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HBS Class of 2026 Essay Analysis

Updated: Aug 15, 2023

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

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? (900 words)

2023/24 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 motivations 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 essay 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. However, as we remind clients often, this is easier said than done.

Most of the 100+ successful HBS essays we have seen over the past few years have shared deeply personal stories that highlighted why they would be a great fit for HBS. Typically, essays 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 you 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)

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 to convince them that you are the best person to deliver something they really need to the class they are putting together, if you only had 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!

Deadline time: 12:00pm ET

· Round 1: Application deadline: Sept. 6, 2023, Decision date: Dec. 6, 2023

· Round 2: Application deadline: Jan. 3, 2024, Decision date: Mar. 27, 2024

Other application details

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The online application is expected to open in June 2023.


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School resources

Check out our links to several of school's resources, including blogs, Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

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