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Nine Tips for Writing a Great HBS Post-Interview Reflection

You walk out of your Harvard Business School (HBS) interview, and you are either floating on cloud nine, feeling amazing, or your mind is racing with “could’ve, should’ve, would’ve.” You wish you could run back to the interviewer to clarify your answers or add details. With the HBS Post-Interview Reflection, you can! Not literally, of course, but you nonetheless have the opportunity to follow up on anything you think was left incomplete, unclear, or unsaid.

The HBS Post-Interview Reflection, a 300- to 450-word submission that is due within 24 hours of completing your interview, is a chance for you to make your final case to the admissions committee. 

Here are nine tips for achieving an insightful reflection that could help get you accepted at HBS.

1. Pay attention to the guidance given by HBS.

One message that stands out in the guidance HBS provides is that the essay is not intended to be a formal one. The admissions committee advises that you think of the submission as though you are writing a reflection after a meeting. To me, this guidance suggests that your writing style can be more casual than you would use in a typical “professional” write-up and therefore less rigid. Imagine you are composing an email to a colleague. In fact, I always like to read the reflection essay aloud to ensure that it is clear and sounds like a letter addressed to an actual person. For example, dispense with long sentences, and avoid using a lot of multisyllabic words. Ultimately, ask yourself, Does this read like how I talk?

2. Jot down your thoughts immediately after the interview.

Right after your interview, go someplace quiet where you can think about the meeting and discussion you just had. Write down your thoughts about the questions you were asked and how you answered them. Note the questions for which you feel your responses were incomplete or not as clear as you would have liked. Perhaps you now remember additional information you could have provided.

Importantly, also note the questions to which you gave great answers. Were you organized and articulate in your response? Remember, this reflection is not simply a self-critique. It should ideally be balanced.

3. Take a breather to decompress.

I always recommend taking a short break after you jot down your initial round of notes. Whether you grab a bite, take a walk, or go to the gym, having a change of scenery and focus is important in two ways. Firstly, it helps your mind relax. With this comes clearer thinking, which is needed for good writing. Secondly, inspiration seldom comes from staring at a computer screen. A shift in your environment can spur different memories of and perspectives on your interview. If you can, carry a notebook with you so you can record any new thoughts that come to you during this time.

4. Come back recharged and focused—then start writing.

When you return from your breather—hopefully reenergized—it is time to start writing! Review your notes and organize them. Develop a structure for your reflection, and choose the main points you want to focus on in your essay. What message do you want to deliver to the admissions committee? Because of the brevity of the reflection essay, you will not be able to (nor should you) touch on every single question in the interview. However, key points you might want to include are as follows (in no particular order):

  • A brief thank you
  • Anything you were thrilled to discuss (this could include what you think went well)
  • Anything you missed or want to clarify or add to
  • Why you are excited about HBS (or how you could contribute to the class)

5. Share your thoughts and feelings; do not just summarize what happened.

One common mistake I see in reflections is summarizing too much what happened in the interview. Do not simply recount the meeting “blow-by-blow”; this is not a journal entry. Your reflection will be much more interesting if you share your inner thoughts and perspectives. For example, were you surprised by any question or line of discussion? Do not be afraid to be candid—this will help your reflection come across as more authentic and personal.

6. Think about what new insight or perspectives you can add.

The reflection is a unique opportunity for you to offer the HBS admissions committee further insights or perspectives. For example, what else can you add on a topic that was discussed during the interview? Perhaps you could provide additional background or context to a project that would be new information for the school. If you have other examples that are relevant to an interview question, you could also share them in your reflection. These examples do not need to be completely “new” to HBS. For instance, if you have a meaningful project listed on your resume but did not describe it in detail in your application essay, writing about it in your reflection might be appropriate.

