Despite the title of this post, we need to state unequivocally that there is no one “type” for Harvard Business School.
But at the same time, you could sort of say that there is.
There’s certainly a commonality. But “commonality” is an awkward and almost clumsy word. We couldn’t title the post “What is the Harvard commonality?” could we?
So we’re going to talk about the Harvard “type”—which doesn’t actually exist—but if it did, and we were to talk about it (a commonality by any other name still seems as daunting), well, what would it be?
It’s someone who’s driven for success.
People who get into bschool are those who have DONE SOMETHING.
The problem we often see with BSers who wander in from the cold is that they seem to have just woken up that Saturday and only now decided that they are “driven for success.” They get all hot to trot for Harvard and Stanford and Wharton and suddenly they start to think that they want to be the type of person who gets into one of those places.
But they’re sorta not there yet. There’s no real evidence in their past that they’ve been kicking ass and taking names.
You need to have a TRACK RECORD to catch the attention of the Harvard Admissions Board. Like, you need to ALREADY have that.
Before you read this and get depressed and throw out all hope of Harvard, it’s important to note that the HBS adcom will be evaluating you within the context of your own background.
Not everybody has the same opportunities, and definitely not everyone comes from the same privileges. The adcoms absolutely know that. They will not be comparing you to some ideal HBS student. (This is how we can say that there’s no “type.”) You don’t have to have a GMAT score of X and a GPA of Y in order to for them to even look at you. No. They will look at what your actual GMAT and GPA are and they will look at everything else you present. You do not have to have gone to Yale to make it in.
But check it out: Our recent HBS admissions case study, Jo Tango, Mr. VC of the Awesome Name, drops this little nugget at the bottom of his corporate bio:
Jo and his family emigrated from Indonesia with a few suitcases and $1,500.
That’s a nice little American Dream story right there. Pull you up by your bootstraps and all that jazz. Many bschool admissions boards would be interested in knowing this datapoint — it might even qualify as a full-fledged essay topic (depending). These days, it’s possibly a more common story to come across the desks of admissions officers than it was at the time Mr. Tango tried for the brass ring, way back when, but it’s still something relevant to serve up when you deliver information about your profile to the schools.
So the data we have now are:
- Kid emigrated to the US with family when young – with nothing.
- Kid got into Yale.
- Kid did awesome there.
With the combination of HBS and Yale that we see today, and examining it retroactively, we know that many people would be dismissive, or look at the causation wrong – “Harvard admitted him because he went to Yale.” Or “The reason he was accepted by Harvard was because he graduated from the Ivy League.” No and no. He got into HBS (at least in part) based on how he killed it at Yale.
This is one reason why the HBS Admissions Board doesn’t need to get a gazillion essays from you in order to make their decisions. EssaySnark can tell from simply studying a resume whether someone has a shot at HBS or not – yes, just from the resume. HBS relies heavily on the recommendations, too, and the essays do matter – but the essays are not the most important part. There is so much that can be interpreted about a person based on what she has done to this point in her life. It’s all right there on the page.
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Shameless plug: This means that the resume needs to be working hard for you – your current resume is almost guaranteed to not be as strong as it could be. Check out our Reworking the Resume App Accelerator for best practices and guidelines for making it shine. It won’t help you if major elements of awesome are missing from your background to date, but it’ll guide you through the process of optimizing the presentation of what awesome you do have.
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