Harvard mba essay

How To Tackle Harvard’s MBA Application Essay

Harvard Business School graduation for the Class of 2016

Last year was Chad Losee’s first as Harvard Business School’s (HBS’s) director of admissions, and he entered the position at the beginning of the 2016–2017 admissions cycle. Given this timing, whether he was the one behind the change in the program’s essay prompt last season or whether he was simply implementing changes that had been decided before his arrival is unclear.

Either way, Chad and his team must have been happy with HBS’s approach to its essay and application process, because the admissions committee is sticking with the program. HBS is posing the same essay question as last year and one that was first used by his predecessor, Dee Leopold, during the 2013–2014 admissions cycle, with only the slightest adjustment from “what else would you like us to know” to “what more”:

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? (no word limit)

You may be wondering how to tackle such a broad and open-ended prompt, so here are a few things to keep in mind as you start framing your thoughts and getting to work on your first draft.

Express Your Values: Before you start writing, consider for a moment what information the admissions committee already has about you via the other parts of your application. This includes your resume, GPA, GMAT score, recommendations, and some personal history provided in your responses to the short-answer questions. This information is either “black and white” or consists of someone else’s impression of you. This essay is your opportunity to add your own personal “color” and voice to your application. Your goal is not to show off your writing abilities, however, but to share your experiences so that they demonstrate who you are as a person, revealing what inspires and motivates you. In other words, this essay relies on your experience as a vehicle to communicate your values. If you simply lump a variety of anecdotes together and try to foist a theme upon your admissions reader, you will miss the mark. But if you are truly thoughtful about who you are as a person and can speak to a sincere thread that runs through your experiences (or can be powerfully exemplified by a single experience) and that motivates or excites you, you should be on the right track.

Stay Away from “Type”: The enemy of sincerity is “type.” If you believe the admissions committee wants something particular from you or for you to be a specific kind of individual and you strive to portray yourself that way in your essay, you will very likely fail this exercise. If, for example, you write explicitly about “leadership” or offer a number of unsubtle hints that you would master the case method, the admissions committee will recognize the pandering and will be neither fooled nor impressed. The HBS environment is diverse—the admissions committee is not interested in selecting 900-plus individuals who will all bring the same qualities to campus and make identical contributions. So relinquish your belief that HBS is looking for certain themes or profiles in this essay, because it is not. The admissions committee wants to learn about you as an individual—whoever you may be—so return to point one and think about your values.

Recognize This Is Not a Career Goals Essay: For the vast (and we do mean vast!) majority of applicants, this essay is not the place to discuss career goals. If you work in private equity and plan to return to private equity after graduating, this would not be a worthwhile topic for your essay, largely because it would not provide any novel information to better illuminate who you are as an individual. However, if your goals are part of a journey that clearly relates to or expresses your values or if they elucidate an otherwise unclear connection between your past and your business school aspirations, then you might be an exception. For example, a medic at a bush hospital in Uganda who dreams of commercializing low-cost technologies to fight infectious diseases would likely be well served discussing his journey to HBS via this essay. Doing so would clarify this candidate’s path and reveal something critical—something “more”—that the committee could use in evaluating the applicant’s candidacy.

Avoid Writing Your Biography: Although we see absolutely nothing wrong with taking a biographical approach to this essay, this essay cannot be a biography! This means you can discuss your family history and how it has influenced you and shaped your values, but you simply do not have enough space to discuss your entire personal history, and more importantly, it is not relevant. If some interesting and clearly significant inflection points in your life have shaped who you are today, these could make good essay fodder, but you must focus on conveying the why and how of their profound impact on you and filter out everything else in between. The admissions committee wants to learn “more” about you—not everything.

Do Not Rehash Your Resume: Just because HBS is a business school, you do not need to offer a detailed discussion of your professional experience to date. In fact, many successful applicants will not discuss their past career at all. That said, the topic is not entirely off-limits. If you feel that detailing some aspect of your professional life is the ideal way to offer more about you and your values, then you can explore this approach more deeply. On the other hand, we would not recommend simply describing a work accomplishment with no connection to a central theme or purpose. Your resume or recommendations should do the trick as far as informing the admissions committee about a core professional achievement, but if a particular element of or achievement in your professional life truly strikes at the heart of who you are as a person, this could be a fitting topic for your essay. Just make sure that at its core, the story you share serves as a manifestation of who you are, rather than what you have done.

