Harvard MBA Essays Analysis 2024–2025, Changes and More

Harvard’s old, much-discussed open essay intrigued many with its endless opportunities for applicants to present themselves in the best light. But it also left many confused about “what Harvard really wants?? ” With the new essay prompts, there’s a clear shift toward more targeted information that the admissions committee seeks. Perhaps the school felt that the open-ended nature of the previous essay required expert mentoring, making the process somewhat unfair for all applicants. Only Harvard can tell. But with this new and more focused set of questions, applicants face different challenges they need to understand in order to truly excel in the HBS admissions process. Let’s explore how deserving HBS applicants should approach the new questions.

Harvard Business School MBA Essays Analysis and Tips for 2024 Intake

Applicants to the MBA Class of 2027 (matriculating fall 2025) need to respond to these three essay prompts:

1. Business-Minded Harvard MBA Essay:

Example: 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)

This somewhat disguised essay on career progression and career goals is worded differently because admissions offices want applicants to focus on their “business acumen” and how they can benefit from an MBA. So beware of overloading the reader with unwanted career history data. This is a tall-order question for 300 words, so focus only on the key moments and highlights when it comes to career progression and choices.

When MBA candidates talk about their careers in their essays, they often rely on words from their 500th day of work. Even if they sound experienced, these words don’t capture the enthusiasm of that experience. If you fail to convey emotion, AdComs may label you as an Indian IT graduate, British banker, Chinese production engineer, etc. If you feel that your work experience is unique enough to merit evaluation by the HBS AdComs, you need to convey in your words the intimate details of what motivated you to shape your career in a particular way. The tone of the essay should be enthusiastic, using a balanced narrative to explain the skills you have demonstrated through your accomplishments and clearly emphasizing the gaps in achieving your goals. The superpower of the Harvard MBA becomes clear to the reviewers when they read your vision and how you will make a difference in the future. This is an unobtrusively worded goals essay in which you should reflect on your background and demonstrate your motivation for pursuing an MBA and your long-term vision, which HBS believes should be both motivating and aspirational. This motivation may arise from:

  1. A problem that you have experienced through your work, through the experiences of those around you, or through your personal experiences that you would like to solve in the future.
  2. Perhaps it is not a problem, but the market potential of a business idea.

For the HBS team, it is risky to hire an applicant who is fickle in their career choice. They want a solid guarantee that the candidate will go on to play an important role in a company or sector to which they are deeply committed. The intentionality of the essay is crucial.

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2. Leadership-Focused Harvard MBA Essay:

Example: 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)

This question forces you to think about your leadership traits and name one or two instances where you felt your leadership response was changed by your own actions or by the influence of the external environment. Some of the most common leadership traits mentioned by successful candidates are Confidence, focus, listening, personal accountability, humility, self-awareness, Acknowledgement and Reaching Out. Do you have experience that can demonstrate a change in any of these areas?

Leadership Focused Harvard MBA Essay

Examples and Ideas-

When a leader gives to subordinates and followers, they earn manifold in return—be it trust, respect, or something else. Granting the team autonomy to make decisions fundamentally changes the team’s dynamics. Perhaps you are the kind of leader who, under larger organizational constraints, could not promise vacation time or year-end bonuses to your team. Instead, you compensated by giving them autonomy on a project, keeping their motivation high and attrition in check. Reflect on what you learned from this experience and how you want to grow in your leadership outlook.

Maybe you show respect to a team member by listening and conveying that you have considered their inputs, even when not all conversations lead to actions. By acknowledging the team member’s effort to be involved and communicate with the team leader, you set a precedent for team communication.

3. Growth-oriented Harvard MBA Essays:

Essay Example: 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)

Curiosity is an innate human characteristic, an insatiable urge to seek knowledge, to explore the unknown and to understand the world. The curiosity inherent in Homo sapiens has driven humanity forward and led to groundbreaking discoveries and innovations. Curiosity is more than just a thirst for information, it plays a crucial role in personal development and allows individuals to broaden their perspective and develop a deeper, more nuanced understanding of life.

Have you ever been curious about something? We think this essay is a great place to talk about extra-professional commitments or hobbies where you really felt called to pursue an activity that you did not understand before. Curious people question existing beliefs and assumptions and try to discover new truths. This questioning mindset encourages critical thinking, as curious people do not take information at face value, but dig deeper to understand the underlying principles. Applicants should not talk about hobbies such as cooking or gardening unless they have made significant achievements in these areas and have become experts who have a large following.

Example and Ideas-

Perhaps you were fascinated by marine life and felt drawn to explore it. You got a diving license and travelled to various dive sites around the world. To deepen your understanding, you studied marine biology and sought insights into the ecosystems you encountered. As your passion grew, you became a certified dive instructor, leading expeditions and sharing your love of the oceans alongside your PE job. You also became actively involved in marine conservation by participating in beach cleanups and educational workshops.

The key to the success of this essay is to show that you have grown personally through these experiences. You may want to use your finance background to apply your skills in analyzing and optimizing sustainable investments and initiatives. You see yourself continuing to support environmental causes and bridging the gap between financial stakeholders and environmentalists. Your goal is to advocate for responsible investment practices that balance profitability with positive social and environmental impact.

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