At HBS, Same Essay & Deadline Dates For 2021-2022 MBA Applicants

Harvard Business School. Courtesy photo

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 2024. That cutoff date is exactly the same as last year’s cutoff date. The second and final deadline at HBS would be a day earlier than last year: Jan. 4. The setting of those deadlines is generally regarded as the official start date of the 2021-2022 MBA application season because HBS usually is the first prominent school to publish its application cutoff dates.

For candidates who apply by the R1 deadline, Harvard is guaranteeing a final decision by Dec. 9th at noon EST 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. In the past year, HBS interview invites and rejections went out in early October for round one candidates and in early February for R2 applicants.

The application deadline for Harvard’s deferred admissions program, 2+2, will be April 29th, with notifications scheduled for July 7th.


While the online application will open in mid-June, the school disclosed that it is also sticking with its main MBA essay question: “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 the admissions season just ended, many expect Harvard Business School to post a new record in MBA applications, possibly as high as 12,000 candidates for what will be a class of roughly 1,000. That would translate into a one in 12 chance of an admit. For those who are invited to interview with HBS admissions, the odds are generally much better, with nearly half of the interviewed candidates gaining an admission. Some of the seats in this fall’s incoming cohort, however, will be filled by students who were accepted a year ago but deferred due to the pandemic. That would

For the cohort entering in the fall of 2020, the admit rate at HBS was 9.2%, down from a year-earlier 11.5%. The decline narrowed the gap between Harvard and Stanford Graduate School of Business, which boasts the lowest admit rate of any prestige MBA program. Stanford’s acceptance rate last year rose to 8.9% from just under 7% a year earlier. Harvard received 9,304 applications last year, admitted 859 students and enrolled 732, its smallest class in decades as a result of the pandemic. A year-earlier, the entering cohort at HBS numbered 938 students.

The class average GMAT score for the latest entering cohort was 727 (the median is 730), though the range went from a low of 620 to 790. The median quant score was 48, while the verbal was 42. The average undergrad GPA was 3.7. About 22% of the last class 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.

The dates were announced yesterday in a May 10th sparse blog post by Chad Losee, managing director of admissions and financial aid at HBS. “For those of you who want to get an early start on your essay, the prompt will remain the same as last year,” wrote Losee. “We look forward to reading your application.”


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


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