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The five P's of interviewing are essential! Do you know that Proper Preparation Prevents Poor Presentation?

What’s your brand?

Getting ready for a transition? Looking to explore new paths? How do you get your best out there? Make a lasting impression that differentiates you from others and helps elevate your resume or LinkedIn profile to the top of a recruiter or admission officer’s list.

MBA Success

Are you thinking about an MBA?
The decision to apply to business school is both exhilarating and challenging! Explore ways to maximize your chances of success in the application process.

Manage Your Career Trajectory

Are you evaluating your next career steps?
Should you be looking for a significant career transformation or just looking for avenues to continue to grow and accelerate your path? We’re here to help!

HBS Class of 2022 Essay Analysis

May 20, 2019

The HBS essay question has remained the same from the previous application cycle. Read on for tips on how to approach their prompt!

2019-20 essay question

Essay 1: 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? (No word limit)

2019/20 essay question analysis

Essay 1

We often recommend to clients that they check out the HBS portrait project before beginning their HBS essays. It offers great inspiration (amazing classmates) and perspective on the type of storytelling that might best engage the audience. Typically, the Portrait Project stories are personal, share motivation and goals, while also staying well within a 600-word limit. Are you tempted to write something with 1000+ words? Does it feel like a life narrative? Go back and check out these stories first.

The open-ended nature of this question continued to make it challenging this past year. As Harvard’s Admissions Office has mentioned before, there are few if any common characteristics that make for a “successful” essay – some are incredibly creative, while others are much more conventional. The key is to write something authentic to you. This is easier said than done.

More tactically, successful clients from previous years kept the essay to fewer than 1000 words (ideally 400-800), and focused on adding context to the other components of their application (i.e. resume, activities). Many of them shared deeply personal stories that highlighted why they would be a great fit for HBS. Essays typically covered two or more of the following topics:

  • A life-changing experience
  • Formative college experiences, and lessons learned that enabled future successes
  • Recent career insights that drove the decision to pursue an MBA
  • Extracurricular activities (typically after college) for which they had a particular passion
  • Expected future career impact (ideally, discuss the value you want to add and transformation you want to enable, rather than the role/job you seek)
  • Context for the impact they are expecting their experience at HBS to have on their career

Most importantly, successful candidates treated the essay as an opportunity for a conversation, rather than a formulaic, check-the-box approach. Consider what you would say to the admissions team if you 30-60 seconds to pitch them. Write those words down, as that will be a great starting point for this essay. By conducting our personal branding exercise, you’ll also receive some great insights from those who know you best!

2019/20 deadlines

Round 1: Application deadline: September 4, 2019 at 12pm ET, Decision date: December 10, 2019

Round 2: Application deadline: January 4, 2019 at 12pm ET, Decision date: March 31, 2020

Other application details

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The online application is expected to be released in early June. Click here for the application portal link.


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School resources

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