HBS Essay Topic Analysis 2010-2011

5已有 522 次阅读  2010-07-14 02:14   标签HBS  Analysis  Topic  Essay 

1. What are your three most substantial accomplishments and why do you view them as such? (600-word limit)
This essay question has been a hallmark of the HBS application for many years.  Due to its top billing, this question could be the first element of your file that the adcom reads, making this response a great opportunity to present the reader with three strong stories that introduce the major themes of your candidacy.  Each accomplishment can be presented as a stand-alone section here, so you needn’t be overly concerned about composing a seamless narrative.

HBS has traditionally been very impact-oriented in evaluating applicants’ credentials, so one way to determine which three accomplishments to describe in this essay is to think about the end results.  Experiences in which you made a lasting and quantifiable impact can lend themselves to concise, factual narratives, and considering that each accomplishment must be described in approximately 200 words, this can be an important consideration.  However, this isn’t to say that the process followed, skills gained, and lessons learned along the way aren’t important, too; these factors could be a great way to address the second half of the question: why you view these accomplishments as your most significant to date.

A final point is that it’s also important to select stories with an eye to balance.  An applicant who describes two professional successes and one extra-curricular accomplishment, or perhaps one each from the professional, academic and activities realms, can show that he or she excels in any environment.

2. What have you learned from a mistake? (400-word limit)
This question makes an appearance for a fourth consecutive year.  The subject of failure or setback is a popular one for business school essays in general, and there are a few important elements to consider in addressing this and similar prompts.  First, professional maturity, self-reflection and insight are key qualities to communicate.  Towards that end, successful essays will describe the mistake in straightforward, step-by-step detail, and will also own the misstep rather than making excuses.

Another important element to touch on is that you’ve experienced some growth or development since the initial mistake.  While applicants should not ‘gloss over’ their mistakes, it is important to emphasize positive growth and the learning experience that can come from missing the mark.  An effective essay will present this growth in terms of thoughts and feelings, while balancing comments about internal reflections with descriptions of more external actions and changes in behavior.

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?

While MBA applicants often draw upon their extracurricular experiences during college as topics for essays, it’s rare that they get a chance to talk about their more intellectual interests and achievements. This is your chance to go into some detail about why you chose your school and major and tell the admissions committee about your academic interests and educational milestones. A great essay will underscore an applicant’s intelligence and work ethic, as well as incorporate some element of leadership (especially if the applicant had a significant impact on the department or school as a whole).

2. What is your career vision and why is this choice meaningful to you?
Always unique among b-schools, HBS not only frames its essay about the applicant’s professional future in terms of a broad vision rather than concrete goals, but also makes it optional.

Harvard’s adcom tries to identify future business leaders, so applicants presenting a directed vision will make a positive impression. Because this essay is about your career vision, you might summarize your past experiences in a very concise manner (i.e. just a few sentences) before moving on to a detailed discussion of your future plans and the reasons that these plans are meaningful to you. Whereas many schools request a clear description of candidates’ immediate post-MBA career plan, this particular question lends itself to a long-term, big picture outlook. Of course, you might also touch on the ways in which HBS will help you achieve your vision. Think about how Harvard’s program (specific classes, classmates and clubs) would prepare you for your future.

3. Tell us about a time in your professional experience when you were frustrated or disappointed.
New to the HBS application, this prompt opens a wide range of topics for discussion and thus skills and qualities that an applicant can highlight.  Some examples of relevant topics include disagreements with one’s team or superiors, receiving negative feedback, making unpopular decisions, responding to a co-worker’s or employee’s mistake, or being faced with an ethical challenge.  As with Question 2, it’s important to concisely outline the situation by clarifying what caused you to feel frustrated or disappointed, as well as refrain from playing the “blame game.”  This essay gives applicants the opportunity to highlight their problem-solving skills, so applicants should focus on the steps they took to improve the situation or resolve the problem.  In demonstrating your leadership abilities, communication skills, creativity, and overall growth from the experience, you will show the adcom how you persevere through frustrating and disappointing circumstances – something that points to your ability to succeed through future trials at HBS and in your career.

4. When you join the HBS Class of 2012, how will you introduce yourself to your new classmates?

Also new to the HBS application, this question is somewhat similar to NYU Stern’s personal expression essay, as both require applicants to introduce themselves to their classmates, and in doing so allow the candidates to showcase their unique personalities.  In thinking about this prompt, applicants should consider what matters most to them as well as the impact they hope to have at HBS.  While your professional background may make up a portion of your introduction to your classmates, this essay does offer you the unique opportunity to discuss other aspects of who you are.  It’s therefore important that instead of repeating material you’ve discussed in other essays, you take this opportunity to showcase aspects of your profile that might not lend themselves to other essay topics.  In addition, because HBS is a school that likes natural leaders, it would behoove you in this essay to demonstrate your ability to engage people in your interests.

To further demonstrate your leadership abilities, this essay is a perfect opportunity for you to show how you turn your interests into action.  Therefore as you introduce yourself, it may be appropriate to think how your profile is relevant to the HBS community.  You therefore may want to discuss what you could share with the HBS community, based on your interests and background.

Conclusion
While each of these topics require a careful approach, one of the more challenging aspects of the HBS application is assembling the right mix of anecdotes across essays so as to provide the committee with the most complete (and strategic) view of your candidacy.  This is compounded by the fact that HBS allows for several choices in the final two essay topics.  As such, we recommend that our readers be sure to take a step back and consider their essays holistically as they move through the process of topic selection and writing. 

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