Beginning this fall the Harvard Business School application will reflect its most significant changes since 2003. Long a source of anxiety and many sleepless nights, the HBS application as recently as last year required applicants to submit four different essays that totaled up to 2000 words. Starting for the class of 2015, the number of essays will be halved, with the word limit capped at 400 per essay.
Not only will they be fewer in number and shorter in word requirements, the essays will also be more straightforward. The two essay prompts slated for this fall are
- Tell us something you’ve done well.
- Tell us something you wish you had done better.
The HBS application process will also involve another wrinkle. For those who succeed in making it past the first cut, and thereby required (or given the chance) to sit for an interview, an additional post-interview essay will be required. The wrinkle? Well, the essay will be due within 24 hours of the interview, and should address something the applicant wished she or he had said during the interview. This essay will also be capped at 400 words.
Officials at Harvard indicate that the changes to the essay reflect the logistical difficulties involved in assessing the many thousands of applications HBS receives each year. Additionally, since HBS began requiring interviews for anyone who would be accepted for the class of 2004, there is less of a need to learn about applicants through the essays.
While the school is thrilled about the changes, reactions have been mixed elsewhere. Naturally, many admissions consultants, who often earn their keep helping applicants craft their essays, see this in a less positive light, feeling that it raises the stakes for students to convince the admissions committee for a favorable decision with two essays where before they could use four. And for those fortunate enough to get an interview, they feel the prospect of writing a winning essay in 24 hours or less is a recipe for anxiety and stress.
One other big change in the application process this year is that the Round 1 application deadline is moving up by more than a week to September 24th, and Round 1 applicants will find out their fate by December 12th, as opposed to December 19th like last year. For most students, this may well be the most pertinent information coming out of Harvard about this year’s application cycle. If you’re interested in getting your application in Round 1, you should be very aware of the deadlines, and post-submit requirements, and plan your preparation for the GMAT and the essays accordingly.
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