We can’t say for sure but it appears that HBS saw another high-volume Round 1 this year.
They allocated 950 interview invites. In recent years, Round 1 volumes have resulted in only ~900 interviews. More interview invites is always a good thing since it would seem that each Rd 1 applicant then has a better chance of getting one – unless the total number of applicants bumped up again.
They also are issuing only 100 Further Consideration invitations, instead of the 200 that they do some years.
Higher interview invites means there was a bigger candidate pool; fewer FC invites means they are not going to have as much room to consider those in-limbo Round 1 applicants in Round 2, since they expect Round 2 will also be very full. So they’re managing the FC pool downwards, which is actually the kind thing to do, since it means fewer disappointed Rd 1 applicants who had gotten their hopes up for months and would inevitably be disappointed at the end of January when FC status changes happen (along with the Rd 2 interview invites).
Why are we bothering to call this out?
Harvard’s app volumes don’t necessarily predict the trend for every other school – though they’re frequently correlated. We expect that correlation to hold true especially this year, when the early HBS Rd 1 deadline meant that all the BSers everywhere got their acts in gear earlier, and the distribution of app due-dates on the calendar was more spread out, which meant that more people were able to get more apps in. We predict that Y-o-Y Round 1 volumes have likely gone up for many schools.
For Harvard in particular, an increase in Round 1 apps means that Round 2 is expected to be, again, really really competitive. There’s always more apps in Round 2, and if this presumed Round 1 trend carries through, then there will be more more apps in Round 2.
It could also mean that the HBS post-interview admit rate for Round 1 may be a little lower.
Generally speaking, getting the invite at HBS is an exceedingly positive sign (“Well duh, EssaySnark”) and you have a loosely 50/50 chance of getting an admit in December if you made it to the interview. (Calling it a “chance” of an admit is not accurate since it’s not a random event; it very much depends on how you do in the interview, which is something that you have direct control over.) Anyway, we’re betting that this post-interview admit rate could be lower this year. Maybe only marginally lower, but lower. Meaning, more people who have made it to the happy place with the HBS interview invitation over the past week are going to end up crushed come December. It’s just what the data implies.
Most schools hold app volume data close to the chest, and they hardly ever break out the numbers by round. It’s typically for the best anyway; it’s only self-serving for a school to crow about how its application volume went through the roof (“Look how popular and great we are!” Kinda like a BSer bragging about their GMAT score.). It doesn’t benefit the applicants in any way, and can only stress people out.
“So EssaySnark, if it’s only going to stress out us BSers, why are you making a big deal about it?”
Because it’s early enough in the season for you to put some risk mitigation plans into effect. Like, if you’ve been sitting on the fence about whether your GMAT score is “good enough” or not, maybe hearing about how competitive it is (again) will bump you into action to do the requisite studying in order to bump up that score.
Or if you procrastinated your life away and didn’t manage to get Round 1 apps in anywhere, then you’ll dive in with your Round 2 app development sooner rather than later. (Like, now would be good.)
Or if you walk away from your 12-noon Eastern time appointment with your inbox tomorrow without an invite from Harvard, that you’ll understand that it’s competitive, especially this year, and lots of great applicants are in exactly your empty-handed shoes. (Without going all sour-grapes and making a bunch of lame-o excuses.) If that happens, don’t let it get ya down. This Harvard business is crazy these days.