Posted on November 13, 2018

HBS Essay Question Tips for Round 2 Applicants


Harvard Business School ranked #1 by US News, has dropped its third round for MBA applicants for the 2018-19 application.

So if you are planning to start your MBA journey at HBS in Fall 2019, you must start NOW, as the application deadline of Round 2 is less than two months away.  The good news is that the essay prompt for this cycle remains unchanged from last year.

Essay Question:

Like last year, HBS applicants are asked to submit one essay for 2018-2019 admissions. Let’s take a closer look at the essay prompt. The HBS essay that applicants need to submit this year is:

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?

There is no word limit for this question. We think you know what guidance we're going to give here. Don't overthink, over craft, and overwrite. Just answer the question in clear language that those of us who don't know your world can understand.

This open-ended question needs to be tackled very strategically, and it requires a significant amount of introspection. Since the essay prompts says, ‘what more would you like us to know’, you should make sure that you don’t simply repeat what you have already discussed in other application materials. Before brainstorming ideas/ stories for his essay, make sure to go through other application materials (résumé, application form, and LORs) and discuss with your recommenders what examples they will be discussing in their letters so you can avoid overlapping of materials in your essay. However, you may still discuss at length the achievements you have already touched upon in your résumé.

Before choosing your stories (personal and professional), please get a thorough understanding of what Harvard is looking for in candidates, and then weave your stories/ accomplishments around these traits. HBS is looking for candidates with “a habit of leadership, analytical aptitude and appetite, and engaged community leadership.” Therefore, your stories should illustrate these traits with a focus on leadership.

When sharing your stories, be authentic and genuine. Show your confidence and passion for what you have done and what you plan to do- academically, personally, socially, and professionally. Remember, you are a unique individual and use this essay as a platform to show your uniqueness. Don’t be afraid to share your mistake or failure at some point in life. Harvard is not looking for mistake-free individuals. The key is how you have learned from your mistakes, overcome life challenges, and have emerged a stronger person.

Since there is no word limit for this open-ended question, you will need to make up your mind on word limit. You may decide to submit an essay between 500- 750 words. If you decide to write a longer essay, make sure to keep it under 1000 words.

Mistakes to avoid while writing this essay:

  1. Keep in mind the instructions- Don’t overthink, overwrite, and over craft. When working with people on HBS essays, I often need to remind them that though re-writing and revising is the essence of writing, overwriting sometimes may kill the very soul of the essay. After you have brainstormed and finalized your stories, have confidence in your stories and writing style, and organize them coherently and succinctly. Refrain from making unnecessary countless revisions thinking, “Is this what admission committee would like to know?"
  2. Write from your heart in a simple and concise language. This is not an academic paper and you will not be evaluated for eloquence and for using robust words, rather for your passion and for your impactful stories, background, and experience composed in a simple, but effective and concise language that reflects your unique voice.
  3. Avoid using the word ‘leadership’ in every single sentence. Some applicants think that their best bet to impress the admission committee is to use ‘leadership’ in every sentence. Follow the thumb rule of ‘show not tell’ and allow your stories (personal, professional, and social) to vouch for your leadership skills.
  4. Avoid writing a ‘why MBA’ and ‘goals’ essay since you will be covering these topics in other application materials.
  5. Avoid telling the school how great they are. They are aware of their greatness.
  6. Even though the essay question doesn’t ask ‘Why HBS’, you will still like to let them know what you envision getting involved in to reach the next level of your career and how you plan to leave Harvard a better place.
  7. Avoid spoon-feeding the Ad Com. For example, don’t waste precious space by starting your essay with the following statement: “I would like the admission committee to understand what has driven my personal and professional growth and what has motivated my goal of dedicating my career to create businesses around infrastructure development. Also, please do not wrap up your essay by stating, “I hope that through this essay you got an insight into my personal and professional life for better evaluation of my candidacy. Please remember that the purpose of writing this essay is to offer the admission committee insights into your personal and professional attributes/ strengths, so such explicit statements are redundant that will not add any value to your story.

To further help you in developing your application essay, you may review the general Essay Tips.

You may be interested in Harvard admit Mansi’s video interview wherein she shares her application journey to Harvard, Stanford, Kellogg, Wharton, and INSEAD. Mansi is the first-year student at HBS, her dream school.

Since 2011, MER (myEssayReview) has helped many applicants get accepted into the top 20 MBA programs. (Poonam is one of the top 5 most reviewed consultants on the GMAT Club.)

Do you have questions about your application? E-mail Poonam at or sign up here for a free consultation.

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