HBS Sets R1 Application Deadline Of Sept. 8

Students between classes at HBS. ©Greg Hren

The official start date of the 2020-2021 MBA application season is now set. Harvard Business School, typically the school with the earliest deadlines, has established a round one deadline of Sept. 8 to apply for its Class of 2023. That cutoff date is four days later than last year’s R1 deadline. The second and final deadline at HBS would be a day earlier: Jan. 5.

For candidates who apply by the R1 deadline, Harvard is guaranteeing a final decision by Dec. 10th for applicants who gain an admissions interview. For those who meet the R2 deadline, decisions would be released on March 30. The school did not disclose a date for when it will release candidates who will not be interviewed. Last year, HBS interview invites and rejections went out on Oct. 1 for round one candidates and on Feb. 4 for R2 applicants.

The dates were announced in a May 12th blog post by Chad Losee, managing director of admissions and financial aid at HBS. “We understand that these are difficult times globally and that many of you have been affected personally by the pandemic,” he wrote. “Please know that we always review applications holistically and understand that many plans, employment opportunities, and personal situations have been disrupted by COVID-19. Of course, we will take this most unusual of times into account as we evaluate your application.”


Losee said there were be no substantial changes to the school’s application process, including its one essay prompt. “The application will open up again in mid-June 2020,” he noted.  “Amidst all the uncertainty globally, we plan to minimize changes in our application process this year. For now, I can let you know that our one essay prompt will remain, ‘As we review your application, what more would you like us to know as we consider your candidacy for the Harvard Business School MBA program?’ (see recent examples of successful HBS essays by current students).”

He suggested that prospective applicants download the school’s Application Guide to learn more about what will be inside the application.

For the cohort entering in the fall of 2019 (data for the forthcoming cohort has yet to be released), the admit rate at HBS was 11.5%. It might surprise some that both MIT Sloan and UC-Berkeley Haas, with significantly smaller incoming MBA classes, actually get more apps per classroom seat than HBS but they do: 12.5 apps per seat at MIT and Berkeley versus 9.8 at Harvard. HBS may lose some dual admits to Stanford every year but no school is more successful at getting its admitted applicants to matriculate than Harvard Business School. The school’s 89% yield rate, down two percentage points in the past year, is the envy of the business school world.


This forthcoming R1 cycle could very well be the biggest ever in the history of HBS. That’s because of three primary reasons: 1) HBS is on public record saying that the school will allow anyone who wants to defer this year for any reason to do so. That will push at least some 2019-2020 admitted candidates into the R1 pool for 2020-2021. 2) The global recession will drive up applications as more young professionals are laidoff or see their chances for advancement in current jobs diminish, and 3) Only two years ago, Harvard eliminated its round three application deadline, a move that increases candidates in the two remaining rounds.

The class average GMAT score for the latest entering cohort was 728 (the median is 730), though the range went from a low of 590 to a perfect 800 score. The median quant score was 48, while the verbal was 41. The average undergrad GPA was 3.7. One in five students got in and enrolled with a GRE score. The median verbal and quant scores were the same: 163. Newly enrolled students at HBS average 4.7 years of full-time work experience and average 27 years of age. All 938 students in the Class of 2021 brought work experience to the game.


The most challenging question during the admissions process was definitely a question that was asked by my interviewers. They asked me about how there were two conflicting viewpoints about my skills presented by the two different letters of recommendation that were written for me. It was something along the lines of: “Recommender A mentions that you had trouble bubbling up technical engineering specifications to the relevant business level, while recommender B mentions that you over-indexed on the business need and oversimplified an engineering problem. Can you explain these very different critical perspectives?”