Consider Word Count: HBS offers no word count guidance for this essay, so we will. In the past few years, ever since the school first eliminated its word count limitation, we have advised many successful applicants who submitted essays in the 750- to 1,250-word range. Although we acknowledge that some candidates who exceeded that top limit were accepted into the HBS program, we feel confident that this is a comfortable and appropriate range, whereby you should be able to fully share your thoughts without demanding an inordinate amount of the admissions reader’s time. Be aware that if you submit 2,500 words, you are asking a very busy person to dedicate more time to your essay than to others, so you need to be confident that in the end, he or she would feel that this was time well spent. Again, we recommend 750–1,250 words as your target. Focus first on writing an essay that showcases your personality and experiences, and if it ultimately exceeds that range, do what is necessary to reduce your verbiage without sacrificing effectiveness.

Make Sure You Are Offering More: In its prompt, HBS very specifically asks for more information about you, so by the time you are finessing your final draft, you will hopefully be able to conclusively determine whether you are truly providing the admissions committee with additional useful information. Applicants tend to write, revise, and revise again until they ultimately lose the forest for the trees. Before you press “submit,” step away from your essay for a while so you can return to it later with fresh eyes and evaluate it more objectively. You could also share it with someone who knows you well and ask that person whether it truly illuminates your personality and experience. More is critical, but more of the same is a recipe for disaster!

Jeremy Shinewald of mbaMission

Jeremy Shinewald is founder and President of mbaMission, a leading MBA admissions consulting firm. You can read more about Shinewald and his firm in our MBA admissions consulting directory.

Harvard mba essay

In the last four years I have progressed, with great effort, in two areas: the business-managerial area and the political area. In both fields I have accomplished, considering my age, significant achievements. In the business area, I served as Vice President in a private company owned by my family. In the political area, I worked in a few positions in my municipality, and as an assistant to the Deputy Minister of Defense. My aim was to acquire diverse experiences and knowledge, and this aim was achieved.

A year ago, I reached the conclusion that it was time to decide if in the near future (in 10-20 years), I wanted to attain a career in business management or a career in politics. I reached a point where without setting a general goal, I could not progress to other decisions (my next job, my masters degree field etc.).

To resolve this conflict, my first step was to decide to make my decision by the deadline I set (June 2000). I realized that my years of experience in both areas were a part of a learning and searching process that granted me the necessary instruments to make this decision. My conflict was very sharp, because I knew that any decision I would make would mean giving up one area of activity and one career aspiration — political or managerial. Moreover, much data concerning the future was naturally missing and my decision had to be rather arbitrary – a very difficult situation for a strictly rational person. Nonetheless, I knew that having numerous options could be a dangerous situation. Not concentrating on one career option, out of fear of missing the others, might leave a person behind in all areas, and this contradicted my ambition.

Eventually, about half a year ago, I decided to steer my future to a business management career. I feel that in this area I will be able to express my talents effectively and to bring a significant contribution to society. I believe that turning to a political career in the far future, after a successful managerial career, is an adequate and natural option.

From the moment I decided, I have not looked back or hesitated. I started to focus on how to implement my decision. Consequently, a few days later I sent a Request For Application Material to Harvard Business School.

I learned a lot about myself in the decision process I went through. I underwent an important and healthy process of developing, focusing, and maturing. I devoted numerous hours to contemplating basic questions – What do I like to do? What am I good at? What role should I play in the community that surrounds me? I solidified my perspectives and came out stable, strengthened, and determined.

My long-run objective is to achieve a senior managerial position in a large multinational corporation that markets, or preferably manufactures, commodities. One of my highest aspirations is to be one of those who establishes, or significantly advances, such a corporation. Therefore, I intend to develop within the scope of one firm. I believe that on my way to achieve my goal I will express my talents and interests and contribute to society’s prosperity.

Short Run Objectives

Looking ten years back, I view my interdisciplinary experience in business management, army service, political and public positions, and traveling as a part of the solid background that can generate a successful senior manager in a multinational commodities corporation. To complete my preparation process, my short-run objectives are:

a. First – to acquire quality general academic education in business administration while also mastering the English language.

b. Second – to develop within the scope of one firm.

