The Baker Library at HBS
HBS changed its essay question this year and made it no longer optional.
At MBA Admissions Advisors, we thought that it would be useful to provide our readers with fresh recommendations to tackle Harvard’s new question. We also tried to summarize what the web is saying about it.
Here is the new Harvard Business School’s essay prompt:
“It’s the first day of class at HBS. You are in Aldrich Hall meeting your ‘section’. This is the group of 90 classmates who will become your close companions in the first-year MBA classroom. Our signature case method participant-based learning model ensures that you will get to know each other very well. The bonds you collectively create throughout this shared experience will be lasting. Introduce yourself.”
Answering the Introduce Yourself question:
You should consider these five pieces of advice when tackling the HBS essay:
1. Don’t repeat yourself: this essay is only one part of your application, use it to share information that can’t be found elsewhere (e.g. in the applications form or on your resume). Think about what professional and personal experiences you would like to highlight and what additional elements you would like to share with the admissions team.You shouldn’t approach this essay much differently than in the recent years, when HBS was asking applicants:
“We can see your resume, school transcripts, extra-curricular activities, awards, post-MBA career goals, test scores and what your recommenders have to say about you. What else would you like us to know as we consider your candidacy”
2. Write as if you were speaking to your classmates: this is one of the main difference from last year’s essay: you are not writing to the admissions committee, but speaking to your classmates instead. It should influence your essay structure in two main aspects.
First, you need to think about a set of stories or anecdotes that you would want to share with your classmates. You may not want to write about things that are very personal in nature and you certainly want to avoid coming across as over-confident or pretentious. After all, you will be pretty much living with your classmates for the next two years, so don’t be annoying.
Second, your story needs to be concise, and easy for your classmates to follow. Your style should be impactful yet simple, as your section mates will not be reading your essay; you will be speaking to them.
3. Don’t be boring: Imagine that you are the last one of your section of 90 students to speak. What are you going to tell your peers that is interesting enough to keep them awake. You will need to find a story that sets you apart from your colleague, one that has the potential to intrigue them. There is no magic formula here, but think about experiences, connections, or unique achievements that might make them want to know more about you. Put yourself in their shoes: if you were listening to a classmate’s introduction, what would you be interested in hearing? This is your chance to deliver a mini-TED talk.
4. Show that you’ve done your homework and know what HBS is about: When they published the new essay question (“Introduce Yourself”), the HBS admissions team also posted a video depicting the HBS case method. This highlights the importance for you to know HBS and its emblematic case method. We don’t recommend that you explicitly address the “Why HBS” question directly in your essay, but you should make sure that your essay highlights the contributions that you will make to your class: what unique experiences and perspectives will you bring to the case discussions. Answering this question may actually take some honest introspection.
5. Be VERY concise: The essay has no word limit, but you need to remember that there are 90 people in your section who will all introduce themselves. If everyone were to take 5 minutes for their speech, it would take 7.5 hours in total… You get the point! Overall, we recommend keeping your essay between 600 and 800 words, and certainly avoid going beyond 1,000 words. When done with your essay, read it out loud and see how long it takes you. Your presentation shouldn’t exceed two to three minutes.
Around the Web: What others are saying about Harvard’s new essay question
To help you start think about ways to Introduce Yourself, we’ve also summarized the web’s best posts on the topic. Here is what we’ve found :
- The admission committee has already seen your resume, data forms, and recommendations so you should build on them rather then reiterate content already covered in your application
- Don’t be too cocky, try to strike a balance between impressive stories and salient interests you would typically share with your classmates
- Leverage the case method video the admission committee shared to emphasis your points and mention what role you would play in the collaborative environment of the case method
- You should aim for 750-1,000 words for your essay
Poets & Quants
- You need to prioritize meaningful aspect of your life, but present the content in a style and tone suitable for your future classmates whom you just met
- You need to remain disciplined and refrain from making a laundry list
- Focus on showing maturity, accomplishment, and leadership through your stories
- Focus on clarity and be concise, max of 1,200 words
- Know yourself, know HBS and demonstrate your fit with the school
- Use your essay to fill the gaps from your application
- Show diversity and leverage professional and personal stories
- Don’t try to answer why HBS
- Read your essay out loud and see if it makes sense, it really needs to feel like you are presenting yourself to your classmates
- It shouldn’t be too long. When you read it out loud it should be between 1 and 3 minutes, 5 being the absolute max.
- Simplicity: it needs to be easy to understand
- Don’t overstate your accomplishments, it needs to be believable
- You need to be different and make sure your story is interesting
- Don’t replicate information from your application
For more advice on how to approach your essay, we encourage to read some of our past posts, including our HBS essay tips from last year. Many are still relevant.
Finally, it helps to have someone who doesn’t know you well read your MBA application essays. They’ll be far more likely to spot gaps or inconsistencies that, while they make sense to someone who knows you well, stand out to someone who does not. If you’re interested in having one of us take a look, or if you want to brainstorm about potential essay stories, then reach out through our free consultation service. And of course, stay tuned to this blog for more posts on how to write effective MBA applications.
