Harvard’s New Essay For MBA Applicants

Harvard Business School's iconic Baker Library

Harvard Business School’s iconic Baker Library

RULE NO. 1: DO NO HARM

As to the new question, Massar says “They are continuing to leave the door open for students to tell their own story in their own voice without limits.  Candidates will have to remember that in this essay, they are having a conversation with a very intelligent admissions committee composed of people who are really hoping you win.  If there is any secret at all, it’s to assume that they are excited about your candidacy, and also holding you to your very highest standard.  Remember, real, imperfect humans are admitted regularly — I encourage students to celebrate those imperfections, in themselves and in others.”

Kreisberg’s advice?

“First, do no harm.  This is most important because the awful truth is that  these open HBS essays more often do damage, by being annoying, pedantic, braggy, odd or humor fails than they do good.

“So do not adopt a persona or voice that is annoying or irritating. Do not

go into some robo essay about your greatest accomplishments and why, DO NOT OVERTLY talk about leadership and teamwork, although other essay experts might disagree, and do not do some jive about how x and y of the HBS program can help you.

“You can talk about your goals, in some natural way, that talk grows out of something else, or your goals are helpful in understanding your non-trad resume. Do not, for the most part, list courses, profs, treks, and etc that you want to take.

WHAT TO DO WITH THE NEW ESSAY

“OK, so what should you do. First, figure out if there is anything the adcom really needs to know.  Very often the answer to that is NO THERE IS NOT.  I would say that is the case in over 70 percent of the applications. Things they need to know are why MBA if you are from a very non-trad background, what oddball job or company X was, and why you are applying if really old, really young, etc.

“A low GMAT/GRE should be addressed and what to say is a topic for another essay. But the golden rule is, if first GMAT was low, you really should show good faith and take it again.

“Beyond that, what do regular schmucks say who wind up getting in. Most often, nothing much, but it is not harmful. Just some tepid jive about jobs and all the things I told you not to say, but not in any stupid or obnoxious way. Those people get in based on GPA, GMAT, work history and identity politics. All the stuff they already know about you.“

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