Harvard MBA Professors’ Summer Reading Recommendations

Tips for the Harvard Business School Essay

Harvard Business School continuously ranks as one of the top b-schools globally.

Just last year, 2018-2019, the b-school had an overall admit rate of 11.5%. The MBA Class of 2021 at HBS holds an average GPA of 3.7, with an average 4.7 years of work experience, and median GMAT and GRE scores of 730 and 163, respectively.

It’s safe to say that HBS only seeks the best of the best. On its website, HBS states that MBAs at HBS tend to all share three common characteristics around leadership, analytical aptitude and appetite, and an engaged community citizenship. But how exactly can you convey these traits in your essay?

Karla Cohen, of Fortuna Admissions, recently offered a few tips on what HBS seeks in the MBA essay.


The one question HBS asks when it comes to the essay component is: what more would you like us to know as we consider your candidacy for the Harvard Business School MBA program?

Cohen says applicants should avoid simply making their essay a highlights reel of their professional achievements.

“Your essay must not read simply as a story of successes and accomplishments,” Cohen writes. “It’s a common pitfall, and it robs your story the potential for making an emotional connection. Above all, write an essay you yourself would want to read.”


Rather than perfecting an “image” or “brand” that isn’t authentic, Cohen stresses the importance of being open, imperfect, and above all real.

“When you take the risk to be yourself, to be vulnerable, it inspires a human connection,” Cohen writes. “It gives you credibility. What’s more interesting to read – the story of someone who sailed through life and had everything work out perfectly, every single time? Or the story of someone who struggled, faced extraordinary challenges, and demonstrated the tenacity and resilience to not only survive but to thrive?”


Storytelling is a key aspect of the MBA essay. And Cohen says it’s important to focus on the details when telling your story.

“Avoid the temptation to qualify your experience or tell the readers what they are supposed to think. Show them instead,” Cohen writes. “Show them what you have been through and the challenges you have faced through vivid recollection.”

Check out the rest of Cohen’s tips here.

Sources: Fortuna Admissions, P&Q, Harvard Business School, Harvard Business School

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