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How to get into Harvard Business School?

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'How competitive is admission to Harvard Business School?' Many MBA candidates are perplexed. 'How likely am I to be admitted to Harvard?' 'What qualities does Harvard seek in a candidate?'

Why do so many candidates choose Harvard Business School over the other top business schools across the world? The short answer is that it’s because it’s Harvard!

Harvard’s legitimacy is not based on MBA rankings. The situation is reversed. Any list of business schools that does not include Harvard in the top five lacks legitimacy.

Let’s start with some pre-application questions before going on to the how-to.

How difficult is it to gain admission to Harvard Business School?

The quick answer is that it is really difficult. This is why.

Although Harvard University was not the first to establish a business school (Wharton has that honor), its century-long history provided it a significant first-mover advantage. Harvard has remained in the driver’s seat when it comes to innovation and setting the bar for management education as a huge number of colleges have followed suit throughout the years. With one of the largest endowments in the education industry, it has access to resources that few other institutions have.

The HBS brand is extremely well-known not just in higher education, but also in industry–in practically every sector of specialty. That pretty much covers everything in terms of post-MBA options. This indicates that in all corporate areas, the alumni network (one of the primary takeaways of an MBA) is established in the upper echelons of power (and non-business streams like politics as well). All of this draws the finest and brightest MBA candidates from across the world, all wanting to get into their chosen school. So, certainly, getting into Harvard Business School is difficult. This is most likely why many candidates are eager to learn the answer to the following question.

How likely am I to be admitted to Harvard Business School?

Unlike the last question, this one can be answered using Harvard statistics. The Harvard MBA has an 11 percent selectivity rate. The data may change from year to year, but the trend shows that getting into HBS has gotten more difficult over time.

This should give you a good indication of your prospects of being accepted to Harvard Business School. However, like with any statistics, keep in mind what the data don’t reveal. You would be mistaken if you assumed that your odds of getting into HBS were 11 percent. There are a lot of other elements at play that these figures don’t account for. The big one is the applicant pool’s self-filtering that occurs even before the application is submitted.

As an example, there may be 1000 applicants vying for a spot at Harvard. However, only 100 people are eligible to apply. The remaining 900 people may have valid reasons for refusing to join the bandwagon. Some applicants may assume that their application cost would be better spent on programs with higher acceptance rates than Harvard. Others may assume they may improve their profile by waiting a year or two. Only 11 people out of 100 who apply will be offered a job. It’s a simple illustration to make a point. Regardless of the figures, your odds of getting into Harvard aren’t 11 percent. They may be better, or worse – depending on your overall profile and more importantly your potential as perceived by the Harvard MBA Admissions team.

How to get into Harvard Business School?

Some of these recommendations (such as being able to alter the undergrad GPA or industry and role) will be irrelevant if you are applying this year. Choose what you believe will be beneficial to you and develop your own Harvard application plan.

Step 1: Understand what makes Harvard what it is

This is a crucial stage in determining if you’re a good match for HBS. While there may not be a special ‘Why Harvard’ essay, Harvard Admission Officers will be on the lookout for pseudo-fans who have nothing more to support their decision than Harvard’s prestige.

If your other profile characteristics are positive, you might be able to get away with small changes to your MBA application essays at some of the other business schools. Even if you’re pressed for time, don’t even consider that strategy with Harvard.

Spend some time attempting to grasp the statistics for the “typical Harvard student.” If you can find students from your nation who have attended Harvard, that’s even better. (A nice resource is LinkedIn.) If you aren’t getting near to them, there may be a message for you: refocus your efforts on other b-schools so you aren’t disappointed when you hear from the Harvard admissions committee.

Consider yourself a Harvard student and the challenges you’d face for those two years. Consider the Case Study, which is the major weapon in their academic armory. Learn more about how the case study technique is used at Harvard Business School. Also, be mindful of HBS’s grading policies.

It’s a bell-curve rating system in which you’ll be compared to your classmates. Half of those grades might be influenced by class participation. So, if you’re an introvert, depending on your ability to adjust to your surroundings, you’ll either be changed or crushed. “Is it a lovely image or a terrifying picture?” once you've finished data collecting, analysis, and visualization?

