Harvard Business School New MBA Essay Prompts (2024-2025)

Your essential guide to the latest HBS MBA essay prompts, featuring expert advice, strategic insights, and additional resources to help you craft standout essays for your Harvard Business School application.

Posted July 1, 2024

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Harvard Business School (HBS) has once again set the stage for aspiring leaders to showcase their potential with the release of its new MBA essay prompts for the 2024-2025 application cycle. This extremely rare update presents both a challenge and an opportunity for applicants to showcase their unique experiences and perspectives. In this article, we’ll explore these new prompts, provide strategic advice on how to approach them, and offer tips to help you craft top-of-the-barrel essays that can enhance your application.

New Harvard MBA Essay Prompts (2024)

The old HBS essay prompt was, "As we review your application, what more would you like us to know as we consider your candidacy for the Harvard Business School MBA program?" Instead of one, longer essay, aspiring candidates of the class of 2027 have three, shorter essay prompts to respond to:

  • Business-Minded Essay: Please reflect on how your experiences have influenced your career choices and aspirations and the impact you will have on the businesses, organizations, and communities you plan to serve. (up to 300 words)
  • Leadership-Focused Essay: What experiences have shaped who you are, how you invest in others, and what kind of leader you want to become? (up to 250 words)
  • Growth-Oriented Essay: Curiosity can be seen in many ways. Please share an example of how you have demonstrated curiosity and how that has influenced your growth. (up to 250 words)

Prompt 1: Business-Minded Essay

Please reflect on how your experiences have influenced your career choices and aspirations and the impact you will have on the businesses, organizations, and communities you plan to serve. (300 words)

Breakdown: The main goal of this prompt is to connect your past experiences with your future career goals. That said, it’s an opportunity to show how your journey has shaped your professional ambitions and commitment to making a positive impact. HBS wants to see that you know where you've been and where you're going and that there is a narrative that ties it all together. Here’s how to approach it:

  • Identify Core Motivations: Start by reflecting on 3-4 pivotal experiences that you feel significantly influenced your career choices. These could be professional roles, projects, volunteer work, or personal challenges. Then, consider how your interests, passions, and motivations have evolved over time because of these experiences.
  • Connect Past to Future: Clearly explain how the experience(s) you selected helped shape your career goals. How did you navigate those experiences as you did? Why did you make the decisions you made? Be specific about what you aim to achieve and why these goals are important to you.
  • Make Your Essay Forward-Looking: Create a forward-looking narrative that ties your past experiences to your future goals. Show how these experiences have prepared you to make an impact on businesses, organizations, and communities. As a bonus point, use this moment as a chance to show your awareness of broader social and economic movement and demonstrate your overall desire to contribute meaningfully to your anticipated industry.

    Note: When looking at your application, AdComs want to see proof that you will do and accomplish what you say you will. Having a cohesive theme and clear goals will help you make a persuasive argument.
  • Keep It Professional: Remember that the prompt specifically asks to see how your past experiences have impacted your career choices and how you see yourself fitting into the professional world in the next several years. With that in mind, make sure you stick to talking about your future job prospects in this essay.

Prompt 2: Leadership-Focused Essay

What experiences have shaped who you are, how you invest in others, and what kind of leader you want to become? (250 words)

Breakdown: This prompt asks you to explain your personal development and leadership philosophy. It’s all about introspection and understanding how your experiences have molded your approach to leadership.

  • Examine Your Leadership Journey: Reflect on the various stages of your leadership journey. Identify key moments where you had to step up, make decisions, or influence others, and think about how these experiences have shaped your leadership style.
  • Use Personal Anecdotes: Use personal anecdotes to illustrate your points. Stories about how you have invested in others, facilitated a strong work environment, or even reached a breakthrough while working as a team can be very powerful in showing your leadership potential. With each example you provide, make sure to explain what you’ve learned from those interactions using the STAR Method.
  • Show Investment in Others: As you’re outlining your response, an example of how you have supported and developed others will likely come to mind (i.e. mentoring, team leadership, community involvement, etc). Remember, however, that you’ll also need to show how you want to continue acting as a leader and investing in others.
  • Define Your Leadership Style: Clearly describe the type of leader you aspire to be. Highlight qualities like empathy, resilience, innovation, or inclusivity, and explain how your experiences have reinforced these traits.

Pro Tip: If you’re having trouble nailing down or putting words to your particular brand of leadership, try taking a leadership style quiz. Lucky for you, Harvard has its own page for this exact dilemma! Using the resources provided here by HBS – and perhaps even mentioning them in your essays or interviews – will help you stand out as an applicant familiar with the resources HBS has to offer.

Prompt 3: Growth-Oriented Essay

Curiosity can be seen in many ways. Please share an example of how you have demonstrated curiosity and how that has influenced your growth. (250 words)

Breakdown: HBS is using this prompt to see how the gears turn in your head. They want to know if you have intellectual curiosity and if so, how it drives your personal and professional growth. Treat this prompt as an invitation to highlight a specific instance where your curiosity led to significant learning or development.