7. Be thoughtful in addressing “why HBS.”

A very common question we get from clients is how much they should include in their Post-Interview Reflection about why they want to attend HBS. The question of “why HBS” might not even have come up in your interview at all. That is not unusual for HBS interviews. This is also reflected in the HBS application, which includes no specific “why HBS” prompt. 

Yet you might decide that you really want to share with the admissions committee the reasons you consider HBS your top choice. If so, addressing this topic in your Post-Interview Reflection is perfectly fine. However, you need to be thoughtful about how much space you allocate to the topic, and ask yourself how much of the information will be new to HBS and additive to your candidacy. I find that a simple reference to what makes you excited about attending the program can be a good way to wrap up your reflection. Or you could mention what you are looking forward to contributing to the HBS classroom. 

All that said, not mentioning “why HBS” at all in your Post-Interview Reflection is also perfectly acceptable. Remember, this essay is your chance to highlight some of your thoughts for the admissions committee. If you feel that “why HBS” is less important than the other ideas you want to share, prioritize accordingly.

8. Do not overpolish your essay.

As tempted as you might be to keep refining your reflection as much as you can in the time allotted, be careful of overpolishing it. I find that applicants’ early drafts will often contain a lot of genuine feelings and thoughts, which is precisely what HBS wants to see in the reflection—so you do not want to edit your essay to such a degree that this high level of candor and authenticity is lost. This is why the school gives you just 24 hours in which to respond. Which brings me to my final tip…

9. Take another break before your final review.

Although you have only a short amount of time in which to write and submit your reflection, if you can take another brief break before giving it one final review, I highly encourage you to do so. Ideally, come back to your essay with fresh eyes, and read the final draft out loud before submitting it to ensure that it embodies the style, voice, and message(s) you want to convey to the admissions committee. 

I hope these tips can help you draft a strong HBS Post-Interview Reflection. If you would like even more targeted guidance on the HBS interview and on writing this unique essay, check out our HBS Mock Interview and Post-Reflection Support services.

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Is an MBA Worth the Investment in 2024?

So, you are considering applying to an MBA program this year but wonder whether the time, money, energy, and everything else involved in the endeavor is truly worthwhile. The easy answer is yes—go for it. Chances are high that after you earn your MBA, you will make more money, possess a better knowledge base that will propel your career forward, and have connections that will position you for success. But an MBA is not for everyone, and it is definitely not for anyone who is unsure about what is driving them to pursue the degree. Before you head down this road, think about why you want an MBA and where you want it to take you.

To jump ahead in this article, click on the topic that is of interest to you:

What is the salary and job outlook for an MBA?

If you are thinking about pursuing an MBA, then chances are, you are weighing the degree’s return on investment (ROI). You are certainly not alone. In fact, the Bloomberg Businessweek survey that informs the publication’s business school rankings revealed that in 2022, 71% of the second-year student respondents at U.S. programs indicated that increased compensation was one of the five primary factors behind their decision to earn an MBA. Well, the news is good on that front. That same survey found that in 2023, graduates gained a median of $85,000 in their first post-MBA role, over what they had been earning before they entered business school. Getting an MBA also propels your salary higher than if you had merely a bachelor’s degree. A 2021 study conducted by data analytics company PayScale for Poets&Quants found that graduates of the leading 50 U.S. business schools are expected to earn a median total of $5.7 million in cash compensation after 35 years of post-graduate work—and this is exclusively in terms of salary, excluding bonuses, stock options, health care benefits, and other forms of remuneration. That amount represents a premium of $2.3 million over what individuals who have only an undergraduate degree will earn. Graduates of the MBA programs at Harvard, Stanford, Berkeley, Dartmouth, and the University of Virginia vault to the top with more than $8 million in earnings over that 35-year period, according to the study. Those kinds of numbers certainly make an MBA degree sound worthwhile!

Which programs offer the best return on investment?

