- One essay instead of two – and now it’s optional.
- No word-count limit for the essay instead of the traditional 400 words.
- No narrowly defined topic for the essay.
- Two recommendations required instead of three.
Those are big changes in Harvard’s admissions process. If you are a 2013-14 applicant trying to determine how to address this new reality, it’s essential to understand the opportunities that have emerged for you:
1) By reducing the total number of essays, the description of job responsibilities, academic achievements and non-work leadership in the resume and application form must be more vivid and compelling. Boiler plate won’t do.
2) By asking an open-ended essay question, HBS is introducing greater subjectivity that will “spread” the applicant pool and create new opportunities for applicants to break through. Higher risk, higher reward.
3) By eliminating one of the three recommenders, HBS is making the selection and cultivation of recommenders more critical. Furthermore, the recs now must do heavy lifting that the essays used to handle.
4) By emphasizing the admissions interview and "reflection," HBS is making interpersonal skills, self-awareness and diligent preparation more of a competitive advantage.
Given these changes at Harvard, an admissions consulting firm such as The MBA Exchange – which offers a truly holistic approach and devotes thought, experience and skill to analyzing and optimizing the underlying candidacy, rather than just offering tactical implementation support — is now increasingly valuable to serious HBS applicants.
Furthermore, with less structure and fewer elements in the admissions process, applicants now have less clarity and fewer cues from Harvard as to their selection criteria and priorities. So, working with a consulting firm that has a history of admissions success (we have 17 years!) and a team of experts (we have a former HBS admissions officer plus 9 HBS grads) can add actionable focus and insight for the applicant.
Change is a good thing for those who embrace and capitalize on it. Start today with a free, expert evaluation of your Harvard MBA candidacy.