If you are thinking of pursuing a Masters in Business Administration (MBA), you have most likely heard of Harvard Business School. For most MBA aspirants, Harvard Business School (HBS) is a dream business school, and rightfully so.
Since a Harvard MBA is so renowned, you need to put in a lot of time and effort towards the application. The application procedure is somewhat similar to that of other MBA colleges. However, the admissions committee at Harvard has certain expectations that you need to fulfill to get accepted. Harvard is very selective about who gains admission to the school; last year, the school rejected over 90% of its MBA program's applications.
If you are someone who has the right skills and wants to get into HBS but is intimidated by the application procedure, you are in the right place. This guide will help you understand everything you need to know about how to get into Harvard Business School.
About Harvard Business School
Harvard Business School’s mission is to “educate leaders who make a difference in the world.” To achieve this mission, HBS is committed to lifelong learning and strives to create an environment of mutual trust and respect. HBS aims to be a living model of these values.
Harvard Business School is famous throughout the globe and is located at Harvard University in Boston. It was founded in 1908 and still ranks among the top business schools in the world. Though the rankings may vary each year, HBS consistently ranks among the top five graduate business programs each year.
Harvard admits nearly 750 students into its MBA program each year. HBS also offers other programs such as doctoral and executive education programs. Some of these programs collaborate with other institutions like Harvard Medical School or Harvard Law School.
What is Harvard Business School Known for?
Everyone has heard about HBS and wants to get into it, but what is Harvard Business School known for exactly?
Harvard Business School is the largest (the campus has 34 buildings, five on-campus residence halls, and five Executive Education buildings) and the oldest (founded in 1908) MBA school in the world.
Getting into Harvard means you have officially enrolled in the Ivy League tradition. Being a Harvard graduate becomes a part of your identity and is an impressive achievement.
HBS pays keen attention to leadership as it is a core part of its curriculum. HBS looks for leadership, both in the educational experience as well as in the application process. Being a leader means being able to make decisions with whatever information you have. Once you graduate from HBS, you will have all the leadership qualities needed to thrive in any workplace.
Case Study Method
HBS uses a 100% case study method to teach students, which it introduced in 1925. Case studies are written from the viewpoints of real people who lead companies.
You need to read, analyze, and discuss cases in each class and share your thoughts. All members contributing to the class discussion come from diverse backgrounds, which gives you a chance to learn so much more and develop communication, analytical, and listening skills.
One Program, One Degree
Harvard Business School, believes that to receive an actual HBS experience, you need to do a two-year full-time MBA program; HBS does not believe in part-time, online, or one-year MBA programs.
A typical day at HBS begins with the professors calling on random students in the class, introducing them to a case, and asking them several questions about it. Once a case has been presented, the classroom is all about discussion.
Students from diverse backgrounds participate in the discussion by sharing their thoughts. The professor then gives their overall ideas on the discussion. So if you are in HBS, do not expect any lectures from your professor - HBS is all about student participation.
A Lifelong Experience
As a student, you will be exposed to more than 500 cases over the two-year program. These cases will help you gain essential perspectives about situations you are bound to face in real life. This will help you achieve a lifetime of experience.
It doesn’t matter if you are looking for a two-year MBA program or a multi-week leadership program; Harvard Business School has got you covered. There are numerous kinds of programs offered at HBS, and you can choose whatever program suits you based on your needs and goals.
Every program has a rigorous academic curriculum and numerous practical workshops to help you face business challenges in the workplace. Some of the programs offered at HBS are:
Two-year, full-time residential program that focuses on practical learning.
Designed for experienced executives to expand their overall perspective and become better leaders.
Led by an award-winning Faculty, the Online program is designed to help you understand essential business concepts better.
For those interested in completing a Ph.D. or DBA degree in academic research.
Level of Competition
Getting into HBS is difficult, and the competition intensifies each year.
Harvard Business School aims to accept many students from diverse nationalities, interests, backgrounds, and ambitions. The very foundation of the HBS experience is diversity, and the learning models of HBS are based on the different perspectives that students bring to their classes.
Diversity helps the entire HBS community to grow as HBS’s mission to educate leaders who will make a difference in the world is better fulfilled when there is a dynamic learning environment.
A group of business schools has come together and developed specific common standards for reporting admissions statistics. HBS follows these standards, and the class profile of HBS changes every year, aiming to include:
Instead of including only permanent residents, HBS aims to welcome international students without a U.S passport or residency.
