Experimental feature

Listen to this article

Experimental feature

Harvard Business School has simplified the application process to its coveted MBA programme for the second consecutive year. In particular, applicants will have to write only one essay and supply references from just two referees - in previous years three references have been required.

In her admissions blog, Dee Leopold, admissions director at HBS, repeats her message of last year, that applying to business school is “not an essay-writing contest”, while revealing that the number of essays needed is down from two in 2012 to just one this year. And that question is open-ended in terms of both content and length, effectively doing away with the traditional essay-writing format.

The question reads: “You’re applying to Harvard Business School. We can see your resume, school transcripts, extracurricular activities, awards, post-MBA career goals, test scores and what your recommenders have to say about you. What else would you like us to know as we consider your candidacy?”

Some candidates might choose to write nothing at all, says Ms Leopold.

The reduction in the number of required references is intended to open up applications to those from less traditional backgrounds, says Ms Leopold. While those in banking or consultancy, where an MBA is a recognised stepping stone to a better job, have few problems in securing three references, other candidates may be loathe to ask for a reference from a current employer, she points out. “Many organisations out there may not want to lose people.”

Of those that apply to Harvard this year for the Class of 2016, 1,800 will be invited for interview, with 1,100 of those admitted. From that number some 930 are expected to matriculate.

The interview itself is not the final stage of the interview, however. As with last year, the interviewees will have to submit a post-interview reflection, giving “an opportunity for candidates to have the last word”, as Ms Leopold puts it. “We want to have a process that is both rigorous and friendly.”

For those would-be Harvard MBAs who want to submit their applications in the first round, September 16 has been set as the application deadline this year.

Harvard is just one of the top business schools that is overhauling the application process. Some, such as the Wharton school at the University of Pennsylvania, introduced group interviews last year, while others allow candidates to submit videos or other interactive applications.


Get alerts on Business school when a new story is published

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2019. All rights reserved.
Reuse this content (opens in new window)

Follow the topics in this article