Hbs Essay Question 2016 Olympics

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Harvard Business School (HBS) has announced that it has a new essay question for those aspiring to be part of its Class of 2018 and that writing an essay is now mandatory. Apparently, though, no one considered last year’s essay optional, because HBS Director of Admissions Dee Leopold reported in a recent blog post that every single applicant submitted one. All candidates will be writing an essay this application season, so you should start by taking a look at the school’s new essay prompt and then reading our dos and don’ts.

First, here are our top five tips for what to do when approaching this question:


Before you start writing, ask yourself, “Who am I, and what do I stand for?” Then, as you write, rather than just presenting a string of anecdotes about achievements you feel might sound impressive, strive to communicate your sense of purpose and the values that motivated you to achieve the important objectives in your life. If your essay is more biographical in nature, be sure that your narrative clearly conveys how certain events shaped you and what drove you to make subsequent decisions, thereby revealing the values that are important to you. As you near the end of the writing process, ask yourself that key question again, and if you feel that you have successfully revealed what defines you as an individual, you will likely have given yourself your best shot.


You may expect that everyone entering HBS will have won an Olympic gold medal, sold their popular start-up to Google, and then dedicated themselves to fighting hunger in Africa. Let us reassure you that such candidates are the very rare exception rather than the norm. Sure, every HBS class includes a few really spectacularly accomplished individuals, but the vast majority of the school’s admits are simply professionals who know how to do regular things—regular, at least, for hardworking über achievers—remarkably well. The key is not to worry about how impressive or distinctive your accomplishment or journey is but to focus on articulating your personality through the sharing of that achievement or journey. Think about how you have excelled and where you have shown initiative and succeeded. Identify life-shaping experiences and what has made you the person you are today. Then share these experiences, and imbue your essay with details to mark your chosen stories as specifically yours.


You may have heard the old journalistic maxim “show, don’t tell,” which means sharing a story by presenting the details of how it played out, rather than making declarative statements about the incident. Recounting the progression of a story makes for a much more interesting essay than direct statements of conclusion. Showing your story enables you to engage your reader and provide a more authentic sense of who you are, by describing what you have done. And narratively walking your reader through the experience you are presenting allows your reader to naturally arrive at the desired conclusion (e.g., you were successful in your endeavor, you felt pride in your accomplishment) without your having to “tell” that outcome yourself. Here is a comparison of the two approaches for you:

Tell: “My best qualities are that I am dedicated and compassionate. I can’t help but feel empathetic toward all people and animals. So I have been volunteering at a no-kill animal shelter for several years. It warms my heart every time I see a puppy rescued, and I am relentless in finding the owners of strays.”

Show: “How many posters must you affix to lampposts to find a stray dog’s owner? I’ve learned that in Brooklyn, the answer is usually two per block for 50 square blocks. I always post on Fridays so that people will notice the fliers over the weekend. In the past two years, I have easily posted more than 20,000 notices and returned no less than 30 dogs to their teary-eyed, always grateful owners.”

A story that is shown, rather than told, will always be more engaging and illuminating, because it immerses the reader in the story. In this case, the writer of the second example never needs to say, “I am dedicated to and compassionate about animals,” because the details she shares make the point for her. Showing lets you more effectively demonstrate who you are and what is important to you.


On the HBS admissions blog, Leopold recommends that applicants “imagine simply saying [their story] out loud.” We would take this advice a step beyond imagining and suggest that when you have a workable first draft, go somewhere quiet and actually read your essay aloud! And we do mean this literally. Hearing your essay aloud will give you a sense of its sincerity and impact. If something does not sound quite right, you will know to cut or change it. As you revise, after each subsequent draft, read your essay out loud again, carefully noting which parts feel true to who you are and which do not—and keeping in mind that an effective and compelling essay will be deeply personal. Listening to your words aloud will ensure that your voice is as strong as it can possibly be in print.


Anyone who has ever spoken with Dee Leopold—and especially anyone who has asked her an admissions question—knows that she is about as direct and straight-talking as they come. She says what she means and should therefore be taken at her word. Dee stated on the HBS admissions blog, “We have no pre-conceived ideas of what ‘good’ looks like. We look forward to lots of variance.” So you can believe that there is no template or cookie cutter approach to writing a successful HBS essay and that the admissions committee has no expectations beyond hearing what you want to say. Focus on writing the right essay for you and the message you want to share with the school, rather than trying to decipher what you think the admissions committee “really” wants. Aiming to fulfill an imagined want at the expense of communicating your sincere experiences is a fool’s errand.

