The Harvard MBA – 5 things you need to know

The Harvard MBA is ranked #4 in the world by Business Insider#2 in the world by The Economist, and #1 in the world by the Financial Times, making it one of the most prestigious programs on the globe. With an acceptance rate of 11%, this also means it’s one of the most competitive MBA programs in the world.

What’s the secret behind a successful application to Harvard Business School? Chad Losee, Managing Director of MBA Admissions and Financial Aid, rounds up some of the most important admissions tips for prospective students:


1. Provide unique, valuable information in your essay

A big part of the Harvard MBA application is the essay section. In this section, the school asks: “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?”

Asking “what more would you like us to know?” (emphasis on the “more”) suggests that the information you provide in the essay should not simply be a repetition of other parts of your application. In short: Avoid translating your resume into essay form. Instead, give yourself time and space to consider this question fully – and make sure your essay provides unique information to your application instead of rehashed details of your resume.

2. Keep it simple

When putting together your resume for a program as potentially life-changing as the Harvard MBA, it can be tempting to cram in as much information as possible.

However, your resume is simply a summary of your journey up to this point. It should be clear, concise, and in an easy-to-follow format. Avoid lengthy descriptions, irrelevant work experience, and obscure fonts. If Harvard’s admissions team can’t easily track your career path by reading your resume, you’re doing something wrong.

3. Emphasize your extracurricular activities

It’s important to understand that Harvard will not only look at your academic or professional credentials. You need to demonstrate that you are a well-rounded individual who holds interests outside of work and pursues them passionately. The admissions team wants to see evidence that you “pursue your extracurricular activities with uncommon purpose and persistence.”

This doesn’t mean that certain extracurricular activities are looked upon more favorably than others; it’s about the extent to which you pursued these activities.

4. Your GMAT/GRE score is important – but not as much as you might think

Your GMAT or GRE score is undoubtedly important to your application – but as we’ve mentioned, Harvard takes a wide range of factors into account when reviewing your application. They want to understand you as a person, not as a test score.

The Harvard MBA program does not demand a minimum score for your GMAT or GRE. In fact, this class profile shows that candidates with a wide range of test scores are accepted into the program.

5. Think beyond your MBA

Harvard is interested in what motivates you to join their MBA program, but they also want to know about your post-MBA goals. Which industry do you see yourself working in? In what kind of role? Why is Harvard the best stepping stone to achieve your goals?

Harvard looks for people with potential, so whatever your ambitions are – whether it’s opening up a business, climbing the corporate ladder, or switching career paths – Harvard wants you. There’s no right or wrong answer.

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