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Harvard HBS MBA Essay Tips 2019 – 2020

The Harvard MBA admissions process is one of the most competitive in the world, and for its 2019 -2020 MBA application, the Harvard MBA essay consists of only one essay prompt. Apart from the essay question, applicants need to respond to one Post-MBA goal-related question. The Harvard MBA admission essay prompt does not have a word limit, whereas the Post-MBA goal-related question has a word limit of 500 characters – approximately 100 words.  Through the HBS MBA Essay question, the admissions committee wants to know ‘what more you would like them to know as they consider your candidacy for the Harvard Business School (HBS) MBA program?’



In this article, we provide you with the Harvard MBA Essay tips for 2020 admissions. Here’s an outline of the article:


The Harvard MBA Essay Questions 2020


The HBS MBA Essay questions 2020 in the application form are as follows:

Harvard Business school Essay 1 (Required)

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)

Post-MBA Goal Related Questions (Required)

Select the intended industry and function post- MBA. Briefly tell us more about your career aspiration.

Optional Essay (Additional Information)

Share additional information, if you need to clarify any information provided in the other sections of your application.

Application deadline: Harvard MBA Program

Applicants that want to get admitted to the Harvard Business School (HBS) need to submit an online written application form, after which selected candidates are invited for an interview.

For the 2020 HSB admissions, there are two rounds of intake, and you can access the application here.

HSB MBA Application Deadline Round 1 Round 2
Application Deadline 04-Sep-2019 06-Jan-2020
Admissions Board Decision 10-Dec-2019 31-Mar-2020

Please note that the application should be submitted online by 12  Noon Boston Time.

Learn more about the Harvard Business School – Class Profile, Employment report, and Notable Alumni.

Expectations of the Admissions Committee


Karla Cohen, the Harvard Business School former associate director, points out that the HBS is looking for applicants who are exceptionally bright, dedicated, and driven. She says, “to get into the HBS; you need to demonstrate your intellectual skill set and how you are going to get through the rigor MBA program.” The HBS MBA program is intense and fast-paced. Thus, the admissions committee is looking for people who are progressing at a pace that is faster than their peers and have strong grades.


She also points out that the admissions committee is looking for applicants who have deeper purposes than just adding zeros to their bank account. They want to bring in candidates that are mission-oriented and wish to create a positive change in the world. For Example, “If you’re going to pursue a career in private equity, then the admissions committee wants to know what kind of impact you are going to have in that field.

In short, how are you going to pay back to the community?


Karla states that the biggest mistake the applicants make while applying to the HBS is writing their essays like a resume. She points out that ‘your credentials are important, but beyond that, your essays should also be interesting.’

The purpose of the Harvard MBA Essay is to connect with the applicant and therefore, just talking about your professional self while writing the essay is not advisable. The Harvard admission committee wants to know you at a personal level, and thus, sharing a personal story in your essay is an excellent strategy.


Apart from the above, Karla points out that when applicants talk about their failure and how they overcame them, it is quite exciting and helps the admissions committee to connect at a personal level. The more personal you get in ways, ‘why you do what you do,’ it becomes more interesting and memorable.

At last, the admissions committee is looking for people who are ambitious, extraordinary, have a track record, and a habit of being a leader or consistently hitting their goals.

Read about  How to get into Harvard Business school

Harvard MBA Essay Tips and Analysis

In this section, we analyze the Harvard MBA admission essay questions for 2020 and provide tips for writing the essay prompt. As stated earlier, there is one essay prompt, one goal – related question, and an optional essay.

HBS MBA Essay Prompt

The image below represents the essay prompt in the HBS MBA application form:

Source: Harvard MBA Application Form

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)

In this essay question, there is no word limit, and since the question clearly states, ‘what more you like us to know,’ you should make sure that you don’t repeat things already highlighted in the application form. However, you can still discuss the achievement previously mentioned in your resume in detail for which you can use the STAR method- S (Situation), T(Task), A(Action), and R (Results).


According to Poonam Tandon, an admissions counselor, you may decide to submit an essay between 500-750 words, and if you choose to write a longer essay, make sure that it’s within 1000 words. However, if you submit a 2,000-word essay, keep in mind that you are asking the admission committee to spend more time reading your response, and thus, you need to be confident that in the end, the person reading your essay should feel that it was time well spent.

Harvard’s advice for this essay question is quite simple: “Don’t overthink, overwrite or overdraft.”

As stated earlier by Karla Cohen, the Harvard Business Schools former associate director, your essay should be interesting, and you should be able to connect with the admissions committee at a personal level. Choose a story that would illustrate traits that the HBS admissions committee is looking for in candidates, i.e., Habit of leadership, analytical aptitude and appetite, and engaged community behavior. As stated in the Harvard website, ‘the right candidate must be eager to support their colleagues, share their experience, and learn as well as teach their peers.’


Also, don’t be afraid to share your weaknesses or failure in this essay prompt. As stated earlier by Karla, reading about the applicant’s mistakes and how they learned from them is quite interesting and grabs the attention of the reader.

At last, be genuine and authentic. As pointed out by Poonam, “show your passion and confidence for what you have done and what you plan to do – personally, professionally, academically or socially.”

Learn about Mansi’s GMAT Success Story – where she got admit from Harvard University.

Post – MBA Goals Related Question

The image below represents the Post – MBA goal-related question in the HBS MBA application form:

Source: Harvard MBA Application Form

Select your intended post-MBA goals and briefly tell us more about your career aspirations. (500 character – approx. 100 words)

In this question, the applicants first need to select an industry group, industry, and function from a given list as their intended post – MBA goals and then explain their career aspirations in the space provided on the application form.

The applicants should keep in mind that there is a word limit of approximately 100 words for this question. Thus, the response should be clear and precise. Make sure that your career aspirations are in line with your resume.

For example, if you have prior knowledge or experience in the industry or function you want to work in, then you don’t need to provide much explanation on why you have chosen that career path.

However, if you are changing careers, then you need to provide a brief context on what led you to decide that career path.


HBS MBA Optional Essay Question

The image below represents the additional information section in the HBS MBA application form:

Source: Harvard MBA Application Form

Share additional information, if you need to clarify any information provided in the other sections of your application. (500 characters – approx. 100 words)

As stated clearly in the question, applicants should not send any additional material, i.e., work portfolios, extra recommendations, etc. while responding to this question. This question is not an additional essay, and the applicants can even skip this question if they don’t have information to share.


The response to this question should clarify information that is already shared in the other section of your application form. For example, if you scored a low GMAT score, you can explain your side of the story in this question. Similarly, if you have a gap in employment, then you can use this space to explain what you did during that time.

At last, keep in mind the word- limit and do not exceed it.


Are you aspiring to become a part of the Harvard MBA program? A 740+ GMAT score can increase your chances of pursuing an MBA at the Harvard Business School. Sign up for our free trial and get access to our GMAT resources today!


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