This post has been marked as OLD. EssaySnark's advice and strategies for winning MBA applications don't change from year to year, but some of the school-specific admissions policies, essay questions, or other information covered in this article may be outdated.
The HBS 2012-’13 application is out (wow that was fast – vacation over! thanks oh-so-patient and forgiving BSer who tipped us off that Dee’s post was up already). We’re celebrating — if you can call it that — with the release of a new SnarkStrategies Guide.
No, we didn’t turn around a new Harvard essay guide overnight (updated: though we did turn one around plenty fast!). This one’s been in the works for awhile. This one is for all of you who’ve been coming around to Snarkville for much longer than you planned.
This is the Reapplicant’s Guide.
(Yes that’s a bulldog on the cover — there’s an even cuter one on the back — in honor of all you bulldogs out there who aren’t about to let a silly lil rejection get the best of you.)
Hopefully by the time you read this, it’ll be live in The EssaySnark Bookstore and on Amazon for the Kindle but if not yet, then soon.
If you’re a reapplicant, this new guide should help you out. However, it’s not the ‘Snark’s way to force you to buy something. If you’re facing the prospect of trying again in the application season that’s just been thrust upon us, here’s some thoughts to get you thinking about this here situation you have found yourself in.
We’ve said before that if you didn’t make it in, it was either because your profile wasn’t strong enough, or your pitch wasn’t compelling.
Now that you know that, what do you do?
- If your GMAT is < 680 or if your quant score is < 46, you should retest if you’re aiming for a Top 20 school.
- If your GMAT is between 680-700, you should retest if you want to reapply at the same school. If notching down your expectations to a lower-ranked school, maybe you’re fine.
- If your GMAT is 700-720 and especially if you’re Indian, you might consider retesting if you think you can get to the 750 level. If not, it’s probably not worth it.
- If you’ve already tested three times, be conservative in the decision to try again. As a reapplicant and only a reapplicant, you can go for it one more time; if you’re trying at additional schools (which you probably should be) then just be careful about how frequently you tested in how short a timespan.
- If your score is < 700 and you absolutely without a doubt will not can not shall not test again, then you may have trouble if reapplying to the same school again
If the problem was with your essays, then it’s one of two things:
1. Poor writing
2. Poor content
In all cases, if you were rejected this season, you should be actively seeking out ways to improve your profile through contributions at work and/or in the community, creating success stories in your life for where you’ve had an impact and brought good things to other people.
Actually, if you’re just now considering your very first applications to bschool, then that should be your focus as well.
If you had good examples of achievement in your essays this past season, then the adcom might have been able to overlook some shoddy writing. (Unless you reused an essay and didn’t change the name of the school — if you exhibited that type of sloppiness, some schools will reject out of hand. Ditto if you had more than a handful of typos.) You don’t have to be a Hemingway to get into bschool; this is an MBA you’re going for, right?, not an MFA*. So that sort of distills it down to poor content.
Which means, you failed to impress the adcom.
Which takes us back up to the advice above: You should be spending time now in creating a plan for how you will improve yourself in the next few months. You need to have tangible evidence that you’re a stronger candidate today.
Where can you make an impact in your job, in the world around you?
Go do that.
Basically we just summarized the entirety of that 50-page book we wrote, here in one 650-word post.
Apparently we’re wordy. It’s a good thing we don’t have to write two 400-word essays anytime soon…
*Master of Fine Arts, e.g., for creative writing
Here's what others have said about this:
Hi Essaysnark, like everyone else in MBA world I am trying to read the tea leaves concerning the new HBS essays. I read them yesterday and then woke up at in the middle of the night with the thought: "Oh my, the knocked off the "Why do you want an MBA?" question." In the morning light my best guess is that they already know why we want an MBA and are tired of reading the same 5 essays about it over and over. Do you have any quick thoughts you could share with us? Thanks!
@bulaohu it's too early to be losing sleep over essays yet!!! Give it time. 🙂
HBS has never been that fixated on goals. In fact, last year was the exception that they had a required question about goals; in prior years, it was included as a choice in a "pick one of these" question list. So it was mostly optional for them. The main reasons for this are: 1) HBS calls theirs a transformative experience – they believe that the process of getting the MBA will change you so much, that anything you think today re: your future goals is near-irrelevant; and 2) they know everybody just makes sh*t up for that question anyway. (We had already covered this in last season's Harvard essay guide and don't you worry, we will be tackling an update to that on an ASAP basis.)
Thanks also for your kind comments the other day – noted and appreciated!
Hello essaysnark. Where do you place indian engineers/white finance guys who have a 740. We know 720 is too less and 750 is the lower cut off for a 'great' gmat score. Do u recommend a retake for someone with 740? (i know i sound like a douche but you must be familiar with this kinda desperation)
@Emporer – 740 is a nice healthy score. That's considered a "high GMAT" in EssaySnark's mind. If you're at 740 already, you're not gaining much (probably nothing) from retesting now. See https://essaysnark.blogspot.com/2011/09/what-is-low-gmat-or-are-you-effing.html The ONLY reason that things could possibly be the tiniest bit different right now is because of the IR section – but even that is not going to factor in much this admissions season. Or if you got a 4 on the AWA or something… But probably you should just focus on other stuff. The 740 proves what it needs to prove.
@Snark — like Emperor, I'm in a bit of a predicament in re my GMAT results. I took the test a few weeks ago without too much preparation and got a 730. While that might sound almost impressive, my breakdown was very skewed towards the verbal side — 42Q (60%) and 48V (99%). Would you recommend a retake in my case? I'm definitely a non-traditional applicant, and it seems like my only chance at a real school depends on a high GMAT, one which might somehow convince the adcoms to give my folder an actual read (dropped out of H undergrad to enlist in the Marine Corps, later finished up at one of the academies). I'm scheduled to take it again on June 1st. Does my engineering degree mean that they might overlook/excuse my poor quant score? Any thoughts?