Harvard Business School MBA Application Essay Tips, 2022-2023
Harvard Business School (HBS) asks candidates to write only one essay:
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? (900 word limit)
The big news for 2022–23 is that HBS had added a word limit for this essay for the first time because it found that the lack of word limit added to some applicants’ stress levels. Some people submitted essays of 2,000+ words, while others weren’t sure if their 800-word essay was sufficient. HBS is saying that 900 words is the maximum, but some applicants might be able to tell their stories in 500 words. You should use the number of words you need to tell your story but no more.
The open-ended prompt can be daunting for some, but the admissions committee is just interested in learning more about who you are and, even more, what drives you. In other words, what do you value, and what makes you tick?
This essay is obviously for business school, but this does not mean that you can only write about your work life or about something special you accomplished at your firm. (Just imagine how boring reading 10,000 essays like that would be! And how would anyone stand out?) Instead, spend some time thinking about how your values have emerged, evolved, and enabled you to become the person you are today. You can touch on the professional, of course—it is understandably a large part of your identity—but your goal is not to just string together as many professional stories as possible. After all, the admissions committee already has your resume and recommendations, which will give them a pretty good idea of where you’ve been and what you’ve done. For this part of the HBS application, you need to focus on conveying your character and personality so the admissions committee can understand how you have grown and developed and carved out your place in the world. If something from your work experience is central to this, then you should discuss it, but do not force the professional angle if it is not.
Similarly, you also do not need to outline your short- or long-term goals or explain why you want to be at HBS. After all, if the admissions committee wanted this information, the essay question would ask for it explicitly. If such details somehow fit your essay, then including them makes sense, but they are not mandatory. We have helped many (many!) applicants get into HBS without discussing their goals, and nothing ruins a beautifully written essay faster than a cloying and poorly conceived phrase like “And I want to earn my MBA from HBS because….” Think carefully about whether your goals and your interest in the HBS program are part of a compelling picture of who you are as an individual before writing about either one at length.
In Stratus Admissions’ Guide to Getting into Harvard Business School, you will find information on a variety of the MBA program’s offerings such as the FIELD Program, Innovation Labs, the Rock Center for Entrepreneurship, and the HBS Health Care Conference. This free guide also includes class profile statistics and our expert advice on answering the business school’s application essay questions.