What It Takes To Get Into Harvard Business School

Harvard Business School 2018 graduation ceremony

What It Takes To Get Into Harvard Business School

Last fall, Harvard Business School had one of the lowest acceptance rates amongst b-schools accepting just 10.4% of nearly 10,000 applicants.

As that number is likely to get lower, just what exactly does it take to get into HBS?

In a recent Business Insider piece, HBS grads and the managing director of admissions at the b-school offered a few insider tips on how applicants can get into the prestigious b-school.


Experts say the personal essay is one of the most important aspects of your HBS application.

“At the risk of sounding overly dramatic, the essays are the windows into your soul,” Patrick Mullane, the executive director of Harvard Business School Online and an HBS graduate, tells Business Insider. “They are a chance to put a personality around the numbers that will make up much of an application. It’s not enough to be a great writer — although that’s essential. An applicant must also be able to communicate, in a relatively short amount of space, something that makes them human.”

But that doesn’t necessarily mean that your story needs to be overpowering or complicated.

“Good communicators use simple language and short sentences to get their point across,” Mullane tells Business Insider. “Comedian George Burns once said, ‘The secret of a good sermon is to have a good beginning and a good ending, and to have the two as close together as possible.’ I think that’s great advice for admissions essays as well.”


When it comes to the essay, it’s important to be authentic to who you really are.

“I took the time to think about my experiences across the personal/extracurricular, professional, and academic realms to gain an understanding of what my unique strengths and attributes were, and then highlighted those qualities through specific examples throughout my application,” Shaifali Aggarwal, an HBS graduate and the founder and CEO of Ivy Groupe, tells Business Insider.

Aggarwal also explained in her essay why she made certain choices and how they connected to her career goals.

“To further differentiate myself, I provided color on why some experiences were instrumental in shaping who I was and were meaningful to me,” she tells Business Insider. “In doing so, I demonstrated the human aspects of myself as well as self-awareness.”


HBS accepts a wide variety of applicants with a number of backgrounds. But it seems that a majority of those applicants, according to Chad Losee, HBS’s managing director of MBA admissions and financial aid, have three characteristics in common: habit of leadership, analytical aptitude, and engaged community citizenship.

“First, they have demonstrated leadership, whether it be in an academic, professional, or extracurricular setting, and show the potential to have even more impact,” Losee tells Business Insider. “We’re also looking for applicants who have analytical aptitude and appetite, are able and willing to analyze a situation and form an opinion based on that analysis, and enjoy a lively discussion in a classroom setting, a key component of our case method of learning.”

But the last characteristic is what brings everything together.

“The best discussions come when there is diversity of thought, so it’s very important to us that our student population reflects the global nature of business today,” Losee adds.

Sources: Business Insider, US News, Harvard Business School

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