Author Jeremy Shinewald is the founder and president of mbaMission, a leading MBA admissions consulting firm.

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Harvard Class of 2016: GMAT Club Application Stats


“The bottom line is that it’s Harvard. People with great GMAT scores, above average essays, and solid professional pedigrees are the norm, not the exception. Harvard does not "need" any particular person with such stats. If Harvard wanted to, it could fill a class with a GMAT average above 750. But they don't. So there is clearly a lot more to it.” - JLMBancredito, A GMAT Club member and Ross MBA Graduate

“HBS has stressed over and over again that their main job is SELECTION, not EVALUATION - their priority is to build a diverse class, not to just admit the people with the highest stats. Diversity is also defined in many other ways - sure, I can claim myself to be a unique individual and I can tell a very authentic story about myself, but on paper, I probably look like a lot of other applicants.” - CelerIP, [/b]Former GMATClub Moderator and Columbia MBA Graduate[/b]


Applicant | Essays

sh00nya wrote:

That's interesting, what i am missing here is how does the adcom know the post-MBA career goals (esp for career switchers). Is it inferred? presuming the candidate does not mention it in this essay question. I did not find any other section in the application requirements that conveys / helps convey this explicitly.

For last year's application (for class of 2015) it was a VERY short question you fill out online (300 characters or something like that - essentially 2 sentences around "Why an MBA / Harvard").

From everything I've heard from Dee on this subject they really don't like the post-MBA career goal question. Their view is that it's such a hypothetical question it becomes useless. There's no way to know if you're being genuine or if you simply make up a really compelling story for your goals with no intention of actually doing that. They want to create a diverse and talented class that is prime to be successful - and for them the best predictor of future success is to look at why you've done the things you've done in your life.

Obviously it's up to you what to do with the essay but I would just warn to not make the emphasis of what you want to convey about future plans. If your future goals fit nicely with the story of who you are and where you're coming from it would probably fit quite organically. I didn't mention future goals in either of my essays last year and received an interview and only spent 2 minutes of the interview discussing future plans. Obviously they weren't interested in it for my application at least. - bostonbound88


MBA Expert | Admission Stats
Interesting piece of information released by the HBS: Distribution of the Class of 2015 folks based on the years since graduating undergrad. - bb
Source: http://www.hbs.edu/mba/admissions/Pages ... 1#Jul24197


Admission Consultant | Application

mittens63 wrote:

For those who are currently working through the application, under the Employment section where you can list up to 3 roles - each role asks for a "Description", "Key Accomplishments" and "Most Significant Challenge". How did you guys interpret the "Description" section - did you take it to mean a description of the role or a description of the organization? I assumed it was asking for a description of the role but that seems a bit like a repetition of your resume, does it not? How did you go about differentiating this section from the information on your resume?

They're asking for a description of your role, not the company. Think of the description this way - it's a summary, high level statement
that rolls all of the bullet points in your resume into one short, concise, powerful statement. In other words, if you were at a dinner party
and someone asks what you do for company XYZ and it was someone you wanted to impress, how would you describe your job? - CriticalSquare


Admission Consultant | Application

sc398 wrote:

Does anyone know how they decide who gets notified on the 9th or the 16th? Is it by order of submission or anything like that?

It's random, based on which Admissions Board person got assigned your file and how quickly they moved through their stack and where yours was in the pile (it's not by order received). Dee Leopold has specifically said that nothing can be interpreted from the timing; there are no tea leaves to be read in terms of interview invitations. - essaysnark


HBS Alumnus | School Info

tripsd wrote:

Still time to schedule class visits for those looking at submitting for round 2.

http://www.hbs.edu/mba/admissions/Pages ... ector.aspx

It's worth noting that you can often visit classes even on days that aren't "official" class visit days. Reach out to any current students you know (particularly RCs) or to leaders within any clubs you're interested in and ask what their class schedule looks like for your potential visit days. As an admissions VP for a club, I brought dozens of guests to class over the course of my RC year and don't think any of them were on admissions-sponsored visit days--my profs and sectionmates never had a problem with it. Just make sure to arrange things in advance so you don't show up on a day that's set aside for recruiting/FIELD/etc. for the whole RC class.

