MBA News: How to Interpret HBS’s Application Changes

With the start of application season for fall 2014 enrollment, Harvard Business School (HBS) announced two significant changes last week—it now requires only two letters of recommendation (instead of the previous three) and has replaced its two 400-word essays with just one open-ended question without any word limit:

“You’re applying to Harvard Business School. We can see your resume, school transcripts, extra-curricular activities, awards, post-MBA career goals, test scores and what your recommenders have to say about you. What else would you like us to know as we consider your candidacy?”

To help interpret these changes, the Wall Street Journal asked mbaMission founder and president Jeremy Shinewald to weigh in on possible motivations. While eliminating the essay may lighten the load for applicants, Shinewald says that these changes could also make the process easier on the admissions end of things: “By cutting a few hundred words from a few thousand applications, schools can evaluate candidates more quickly. … It may also be a sign that schools are adapting to the way applicants communicate these days, relying more on Tweets, emails and blog posts than on long correspondence.”

The WSJ also points out that by making the application more “approachable,” competition among applicants could get steeper, consequently placing greater emphasis on the interview. For the class that will be entering this fall, HBS reportedly saw application volumes hit 9,315 compared with 8,963 the previous year. Ultimately, the school admits approximately 1,100 of those applicants.

Despite this approachability, you will still likely be scratching your head over how to tackle such a broad question. Having the personalized guidance of an admissions consultant may be a good option for determining what else about you the admissions committee ought to consider. Start by reading our HBS essay analysis, and then sign up for a free, 30-minute consultation with an mbaMission Senior Consultant!

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