Last week, HBS released its essay questions for its new 2+2 program, through which it hopes to “lock-in” college juniors, who have already made the decision to pursue their MBAs but still recognize the need for additional work experience. In terms of the essay questions themselves, HBS has kept its questions the same as its full time application, but has rearranged the order, logically making the question on “undergraduate academic experience” mandatory and adding two-hundred words to the essay — a move that should give undergraduates the chance to explore. With the increased word count in this question, candidates may feel inclined to “roam” a bit. Remember, the focus is on the “academic” and even though this narrows the question somewhat, candidates can write about the academic aspects of discussing an issue with a professor after class, debating with friends or working at a summer internship — all of these experiences can contribute to academic growth. Still, candidates should remember not get bogged down in unrelated extra-curricular experiences at the expense of the academic.
So, beyond this particular question, due to the repetition with our previous analysis of HBS’s essay questions, we only want to emphasize the importance of offering something new in each essay. While college may be the defining experience of undergraduate candidates’ careers, there are still various community, personal, social, athletic and professional (internships, start-up companies) stories that should be explored. It seems that HBS recognizes that undergraduate candidates may have fewer experiences to offer and this may be the reasoning behind the MBA admissions office reducing the number of total essays to four, from five.