  • Identify a Defining Moment of Curiosity: Reflect on a time when your curiosity led you to explore new ideas or opportunities. Think about moments of genuine interest when you went beyond the surface to deeply investigate a topic, problem, or question.
  • Describe Your Process: Explain what sparked your curiosity and how you pursued it. Detail the steps you took, the questions you asked, and the challenges you faced.
  • Highlight the Impact: Discuss the outcomes of your efforts. What did you learn? How did it change your perspective or abilities? How has it influenced your approach to other situations?
  • Show Benefits: Highlight the long-term and tangible benefits of your curiosity. Discuss how this experience has influenced your growth, changed your perspective, or contributed to your success in other areas.

HBS Essay Tips for Success

1. Be Specific and Concrete

Avoid vague generalizations and instead focus on giving specific examples that illustrate your points. Use detailed anecdotes to bring your experiences to life. Whether you’re discussing a professional achievement, a leadership challenge, or a moment of curiosity, specificity will make your essay more engaging and memorablee. Writing descriptive stories with clear points and imagery allow the admissions committee to better visualize your experiences and understand your unique journey, and will ultimately benefit your application in the long run.

2. Focus on Leadership and Growth

Leadership and growth are central themes in the HBS essays. Highlight instances where you’ve demonstrated leadership, invested in others, and pursued personal and professional growth. Reflect on how these experiences have shaped your leadership style and growth mindset. By letting your leadership potential and commitment to continuous improvement shine through to the admissions committee, you’ll prove that you’re a perfect match with HBS’s core values.

3. Maintain Professionalism

While it’s important to be authentic and personal, make sure your essays maintain a professional tone. Especially for the business-minded essay, focus on professional experiences and how they have influenced your career choices. Striking the right balance between personal insight and professional achievement is crucial for a compelling narrative.

4. Seek Feedback

Once you’ve drafted your essays, seek feedback from trusted mentors, peers, or professional advisors. Fresh perspectives can help provide valuable insights and help you refine your narrative. Be open to constructive criticism and use it to enhance the clarity, coherence, and impact of your essays.

5. Edit and Proofread

Keeping any given feedback in mind, carefully edit and proofread your essays to ensure they are free from any grammatical errors and typos. Clear, error-free writing tells the admissions committee that you have a strong attention to detail and commitment to excellence. Reading your essays aloud or using text-to-speech tools can help catch errors you might miss while reading silently. A polished essay enhances your professionalism and credibility.

By following these tips, you’ll be on the right track to write essays that not only meet the HBS application requirements but also perfectly embody your unique strengths, experiences, and aspirations. Good luck with your application process!

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At Leland, we have a broad network of world-class coaches who can help with any part of the MBA application. Many of them are experts in essay writing, browse them here. Want to work with an HBS alum who has first-hand experience with the Harvard application process? As for some of our highest-rated MBA admissions coaches, you can browse them all here.

HBS New Essays FAQs

How do Harvard’s new essay prompts differ from last year?

  • The essay prompts for the 2024-2025 application cycle differ drastically from the previous year. Instead of HBS' traditional one essay requirement - "Is there anything else we should know about you?" - applicants now have three, shorter prompts to respond to, all targeting a different characteristic (business, leadership, and growth).

How many essays are required for the HBS application?

  • For many years, HBS required only one main essay. Starting in 2024, applicants now have three essays.

What is the word limit for HBS essays?

  • The word limit for the new HBS essays is as follows: 300 words for the business-minded prompt and 250 words each for the leadership-focused and growth-oriented prompts.

    As you’re writing your essay, remember to stick to this limit to keep your essay concise and focused. Being able to stay within the word limit while still writing a strong essay is the best way to demonstrate your ability to communicate effectively.

Can I reuse essays from other applications?

  • While it may be easy to draw inspiration from essays written for other applications, each response should be tailored specifically to HBS’s prompts. Doing this helps you better present yourself as the kind of hard-working, dedicated student HBS is looking for and highlights why you are a good fit for their program. Likewise, admissions officers can quickly spot when someone is using a fill-in-the-blank style of essay, so always make sure your essay is original and direct.

How important are the essays compared to other application components?

  • Essays are a critical part of the HBS application as they offer the only opportunity for you to trusly share your voice with the admissions committee. Because of this, the essays represent your chance to showcase your personality, values, and potential fit with the HBS community. While other components of your application such as test scores, resumes, and recommendations are also important, the essays help provide personal context and depth to your overall application.

When is the deadline for the HBS application?

  • Deadlines for this year’s application cycle are September 4th, 2024 for Round 1 and January 6th, 2025 for Round 2. Admissions decisions will be released by December 10 and January 6 for each respective round.

Next Steps

For more expert advice on writing your essay and other critical components of your MBA program applications, take a look through the following articles:

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