HBS aims to include U.S minorities as a part of the domestic students and permanent residents.
The class size depends on various factors; however, over the past few years, HBS's typical class size is approximately 900.
HBS aims to share the race and ethnicity of all domestic students. The sharing will be done in two ways; through federal reporting guidelines and multi-dimensional reporting guidelines.
Now that you have understood what it is like to be a Harvard Business School student, it is essential to understand the course requirements and how to apply to HBS.
You should start your research at least one year before you plan to apply. It's a good idea to try to apply in the first or second round, where your chances of admission are the highest. Do external as well as internal research. When you begin your research, be prepared, as it can be very overwhelming.
For external research, go through the Harvard Business School’s website. Research the various programs and courses that they offer. Try to learn more about the campus and culture. Go through the class profile and learn more about the school.
LinkedIn research is also helpful. Try to get in touch with people who have been through the admission process before and experienced what it is like to attend HBS; alumni can provide you valuable advice and inspire you.
Once you have completed your external research, focus on internal research. You can do this through introspection; Read books and articles like “How will you measure your life” by Clayton M. Christensen.
Christensen teaches MBA aspirants and students how to use management and innovation theories to set up more prominent companies. He also tells how to lead better lives, be happy in your career, and live your life with happiness and integrity.
Think about what you want to do and what your ultimate goals in life are. Remember, it is essential to introspect each day, even if it is just for a few minutes.
Clear The Bar
There are specific standards you need to meet to gain admission into Harvard Business School.
You need to ace your GMAT or GRE to be able to apply to HBS. The median score of accepted students is 730. The higher the score, the better chances of getting accepted. If you score below a 700, you should consider retaking the test if you have sufficient time before the application deadline.
Ideally, you should spend at least three to four months to prepare for the GMAT. According to Tim Chaves, a HBS graduate, you should aim to score 20+ more than the median, so try to achieve a 750 for the best chances of admission into HBS.
Once you have completed your GMAT, you need to focus on your work experience. Most accepted students at HBS have four years of post-college work experience. You don't necessarily need to be working for big companies. All you need is to be able to illustrate everything valuable you’ve learned throughout your work experience.
You need to have strong grades in college to get into Harvard. Harvard looks into your college grades while reviewing your application, but don't worry if you don't have a 4.0. GPA as HBS will take your major and the school’s difficulty into consideration. Make sure to perform well consistently throughout college.
You need some leadership skills and experience to get into HBS. Harvard pays keen attention to this skill. You can gather leadership experience from anywhere but make sure you can prove that you can make a difference in the world. Make sure that your experience involves improving other people’s positions and not just yours.
Letters of Recommendation
Lastly, you need to have strong letters of recommendation. Be mindful of who you choose to recommend you; your recommender has to rank you on various aspects of your work and character. If you plan to apply after a few years of working, concentrate on giving your best at work. Doing so will ensure that you have a better letter of recommendation down the line.
Work on Application Gaps
In your application to Harvard Business School, various areas of the application may not be under your control, such as your company’s reputation or your GPA. However, many things are under your control, like- the interview, essays, GMAT score, and recommendation letters; try to do well in all of these areas.
How to apply?
Applying to Harvard Business School consists of three steps:
The first step towards getting into Harvard Business School is to submit a written application. You'll need to submit your resume, transcripts, and GMAT/GRE score. If you're an international applicant, you may also have to submit a TOEFL/IELTS/PTE score. You'll also need to accept the policies and pay the $250 application fee to submit your application.
Once you submit your application, the admissions committee reviews each area of your application carefully. If the admissions committee finds everything suitable, you may be invited for an interview. If you are lucky enough to get an interview, you should know that you are already ahead of most applicants.
Once you have completed your interview, you need to submit a written reflection of the discussion within 24 hours of your interview. You have to submit this reflection on the online application system.
Top Tips on How to Get Into Harvard Business School
Getting into Harvard Business School can be very overwhelming. The admissions committee at HBS carefully evaluates each applicant before accepting them. Here are a few tips on how to get into Harvard Business School:
1. Begin your research early.
You should try to find your true calling in life as soon as possible. Getting into HBS could be your lifelong dream. In this case, you should select your undergraduate subjects widely. Try to understand what topics you like and want to pursue. Aim to score well in these. If you have already graduated, it is still never too late.
