Category Archives: MBA Essays

Harvard Business School essays (2009-10) add a cover letter just like MIT Sloan’s

Harvard has released their new essay questions, and deadlines for 2009-10, adding a cover letter essay (optional) which MIT Sloan’s has as a standard request for years. Still only four essays are required for HBS, and the first two compulsory questions remain the same:

1. What are your three most substantial accomplishments and why do you view them as such? (600)
2. What have you learned from a mistake? (400)

For essays essays 3 and 4, applicants now have five topics to choose from (up from four) two of which are new. One , a cover letter “introducing yourself to the Admissions Board,” is equivalent to the MIT Sloan signature essay.

This is no surprise. Cover letters are deeply difficult to get right because they require acute balance between brevity and detail. They test your ability to extract and communicate what is really important – demonstrating a key management skill.

The other new question: “Tell us about a time when you made a difficult decision,” is familiar ground in admissions, and something well covered in MBA Studio’s profiling process that focuses on your key life transitions (why?) and prepares you for questions like this in your essays and interview.

The full set of options for HBS essays 3 & 4 are:

Please respond to two of the following (400-word limit each):
1. What would you like the MBA Admissions Board to know about your undergraduate academic experience?
2. Discuss how you have engaged with a community or organization.
3. Tell us about a time when you made a difficult decision.
4. Write a cover letter to your application introducing yourself to the Admissions Board.
5. What is your career vision and why is this choice meaningful to you?

The deadlines are (all 5pm EST) R1: October 1, 2009; R2: January 19, 2010; R3: April 8, 2010


FT reports on Anderson’s audio essay experience

FT.com / Business education – A word in your ear this week reports: “At the Anderson school at UCLA, applicants this year were asked to submit their essays in audio format. Although the scheme was voluntary, some 70 per cent of applicants for the class of 2011 chose to record their essays rather than submit them in a text format, says Mae Jennifer Shores, admissions director. …

“The audio clips have been useful on a number of fronts, says Ms Shores: they show how well the applicants can communicate, how well they have grasped the use of English and how they perform under pressure. Also they demonstrate how creative students can be: some added music – either commercially produced or self-generated.

“It also enabled some students to demonstrate a sense of humour. β€œIt was a joy for us,” says Ms Shores…

“Ms Shores says the Anderson school may choose to make the audio clips compulsory next year, or alternatively it may consider using video clips instead.”

MBA Studio’s take on this:

(1) If given the option of audio or video – Take It! You don’t need to overly interpret “it was a joy for us,” to know what their preference is. Not doing it is almost a red flag.

(2) In the original article the FT reporter also suggests the audio essay is a way of nulliflying the effect of admissions consultants. That’s poor reporting. Consultants can just as easily help applicants with communication in any media.

Responsible admissions advisors advise and edit and coach, like any advisor in any field. MBA Studio, for one, would never cross the line and prepare a candidates submission for them whether written, audio, or video.


More World MBA Tour legacy, 18 principles of MBA admissions which I still stand by

The last piece moving resources off the old MBA Studio site, and into the land of blogs and permalinks. It’s from a talk I gave on the World MBA Tour in 2003 – proving, if nothing else, how long I’ve been around doing MBA admissions consulting πŸ™‚ . Seriously, from year to year, the basic insights into what works in getting admitted to elite schools changes little, so this worth a little reprise (click here for pps show.)