The HBS essay is here! But how do you answer it? Nothing guarantees admission to arguably the best business school in the world, but Angela Guido is here to improve your chances of getting to the Harvard interview.
We LOVE the Harvard Business School essay because “what more do you want us to know” gets to the root of who you are (and can be) as a business leader. Stay tuned to find out more!
Prefer to read? Here’s the transcript:
I'm so happy to be here with you again to talk to you about Harvard Business School. How to tackle the 2022 Harvard MBA application essay. I'm Angela Guido the founder of Career Protocol, Career Coach, MBA Coach to the stars! This is MBA Monday.
This is a big moment. You're applying to Harvard, and you're going to answer that behemoth of an essay question “What more do you want us to know as we consider your application to Harvard Business School?”. It's my absolute favorite question in the entire MBA universe for a lot of reasons, but before I get into how to answer that question, I want to set you up for success by making sure you know about all the content that we've put out on the Harvard Business School essay. I think it's the most written about, most covered piece of information in the MBA universe by Career Protocol. The first thing you want to do is watch our How to Get into Harvard Business School video. You can click the little I and go watch it. I recommend you do that. Second video you want to watch is our Wednesday Workshop on answering the Harvard MBA essay. It's a little bit longer, more robust, pretty dynamic, popular video… goes deeper than I'm going to go in this video.
Finding Your Perfect Answer To Harvard’s Essay Question
All set? Good! Okay. Now let's talk about how you are going to find your perfect answer to the Harvard MBA essay question. I want to say, really, just one thing. So writing this essay is not easy. There's no silver bullet. You're going to have to wrestle with the question. You're going to have to iterate the draft many times. You're going to have to include some stories and then remove them and put in other ones. I really encourage you to take this seriously and really grapple with that question. But there's only one thing that I really want to make sure that you know before you sit down and answer that question. And that question is what do you want us — Harvard — to know as we consider your application? What do you want us to know? The question is not what do you think we want to hear as you apply to Harvard? That is the number one pitfall that everyone falls into when they write the Harvard essay, including our clients for a couple of drafts before we sort of squeeze the real answer out of them. You're going to approach this process, you know, you're being evaluated, you know, you're being judged, so it's just human nature to want to fit the picture that you think they're looking for, to tell them what you think they want to hear. But it's really important that you understand that the question is not what do you think we want to hear? What do you think the right answer is to get into Harvard? What is the picture you think we need to see to let you in? They're not asking you to read their minds, nor are they asking you to pander to them or flatter them or even impress them. They're actually genuinely just curious how you want them to know you, how you want to be known. So what this means is that your essay needs to have a point of view. It needs to have a strong point of view about who you are. It's not just a random walk down memory lane. It's not just a collection of beautiful achievements. It's not just a recounting of your life story or the most important things that have happened to you or that you've achieved en route to being in this moment here where you're applying to business school. It's not an epic biopic that includes every last detail of your life story or even of your professional career. It is a single, focused presentation of who you are and who you want to be known as, which means that it needs to have a perspective. It needs to have a point of view. You can't just throw a bunch of anecdotes together and hope for it to cohere and resonate in a way that's going to work for Harvard.
Let Your Story Bring You To Life As An Ideal Harvard Candidate
This question is really cool when you think about how Harvard culture works. Harvard culture as a program is an extroverted culture. If we can say that there's a dominant sort of extroversion/introversion tendency to a school's culture, Harvard is extroverted because it's nearly 100% the case method. In your first year, 80% of your grade is going to be determined by class participation, where you're talking about a business case with your peers, making your point, and sometimes defending it against argumentation. It's about having an opinion. It's about having a perspective. It's about bringing to the table a point of view to which others can listen to, learn from, react to, disagree with. It makes you a force in the classroom. You need to be present. You need to have something to say that other people can do something with, whether they agree with it or not, that's not the point. In fact, the more people disagree, the more interesting the conversation is. So I'm not saying be bombastic. I'm not saying be jerk. I'm saying have an opinion. Have a point of view about who you are. Make a concrete, specific statement about who you are and how you want to be known, and then tell the story that backs up that perspective. Most of our clients end up with fairly long essays for Harvard. There's some rule of thumb that says, oh, it needs to be 800 words or 1100 words — nah. For some people, that's right. For some people, the perspective they're presenting can be concisely encapsulated in 800 words. For most of our clients who have amazing stories to tell, we find that it takes more like 1500 to 2500 words for them to really get across their point in a way that brings them fully to life, to the admissions committee. And that is still what you're trying to do. You're trying to bring yourself to life as a complete human being so that Harvard can understand that you are a leader who makes a difference in the world. That's what they're looking for. And so you need to show them your point of view. Hopefully, by repeating and hammering this concept now for I don’t know how many minutes in this video, it has sunk in that when you're applying to Harvard you can't just show them that you're great. You can't just assemble the achievements that have comprised your life story to date. You have to present a cohesive point of view about who you are, the meaning of your life, and the kind of leader that you're going to be at Harvard and beyond. It doesn't mean you have to talk about Harvard in the essay. You can, but most people find that it's actually not part of the story. But you do need a really pointed point of view about who you are and how you want to be known.
Stand For Who You Are
It takes a lot of courage to take a stand for who you are and that's really what Harvard is asking you to do in this essay. It's why I love to work on the Harvard essay. It's why it's our favorite essay and our Career Protocol weekly meetings where we share our clients’ stories and take them apart and build them up again. The Harvard essay, I think, is actually the most important question you can answer as you're approaching business leadership, and that is how do you want to be known? How are you going to be known? What can the world count on you for as a business leader? I am wishing you all the best in your Harvard application. I hope that someday you're going to have a T-shirt just like this and it's going to mean that you went to Harvard. I, of course, didn't go to Harvard but a lot of my clients have. Best of luck on your MBA journey. I'll see you next week on MBA Monday!
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