Top Tips to Get Into the Best US MBAs: Harvard Business School | TopMBA.com

Top Tips to Get Into the Best US MBAs: Harvard Business School

By Linda M

Updated May 26, 2021 Updated May 26, 2021

Harvard Business School offers one of the world's best MBA programmes with a fierce admissions cycle. Here's everything you need to know about maximising your chances of getting in. 

Getting into an MBA programme isn’t an easy job, especially if you dream of securing a spot at one of the most sought-after American business schools such as Harvard Business School.

Ranked fourth-best in the world in the QS Global MBA Rankings 2021, HBS is the originator of the MBA. The school produces over 80 percent of business school cases sold globally, which MBA students read and work on throughout their degree.  

Here are our top tips to help you stand out in every step of the application process.

Meet the minimum table stakes

With over 9,000 applications received in the 2019-2020 academic year, and a typical MBA class averaging close to a tenth of that with 930 students, getting into HBS is without a doubt a competitive process.

For this reason, having a good academic record is crucial to demonstrate to Harvard’s admissions committees that you will be able to handle the MBA programme’s workload.

The average GMAT score of a HBS MBA candidate from the Class of 2022 is 730. The median score for the verbal section is 42, while the median score for the quant section is 48. For GRE test-takers, the average verbal score and the average quant score are the same: 163.

While most HBS MBA applicants take the GMAT, there is no preference between submitting test scores for the GMAT or  the GRE.

The average GPA is 3.70. However, this only applies to US schools that use a 4.0 grading system.

Focus on storytelling

Unlike other business schools that give applicants very specific prompts, Harvard Business School recruiters want to test your storytelling abilities with a more general MBA essay question: “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?”

While the open-ended nature of this question – with no word count provided – might throw you off at first, here are some tips that’ll help you give your answer some direction and character.

  • Let narrative drive your essay: When looking at the question, pay close attention to the words “what more”. By the time they read your essay, HBS recruiters will have already seen your test scores, academic record, achievements, and professional experiences – the last thing they will want to read is a summary of what they already know. Focus instead on telling them the story of what makes you a unique applicant, structuring your essay so that it follows a clear thought pattern with introduction, main body, and conclusion.
  • Provide specific examples: When trying to convince HBS admissions committees you’ll be a good fit for the MBA programme, providing examples can help give continuity to the story you’re trying to tell. If you’re struggling to think of any milestones or challenges to write about, look at the main traits the school seeks in candidates – a habit of leadership; analytical aptitude and appetite; and engaged community citizenship – and revisit moments of your career where you’ve showcased one or more of these.
  • Don’t shy away from honesty: Because Harvard is such a prestigious institution, you might be wondering whether showing signs of weakness or doubt will harm your chances of getting in. But the truth is that recruiters know nobody – even the most forward-thinking professionals – is perfect. If anything, being open and honest throughout the essay will demonstrate your ability to self-reflect and grow from past mistakes.
  • Show that you’re ready: Another crucial point to make in your essay is that you’re ready to undertake an MBA programme now. While you may have proven that you’re interested in Harvard Business School and that you would fit in well within the school’s community, recruiters also need to know why you want to pursuit an MBA programme at this point of your career, what you’re hoping to gain from it and where you want to be in the near future.

Use the interview to explain your choices

Every business school has its own approach when it comes to assessing applicants during an MBA interview.

At HBS, candidates are only interviewed one-on-one by admissions board members. This method might seem to you slightly more nerve-wracking than being in a group with other applicants or being interviewed by alumni, so here are some tips to help you get ready:

  • Focus on the reasoning behind your choices: Recruiters will have studied your application prior to the interview and will likely know the ins-and-outs of your professional experience. However, don’t expect them to ask you generic questions about your responsibilities at work. Focus instead on why you’ve made certain decisions. Why this specific undergraduate course? Why this specific internship? Why did you leave this company after two years? These are all questions that might arise during the interview and that you’ll have to answer with honesty and self-awareness.
  • Do some reflection: After the interview, candidates are required to submit a follow-up letter within 24 hours. This step is called the Post-Interview Reflection. It is similar to a thank-you note that you would send to a potential employer, but it’s also a chance for you to make sure interviewers remember you. While there is no perfect model for how to approach it, make sure it's not a formal essay. Instead, replay the interview in your head and try to find any moments where you could have showcased more introspection to address.

This article was originally published in May 2021 .

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Written by

Linda is Content Writer at TopMBA, creating content about students, courses, universities and businesses. She recently graduated in Journalism & Creative Writing with Politics and International Relations, and now enjoys writing for a student audience. 

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