On the spot, I had to describe why those two different viewpoints were valid without discrediting my recommenders and simultaneously maintaining my own credibility by explaining the specific moments in my career where I thought that these examples might have come. Definitely a challenge, but I thought that I handled the question well and now it’s one of the fun memories I have of the application process. — Sebastian Fischer, Class of 2021

The most challenging question I was asked during the admissions process was, “What would you change about your current company?” This question forced me to be objective, think on my feet, and view myself as a consultant to my company. It was especially challenging to not take a defensive stance during a time when the brand was experiencing negative media attention. —Cydni Williams, Class of 2021

The essay question was far-and-away the most challenging question asked: “As we review your application, what more would you like us to know as we consider your candidacy for the Harvard Business School MBA program?” In response, I described my personal passion for creating a more inclusive world by leveraging what I called “radical empathy,” or the propensity to be inclusive of others not in spite of their differences, but because of them. This was an intensely personal topic. As a first-generation college graduate, I have seen directly the impacts of benefitting—or not benefitting—from real empathy and real community in my own family. I attribute my own ability to graduate college and start at a program like HBS to the radical empathy shown by my peers, mentors, professors, employers, coworkers, friends, and family. The support they provided allowed me to lean into and leverage my own unique strengths to grow and achieve, rather than to hide my differences or be ashamed of them. — Ronnie Wimberley, Class of 2021

Describing a time when I pointed out an issue and successfully made a case for leadership to change direction. That one was deeply personal and could have been a sensitive subject, but I loved how the interview process forced me to adopt the same approach to what I witnessed in my HBS class visits: succinctly identifying an issue, sharing your opinion and reasons, and proposing a solution. Being heads down in my process-driven job at Google, it was sometimes hard to look at the overall picture. The application process forced me to look into at least a few problems holistically and from multiple angles, revealing truth I hadn’t fully explored before. — Tory Voight, Class of 2021

I took on a role leading strategic initiatives in a large conglomerate right out of college. I was asked, “How did you learn strategy?” In retrospect, it was a very insightful question because it made me reflect on how many intangible on-the-job learnings at work amounted to a “mini-MBA” (in the words of my interviewer) for me. — Mallika Saharia, Class of 2021

I was asked about my experience working as a woman in Africa with a focus on the challenges and the prejudice that I may have faced. I’ve generally had a very positive experience working in Africa. However, this question did trigger a number of memories/instances where I had faced blatant prejudice. Relieving and explaining these moments in the interview was a little emotional and challenging, but it also represented a bonding moment as my interviewer also had some similar experiences.Abena Anima Nyantekyi Owusu, Class of 2021

I was asked how my career as a professional dancer had helped prepare me for a career in investing. This was a challenging question because dancing and investing are very different professions on the surface. However, overcoming the obstacles I faced in my ballet career required the cultivation of many qualities that have been invaluable in my second career including discipline, adaptability, creativity, empathy, and the ability to work as part of a team. — Mark Giragosian, Class of 2021

The most challenging question I was asked during the admissions process was my perspective on the feasibility behind a theory for setting-up life on Mars. It was a superb reflection on the admissions committee’s dedication to understanding my problem-solving methodology, approach to generating solutions, propensity for strategic thinking, and understanding of the future of my industry. — Elizabeth Breiter, Class of 2021

The Most Selective MBA Programs In The U.S.

School Admit Rate Apps Per Seat Applications Admits Enrolled
Stanford GSB 6.9% 17.6 7,342 504 417
Harvard Business School 11.5% 9.8 9,228 1,058 938
MIT Sloan 14.6% 12.5 5,200 759 416
Columbia 16.4% 9.8 5,427 888 551
UC-Berkeley Haas 17.7% 12.5 3,540 628 283
Duke Fuqua 22.9% 7.7 3,036 695 395
Wharton 23.1% 6.9 5,905 1,364 855
Chicago Booth 24.2% 7.5 4,433 1,074 593
Yale SOM 25.2% 9.3 3,194 806 345
NYU Stern 26.1% 10.1 3,518 919 350

* All data is for the entering 2019 cohort of full-time MBA students that will graduate in the Class of 2021. The University of Florida’s full-time MBA program at the Warrington School would have made the top-tier with an admit rate of only 17.3% but the entering cohort is just 34 students.


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