Prospective applicants considering the possible ROI of an MBA can calculate what they might expect via simple back-of-the-envelope math: adding the average salary of a school’s graduating students to the average signing bonus, and then dividing that total by the average student debt of those who borrowed. In 2023, to compare the ROIs of top MBA programs, U.S. News & World Report ranked 28 business schools at which graduates of the full-time MBA program average six-figure salaries within three months of graduation—and the findings might surprise you. What are generally considered the most competitive U.S. MBA programs did not even crack the top 25! Harvard landed at number 27 (no, that is not a typo!), while the number-one ranked program was the Zicklin School of Business at Baruch College—which is 49th in the U.S. News overall business school rankings. It tops the ROI list because its students reported an average salary and signing bonus total of $129,050 within three months of graduating, while the average debt was just $17,689. That equates to a salary-to-debt ratio of 7.3-to-1. Now compare that with the ROI at Harvard, where the average salary and signing bonus within three months of graduating is $198,180, but the average debt is $88,757. That puts the salary-to-debt ratio at 2.2-to-1.

For information on full-time versus part-time versus executive MBA programs, click here

Other than improved earnings, what do you gain from an MBA?

In addition to boosting your income, an MBA can fuel your career trajectory. Learning to work well in teams, solve complex problems, and strategically make decisions can translate into being an effective contributor—and hopefully, leader—in the workplace. Not only do you build technical skills over the course of your MBA studies, but you also gain soft skills in management and leadership that can help you navigate complicated challenges when dealing with people and projects. The professional development your MBA experience will provide will last throughout your entire career, well beyond your initial post-graduate role.

How can an MBA build your network?

An expanded network is another benefit of attending business school. You will meet fellow students in your classes, of course, but also via group work, volunteering, extracurriculars, study trips, and socializing. Given how global most MBA programs are these days—many have classes that are nearly 50% international—students are able to connect with classmates who come from all over the world, thereby expanding their global mind-set. In addition, business schools have vast alumni networks, and students can call upon these connections as needed throughout their career. Long after graduation, you might be invited to interview at a company, and a quick search of your school’s alumni database will give you the names of fellow graduates who work there. Bingo—you have contacts who can help you!

Where you can find the best MBA networking opportunities might surprise you. According to Bloomberg Businessweek’s 2023 MBA rankings, the University of Florida’s Warrington School of Business ranks number one for networking, based on the survey’s index that gauges the quality of networks cultivated by classmates, students’ interactions with alumni, the effectiveness of the career services office, the quality and breadth of alumni-to-alumni interactions, and the school’s brand power, according to recruiters. Rounding out the survey’s top five schools for networking are Georgia Tech, the Michigan Ross School of Business, the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth, and—tied for fifth—Harvard Business School and the Stanford Graduate School of Business.

mbaMission Career Coach Elissa Harris offers her tips on overcoming networking nerves in this article

How do career goals factor into your MBA plans?

While salary and job outlook, ROI, skill development, and network building certainly play into why someone would want an MBA, they are not the only factors one should consider. Before you apply to business school, really examine your career goals. The last thing you want to do is apply to a program that will not propel you to where you want to be professionally after you graduate. Although MBAs can generally be found working in every field, you should dedicate time to researching whether the degree will provide what you need to be able to achieve your long-term career aspirations. For example, does the MBA program you are considering have courses that relate to your area of interest? What is the typical level of job placement in the industry you want to target? An MBA will not be worth the investment if you end up scrambling for work at graduation. 

For information on setting reasonable career goals, read this article by mbaMission Career Coach Elissa Harris.

What is the financial investment of an MBA?

Another important factor you need to weigh is your finances. Although that median $85,000 gain in salary noted at the beginning of this post probably sounds pretty good, not every industry or school will set you up for that kind of financial boost. You need to be real about your risk tolerance. Are you in a position to take two years off of work to complete a full-time program? If not, maybe a part-time or Executive MBA program would serve you better by allowing you to keep working. On the personal front, asking yourself whether now is the right time to go back to school is crucial. This question extends beyond just the financial aspect of pursuing the degree; ask yourself whether you have the time to dedicate to it as well.

