June 9, 2023

MBA Essay Guidance 2023-24: Harvard Business School

Harvard Business School has released its MBA application deadlines and essay questions for the 2023-24 application cycle.  Here are the important dates and Admitify’s guidance on the essays.


R1: September 6, 2023  /  R2: January 3, 2024  /  Deferred: April 25, 2024



“There is one question for the Class of 2026 application:  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?   We think you know what guidance we’re going to give here.  Don’t overthink, overcraft and overwrite.  Just answer the question in clear language that those of us who don’t know your world can understand.”


Admitify Guidance

The HBS essay is very similar to Stanford’s What Matters Most – so read our guidance on Stanford A as well as it can be a shorter version of the HBS essay. Start with 1-2 paragraphs about childhood.  Write with openness and personality (engaging, even funny).  Don’t try to impress them with achievements *at all*.  Don’t talk about academics or HBS. Don’t give them a chronological narrative of your life.  Don’t feel you need to touch on every one of your achievements or passions to show them how well-rounded you are.  Don’t use canned ‘save the world’ language (e.g., “a cause I cared about in a country that is deeply close to my heart.”  I’m sure this kind of language is true but don’t use this language.  It will sound generic and inauthentic).  Don’t let them think that you are so accomplished because you were raised to be a super-achiever; make them think that you are driven by an idea that drives you.  Show (use vivid examples/stories in which you walk the reader through your thoughts and interpersonal behavior in key moments in your life), Don’t Tell (“my unique position as a highly extroverted programmer with a very strong technical background AND great interpersonal skills, confidence, public speaking ability, and a friendly/approachable general demeanor”). 


The HBS essay gives you space for 3 extended examples/stories about your key life experiences.  Don’t describe these experiences as accomplishments full of technical detail; focus not on the ‘what’ (they can learn that elsewhere in your app) but on the ‘why’ and the people/leadership aspect.  What were the challenges or resistance points, how did you overcome them, what frustrated/surprised you, how did you feel, what did you learn, how did people help you or resist you?  Show us how each of these 3 experiences showed you something new about yourself or life that you didn’t know before.  Try to explain the thread or logic connecting the 3 experiences.  Try to get the admission reader to like you by the passionate and courageous spirit with which you learn from your life’s key experiences.  Again, do not try to impress them; capture them instead with your spirit, growth, personality, etc.


The HBS essay could end with a very brief forward-looking statement about what you hope to accomplish in the future (should be natural/logical extension of the innovation they’ve seen in the essay’s examples, e.g., “application of mobile devices and the Internet of Things in medicine”) and what about HBS makes it the best place to gear up to realize your goal.  But Chad Losee said in 2019 that although every applicant assumes they must end the essay describing their goals and explaining why HBS, you should only do this if it grows naturally out of the rest of the essay.  This typical Why HBS ending can weaken your essay’s impact, and Chad said that ‘We assume that you have good reasons for choosing HBS; you don’t need to share them with us.’


Now is the perfect time to contact us and get started on your Harvard MBA applications!