HBS – a Measure and a Target In Itself

I wish to say, sincerely, that in my opinion HBS will fulfill my first short-run objective optimally. HBS has the qualities that best fit my expectations, objective, and background. The more I hear and read about HBS – the more I feel I belong there; it is considered the best school in the world for developing general management skills and acquiring management tools in the marketing and consumption areas. Graduates gain excellent placement services and leading positions. HBS has no competitors in academic level and in world-wide fame (I learned that from talking to people in China, Eastern Europe, and Arab countries).

In conclusion, I believe that studying at HBS will be a great experience. Moreover, it will provide the optimal accomplishment for my first short-term objective, as well as a significant advancement towards achieving my long-term goal.

On the other hand, I don’t particularly enjoy conflicts between team members fought on a personal level and the resulting need for arbitration. When working in a team, there are very often differing views on the direction of the project. These conflicts are very healthy for the team, but can be destructive when fought on a personal rather than on a professional level. As project manager, I had to mediate between team members fighting such a conflict. The challenge lay in the fact that this conflict was fought on a personal level. Consequently, I could not take sides with anyone, in terms of project direction, without causing one of the team-members to feel personally attacked. Moreover, I would create a sense of favoritism, and therefore risk losing one team-member, which I could not afford.

During my time as a project manager, I realized that my constant interaction and communication with team members took away from building good relationships with prospective business partners. Consequently, I did not have a solid relationship with business partners which I could build on in times of conflict. In addition, the lack of familiarity with some business partners had a negative impact on my managerial abilities. Occasionally, my information on the progress of a business partner’s assignment was not up-to-date, which led me to provide my team members with outdated information. Consequently, some decisions had to be reverted since they were based on wrong facts and assumptions. A more balanced approach will enable me to avoid these mistakes in the future.

Four years of intense training led to this moment, and I knew what to do without thinking. As squad commander in the elite Air Force Commando Unit, I served my country during a war. I received notice that a platoon of 50 soldiers was under heavy attack, and my squad had to save them.
I had ten minutes to process the situation, devise a plan, assign tasks, communicate status to superiors, and make life-and-death decisions. We had exactly sixty seconds to execute the mission with complete precision. Bullets sailing overhead, my mind was completely focused on leading my brave men and saving the trapped soldiers.
I felt the full weight of the situation only after all soldiers were safe and able to return home to their families.
As a squad leader for three years, I often had to get my men out of dangerous situations. Planning a mission to save so many lives during wartime made this experience the most substantial in my military service.

Flying to Microsoft Headquarters, I couldn’t believe my luck! Selected as lead developer on the Microsoft Unified Communications Sync Server project, I convinced my manager to permit me to initiate collaboration with our American counterparts and persuaded a senior colleague in Washington that working with us would benefit his product.
When I first got the assignment, I knew that working with Americans could add significant insight to our development. A history of failed collaborations by senior marketing managers made my managers reluctant to approve the plan of a junior engineer like me. Undeterred, I reached across two continents and ten Microsoft ranks and convinced a senior software architect in Redmond that working with us would develop their product while stabilizing ours. Everyone finally agreed, and I went to lead the collaboration in December 2007.
In Redmond, I established relationships transcending this project, aligning both teams’ development processes and paving the way for future joint ventures.
This accomplishment gave me international experience and exposure to senior colleagues at an early stage in my career. That the partnership benefited both people and products makes it my most substantial contribution in a professional situation.

Validating My Vision

Leading a software development team to overcome obstacles and build a floral service website is an accomplishment that confirmed that creating state-of-the-art consumer products was what I wanted to do with my life.
After a month of work on our final computer science project at the University, we discovered we were going in the wrong direction. We were frustrated, but nothing gets me going like a challenge. I had a plan, and I knew I had to lead by example to motivate the group. I was always the first one in the lab and never the first to leave. I constantly improved my own task, the graphical user interface, demonstrating that I required the same commitment from myself I asked of them. Each time we met, I focused on one of the guys with a smile on his face and leveraged the opportunity by making him an ally to help me get the others motivated. I even stressed the fact that this project gave us experience with new technology that would be very beneficial in upcoming job interviews.
My team chose me to present the final project. We got a perfect score, but I received something even more substantial: a vision of my professional future.

I started writing this essay on a piece of paper, but that’s exactly what I’m not.

Let me introduce myself properly.

I am my parents’ child.