As you are considering whether an MBA would be worth the time and other resources that earning it requires, do not be blinded by the potential gain in compensation. Think about what else the degree could change for you in the long term. If you feel that it would advance your career in terms of greater leadership opportunities, then you very well might be making the right choice about applying to business school.

If you have questions about MBA application strategies or about which schools you would be competitive at, sign up for a free 30-minute consultation with an mbaMission consultant.

Wharton Team-Based Discussion: What to Expect and How to Prepare

Wharton Team-Based DiscussionThe Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania will release Round 2 interview invitations on Friday, February 16, and once again, the school is using its virtual team-based discussion format rather than a traditional admissions interview to evaluate its candidates.

Below, we address some of the most common questions from Wharton Team-Based Discussion applicants regarding what to expect and how to prepare for the one-of-a-kind interview.

What is the Wharton Team-Based Discussion?

Unlike the traditional business school interview, The Wharton School groups 4-6 applicants together for a 35-minute exercise within a dynamic team setting. Upon being invited to interview, each candidate will receive the interview prompt from the current admissions year and will be instructed to participate and interact with their fellow group members. As Wharton notes on their website, all groups are assigned randomly, so interview candidates will not know who they are meeting with—and what other discussion points will be addressed—prior to the interview session.  Following the group interview, each candidate will meet one-on-one with a Wharton admissions committee member to discuss their personal interest in attending the business school.

What’s the best way to prepare for my Wharton Team-Based Discussion?

Wharton Interview Guide

mbaMission’s Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania Interview Guide

Understandably, Wharton applicants get anxious about this atypical interview because the approach creates a very different dynamic from what one usually encounters in a one-on-one meeting—and with other applicants also in the virtual meeting room, one cannot help but feel less in control of the content and direction of the conversation. Yet despite the uncertainty, here are a few things that interviewees can expect:

  1. You will need to arrive at the interview with an idea—a response to a challenge that will be presented in your interview invitation.
  2. Having the best idea is much less important than how you interact with others in the group and communicate your thoughts. So while you should prepare an idea ahead of time, that is only part of what you will be evaluated on.
  3. Your peers will have prepared their ideas as well. Chances are that ideas will be raised that you know little or nothing about. Do not worry! The admissions committee members are not measuring your topical expertise. Instead, they want to see how you add to the collective output of the team.
  4. During your short one-on-one session with someone representing Wharton’s admissions team, you will likely be asked to reflect on how the team-based discussion went for you; this will require self-awareness on your part.
  5. Download mbaMission’s free Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania Interview Guide for an in-depth look into the interview process.The complimentary guide provides:
    • Insight into what the school is evaluating and hoping to gain from the interview
    • An explanation of the school’s approach to interviewing (self-scheduled or invite only, blind versus comprehensive, etc.)
    • Past applicants’ firsthand accounts of their interview experiences and multiple sample interview question sequences
    • Tips on preparing for and responding to questions which most typically vex applicants
    • Help in formulating compelling questions of your own

Read the rest of this entry  

Business School MBA Interviews News University of Pennsylvania (Wharton)

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Applying to MBA Programs as a Couple

If you and your significant other have both decided that an MBA degree is the ideal next step in your careers, you might find yourself facing the business school application process together. Applying to MBA programs as a couple can be a challenging yet rewarding shared experience, and you might be wondering what specific considerations you should keep in mind.

Identify programs that are a good fit for both of you.

Although partners sometimes have similar career interests, in most cases, each partner has their own, distinct career trajectory and aspirations. Seek to identify MBA programs that will be a good fit for both of you in terms of specialization, career resources, student culture, and geographical preferences. When possible, visit schools together to get a realistic feel for what the experience might be like. In the long run, you will both be happier with the outcome if selecting your target schools was a joint effort.

Apply to the same programs or to different programs in the same city.