Step 2: stellar academic statistics

Make certain you have excellent academic statistics. The rest of the world thinks Harvard is a factory that produces highly technical business executives. While HBS presumably appreciates hearing that, the fact is that an MBA cannot achieve what an undergrad or bachelor’s degree does, which is to increase a student’s technical skills. As a result, Harvard employs a filtering method that weeds out the brightest technical minds from the candidate pool and prepares them for business school.

If you look closely, you’ll see that many Harvard students have a technical or engineering background. From an Indian perspective, this means that many people have a bachelor’s degree in engineering (and being an IIT graduate doesn’t hurt either). Then there’s the frosting on the cake: think about all of the leadership roles you’ve performed on campus. Then add icing to the cake, such as a high GPA or a gold medal.

Don’t be deceived by stories of people getting into Harvard with low GMAT scores. This isn’t usually the case with candidates from heavily represented nations such as India and China. The average GMAT score at Harvard is 730. GMAT scores vary from 580 to 790. With such a large batch size, HBS relies on Indians, Chinese, and other high-scoring demographic groups to compensate for their decision to accept low-scoring applicants.

Step 3: Before applying, research the appropriate industry and job

HBS understands the significance of how brands function since it is a branding success story. One in every four Harvard undergraduates has worked as a consultant for a leading management consulting company like McKinsey, Bain, or BCG. What if it’s already too late? What if you don’t work in the consulting field? You still have a chance to win one of the three remaining seats (out of a total of four). However, the fundamental reasoning remains the same.

Find the industry leaders in any other area that are recognized for their strict staff selection procedure. Some good examples include Google in technology, Goldman Sachs in investment banking, and Carlyle in private equity.

In other businesses, the milestones are fairly set in stone. For example, if you start working as an analyst at a consulting business right after finishing your engineering degree (lucky you! ), you’ll be expected to leave after a few years to get an MBA. Show your position evolution and increasing quantity and complexity of the obligations you’ve handled in other sectors where this isn’t the norm. Demonstrate to the Harvard admissions officer that this is not your first trial by fire.

Step 4: Present yourself as a Leader

Remember how HBS couldn’t produce technical WizKids? It appears that they won’t be able to produce leaders in two years either. The opinion that Harvard graduates are highly capable leaders, on the other hand, remains positive. As a result, they broaden the screening to include people who are already in positions of leadership.

If that’s the case, why would someone who is both technically adept and a natural leader strive so hard to gain admission to Harvard? Because the opportunities that await them after graduation may be larger, grander, and more rewarding. Who wouldn’t want something like that? Demonstrate to them that you not only have the accomplishments of a leader but that you can also speak like one. This may be accomplished with the help of your writing and interview.

Step 5: Apply in your mid-twenties

Given the prior argument about leaders having a higher chance at Harvard, it may appear that people with such accomplishments are nearing retirement. However, data on the Harvard MBA admissions page indicate that this is not the case.

Students at Harvard Business School are younger than those at the other Top 10 MBA schools. When you have roughly 3 years of experience after college, you are in the ideal spot for applying. The more experience you have, the less likely you are to get accepted.

There may be exceptions to the rule, such as MBA candidates from the army or military, or if you have a good master’s or doctorate that skews your experience-to-age ratio. If you’re thinking to yourself, “All of this is fantastic, but there can’t be a universal formula for getting into Harvard,” you’re correct.

These suggestions are solely based on the average Harvard profile. If you look at all of the Indian, Chinese, African, and American students who have attended Harvard Business School, you’ll notice that many of them don’t have a top degree from an ivy league university, IIT, or any other well-known college in the world, aren’t in consulting, and don’t have a high GMAT score. Try to figure out what it was about those profiles that landed them a spot at HBS.

After all, is said and done, remember that Harvard isn’t the only good business school available to you. Several other business schools are far superior to Harvard in terms of ‘value.’ You could discover after a few years that you were just following it because of the brand. MBA graduates from other programs can also make a difference in the corporate world.