Some EC classes aren't bad to visit either. I had a handful of guests during my EC year--mostly personal friends, but a few were on days where RCs couldn't accommodate visitors. - EBM


Applicant | Interview Prep
Sure way to know how many invites were sent out would be to ask those who's gotten interview invites to check how many interview slots are signed up by the end of the sign up period. Anyone?
That doesn't actually affect your own probability of receiving an invite, all these fretting is pretty much meaningless after you hit the submit button and before you receive a decision, but does shed some light on the probability that they have already read your application. Again, it's meaningless because it doesn't affect the outcome either way. But the fact is that the application has been so consuming there's no way I can stop reading into what I know to be meaningless. - feniris


Applicant | Interview Prep
To those who were invited - Congratulations
Chin up to those who were not invited - there is always next Wednesday and if not other schools You are in esteemed company
Just to let you know how much of a crap shoot the selection process is, I will give you a couple of examples from previous years
1. Rhodes Scholar, 3.8 GPA, 770 GMAT, 3 years in a fortune 50 company - did not even get an interview
2. Churchill Scholar, 3.9 GPA, 750 GMAT, 2 years in top 3 consulting firm - did not even get an interview
All adcoms say that they look for leadership qualities and fit (that is fully vetted by the prestigious and selective scholarships - Rhodes,
Marshall and Churchill) but the whole process seems to be mysterious.
Please don’t loose hope. Behind every rejection is the seed of success - Remember Thomas Edison - dressden


Applicant | Interview Prep

Beckham123 wrote:

Congrats to all those who got accepted, and good luck to the rest for Wave 2!
I had a couple of questions regarding interviews, was hoping someone could answer them:
1) So I'm deciding between flying to an interview location/skype interview. Does the forum feel it hurts one's chances if interviews are done on skype? What are some of the cons? Have acceptance rates been lower for skype interviewees, as compared to those who interviewed in person?
2) What is the probability of people getting accepted from the interview phase? as in, 1 in how many candidates gets in, historically.
3) In the interview phase, is decision based solely on the basis of interview performance? or are factors already considered in app processing, part of the evaluation in this phase too? (GMAT/work experience etc)

I was told the following at an on campus info session:

1) No difference

2) about 1800 will interview, about 1000 will be accepted (all rounds)

3) The interview is just an additional data point. Following the interview the candidate will be judged based on their entire application, including the interview.

Hope this helps. Best of luck on the interview! - DeltaOfOne


Applicant | Admission Tips
I think too many people are confusing expectations with potential.

To tie this to a sports analogy, getting into Harvard is like winning a medal in the Olympic 100m final. There are three medals and 8, highly accomplished athletes fighting for it, all of whom have the potential to win. A 750+ GMAT McKinsey consultant/ibanker/etc. who wrote solid essays is like a person with a best time of something like 9.85 seconds. That is an amazing time and that person has the potential to win, but winning is far from a certainty. You have to be the best on the day that counts. For example, maybe your application was reviewed at the end of the day by a tired, grumpy adcom. Had you been reviewed in the morning, you would have made it through.
But those are the breaks.

Even the person who is clearly the best doesn't always win a medal (i.e. Usain Bolt did not win a medal in the 2011 World Championships). People have off days. Other people are like Tim Montgomery - less talented, but they still can win because they use steroids (i.e. kids whose parents are alumni / CEOs of fortune 500 companies, etc.).

The bottom line is that it’s Harvard. People with great GMAT scores, above average essays, and solid professional pedigrees are the norm, not the exception. Harvard does not "need" any particular person with such stats. If Harvard wanted to, it could fill a class with a GMAT average above 750. But they don't. So there is clearly a lot more to it.

People fretting over not getting an interview invite should take solace in the fact that they are incredibly smart and talented and are going to succeed at whatever they want to do regardless of whether or not they get an MBA from Harvard. - JLMBancredito


GMAT Club Moderator | Admission Tips
I wish I can give 10 kudos to above post. HBS has stressed over and over again that their main job is SELECTION, not EVALUATION - their priority is to build a diverse class, not to just admit the people with the highest stats. Diversity is also defined in many other ways - sure, I can claim myself to be a unique individual and I can tell a very authentic story about myself, but on paper, I probably look like a lot of other applicants.

I totally understand the obsession over how many interview slots are left, but what does that really have to do with our chances of being interviewed at the end of the day? Even if the majority of the invites are to be sent out next week, and you still don't add to the diversity of the class, you are still not getting in. Perhaps you believe that if there are more seats left, so you might have a bigger chance of claiming an invite. But if a bigger interview selection group is the only reason you are getting an invite, then you are a marginal candidate at best - the interview only has the potential to hurt you, not help you.

