HBS Admissions: Be Yourself, Not Beyonce
Got your heart set on getting into one of the nation’s top business schools? If you’re hoping to get an acceptance letter from Harvard Business School in the not-so-distant future, then you’re going to need more than just the GPA and test scores. Harvard has only so many slots to fill, and the competition is fierce. Here’s what you need to know to set yourself apart and get into the school of your dreams.
Speak Through the Essay
Harvard Business School admissions officials say that when they read your admissions essay, they’re not looking for an award-winning piece of prose. Instead, they want to get to know you as an individual, so let your true voice speak through your writing. Of course, that doesn’t mean you should write like you’re texting your best friend, either. The application essay is still a formal piece of writing that should be edited and polished before submission, but it shouldn’t be stiff. Try to center your essay around a specific story that demonstrates your unique qualities while addressing the question being posed.
Be Yourself, Not Beyonce
Remember when Beyonce was slammed for lip-syncing the national anthem at the 2013 Presidential inauguration? Of course, it wasn’t that big of a deal since she was lip-syncing to a recording of her own song. Beyonce isn’t trying to get into Harvard though. Admissions consultants want you to be candid, not rehearsed, whether it be on your application, in your essay, or during the admissions interview, so don’t just move your lips, even if it’s to your own song.
Showcase Your Strengths
While you don’t want to be someone you’re not, you do want to put your best foot forward. Although admissions consultants say that there’s not a certain GMAT score or work experience necessary to get in, if you’re lacking in one area, you’ll want to make up for it in the other. Identify the unique talents you have to offer the Harvard community, and focus on those.
Admit Your Weaknesses
Even the elite Harvard Business School doesn’t expect perfection. In fact, they are intensely interested in what you perceive to be your weaknesses, how you work to overcome them, the mistakes you’ve made in your life, and what you’ve learned from them. Sometimes how you respond to the disappointments we all face in life reveal more about you and your good character than your achievements could ever disclose. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, one admissions consultant said that she has a good “arrogance radar,” so it’s clear they’re not looking for someone who can’t admit a misstep.
Focus on Quality
According to another interview conducted by U.S. News & World Report, the Harvard admissions consultants are looking for candidates with the following qualities:
- Intellectual curiosity
- Sense of purpose
- Personal maturity
- The ability to work with others in a community
- A moral compass that points true north
Of course, there’s no crash course for developing these qualities, but assuming that you have them, you need to let it be known. While it might be tempting to simply tell the admissions officials how awesome you are, it’s far more effective to show them by painting a picture of how these qualities are played out in not only key events in your life, but on an everyday basis. The essay is one of the best venues for conveying these stories.
If you don’t get in the first time around, don’t give up. I’d be willing to bet that persistence is another one of those qualities Harvard likes to see in its applicants.