My parents are a driving force in my ambition to make this world a better place. My dream of pioneering my own Ed-Tech start-up first began at my kitchen table, where my parents – an educational strategist and a high-tech executive – would share stories about their work.

My dad, a farmer turned president of a $2B market cap tech company, showed me that determination succeeds in any environment, from the fields to the boardroom. My mom, an education innovator and social justice advocate, impressed upon me the importance of proper and equal education for all. My parents showed me that a profession is more than advancing just yourself or your family – it’s about advancing society.

I am determined to reach and exceed my parents’ achievements, in my own way, by combining the passions born from my life’s biggest influences – education, technology and management.

I’m driven by the desire to use technology and open source principles to improve education in remote and rural areas around the world.

I am a global citizen.

Just before I entered first grade, my father was tapped by a former army commander to work in high tech in Boston. My view morphed from the rolling hills of our town to skyscrapers, the songs of birds replaced by honking taxis.

Two days after arriving in America, I found myself in a public classroom, without a single friend or a word of English to my name.

Feeling embarrassed and confused in class led me to spend my afternoons memorizing the ABC’s and scanning books in English. I forced my parents to give me English lessons every night when they returned home from work. After a year, I felt completely at home, and I even mentored new foreign arrivals, preparing them for what to expect at school and helping them to practice English.

We moved back to my town after six years in Boston, but the experience abroad was foundational. Rooting for the Celtics became as much a part of my anatomy as Brazilian asado – Boston added another layer to my identity.

Acclimating to a foreign culture at such a young age opened me in ways that have been essential to my personal and professional growth. Long afternoons of learning made me an independent learner – a skill I use often at work today, mastering new programming languages and conducting in-depth research at my employer’s innovation center.

Overcoming my language barrier at a young age taught me to be patient, to give others the benefit of the doubt, and instilled the value of mentorship. These insights helped me to become a highly cooperative person whom others feel they can trust.

I am a leader.

I first learned to lead as captain of my high school basketball team, leading my team to a national championship against all odds. We had less talent, less experience, and we were (on average) 4 centimeters shorter than our opponents. In the end, our teamwork and friendship prevailed. After winning the championship, I was invited to scrimmage with the national team. I insisted they allow my entire team come.

Becoming national champions showed me the value of persistence and never underestimating you own abilities, or the abilities of your team. This was especially instructive when serving as a paratrooper; I suffered a serious back injury from long treks with heavy equipment. My commanders presented me with two options: take a desk job, or sign an extra year beyond my mandatory service to attend Officers’ School and afterward lead an elite unit for special operations and technology development. Determined to make the most of my service in spite of my injury, I chose the latter.

Just like the basketball team I led, my first project as started as something of a lost cause: I was handed responsibility for developing a $2.8M thermal tracking device alongside a world-leading military contractor. The project was over a year behind schedule, manned by an exhausted, frustrated team.

I never doubted that we would reach the ambitious 8-month goal the army had set. I created a comprehensive Gantt to meet development, finance, logistics, and HR benchmarks. I worked hard toward creating cohesion between army and civilian team members.

When additional product features required more capital to develop, I used my nights off to create marketing campaigns that I pitched to higher-ranking officers – to countless colonels and even a brigadier general. I solicited private donations from dozens of international donors, tailoring each presentation to their cultural preferences and priorities. I raised $1M in capital, we met our deadline, and our unit became the go-to unit for product development and for special tech operations. After the release of the thermal tracking device, I led 7 additional projects with budgets totalling $4M.

I believe that Ed-Tech is the future.

Growing up in an immigrant community, I developed a close understanding of what it meant to live in a poor, remote part of a country. Teaching at-risk teenagers and elementary school orphans in Thailand brought meaning to my mother’s words, “Education is the distance between have and have-not.” Technology is the only way to shorten this distance.

I intend to leverage my technological skills, experience as an educator, and the business acumen I’ll acquire at Harvard to create Ed-Tech products to increase access to education through low-cost applications based on based on collaborative knowledge sharing and big data analytics.

My tech achievements thus far give me the confidence that I am ready to bring my own products to the public.

I developed a start-up company, an online platform for professional development and recruiting. I drew capital for entire project with nothing more than belief in my idea and very convincing power point presentations. Today, My company has thousands of users and is the main professional development platform for several multi-million-dollar tech firms.