So, I'm not discouraging anyone from dissecting the number of invites sent out this week versus next week - but I think it is somewhat pointless. - CelerIP


Admission Consultant | Admission Tips
It's good to see a number of you end up on the waitlist! And it's awesome that there's so much (relative) positivity here. People often get very bitter at this point and sometimes the forums go very negative so it's nice that all of you aren't doing that (at least, not publicly!).
This process is REALLY taxing - a complete rollercoaster. The best part of course (if you can call a rejection "best") is that you have plenty of time to regroup and rebound for some Round 2 apps. And this process has probably helped you make the next ones even stronger. Good luck to all of you!!! There's a lot of ups and downs but the ones who are motivated, as you clearly are, will find a home in a good bschool in the end. - essaysnark


Applicant | Interview Debrief
Did my interview in Mumbai. The interviewer was Sarah Lucas. The questions were entirely off the resume. Made me narrate my experiences in my startup, consulting firm, VC firm and in my extra-curricular activities. Was very conversational and chilled out. Think I did well but tough to gauge in these interviews which are hard to do badly. - bingo13


Applicant | Interview Debrief
My interview was very conversational, and mostly came from the resume. The questions i got asked were:
- Talk me through your experiences at university
- experience at work
- asked a few questions regarding my work stories, to understand them better
- what would happen if you don't go to an mba/where would your current career path take you?
- what type of companies would you want to work for after your mba
- do you plan on returning to your home country?
- at the end, she asked me if there was anything else i wanted to add
Good luck to those who are preparing for interviews! - Beckham123


Applicant | Interview Prep

sp67 wrote:

Did anyone send thank you notes to their interviewers? I found one email address, but not the second interviewers.

The pamphlet the handed me afterwards said that thank you notes are (truly) not necessary, but I don't want to be rude if everyone else sends thank you notes/emails.

What's the consensus here? Follow the directions to a T or send a brief thank-you note? If you sent a note, did you send it (via email) to the generic HBS admissions box or the interviewer's personal HBS email? Did you send a card via mail instead?

I didn't send a thank-you note. From my limited interactions with HBS, I feel like they mean what they say. If they say thank-you notes are "truly" not necessary, then it probably means they don't want 1000 emails clogging up various adcom members' inboxes. Esp now that they give us the flexibility to write a post-interview reflection, I think anything that I would've wanted to say in an thank-you note could be captured in that format. - @Itg1671


HBS Blog | Waitlist

FROM HBS Admissions Blog:What's the Difference Between "Waitlist" and "Further Consideration?"
I think there's some confusion out there about these categories so here's an attempt at getting inside our glossary of terms:

  • Further Consideration (FC): We've reviewed your written application and have decided to neither move you forward to interview nor deny at this time. One reason is that we have a finite number of interview spots we can offer and still keep to our promised December 11 notification date. The other is that we can't see Round 2 applications before we need to make final Round 1 decisions - December 11 is the Round 1 notification date and the Round 2 application deadline is January 6. So we'd like to hold on to you and further consider your application in Round 2. We anticipate being able to interview a meaningful number of those FCs in February/March. Once in the interview group, these candidates have the same chances of being admitted as any other interviewee - somewhere between 50% and 60%.
  • Waitlist: No one is on the waitlist at this moment. After all interviews in Round 1 are completed, on December 11 candidates (all of whom have been interviewed) will receive one of the following three decisions: “Yes, No or Waitlist. Waitlisters will receive periodic updates and be able to contact a designated Dillon staff member. We know it's not what you planned for, but the waitlist is an active category and every year we admit in the range of 50-75 waitlisters into the class.

So...the lingo we use is FC and Waitlist. We don't use the term Deferred - adding another term would just confuse us!

It is highly unlikely that a candidate would be FC’d in Round 1, interviewed in Round 2, and then placed on the Waitlist in Round 2. Sort of an Endless Application Season. Yikes.

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Applicant | Application Essays
Mine was somewhere between 700 and 800. It was a blend of my hobbies, motivations, and an extracurricular that highlighted leadership experience. I figured my recommendations would cover my work achievements so I didn't really touch on that. - Kitkat6


Applicant | Application Essays

slee26 wrote:

For those who has submitted your applications to HBS, may I ask what you wrote about in your essays?
I am having hard time figuring out what to write...Thanks!

