HBS 2+2 Deferred MBA Essay Prompts & Tips (2024)

As of 2024, HBS has changed its deferred MBA essay prompts away from the traditional, "What else should we know about you?" to three smaller essays. Read more and nail your HBS 2+2 application here.

Posted January 4, 2024

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Harvard Business School recently updated its application essay prompts for its 2+2 deferred MBA program. Here is what you need to know and how to stand out.

HBS 2+2 Essay Prompts (2024)

Those applying to the HBS 2+2 program in 2024 or later will no longer write the traditional, "What else should we know about you?" essay. Instead, they will write three shorter, more targeted essays that each have a limit of 300 words. Two of those essays will be on personal topics and one on career aspirations.

Personal Essays

For the personal essays, applicants have three options of prompts and will need to pick two. Here is what is stated in the application portal:

The HBS classroom and community thrive when we bring together people who can share a variety of perspectives. To get to know you better and how you will engage at HBS, please choose two of the three prompts below to tell us more about yourself.

  • How have your experiences shaped who you are, how you lead, and how you will contribute at HBS?
  • What intellectual experiences have influenced your approach to learning and have led you to pursue an MBA?
  • What communities have you been engaged with that have defined how you invest in others?

Career Essay

The career essay only includes one prompt option, which is as follows:

How do the career plans you shared in the Career Plans section of the application fit into your current long-term career vision? What skills and/or professional experiences do you hope to obtain in the deferral period that will help build the foundation for your post-MBA career?

HBS 2+2 Essay Tips

1. Showcase Personal Growth and Self-Awareness

HBS values applicants who demonstrate a keen sense of self-awareness and personal development. Your essays should reflect your journey, how you've evolved, and what you've learned from your experiences.

  • Example: If you led a project that faced significant challenges, don't just focus on the success. Highlight what you learned about leadership, teamwork, and your own strengths and weaknesses.

2. Articulate Clear Career Goals and Vision

HBS wants to understand your career aspirations and how their MBA program fits into that path. Be specific about your goals and how the knowledge and network at HBS will help you achieve them. For deferred applicants, specifically, this is very important. The school does not have a professional track record on which to judge you; instead, you have to show that your potential outweighs any risks in your candidacy.

  • Example: Rather than stating a general desire to be in leadership, detail your ambition to lead a tech startup focusing on sustainable energy, explaining how HBS’s resources and alumni network will help you get there.

3. Demonstrate Leadership and Impact

Leadership is a core value at HBS. Your essays should showcase instances where you have made a meaningful impact, whether in your professional, academic, or community engagements. Show leadership wherever you can.

  • Example: Describe a time when you initiated something, outlining the challenges faced, the impact it had, and what it taught you about leading.

4. Reflect a Global Perspective and Diversity of Thought

HBS looks for candidates who bring diverse perspectives and understand global contexts. Illustrate your awareness and appreciation of different cultures, ideas, and viewpoints.

  • Example: Share experiences where you worked in diverse teams or in different countries, focusing on how these experiences broadened your understanding and approach to problem-solving.

5. Craft a Cohesive Narrative

Your essays should collectively tell a story about who you are, linking your past experiences with your future aspirations. They should complement the rest of your application to present a well-rounded picture of your candidacy.

  • Example: If your resume highlights extensive work in finance, your essays could discuss how this experience sparked your interest in fintech innovation, shaping your career goals and desire for an MBA at HBS. Do not reiterate information that is already found in the other areas of your application.

Remember, the essence of these tips is not just to inform the admissions committee about your achievements but to provide insights into your character, mindset, and potential to contribute to the HBS community and beyond. Good luck!

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