourself with.’ According to Jeung, the people around her were “probably the single most important thing that helped me throughout the process.” For example, she appreciated honest feedback and even peers challenging her. “You learn who is really there for you and who really wants to see you succeed,” she said.
Recently, Admissionado interviewed a woman named “Sarah” (not her real name) who was accepted at both Harvard and Stanford. Here are a few additional insights on how she was able to get accepted into two elite MBA programs:
The Biggest Mistake You Can Make: “People always talk about not getting lost in the trap of, “What do the schools want to hear” while putting your application together. I think what’s worse is if you think you’re not writing about what they want to hear, but end up doing exactly that. It’s very important, before you start writing your essays, to think about the bigger picture. Where are you now, where do you want to be, can you get to where you want to be without business school, what will business school do for you, and why that business school. Answering these questions helped me focus my attention on MY story, and what the schools could do to help me get where I want to be.”
What She Learned in the Process: “I’m going to cheat and give you two things. Cliched as it sounds, the first one was realizing just what I wanted to do with my life. I always knew the broader area I wanted to work in, but going through the application process made me realize that it wasn’t just that broad areas I wanted to work; I wanted to be in a very specific sub-segment. The application process was like a mental detox – weeding out the things I wanted to stop doing with my life and identifying the things I wanted to start doing. Almost like a New Year resolution, except with way higher stakes.
Secondly, it really tested the strength of some relationships. I found myself going more and more to some people with questions on whether what I had written resonated with their perception of me, and I found that I actually cared what they thought. Having someone you can trust vouch for the fact that your essay was your own and confirm that when he read it, he could see you talking about your life candidly was definitely helped keep my application real in my head, and on paper.”
For additional advice, click on the Business Insider and Admissionado links below.
DON’T MISS: WHY STANFORD IS BEATING HBS AMONG DUAL ADMITS
In this issue…
What the Top Companies Want
How to Build Your Short List
The Three Types of Business School Students
Video of the Week and Weekly News Bits