Harvard Business School Acceptance Rate, Deconstructed

In terms of acceptance rates for MBA programs worldwide in 2021, Harvard Business School came in third place, just behind the MIT Sloan School of Management. The single-digit rate of Stanford GSB typically outperforms HBS, in part because of the GSB’s much smaller class size (1,222 admits vs. 455.

Poets & Writers published their This clearly demonstrates the power of HBS in luring applicants and students. HBS’s acceptance rate in 2021 was 12. 5%, up from 11. 5% a year earlier (MIT Sloan was 12. 1%).

We chose to assess SBC’s most recent client data in order to help clarify the factors that affect the Harvard Business School acceptance rate. Our findings demonstrate that, in addition to a strong application essay and a wider range of demonstrated applicant attributes, the admit patterns by HBS have become more dependent on qualitative factors.

It may even be more accurate at predicting admissions success than strict criteria like college type, test score, or employer A depth of character can be demonstrated by discussing motives, life lessons, setbacks, growth, doubts, and realizations. By doing this, you activate the all-encompassing and complex admissions standards that HBS has come to value.

Acceptance rate

Consider why you want the degree

The HBS process requires applicants to be forward-thinking. Think about your motivations for pursuing an MBA as well as your plans for using it once you obtain one.

According to John Okemah, a 2020 admission, “If you know you want to go to HBS, you need to know what you will do at HBS.”

Harvard uses a case study approach, drawing on examples from actual business leaders. Students discuss stances that protagonists should take in a range of circumstances and difficulties across numerous industries. 500 cases are taken on by students over the course of two years at Harvard.

Chad Losee, managing director of HBS MBA admissions, says, “As an admissions team, we’re thinking about the pedagogy and who’s going to lean into that kind of environment.” Fast-paced debates and cold calling are crucial parts of an HBS education. Examine whether you could survive in that environment.

Ayo Ekhator, a member of the HBS MBA class of 2023, adds, “It can be easy to fall into the trap of applying to Harvard solely based on the name recognition.” But I believe that those who take the time to research what Harvard has to offer on an academic, social, and professional level, and then to next understand how that fits with the applicant’s goals, have the most successful processes. ”.

Don’t focus solely on test scores and GPA to carry your application

On average, applicants to Harvard Business School in 2020 had a 3. 7 undergrad GPA, 4. 7 years of professional experience and a GMAT score in the 730s While these numbers can indicate success, they don’t guarantee admission. HBS students have backgrounds in engineering, economics, social sciences, business/commerce, math, and physical science; no one undergraduate program accounts for the majority of those accepted.

Pay close attention to your essay, interview, and post-interview reflection. These will differentiate your candidacy.

Losee, the director of HBS admissions, states that “We’re not doing anything algorithmically.” “We also see our application process as a two-way street. HBS applicants want to learn more about the university as they progress through the application process. And we want to learn more about the applicants. ”.

Choose your recommenders carefully

Two letters of recommendation, which should reflect the HBS pillars of analytical aptitude and appetite (strong academic performance), engaged community citizenship (what you’re giving back as your success grows), and a habit of leadership (stepping up for yourself and others), are included with your application. The ideal recommender is someone who has been exposed to your work closely enough to offer insightful criticism, according to Losee.

Although an HBS alumnus might be a good recommender, it’s more crucial to have someone who is well acquainted with you speak on your behalf.

Tess Michaels, a member of the HBS class of 2020 and the founder and CEO of Stride Funding, a platform that provides income share agreements as an alternative to traditional student loans, advises applicants, “Don’t undervalue how important selecting the right composition of recommendation writers is.” It is “less interesting to HBS than them getting to see different dimensions of you,” she continues, to have multiple letters of recommendation from a single employer.

Michaels, who applied through HBS’s 2 2 Program while she was an undergraduate at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, advises recommenders to describe how you have demonstrated leadership in an academic, professional, or extracurricular setting—or a combination of these. After two years of work experience, the deferred program requires two years of the regular HBS MBA Program. Its application procedure is the same as the standard HBS; it just has a different deadline.

Tell your story

Admissions officers don’t ask, “Why Harvard?”

The question posed by Harvard is “What more would you like us to know as we review your application and consider your candidacy for the Harvard Business School MBA program?”

Harvard students, officials, and MBA experts concur that you cannot respond to this quickly or in one sitting. It takes time to consider your past, make plans for the future, and use a well-crafted story to do so.