Ideally, you will be able to identify programs that both of you are interested in and can then work toward the same application deadlines for those programs. Most couples we work with at mbaMission aim to attend the same school. That way, when the semester gets busy with academics and activities, your time is spent primarily together, rather than divided between two business school communities. Attending an MBA program can be an all-encompassing life experience. It even has the potential to bring a couple closer as they study, work on projects, socialize, and travel together throughout the program.

Another option is to look at different programs that are in the same city or geographic region. This can be an effective strategy if one person in the couple is a less competitive candidate than the other, or if another school in a nearby location is a better fit for their career interests. For example, think Columbia Business School and NYU Stern in New York City, Chicago Booth and Northwestern Kellogg in the Chicago area, Stanford GSB and Berkeley Haas in the Bay Area, and Harvard Business School, MIT Sloan, Boston College Carroll, and Boston University Questrom in the Boston area. We even worked with a client who attended Wharton in Philadelphia, while their partner studied at a New York City school a train ride away.

Let the admissions committee know that you are applying as a couple.

Although some applicants are hesitant to share that they are applying as a couple, we recommend disclosing this information to the admissions committee. A school will not admit an unqualified applicant simply because they are in a relationship with a stronger applicant, but in some cases, a school is more likely to admit a borderline applicant if they apply with a partner who is a stronger applicant. 

Each candidate is always evaluated individually, but the admissions committee does understand that the stronger applicant will be more likely to actually attend the program if their partner is also admitted and can attend with them (accepting both candidates can therefore have a positive impact on the program’s yield, or the percentage of admitted applicants who ultimately attend).

Applying with his wife likely improved our client Carl’s* chance of being admitted to several top MBA programs. Carl’s wife, Lisa, had a GMAT score of 770 and an impressive career in health care consulting, while Carl had an average GMAT score and a less differentiated career in finance. Carl had initially applied by himself and been rejected at Wharton and waitlisted at Kellogg; the following year, Carl increased his GMAT score slightly and applied as a couple with Lisa to several programs, and both were accepted at Wharton, Kellogg, UVA Darden, and Berkeley Haas. They decided to attend Kellogg together.

Note that some admissions officers and consultants believe that applying with a partner who is a stronger candidate is more likely to improve an applicant’s chance of admission if the couple is married or in a long-term relationship, as opposed to a newer relationship.

So, how and where should you disclose the fact that you are a couple? Some schools actually have a short question about this on their application form. If not, a succinct paragraph in the optional/supplemental essay section is appropriate. Keep the majority of your application focused on your individual profile!

Be sure that each of you demonstrates a connection with the school.

For any applicant to a top MBA program, showing a connection to the school is recommended. However, for applicants applying as part of a couple, this becomes even more important. 

You do not want an admissions officer to read your application and think you might just be going through the motions and applying to their program only because your partner is—or worse, that you are not committed to the school and might therefore be likely to follow your partner elsewhere. So, be sure that both of you clearly indicate your interest in the program by demonstrating your detailed knowledge of and enthusiasm for it in your essays and interviews, connecting with students and alumni, and attending events.

Try to share that you are applying as a couple early in the process. For example, if you attend an MBA fair or informational event before applying and have the chance to chat with an admissions representative about it, they might remember you and your partner if you make a strong first impression (this is even more likely at programs with smaller numbers of applicants in a given year).

Set expectations and communicate with one another throughout the application process.

As you start this process as a couple, take some time to discuss your expectations for how you will handle everything from school research and selection to working on application components. For example, discuss whether you will read one another’s essays. If you do share ideas and advice with one another, keep in mind that essays and applications are quite personal and subjective—just because your partner might have approached a topic in a different way does not mean your way is any less valid.

Many couples find working with an MBA admissions consultant helpful. A consultant acts as a partner and coach in the process and can provide external support, editing, and guidance to both individuals.

Consider applying on different timelines.

