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You can find a better version of my blog at http://www.adammarkus.com/blog/.

Be sure to read my Key Posts on the admissions process. Topics include essay analysis, resumes, recommendations, rankings, and more.

May 25, 2012

HBS MBA Application Radically Changed for the Class of 2015

This is the first in series of eight posts. My analysis of the HBS Application for the Class of 2015 (and 2+2 Class of 2017) consists of:

My comprehensive service clients have been admitted to the regular HBS MBA for the Classes of 2014, 2013, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, and 2005 and one 2+2 client admitted to the Class of 2014. My clients' results and testimonials can be found here.  In addition to providing comprehensive application counseling on HBS, I regularly help additional candidates with HBS interview preparation. I have worked with a large number of applicants from Canada, Europe, India, Japan, other parts of Asia, and the United States on HBS application.  I think that this range of experience has helped me understand the many possible ways of making an effective application to HBS. In the post below and in subsequent ones in this series, I will provide insights based on that experience.

HBS has radically revised its application process this year.  All previous questions have been eliminated. The standard set of 4-6 questions that HBS has been asking for years has been removed.  A new post-interview written assessment has been added. The application process has been reorganized as three-stage process  consisting of the following

1) Introduce Yourself
This is the written application. These are the components:

  • All the demographic data gathering you expect!
  • Resume
  • Transcripts of academic work
  • GMAT/GRE test scores
  • essay questions
  • 3 recommendations
2) Tell Us More
This is the interview process. Interviews are:

  • By invitation only after review of written application
  • On our campus or in TBD hub city locations, or in some cases, Skype
  • 30 minutes
  • Conducted by members of our Admissions Board

3) Have the Last Word
This is new. AFTER the interview, candidates are asked to do a written reflection on the interview experience which will be submitted via the online application system. This is a chance for you to have the "last word," so to speak.“

The official answer for changing is one of improvement, according to the HBS Blog:
Our process is the product of an admissions team that is always in design/development mode. All throughout the year we meet and dream up ways that will make it easier for you to feel "understood" and undertake assessment steps that map to what we do here in the classroom and what you will do in your careers. We're always trying to tweak and improve, and this is what we've come up with for the Class of 2015. Welcome to the starting gate.

Lets look at each step:

Introduce Yourself
The change to this first stage is the essays.  I will analyze the essays in the third post in this series.  Why the change?
Increase the number of applications to HBS by making it easy to apply.  Reducing the word count and creating essay topics that anyone could answer should certainly help this. Applying to HBS has never been easier.  With only two 400 word essays and a short statement of 500 characters (about 100-125 words) on why you want an MBA to write (Joint degree applicants have to write a third essay), the total word for HBS has been reduced from last year’s 2000 to about 900 words.  Thinking about HBS, but not sure?  Unless getting three recommendations is a problem for you, I would say to go for it!  Even if you are statistical outrider, if you have the time and are doing applications for other schools, completing an HBS application should not be terribly difficult. I will certainly be advising any of my clients who are at all interested in HBS to apply there.
Reduce word count and reduce administrative costs and also simplify application review:  Consider that by reducing the word count down, HBS admissions readers will be able to process applications faster. Also by reducing down from a minimum of 8 stories/episodes/narratives (The previous application consisted of two questions that each required 3 stories plus two other questions that would focus on at least one) to 2 stories (each of the essays will really need to focus primarily on a single story), there are significantly fewer factors to be taken account of when reviewing an applicants essays.
Reduce the overall role of essays in the process: Given the huge focus applicants put on the essays, given the number of applicants who use coaching/editing/ghostwriting (these are all different in my opinion), HBS is clearly sending a message that the essays are but one part of the process.  Also, given the 24-hour turnaround time required for the post-interview Reflection (see below), HBS is clearly trying to minimize the role of external influences (such as myself) on the process.
Increase the importance of applicant background in the initial screening process: It has always been the case that essays were but one factor in the HBS admissions process, but with the changes to what applicants now submit, the role of the applicant background as reflected in the test scores, GPA, application form, resume, and recommendations will be proportionally even greater. The resume and recommendations will take on an even greater role in the process.  I predict that I will spend even more time advising my clients on resumes and reviewing recommendations than I have ever done before.

Tell Us More
The next two stages are for those who are invited for the interview.  The interview stage has not changed.

Have the Last Word
This Post Interview Reflection is totally new for this year and no school has ever introduced a post-interview written response as a formal part of their process.  I think this is a great change for applicants because it gives them the opportunity to address any issues that they either wanted to but could not include in the interview or to expand on any issues that they did not feel were handled well.  

In the next post, I provide an overall introduction to applying to HBS.
-Adam Markus
アダム マーカス
I am a graduate admissions consultant who works with clients worldwide.  If you would like to arrange an initial consultation, please complete my intake form, which is publicly available on Google Docs here, and then send your completed form to adammarkus@gmail.com.  You can also send me your resume if it is convenient for you.  Please don't email me any essays, other admissions consultant's intake forms, your life story, or any long email asking for a written profile assessment. The only profiles I assess are those with people who I offer initial consultations to. See here for why. Please note that initial consultations are not offered when I have reached full capacity or when I determine that I am not a good fit with an applicant.

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