According to MBA consultant Aggarwal, “While HBS is obviously looking for certain qualities, it’s really in the context of your own experiences, your perspectives, and your values.” “It’s really important to tell your story. She continues, “HBS values people who are not just bookworms.

HBS alumnus Michaels comments on the essay, saying, “So much of what I wrote about was the power of learning by doing, which had helped me propel my career.”

What your goals are, what you hope to gain from the program to help you get there, and (in a way that is not generic) why you want to earn your MBA are all important points to hit in your essay.

For those applying to MBA programs, life can be very hectic and fast-paced. Follow Ferris Bueller’s advice and look within to tell your story through your essay rather than treating it as a longer version of your résumé during the essay-writing process.

That reflection, in my opinion, can really help you get started in business school right away, and it can also help us get to know you and what you would bring to HBS, says Losee.

Memorize your application & practice explaining your “whys”

According to Losee, HBS typically invites one out of every five applicants for an on-campus interview, and of those invited, about half are ultimately admitted.

Unlike other programs, only HBS admissions board members conduct interviews. And, dare I say it, these officials probably spend longer preparing than you do.

Your interviewer will know your application to a T. They will be aware of the courses you took during your first year of college, the location of your first internship, the clubs you participated in, and even your high school. They know your story from your essay.

Knowing yourself and being able to defend your choices will help you ace the interview.

In order to prepare, Okemah says she asked herself a lot of “why” questions that she hadn’t really thought about before. These inquiries included why he chose the particular company to work for after graduating from Williams College and why he left it for another. It was “really tough” to consider his choices from a high perspective and formulate responses for an admissions officer, he claims.

Because every interview is unique to the applicant, searching for HBS interview questions won’t be very helpful. Memorize your application and practice articulating your “whys” to get ready for the hot seat. ”.

Losee explains, “That’s about you, not about what was requested of someone else who submitted a different application.”

Reflect on your interview

The final component of the puzzle is a follow-up letter, which candidates must deliver within 24 hours of the interview.

The traditional thank-you note goes a step further with the post-interview reflection, allowing candidates to have the final say, says Losee. Candidates can elaborate on subjects covered in their interview and fill in any gaps in their application. According to Aggarwal, who advises candidates for top MBA programs, it’s also another chance for HBS to comprehend how applicants synthesize conversations.

The format and length of the letter are up to you, but it should be brief and thoughtful. Since no two HBS interviews are the same, you cannot prepare for it.

“It’s not meant to be intimidating or prescriptive,” Losee says. “It’s not something to be overthought or overwrought. ”.

A final word on applying to Harvard Business School

Any MBA program requires a significant time and financial commitment. The decision to apply could take months or years.

Do your homework, talk to current students and professors, attend information sessions and webinars, and spend time on campus before and during the application process. Think beyond the two years you’ll spend at HBS. Look into the fields you’re interested in, and get in touch with HBS alumni to hear their experiences.

“HBS is such an interesting process because every single year, so many people with such fantastic backgrounds are turned down,” says Aggarwal. “We can never really know exactly why. But because of this, it’s crucial to avoid letting an HBS decision in any way derail your plans. ”.

Check out Fortune’s rankings of the top part-time, executive, full-time, and online MBA programs to see how the schools you are considering performed.

Hear From A Former HBS Admissions Interviewer


Is HBS hard to get into?

Admission to Harvard Business School (HBS) is very competitive. For its full-time MBA program, Harvard received 9,304 applications in 2020 and admitted 859 applicants. That is an acceptance rate of only 9%. The HBS process requires that applicants be forward-thinking.

What GPA do you need for HBS?

There is no required GPA, but most of our students have excellent undergraduate records. The Admissions Board uses a variety of criteria to assess applicants, including a candidate’s undergraduate GPA.

Can an average person get into HBS?

To be eligible to apply to HBS, you must achieve high GMAT or GRE scores. The median score of accepted students is 730. The higher the score, the better chances of getting accepted. If you have enough time before the application deadline and your test score falls below a 700, you should think about retaking it.

Is it harder to get into HBS or HLS?

The number of applicants to Harvard Business School was 1,799 more than to the Law School just one year prior. Harvard Business School published a 9 for the 2019–2020 admissions cycle. 2% admit rate versus the Law School’s 12. 9%. The number of applicants for each open seat in the class is more telling.

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