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HBS Application: 3 New Essays Announced For Incoming Harvard Candidates

Harvard Business School has replaced its open-ended essay question with three specific essay prompts 10 weeks before the first application deadline. Find out about the new HBS application essay

Thu Jun 27 2024

Harvard Business School announced a change to its application process for those applying to join the MBA Class of 2027. Instead of answering one open-ended question, candidates will respond to three specific essay prompts. 

This change at the M7 Business School was announced on June 25th, just 10 weeks before HBS’s first application deadline on September 4th, making it a two-month tighter time frame than applicants typically get to prepare their essays. 

The new managing director of admissions and financial aid Sudal Gadhia took to the Harvard Business School website to explain the change: 

“We have refreshed the criteria on which we evaluate candidates. We are looking for applicants who are business-minded, leadership-focused, and growth-oriented… This is your opportunity to discuss meaningful or formative experiences that are important to you that you haven’t had a chance to fully explore elsewhere in your application… Be authentic, be yourself.”

What to look out for with the new HBS application essays

The three new HBS application essay prompts—introduced for the class that will begin in fall 2025—ask applicants to address each in turn. The wording of each prompt is as follows: 

- Business-Minded Essay: Please reflect on how your experiences have influenced your career choices and aspirations and the impact you will have on the businesses, organizations, and communities you plan to serve. (up to 300 words)

- Leadership-Focused Essay: What experiences have shaped who you are, how you invest in others, and what kind of leader you want to become? (up to 250 words)

- Growth-Oriented Essay: Curiosity can be seen in many ways. Please share an example of how you have demonstrated curiosity and how that has influenced your growth. (up to 250 words)

These three prompts have been created to give candidates the opportunity to show off their journey with examples of how they developed and applied business and leadership skills, how they have grown, and their future ambitions.

While the essays ask candidates to give specific examples from their past, those experiences are not enough by themselves. Candidates should make clear how these past experiences have changed their business mindset in the present, how they will make them an asset at Harvard Business School, and the goals they are driving towards. 

How these prompts differ from the previous HBS application essay question

This year's prompts offer more guidance compared to the previous open-ended instruction used in the HBS application essay, which simply asked: “As we review your application, what more would you like us to know as we consider your candidacy for the Harvard Business School MBA program?”

This guidance might take some of the pressure off students considering the shorter time frame, as with these more detailed instructions they may find it easier to stay focused and on topic. 

Additionally, the shorter word limits are designed to help answers stay concise and clear. The "Business-Minded Essay" has a 300-word limit, while the essays focused on leadership and growth are capped at 250 words each.

Another key change is the specific inquiry about business. Last year's prompt allowed applicants to choose any topic they deemed important for HBS to consider. This often led to uncertainty about whether to emphasize business experience or personal life. The "Business-Minded Essay" still encourages a personal touch but specifically asks candidates to reflect on their own career.

This new structure may also make it easier for the admissions committee to compare essays across applications while still allowing for significant variation in how HBS aspirants address the prompts.