Admissionado back once again with fresh, farm to table essay analyses for McCombs's 2017 application! We wanted to jump in and give you a head-start on those essay questions so you can spend less time staring at a blinking cursor and more time deciding between all those MBA offer letters! Soooooo, without further ado:
Texas McCombs School of Business MBA Essay 1
Introduce yourself. Select only one communication method that you would like to use for your response.
Select only one communication method that you would like to use for your response.
Write an essay (250 words)
Share a video introduction (one minute)
Introductions can take place in a variety of ways. Standing in a circle of a few at a cocktail party. In a one-on-one interview. First day on the job.
The version we’re after here is much different. McCombs just handed you a mic, dimmed the house lights, and threw a spotlight onto you. This is your time not just to introduce yourself, but to perform. A performance is artful. And requires a special type of messaging. Your challenge isn’t to hold the attention of the guy sitting across the desk who is usually forced to tune in. Your challenge is to capture and sustain the attention of a room full of people, whose magnitude (by itself) tends to make it an uphill battle from minute one.
Dullness is deadly.
Don’t be dull. Don’t be quiet. Don’t be average. Don’t be monotone. Don’t be… safe.
Now’s your chance to tap your inner Louis CK. Your inner MLK. Your inner Seth Macfarlane. Charm. Wit. Risk. Energy. A deviating from that safe, straight, center pathway.
Whether it’s an essay or a video, the very first thing you need to do is grab your audience’s attention. There’s no real room for a slow burn here. If this were a two hour movie, and you had a proven track record, maybe an audience would spot you an unceremonious beginning, trusting in a future payoff. You have no such luxury here, my friend. Your cohort doesn’t know you. You need to be spectacular and attention-worthy from second 1.
What makes for a good opener? Well, practically speaking, “it” can be absolutely anything, which is to say it can take the FORM of just about anything. But what most great opening moments have in common is this: they knock the reader/audience off balance. For most of you, that may sound great, but it still may not mean much. “How the hell am I supposed to throw the reader off balance?” Well, one way to think about it is to leave some stuff OUT. The more buttoned up your opening is, the more likely your audience will feel secure. And secure—for now—is lethal. Bad.
“My name is Craig Blodgitsnick. I am 27 years old. And I’m a banker.” Great. Super clear. And therefore… too clear? It’s all buttoned up. The audience needs a reason to hear more. With an opening like that, however, we’re left with no such desire. Here’s an alternative.
“I make people cry for a living.”
Um, say what? What the hell does that mean. Did he just say that? I have no idea who this guy is, I have no idea how I feel about him, I have no sense of whether that’s a good or bad thing. What I do know… is that I’m dying to hear more. Success. This speaker has the audience in the palms of his hands.
“Pond. Cigarette. Abandoned BMW. These three things almost got me arrested, led me to my future wife, and ultimately set me on a path of world domination.”
Huh? I mean, I couldn’t be more in. Who the hell says that? How on Earth are those three things connected? After everyone gives their boring standard speech, I can bet you money I’m gonna remember the person who said THAT.
Throw your reader off balance. Give them a reason to want to read more. Now, not to scare you, but this isn’t easy. It is a touch risky, and it requires some finesse. But it is absolutely worth working toward. But just for a moment, let’s talk about the downside…
If you can’t quite pull it off, and it seems forced and inauthentic, then you run the risk of seeming like you’re trying too hard. And that’s a liability. So, get a gut check from a second set of eyes (doesn’t have to be a pro, could be anyone—see if they buy it). If it’s just not passing muster, there is recourse. Which is to tell a very honest, earnest story. Your story, a personal story. But, it’s gotta be a cool story. If it’s a straightforward, you are toast. There’s gotta be some GRIT in there, some adversity, some uniqueness. That can be equally compelling.
“Hi, my name is Glenda Crevitz and I became an adult when I was five years old when I was separated from my parents and grandparents. My first job was…”
Yah, I’d listen to that person. (But did you notice how even here, the author has thrown the audience off balance? This is not happenstance.)
Whichever medium suits you best, take advantage of it. Don’t choose the video if all you do is read an essay. If you use video, it has to be because there’s something about your look and body language and visible energy that communicates something a written essay can’t quite capture. If you choose an essay over video, it’s gotta be because there are certain things you’re able to do with the written word that would be MORE effective than a video version.
Keep your audience on the edge of their seat, though, by throwing them off balance.