I really think that everyone's essay should be different, there's no one 'thing' that people should write about. I'd suggesting thinking about who you are as a person, focusing on what made you that way, and then writing about some aspect of that. I wrote about several specific experiences that helped shape me into the person I am today. - boulderbiker


Applicant | Application Essays
Everyone's essays will be very different. I, for one, wrote six completely different drafts before cranking out the seventh two days before the deadline. It used two amusing anecdotes to describe how I became aware of what I wanted to do, why Harvard, what I intend to do there, etc. Sub 800 words. - ltg1671


Applicant | Application Essays
My HBS essay was short - 500 words. I focused on my desired industry/field and how an MBA will help me achieve my career goals. Didn't really mention "why HBS" except for a couple short sentences at the end. - sp67


Applicant | Application Essays
For my essay I wrote what they asked - my theme was basically "tell us things we need to know".... I wrote 1500 words, and under about
4 sub-headings. Basically 4 mini-essays, simply about things that when I read my application in full I felt deserved more depth.
Like everyone says, it's completely individual and I suspect that's the point. How you answer the questions says as much as what you
write! - Timbob


Applicant | Interview Debrief
Had my interview for HBS a few weeks ago in Boston. The interview was very conversational and friendly. Mix of specific questions for me and generic questions (why HBS, walk through resume, etc). Talking to others who also interviewed makes me think that HBS has tilted their interview to a more friendly conversation, compared to in the past where others felt that it was high stress. The interviewees were also very diverse by region and industry. - NYPE


Applicant | Interview Debrief
Just want to add about my interview to help out others who may interview this week or for Round 2.
My interview is completely resume-based with all the questions that really makes me feel that my interviewer has really read through my application for real! When I mentioned one issue about my essay, she said to me like "Oh! Like you have written in essay right?" So it caught me off-guard a bit but it really showed that she really have read the whole application!
She dug deep into my details about my current job and really like super deep asking about my customer and how I do my business. She ask some normal stuff like my weakness and why I choose my first job and my university and why I move to second job as well.
She didn't ask Why MBA, Why HBS or any typical MBA questions though. No walk me through your resume neither.
30 minutes can't be faster than HBS interview I Must say and she probably asked about 20 questions in 30 minutes time!
Overall, I felt quite weird coming out don't know if I did ok or bad or good at all and now I just keep thinking how I could answered better or what aspect I should have said! It is torturing actually! haha
Now the waiting begins! Let's hope for the best! - alomo


Applicant | Interview Debrief
Well, what I can say is that the interview was intense. Around 35 minutes of fairly rapid-fire questioning, I think we must have hit around 14 main questions, with anywhere between 2- 5 follow-on questions for a few of those when the interviewer felt that she wanted more information.

Most of the questions were fairly standard HBS fare: a lot of "WHY" and "HOW" questions about decisions and transitions in my academic and professional career. (I obtained a graduate degree in law after college). Thankfully, I didn't get any of those "toughest questions" that were in the Harbus book, though I had prepared for them.

Interviewer was definitely pleasant, but also inscrutable, she gives you no information about whether you are doing well, and was frequently scribbling notes on a copy of my resume. - ktlee1981


Applicant | Waitlist | This post has 12 Kudos
To those of you who have gotten in (and are 100% sure you're going to matriculate) please notify the schools you will be rejecting ASAP. Given that you got into HBS there is a strong likelihood that you will get into these other schools as well. By notifying the schools quickly you may be saving someone from the wait-list. - Lampert89


HBS Alumnus | Admission Tips

slee26 wrote:

Hi all
I'm r2 applicant.
Is it better to wait till the last moment to submit my application (so that i can check for errors as many as i want until the deadline) or do i get even a slightest better chance if i submit it little earlier....say like today?

Posted fromGMAT ToolKit

No, there's no advantage to submitting before the deadline--other than avoiding any website delays caused by 5,000 people trying to submit at the exact same time. They don't start reading applications until after the deadline, and being earlier doesn't mean you'll be at the top of the pile.

If you've already reviewed your entire application 20 times, it's unlikely that review #21 will produce anything worthwhile. I'd go ahead and submit and put it behind you. - EBM


Applicants | Recommendation Letters

Guangjujiu wrote:

ankurq7 wrote:

Any one's recommenders started getting calls yet?

HBS calls recommenders?

They only call to confirm after you get accepted and choose to matriculate. They use a employment verification service that checks with recommenders as well. I believe nobody will call your reccomenders unless you get accepted and matriculate. - asymmetric


Applicants | Application Experience

missnomex wrote:

Any successful reapplicants in R1 who can share what they think made the difference for them?

I was a reapplicant (rejected, no interview last year) and was admitted this year. I think there were a number of things that impacted that, not least of all that I was just infinitely more confident and familiar with the process. The HBS app was due so early it was my first one last year and I was definitely still learning about how to approach the questions.

In addition to that, I had really spent the last year focusing on activities I thought would enhance my profile - a promotion at work, entering (and winning) a number of industry awards, taking on projects at work that showed my skills. I also completely rethought my essays and went for something a lot more personal - something that was easier with six previous applications under my belt and all the introspection that implies.


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