Global change begins from local change, and my country is fertile testing-ground. After my MBA, and hopefully following success as a product manager with an Ed-Tech firm, I intend to pilot my own projects in my country’s periphery, targeting underserved populations.

Harvard is my calling.

More than being located in my beloved childhood hometown, Harvard Business School is the place that piqued my interest in management sciences. I had the opportunity to accompany my dad to HBS courses while he was studying with the Advanced Manager’s Program. Sitting in the AMP courses ignited my interest in case-studies (I ended up reading every study in my father’s folder!), and I enjoyed in-depth discussions with professors like Richard Vietor and Guhan Subramanian. I am fortunate to be able to continue my interaction with HBS through reading articles and case studies on the IBM learning portal.

Harvard is the quintessential learning experience. Through innovations in EdTech, I believe the Harvard standard can become a world-wide education standard.

I’m an adventurer, a risk taker, a challenge seeker. I’m an educator, a leader, an entrepreneur and a social innovator.

I’m not just my past, I am my future; and I’m about to embark on a new chapter of my life, with you, at Harvard.

Beyond the achievements written in my CV, I would like you to know more about who I am through three important lessons I have learned. The first lesson I learned from my parents, the second from my soldiers and the last lesson I learned from my comrades.

From my parents I learned the importance of dedication to my goals. I am the eldest of five siblings, and until I reached junior high all five of us slept together in the same room. Even with limited financial resources, our parents promoted personal development and insisted we all learn to play an instrument and master at least one sport: I played piano and practiced judo. Music and sports taught us to set our goals and to keep improving in order to achieve them. As a result, I grew up to be very mission-driven: quickly analyzing the main factors involved in reaching a personal goal and aligning them around the objective. With the ability to clearly visualize the goals of my organization or the needs of my community, I am able to take initiative, identify opportunities and drive everyone involved towards achieving them.

As a graduate of the Defense Force’s technological leadership program, I saw the need for combat officers with technological expertise. Therefore, although most of my program classmates pursued roles as developers or engineers, I elected to fill a demanding role in a field unit, where I could contribute my knowledge and understand first-hand the technological needs of our fighting forces. I saw my opportunity to make an impact as a combat officer in a highly technological and elite operational unit of the Artillery Corps.

From my soldiers I learned that in order to be an effective leader, I need to listen to my subordinates and constantly work to improve them and myself. Serving as a platoon commander I made it a practice to have weekly personal conversations with each of my subordinate commanders during which each of us would provide candid and constructive feedback to the other. Thus, I was able to achieve great trust through and use their feedback to improve as a commander. I believe these conversations created a winning team, in which my subordinates flourished. Most of them were promoted to platoon sergeant.

As a platoon commander I was concerned that the training we received fell short of meeting operational requirements on the field. When I attributed this in part to inadequate simulator time during officers’ training, I convinced my superiors to assign me to command the officers’ course in order to make sure that future officers would be qualified to face the challenges they were about to encounter. Moreover, my experience in music, where independent practice was a key to improvement, inspired me to include more independent practice in the training plan, nearly doubling simulator time without overtaxing the instructors. My efforts were acknowledged when I was rewarded the ‘Officers Excellence Award’ by unit commander for my contribution as the officers’ course commander.

Finally, I discovered through my military comrades what I want to do with my life and career. As a commander I had the privilege of working with many amazing people, but I also saw too many cases where people with tremendous talent were blocked from fulfilling their potential due to socio-economic circumstances. This seems to be a particularly serious problem in my country, which was ranked as the fourth most unequal society among OECD countries. I met one soldier who finished high school without taking his final matriculation exams in math because he had to work to support his family. I helped prepare him for the exams, which he completed with excellent grades, and he helped me to understand the challenges so many people face.

Inspired by these soldiers, I began to volunteer for the Movement for the Quality of Governance, an organization boasting 17,000 members that promotes increased moral standards in the public service and politics in my country. Researching market aspects that affect equal opportunities has helped me understand that what my country needs most is the creation of opportunities.

Local startups have seen many successes during the last decade. However, a very large portion of our society is unable to take part of that phenomenon, as many successful startups are sold without creating sustainable jobs in the country. Thus, innovation in my country translates into big wealth for the few most talented but has little effect on the lives of the majority of the middle class.

In the long run I envision myself starting and managing a sustainable, international business in the field of automated transportation. I am passionate about extending economic opportunities to populations who need it most, and I expect the field of automated transportation to have great impact by spreading affordable transportation and creating new job opportunities for workers around the globe and in my country.