You can start learning about HBS by networking with current students, connecting with alumni, and attending admissions events. It’s never too early to start your research into HBS. Although it depends on your time and availability, starting your research one year before you apply is a generally a good idea.
2. Focus on acing the GMAT/GRE.
HBS is looking for applicants that are able to handle the rigors of business school. While HBS doesn't set a minimum required GMAT or GRE score, you should aim for a competitive score, ideally, within or above the class average scores. This is especially valuable if your GPA is on the lower side.
3. Write an outstanding personal statement.
You may have all the essential qualities needed to get into HBS, but it will be useless unless you can show Harvard that you are a perfect fit. Write a clear and concise personal statement that will help you stand out. Tell the admissions committee about yourself, your passions, and your work experiences.
The admission committee loves to accept students who are passionate and are willing to give back to society. You should aim to let the admissions committee know how you can contribute to the world through your knowledge, potential, and leadership skills.
In addition, your HBS essay shouldn't just be an expansion of your resume. Admissions committees will want to know the 'why' behind the 'what so it's essential to communicate both what you want to achieve and why from your career and business school experience.
4. Have valuable work experience.
You should try to collect at least three to four years of work experience before applying to HBS. Though there is a four-year program at Harvard that allows undergraduate students to get admitted and then work for two years to gain some work experience, you should try to acquire at least three years of work experience before applying to HBS.
If you have work knowledge, it will create an excellent impression to the faculty and help you solve the cases presented to you better; you will be able to apply your knowledge and actively participate in the class discussions.
Before applying to HBS, aim to build a strong skill set. HBS is looking for strong leadership skills and an analytical aptitude. HBS welcomes students who can master quantitative concepts and engage in the community by showing respect for others.
You can go for internships that will help to improve your skillset. If you feel that you don't have the required skills, it may just be a matter at looking at your experiences differently. There are likely other aspects of your experiences that can be highlighted in these instances.
5. Be unique.
While applying to Harvard Business School, assure the admissions committee that you can bring something unique to the table. As discussed earlier, HBS uses the case study method to teach students. The case study method allows each student to bring forth their unique thoughts.
If all the students have the same ideas, the case study method will not be helpful. This is why you need to have a unique voice. Highlight your unique voice in your application and let the admissions committee know how it could be valuable to the classroom.
1. Is there a minimum age to get to HBS?
No, there is no age restriction to apply to HBS. There are various programs available for you to choose from depending on your goals and preferences.
2. Is the GMAT/GRE compulsory to get to HBS?
Yes, you need to take either the GMAT or GRE to get into HBS.
3. Do I need to take an English proficiency exam to get into HBS?
Yes, you might have to take an English proficiency exam, such as TOEFL or IELTS, unless your native language is English. You can also be waived from the exam if you can submit a transcript showing you graduated from an English medium college/university.
4. What is the application fee for HBS?
The application fee is $250, which has to be paid via credit card.
5. Can I submit a hard copy of my application?
No, you cannot submit a hard copy of your application. You need to use the online application tool to submit your application.
6. Can I re-apply to the MBA program?
Yes, you will need to file a new application, submit the fees and get at least one new letter of recommendation from someone who hasn’t written one for you already.
7. What is the deadline to apply?
Deadlines vary each year so be sure to regularly check the HBS website to see the deadlines for your course. The Round 1 deadline is usually in mid-September and the Round 2 deadline is normally at the beginning of January. The deadline is 11:59 pm on the date mentioned.
Getting into Harvard Business School can be daunting since it is one of the world’s top business schools. There is no one sure-shot way to get into HBS, but give yourself the best possible chance by following the strategies outlined above.
Start your research early, and make sure to set aside ample time to fill out and review your application thoroughly. Try your best to prove to the admissions committee how you’d be an excellent fit for the HBS, and you will not have to worry about how to get into Harvard Business School.
About Inspira Futures
At Inspira Futures, our sole focus is to get you accepted at your dream business school. Our team of experts consists of former admission committee members and alums from Harvard Business School, Stanford GSB, and other M7 schools. Our goal is to help you write great essays, ace interviews, and win scholarships. Without any stress or hassle. Our clients have gone on to secure admits at the world's top business schools while also being winners of some of the most prestigious scholarships like Stanford Knight Hennessy, HBS Baker Scholars, and many others.