Monday, April 09, 2007

HBS Essays Advice ....

I have been wanting to write this post for a while now. Writing the HBS essays was a very big learning experience for me. Not only did I struggle the most with this set of essays, but also I realized that there is bigger purpose behind these questions. HBS questions range from your undergraduate academic experience to your career vision in life to anything else that you can add. HBS was not my top favorite amongst all the b-schools. Maybe this attitude did get reflected in my essays, and therefore I am not surprised that I received a ding. Nonetheless, these excellent questions offer a good opprtunity to ponder about your life, and then communicate your reflections in a precise, yet persuasive way.

  1. What would you like the MBA Admissions Board to know about your undergraduate academic experience? (400-word limit)

At first, this question threw me off. My undergraduate academic experience - that happened like years ago. And what about it? What should I cover in this essay? Do not be alarmed. This question is really straightforward. What do you personally think about your undergraduate life? Think about all aspects and note them down - studies, course work, sports, activities, fun parties , embarassing situations, proud moments, publications, research work, whatever. Then think about one or two specific aspects that you feel strongly about with respect to the academics, where you have had a team impact or you have taken an initiative to solve a problem or even done something for your college community through academics. This is how you can highlight your leadership and other qualities in this essay. Do not force leadership into any example that you decide to choose, nor should you take a leadership example and force academics into it.

Q2) What are your three most substantial accomplishments and why do you view them as such? (600-word limit)

This is a classic HBS question, that has appeared in their question list for several years. While it is advised to follow the rule of picking up - (1) one work example (2) one personal example (3) one extra curricular or community example, this is no hard and fast rule to abide by. If an applicant has two work accomplishments that are noteworthy and something he/she is proud about, then wrote about those. You can then use other questions to discuss your community scenarios. The trick part about this question is its word length, 600 words for 3 accomplishments means 200 words per accomplishment, which translates into precise & terse writing. Also, don't forget the WHY part - this is important. HBS wants to know what you have learned through these episodes in your life, how has your leadership changed and how you have influenced other people around you.

Q3) In your career, you will have to deal with many ethical issues. What are likely to be the most challenging and what is your plan for developing the competencies you will need to handle these issues effectively? (400-word limit)

Generally, b-schools asks candidates to describe any ethical dilemma that they might have faced in the past, what they did to handle that dilemma, what they learnt and what they think about it now. This question is miles apart from that version. Not only does the question force the applicant to think in a futuristic tone, but also makes sure that candidate can describe his plan for developing competenices to handle ethical issues. One thing that I realized while working on this question is that, one is not required to compose a solution to the ethical issues that he/she might mention in the essay. The question is NOT about ethical issue solutions, it is ABT your awareness and understanding related to these things.

4) Discuss a defining experience in your leadership development. How did this experience highlight your strengths and weaknesses as a leader? (400-word limit)

This was my second favourite question. The word length portion of this essay is tricky, because there are 2 questions here. At the same time, it is important to provide context information for the essay. Also, choose an experience that shows growth in your thinking. HBS particularly mentions "defining experience" phrase in the question.

5) What is your career vision and why is this choice meaningful to you? (400-word limit)

This was my favorite question. I thought about this for a long time before beginning the MBA application process. Most schools ask about long and short term goals. But HBS is asking about your career vision. I would like to think about this as "vision for your life". What are the few things that you aspire to accomplish in your life? What kind of difference do you want to make? How do you see yourself changing the world? HBS may give you the support, but do you have it in you to make this change.

WOW ! Clear admit Best of blogging

I did not expect this, not even a bit. For the past one year I have used Clearadmit as one of my MBA research sources. Look at what I saw - my fellow bloggers and I have received nominations for Clearadmit best of blogging awards. Amazing! Three cheers to my friends in the blogging world - Juggler, Iday, Rungee ,... and a very big thanks to Clearadmit.