Some couples decide to stagger their MBA experiences at the same school, with one partner starting the MBA program while the other partner works in the same city and then applies to the program one or two years later. 

If you find yourself in this situation, or if you or your partner is not admitted this year and will reapply while the other is in their second year, make sure that the partner who plans to reapply attends plenty of events with the partner who is attending, thereby getting to better know the school, students, and staff. Doing so will give the reapplicant a much better chance of being admitted the second time around because the school will feel optimistic about their likelihood of actually attending. In recent years, we at mbaMission have seen multiple examples of a student’s partner gaining admission to the same program after getting to know it well.

Enjoy the shared experience!

Sharing the MBA experience with your partner can be very rewarding, and schools appreciate knowing you are applying as a couple. As HBS alumni Kate and Patrick described, “Our time at HBS has brought us closer together. . . . Having the opportunity to learn, grow, travel and meet a whole new set of people has been a wonderful new chapter in our relationship.”

To discuss your MBA application, reach out to mbaMission for a free consultation

*All names have been changed for privacy.

Jen Kedrowski is a veteran mbaMission admissions consultant, with 20 years of experience in the industry. She received her MBA from Cambridge University, Judge Business School, where she learned firsthand what sharing the MBA experience with a significant other is like, having met her (now) husband there early on in the program. 

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How to Approach Quantitative Comparison Questions in the GRE

With regard to the GMAT, raw intellectual horsepower helps, but it is not everything. Manhattan Prep’s Stacey Koprince teaches you how to perform at your best on test day by using some common sense.

If you are taking the GRE instead of the GMAT, you will have to deal with the GRE’s “weird” question type: Quantitative Comparison (QC). What are these questions, and how do we handle them?

What is Quantitative Comparison?

The GRE and the GMAT really are not math tests, all evidence to the contrary. These tests are actually trying to test us on our “executive reasoning” skills—that is, how well we make decisions and prioritize when faced with too many things to do in too little time.

So, QC questions are really about quickly analyzing some information and figuring out a relationship between two quantities. If we label the two quantities A and B, we have four possibilities:

(A) Quantity A is always bigger than Quantity B.

(B) Quantity B is always bigger than Quantity A.

(C) The two quantities are always equal.

(D) I cannot tell, or there is not an “always” relationship; maybe sometimes A is bigger and sometimes B is bigger, or sometimes A is bigger and sometimes they are equal.

We do, of course, have to do some math—and sometimes that math is quite annoying. We usually do not, however, have to do as much as we usually do on regular “problem solving” questions (the normal Quant questions).

How does Quantitative Comparison work?

First, the question is always the same: figure out the “always” relationship, if there is one (in which case the answer is A, B, or C), or figure out that there is not an “always” relationship, in which case the answer is D.

Some QC questions will provide us with “givens”—information that must be true and that we will need to use when answering the question. For example, a problem might read as follows:

x > 0

So, now I know that x is positive. Is it an integer? Maybe. But it could also be a fraction or decimal, as long as that value is positive.

Next, the problem will give us two columns with their own pieces of information. For example:

Quantity A                                          Quantity B

x = 3                                                      x2-9 = 0

We do not have to do anything with Quantity A; it already tells us what x is. What about Quantity B? Solve:

(x+3)(x-3) = 0

x = -3, x = 3

It seems like the answer should be D, right? Sometimes Quantity A is bigger and sometimes they are the same. Do not forget about our “given,” though! We are only supposed to use positive values for x, so we can ignore x = -3 for Quantity B. Both quantities are always equal, so the answer is C.

Okay, these are weird. How do I get better?

These are going to take some practice, yes. In addition, this was only a very short introduction; a ton of great strategies are out there that you can learn. Look for books, articles, classes, and other resources to help. (Here is one to get you started.)

You also, of course, have to learn a bunch of math. What we have presented here, though, should help you get started on this kind-of-bizarre question type in the first place!

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