Perfecting Your Harvard MBA Essay

Harvard Business School’s fellowship spending grew by $2 million in 2017, to $36 million total

HAVE THE LAST WORD: THE POST-INTERVIEW REFLECTION FOR INTERVIEWED CANDIDATES

From the admissions committee: “Following the interview, candidates are required to submit a written reflection using our online application system. This must be submitted within 24 hours following the completion of the interview. Detailed instructions will be provided to those applicants who are invited to the interview process.”

For the fourth consecutive year, HBS ask candidates who are granted an interview to complete one more written task. Within 24 hours of interviewing, you must submit some final words of reflection, addressing the question “How well did we get to know you?” As with the application essay, this post-interview reflection is open-ended; you can structure it however you wish and write about whatever you want to tell the committee. HBS urges interviewed applicants not to approach this reflection as a formal essay but instead “as an email you might write to a colleague or supervisor after a meeting.”

Some candidates may find this additional submission intimidating, but we encourage you to view it as an opportunity to reveal new aspects of your profile to the admissions committee. Because your HBS interviewer will have read your entire application before your meeting, you will likely discuss information from your resume, essays, recommendations, etc., during your interview. This post-interview reflection, then, could provide an opening for you to integrate new and different elements of your profile, thereby adding depth to your candidacy. For example, if you could not find a way to include the story of a key life experience of yours into your essays, but your interviewer touches on a similar story or something connected with this experience in your meeting, you would now have license to share that anecdote.

JOT DOWN YOUR MEANINGFUL IMPRESSIONS OF A CLASS OR PEOPLE YOU MET ON CAMPUS

As soon as your interview is over, jot down all the topics covered and stories you discussed. If you interview on campus, note also any observations about your time there. For example, sitting in on a class might have reminded you of a compelling past experience, or participating in the case method may have provided insight into an approach you could use in some way in the future. Maybe the people you met or a building you saw made a meaningful impression on you. Whatever these elements are, tie them to aspects of your background and profile while adding some new thoughts and information about yourself. This last part is key—simply describing your visit will not teach the admissions committee anything about you, and a flat statement like “I loved the case method” will not make you stand out. Similarly, offering a summary of everything the admissions committee already knows about you will not advance your candidacy and would constitute a lost opportunity to keep the committee learning about who you are.

HBS offers some additional advice on the post-interview reflection that we strongly urge you to take seriously and follow:

  • We will be much more generous in our reaction to typos and grammatical errors than we will be with pre-packaged responses. Emails that give any indication that they were produced BEFORE you had the interview will raise a flag for us.
  • We do not expect you to solicit or receive any outside assistance with this exercise.

As for how long this essay should be, HBS again does not offer a word limit. We have seen successful submissions ranging from 400 words to more than 1,000. We recommend aiming for approximately 500, but adjust as appropriate to thoroughly tell the admissions committee what you feel is important, while striving to be succinct.

Author Jeremy Shinewald is the founder and CEO of mbaMission, a leading MBA admissions consulting firm.

For a thorough exploration of HBS’s academic offerings, defining characteristics, crucial statistics, social life, community/environment, and other key facets of the program, download your free copy of our Insider’s Guide to Harvard Business School.

And for even more advice on how to tackle the HBS application essay, join me on Monday, April 30, for a free live webinar, “Writing a Standout Harvard Business School Essay.”

Of course, if you would prefer one-on-one help with your HBS application, you can sign up for a free consultation to discuss your candidacy with me or another mbaMission admissions advisor.

DON’T MISS: READ THREE ACTUAL ESSAYS WRITTEN BY SUCCESSFUL HARVARD MBA CANDIDATES

 

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