01 Sep 2012
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Changes for MBA Applicants


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For MBA candidates worried about writer’s cramp, here’s some good news: applicants to the Class of 2015 will be asked to author only two 400-word essays instead of four essays totaling 2,000 words, as was required in previous years. In another significant change, within 24 hours of being interviewed by MBA Admissions, candidates will be asked to provide a written reflection on the interview—giving applicants “the opportunity to have the last word,” says Dee Leopold (MBA 1980), managing director of MBA Admissions and Financial Aid.

In recent years, approximately 1,800 applicants have been interviewed annually to enroll an entering class of about 900 students. Explains Leopold, “Since all our eventual admits have been interviewed during the application process, we’ve had the opportunity to get to know them personally. That face-to-face interaction has enabled us to reduce much of the time, energy, and anxiety formerly expended on application essays, which used to serve as the only means of ‘getting acquainted’ with an applicant.” Leopold also notes that with the new 24-hour response requirement, interviewees have a chance to further personalize the process and bring it to a close in their own words. “Reflection is a big part of the new FIELD course,” she adds. “This admissions component mirrors what candidates will be doing as students.”

Says Leopold, “The admissions team is always trying to fine-tune and improve the application process, and this is an experiment to that end. We believe it will not only help candidates feel they are better understood by us but also help them gain a clearer idea of what the School is all about and what we expect of them.”


Below is a sampling of alumni reaction, via LinkedIn, to the MBA application changes.

“I think this makes it harder for the applicant to convey his/her unique self. Only 800 precious words. Ouch. Likely more time will be invested in the essays by the candidates, not less.”
Dominique Gagnon (MBA 2008)

“Having served on the HBS Admissions Board (with Dee) and once again working in business education, these ideas are brilliant! Kudos to Dee and HBS for once again changing the game! And don’t forget, the key admissions tool is the interview!”
Linda Oubré (MBA 1984)

“As an instructor for two graduate programs, I suspect some students have other people write their essays, since their writing in class is poor compared to their applications. Given that, the interview may be more valuable, and the essay they write within 24 hours of that interview may be most telling of all.”
Illysa Perry Izenberg (MBA 1990)

“The 24-hour response is a good idea. When I interview people for a position, I put them in front of a computer and make them write me a letter in 15 minutes. About half can’t do it well enough to get hired.” —Chris Slavin (MBA 1984)

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Class of MBA 1980, Section D
Class of MBA 1984, Section A
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Class of MBA 1990, Section C
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Class of MBA 1984, Section F
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