Texas McCombs School of Business MBA Essay 2
Picture yourself at graduation. Describe how you spent your two years as a Texas MBA student, and how that experience helped to prepare you for the post-MBA world. (500 words)
Start thinking about this essay with a very specific (and crucial) premise: “I am not able to achieve or even pursue my short-term goals effectively today because…” Because what? Generate a list. Are they skills? Is it a lack of certain experience? Is it a lack of plain, hard knowledge? Is it a lack of network? Got that list ready? Proceed…
Let’s play pretend one more time. Let’s say you’re like most MBA applicants and are applying to 7-10 programs. Pretend that three of those are ranked in the Top 10, and that 3-5 of those are ranked below #20. UT Austin is right smack dab in the center of it all. Admit-time rolls around and you receive invites from 100% of the schools on your list. Now YOU are in the driver’s seat. What is it about two years at McCombs that might address the items on your list in a particularly appealing way? This is the part where you need to dig deep. (Mind you, we haven’t done a THING toward writing a response to this essay yet; this is all crucial prep work.) What extracurricular offerings does McCombs have? What is it about the campus culture? What is it about certain professors? What about folks who recruit there? What is it about Austin? What is it about…. anything and everything you have researched and know about this program that has convinced you that MCCOMBS IS THE ONE to advance your objectives powerfully? This is the part where you make a second list. And even better, a second list that’s connected to all the specific items on that first list. Once you have these elements secure in your mind, now you’re ready to generate a draft because the essay has already – by now – written itself.
This essay should read a lot like a military battle plan. (You’ll hear us say that a lot, and there’s good reason for it.) This should NOT come across wide-eyed and dreamy and speculative and wishy-washy and general. It should instead feel like the result of someone with laser focus, with ultra-clear objectives, a well-thought-out plan of attack. Bonus points if there’s dried-up drool on this sheet of paper. McCombs wants feral beasts who are salivating at the opportunity to ATTACK the program, and EXTRACT. And that only happens when people have real INTENT. “Motive.” A battle plan. This is your chance to lay out that plan.
How To Organize This Essay
Part 1 – Establish the Goals
First up, we need to understand your goals, your existing skill set, and therefore, those GAPS. Best thing to do is start off with a VERY brief overview of where this WHOLE thing is headed, your overall vision. Within a sentence or two or three, we should have a decent sense for where you hope to be in twenty years. Now, walk us through what you need to do in the VERY near-term (first five years after your MBA, say), in order to get you on that overall/LT path. Remember, think militaristic. Step A leads logically to Step B which then leads to Step C, which then enables us to consider and pursue Step D. That kind of thing. Explain the stuff you need to do, and the skills required to pull that all off. (100-125 words)
Part 2 – Explain Your GAPS
First explain BRIEFLY some of the “thus-far” achievements that have brought you to 80% of the way there. Give us a sense for the stuff you already HAVE, skills-wise. Be efficient here. Now explain the stuff you need. This is that GAP section. From that first list you generated. Don’t just explain these gaps in a vacuum, explain each one within the context of why they’re relevant specifically to your goals. This context is absolutely key, because now you’re not just generic-MBA-person, you’re salivating-feral-beast-person with lusting after PREY, locked in your sights. I needed “X in order to then pursue Y aspect of my short-term goals for Z reason.” That kind of thing. (125-150 words)
Part 3 – How You Took a Bite Out of McCombs, Specifically
This is the part where you catalogue your experience at McCombs (as though in retrospect, as though it actually happened, etc.). Take us through experiences with specific classes, professors, clubs, off-campus activities, internships, socialization opportunities, anything and everything you can think of that might advance you from your 80% starting point on Day 1 to the 100% version at graduation. Explain what you did to narrow that 20% gap, bit by bit.
The key isn’t to actually write your future accurately, no one’s gonna ever check. The key is to indicate that there’s CLARITY in the way you can establish an objective, and then design a plan of attack to achieve it. Generally that comes from a plan that is detailed, and rooted in logic. As long as it makes sense, and seems achievable, the admissions committee is going to buy it. Now, if you can do that, and also let slip your passion for the program, bonus points. (200 words)
Part 4 – Next Steps
The best way to send this sucker home is to give a brief description of what happens immediately after graduation. No need to spend too much time here because you’ve already laid SOME of this out in previous sections when establishing your short-term goals. You may just want to close with a hypothetical “I will be starting as an X at Y company this fall, where I will notch Step 1 toward my short-term goals.” You can even have fun with what you plan to do in the few weeks between graduation and when you start your job, or some other character-revealing fun reveal, like marrying one of your b-school cohorts named Z that you met along the way, yadayada. (50-75 words)
Texas McCombs School of Business MBA Optional Essay
Please provide any additional information you believe is important and/or address any areas of concern that will be beneficial to the Admissions Committee in considering your application (e.g. unexplained gaps in work experience, choice of recommenders, academic performance, or extenuating personal circumstances). (250 words)
Read our team’s complete take on the idea of optional essay, including a brief (recent) history of b-schools’ relationship with it, and how our recommendations have evolved over the years, right here.
And that's that. Helpful, eh? If you have any questions on it or McCombs or anything, just reply here or shoot us a PM. And if you want more Essay Analysis Goodness, check out more schools here. We're updating 'em daily as new prompts are released, so keep checking back.
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Last edited by JonAdmissionado on 17 Aug 2017, 23:09, edited 2 times in total.