In order to lead in an ever-changing world, my business would have to predict and meet global demands, engage in continuous innovation, and incorporate the finest management practices. I need an HBS MBA to improve my expertise in these three areas. As a post-MBA step towards my goal, I intend to lead the efforts towards self-driving vehicles in a global corpora, where I will contribute a multidisciplinary view that merges technological and business knowledge, while I prepare to start my own business in the field.

At HBS I will take advantage of the many opportunities offered such as the ‘FIELD Global Immersion’, where I will be able to study relevant global topics first-hand. I am especially interested in studying the unique transportation and economic needs of emerging markets such as India or Brazil, which would affect the future demand for automated transportation and where automated transportation can serve as a much-needed engine of progress. I have the necessary technological and leadership background to be this kind of leader, and an HBS MBA will bring me one giant step closer to achieving it.

Read Three Harvard MBA Essays

A soldier who served on the front lines in Afghanistan. A process engineer challenged by a long series of early failures. And a female consultant whose passion became healthcare.

Three MBA applicants to Harvard Business School last year. Three students in the newest crop of MBA students at Harvard this fall. All of them answered the question now being asked of 2017-2018 applicants to Harvard: 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?

The school provides minimal guidance for applicants trying to make an impression. “There is no word limit for this question,” advises HBS admissions. “We think you know what guidance we’re going to give here. Don’t over think, overcraft and overwrite. Just answer the question in clear language that those of us who don’t know your world can understand.”

Each of the three applicants above wrote a clear and compelling essay in their applications, essays that Poets&Quants is reprinting with permission from the MBA Essay Guide Summer 2017 Edition recently published by The Harbus, the MBA student newspaper at Harvard Business School. The guide contains 39 essays written by successful candidates who are now starting the MBA program at HBS. Proceeds from the sale of the guidebook go to benefit the non-profit foundation that supports The Harbus.

With application deadlines rapidly approaching at Harvard Business School and many other prestige MBA programs, these successful essays will, no doubt, give current candidates a bit of guidance. More importantly, the essays that follow are most likely to provide comfort, that there is no formula or singular way to craft a successful answer.

THREE SUCCESSFUL ESSAYS. THREE VERY DIFFERENT APPROACHES.

The latest edition of the MBA Essay Guide from The Harbus costs $61.49

In his 1,130-word essay, the U. S. Army applicant ties together his experiences of leading soldiers on the front line in Afghanistan together with staff postings in Army operations and logistics to paint a portrait of a dedicated and people-oriented leader.

Inspired by a selfless act from her nine-year-old mentee, this management consultant decided to challenge herself to make an impact in healthcare. In a 937-word essay, she uses a particularly difficult turnaround situation which she was put in charge of as exemplifying her strongest skills: building relationships and uniting people around a common goal.

In a 1,358-essay, a process engineer opens up to a long series of failures in his early life. By showing both vulnerability and honesty, he is able to transform this list of fruitless endeavors into a credible “badge of honor,” evidence of his resilience, determination and strength of character. It quickly becomes apparent that what appeared to be failures in the first half, actually proved to be successes or openings for new opportunities, given enough time and perseverance.

ONE APPLICANT DID 25 DRAFTS BEFORE COMING UP WITH ONE SHE LIKED ENOUGH TO SUBMIT

Behind every MBA application is a person and a story, and in this trio of representative essays the approaches taken by each candidate is as different as the essays they submitted to the admissions committee at HBS.

The engineer went through took eight drafts over two months. “I thought about what personal traits I wanted to share with the ADCOM and identified stories from my past that identified those traits,” he explains. “After two or three drafts, I’d figured out the right narrative and kept refining it, taking as much as a week to finalize each draft. My best advice is to be honest, start early, and have someone who knows what the ADCOMS are looking for to read through a couple of your drafts and give you pointers.”

The consultant estimates that she went through 25 drafts to get to her final version. “I think the most important thing with the essay is to iterate,” she advises. “Because the question is so open-ended, it is important to reflect as much as possible and give yourself the time (in my case two months) to go on the journey necessary to realize what you care most about communicating and how to do so in the most effective way. I also cannot overstate the importance of finding someone who will give you honest feedback.

(See on the following pages the complete and full MBA essays submitted to Harvard Business School)