This was originally posted on the blahg in December 2016 — but we figured it was worth reblahgging for all you planning on trying for HBS in Round 2 this year… We heard a former Ivy League undergrad admissions person say it point blank: Too-long essays are chucked without being read. As in, they…
In spite of all our implicit and explicit HBS bashing lately, we should probably do a specific post on “What to do if you’re completely lost on the HBS essay” — since we know lots of you BSers are aiming to try for Harvard anywayz! 🙂
It’s not like some silly ol’ ‘Snark is gonna deter you wide-eyed whippersnappers from the school o’ your dreams!!!
How do you deal with that essay that they’ve got?
We heard from a BSer recently that he stumbled upon the ‘Snark through a google search that was phrased somehow like that, so let’s see if we can offer some starting points and ways to break into the analysis process for dealing with the Harvard MBA question this year.
Just in case you’re in the 0.0001% of BSer who’s never peeked at it before, the Harvard Business School MBA essay asks:
Shameless plug: We do a much better job of laying out strategies and considerations in our Harvard essay guide!!!
But in an effort to be helpful, beyond what we’ve already covered on our dedicated Harvard MBA application info page, we’ll offer this snapshot of snarky advice to help you get a handle on your approach:
1. Start by doing another school’s essays.
Please don’t cut your teeth on your MBA application process with Harvard Business School. It’s one of the hardest essays of all. You will not be making your job easy if you do it that way. Get through at least the third full draft of some other school first. Then turn your attention to Harvard.
2. Start Harvard’s essay by filling out the actual HBS application.
You don’t know what else you need to convey to the adcom if you don’t know what else you’ve conveyed. Go through that puppy and study it. Fill out what you can, and make a list of the items you know you need to spend more time on. Those are typically in the Employment, Intended Post-MBA, Extracurriculars and Awards sections.
3. Start making lists.
You will likely cycle through dozens of ideas on what to write about before you come up with a solid plan — and that’s OK! That’s to be expected!! Start a running list, and keep adding to it. You’ll think of a new idea at random as you go through your day. Don’t judge or critique the ideas; just write them down. Once you have assembled a selection of possibilities, then you can start to examine them.
As you can see, the main message is GET STARTED!! Hopefully that helps you to do so!! The HBS essay is about thinking through who you are, and what makes you unique, and shows you are accomplished, and lets you demonstrate that you will bring a unique perspective to the case method experience of your fellow students at Harvard Business School.
Simple? Sure. Easy? Not at all!!!
Pick up the SnarkStrategies MBA guide for HBS!
We’re also still accepting new clients for Round 2 – get that all-important Harvard essay decimated to make sure you are impressing the Admissions Board and not coming across the same way that dozens and dozens of other applicants will do!
Sure, if you want to pursue the most expensive way in the world to start a business. EssaySnark is just not a fan of using the MBA to launch a company. And we really don’t think Harvard is the best place to learn entrepreneurship specifically. They were fairly late to jump on the entrepreneurship bandwagon…
It’s because Harvard is stupid.
There is no way that your Harvard education is that much better than what you will get at Tuck or at Duke or, heck, at Cornell.
Rankings mess with your head.
From the description of a book, aptly named Engines of Anxiety , that studied the effect of US News rankings on the law school market:
The authors find that prospective law students not only rely heavily on such rankings to evaluate school quality, but also internalize rankings as expressions of their own abilities and flaws. For example, they often view rejections from “first-tier” schools as a sign of personal failure.
What you get with Harvard (bschool, law school, any school) is ACCESS.
You get to go play with the rich boys and girls for a few years. You get “the network” so that when you try that little startup idea you have (before it crashes and burns) you can hit up these alumni with money to see if they’ll fund your starry-eyed dreams.
Is that worth it?
Hell yeah, if you’re going to use it.
But please do not fool yourself.
Harvard is not ‘better.’ It’s just what this system of class and money has designed to fool you, to continue with the illusion that class and money matter.
Exhibit A: Harvard Fellowships Have Always Been A Joke
Mostly what you get with Harvard is the smug satisfaction of the rubber stamp of Society Approval.
Sure, you have to be smart to get in.
Sure, you have to work hard.
But the Harvard kids are not smartER. They did not work hardER. They are just like everybody else — or, frequently, they’re members of the Lucky Sperm Club where they landed in a family of Harvard grads, so they’re what’s called a ‘legacy applicant’ and definitely in undergrad admissions, Harvard College loves those kids. For the class of incoming freshman that just got on campus this summer, one-third are legacy .
It’s like buying a Rolex or a Gucci handbag or a Ferrari.
A brand like that will deliver some attention to detail and refinement in the product. It’s going to be made with better materials and care of construction than what you find at your local Macy’s or the Kia dealership.
But a Rolex is just a watch.
Wearing a Rolex is a symbol to the world that you can spend that much money on a bauble on your wrist that tells you the time.
Everyone else is just looking at their phone. You get to shoot your cuff and show off this glint of luxury.
That’s all that Harvard is going to do for you.
(And the value only goes so far. If Harvard Business School were so great, why are its tweets so lame? We are convinced that they’ve got an undergrad student writing them — no offense to Harvard undergrads. But c’mon people.)
Please don’t be confused by what you are going to get.
Is there value to that prestige?
Sure. But the EDUCATION is what will change your life.
Not the association with wealthy elite.
So many people think getting in to Harvard will finally be validation. No, maybe they don’t CONSCIOUSLY think it, like, “If I go to Harvard then I’ll finally be worth something!” But it’s what’s driving the engine, under the hood.
But guess what? If you’re actually so insecure that you’re constantly seeking out external validation from The World, and you think going to Harvard will finally put all those internal voices of doubt and self-criticism to rest, no, that’s not what will happen. Instead, when you get on the campus at Harvard, you will be surrounded by a more extreme concentration of People Who You Think Are Better Than You than you’ve ever experienced in your life. You will see all these other AMAZING students who have done more impressive things (who have way more money than you) who have traveled the world, who already have a Rolex and not a Gucci bag but a Birkin. You think that’ll make you feel better?
We’re not saying not to apply to Harvard. That would be silly. We’re saying that you may want to look at your reasons for why you’re so enamored of the BRAND.
Because that’s all it is.
It is a BRAND.
A school is different than a consumer product, because a school is an experience and a community and oh yeah, an education. But very few people are focusing on applying to Harvard because of any of that. They may not be consciously thinking, “I want to go to Harvard for the prestige” but really, that’s what’s driving our social-construct personalities so much of the time.
Unless what’s really fueling your interest in Harvard is so that your unborn children will get to go to Harvard. Then by all means. Apply to Harvard.
We hope you get in!
You may also be interested in:
- The schools being ranked think that rankings are stupid.
- MBA Application Mistake #1: Not Researching Schools (and why we balk at the M7 thing)
- Why we react so negatively to someone focusing on brand or prestige (kinda the same thing we’ve said in today’s post, just 3 years earlier)
- An MBA is what you make of it
We got a question posed on the blahg that we coulda sworn we’d answered directly here at some point, but a search turned up nothing. We’re going to repost this because we know that not everyone reads the ‘snarchive and even when they do, they don’t always look at the comments. Here’s what we were…
Earlier this summer, we started talking about applying for an MBA along with another graduate degree and we said we had a few things more to offer, so here they are. In no particular order, points to consider as you’re thinking about program strategy: New programs typically do not get that much interest, so app…
Today is U-M Day.
If you applied to Harvard in Round 1 and you didn’t already luck out* this week, then you’ll be nervously checking your email at 12noon Eastern time. If you’re in Europe, you probably didn’t get much work done so far today. If you’re on the West Coast, you at least have the advantage of not having been conscious for too long so far this morning. Marginally less stress, based simply on the fewer pre-announcement hours you’ve had to get worked up in a tizzy. It’s still stressful waiting till 9am, but not as stressful as for those who’re in a spot on the planet where they’ve had all day to think about this.
For most people, the nerves will lead to disappointment. It’s just how the cookie crumbles. There’s only so many spots available – only so many interview invites to be had – and most people stalking their inboxes today will be disappointed.
For them, today will be b-U-M-m-e-r day.
For a slim number of others, who will get the coveted invite, today will be – after a huge sigh of relief – s-M-U-g day. Anyone who ends up accepted to HBS – or even just invited to interview – almost without fail has an sense of self-satisfaction about them. We see it all the time. Yup, it’s unappealing. We share the elation when we see someone move to the next stage; it’s surely exciting. Never want to dampen those spirits. Undoubtedly though, when we interact with them – OK, many, not all, it’s not a universal reaction – but oftentimes, the BSer has an inner attitude, that you can tell they’re trying not to let show, that says “Of course I was invited! I’m all that! It’s me we’re talking about and I am hot sh!t – how could they not invite me?” The preening begins. The rooster comes out. They can’t help it.
Bummed or smug. That’s how this puppy plays out.
There’s yet another category: The BSers who will be left hanging – or, still in the game, depending on your perspective. There’ll be a chunk of applicants who will be asked if they’re interested in the not-quite-a-waitlist Further Consideration category – and who ever says no to that?!?
In our experience, these FC people frequently are more bummed than those who get rejected outright. They for some reason often feel doomed. We have never seen a BSer interpret it as the glass-half-full situation it actually is; there’s no partying in the hallways with a waitlist invite. The limbo of not making it but still being under consideration is apparently a heavy weight to carry. There’s no closure. You don’t know what to do with this news. You are resigned to facing the likelihood of needing to do Round 2 apps after all – again, b-U-M-m-e-r – and even though you’re still in the running at HBS, it’s not like they have chosen you. You’re not celebrating. It’s complete uncertainty, and it usually comes riddled with self-doubt. “If only I’d done such-and-such differently…” The second-guessing begins. Depression slinks in. For these BSers, the news makes them g-l-U-M.
Funnily enough, anyone who’s been rejected would gladly trade that outcome for a spot on the waitlist. But many people waitlisted get all down and out about it.
See? U-M Day. For the moods of a BSer. Bummed or smug or glum.
Be prepared for it.
* As we’ve tried to make clear so often, getting an invite from HBS is really not a matter of luck. It’s about the strength of your application and how diversified you are as a candidate. We have gone into this in some detail in the long-ago past in case you’re curious.