How to Get into Harvard – A Detailed Analysis of Application Essay [2018]

How to Get into Harvard – A Detailed Analysis of Application Essay [2018]

October 17, 2019 59 By Stanley Isaacs


Welcome to this video In which I am going to analyze the Harvard
business school application for 2019. So this is basically the application season
of 2018-2019 for the class of 2021. First things first, let’s get some basics
out of the way! So Harvard deadlines this year So there are two deadlines, One on September
5th and the other one on January 3rd The results typically for the September deadline,
you will get an interview by about October and the decision will be told to you by December
11th, 2018, if you apply in the round one. And If you apply in the round two, there is
a Jan intake, You probably are to get your results,
your interview dates by end of January and final results by March 26, 2019. What does it mean for you? Round one vs Round two! If it is Harvard, there is no question
you should be looking at Round one and there is no reason for you to apply in round two, unless and until of course if you have not taken the
GMAT But if Harvard is in your list, my suggestion
would be is to apply in round one. Not that your chances greatly diminish in
round two. I think if your Harvard material, Round one
vs Round two shouldn’t make any differences because your that good But what happens is if your applying
to other schools at round one and you apply to Harvard in round two, you get your results by March 26th but the
other schools you need to pay the fees. You know they have this caution deposit or
whatever you call it. So they have that and you need to make sure
that you need to decide and sometimes that can be a lot of money. My suggestion, if it Harvard, round one. A couple of statistics, you must have seen
these on websites or other forums. They had 10,351 people applying out of which
only 928 got in. So that gives you a pretty good acceptance
rate. Like pretty good meaning as in pretty low
acceptance rate. But here is the one thing that people forget
about Harvard. I have had people come and tell me “Arun but 10,000 people applied, 1000 got
in, roughly 10% but that’s nothing compared to IIMs where 2 lakh people take the
CAT and only a few hundred get into IIMs” Incorrect! The reason it’s incorrect is because
people who apply to Harvard, there is a lot of self-selection that already happens. If you look at the average GMAT for the people
who got into Harvard, It’s 730 but if you look at perhaps average
GMAT of the people who got rejected, That might be 720 So what is happening is people are not even
applying to Harvard, The ten thousand who are applying are so sure
of themselves, they are so confident, they have done remarkably at work and that’s why they have
the confidence to apply. So I just want you to take the acceptance
percentage with a pinch of salt. This is not true for Harvard. This is true for most b-schools, most top
b-schools, which is the self-selection. Coming to the GMAT scores, most people who
got in through GMAT, no surprises there, 730 is the median that it boasts. One important thing that I like you to see
is, you usually see a lower number, somewhere around 589/590/450, they have been a couple of years ago when
the scores were low. But do not go at the low scores. Because When you look at the range, that is
the lowest score, we don’t know the story behind that We don’t know who’s the guy who get in with
a 560. If you were to ask me, I am going to base
it on Indians applying, you need a rock-solid GMAT score. What I mean by a rock-solid GMAT score is
750/760 kind of score. If you have 720/730, the rest of your profile
is great, I wouldn’t worry but 750/760 is just the score that I have seen over the years typically getting
into Harvard. Make Sure your gun for that. in case you are going down the GRE route, the
average GRE scores that they publish is a 164 in Quant and 164 in Verbal. Which for a lot of Indians look very different. 164 in Verbal looks very high, whereas 164
in Quant could look low. But I would probably say a GRE score of 330
and above is what you should be looking at if your gunning for Harvard. That’s the basics, let’s look more into
the school. So the first thing that I would like to tell
you about the school is, Harvard has credentials that are not goal
plated. They are platinum plated. It’s probably the one school in the world
which so well knows that the moment you say that your an MBA from Harvard, people just automatically assume that your
hard working, smart and you know how to get your job done. If you were to look in, when I have spoken
to people from other top schools, one thing that they have told me and very interesting
is, if you look at Kellogg it’s known for marketing, if you look a Columbia, it is known for finance, if you look at a Wharton, it is also known
for finance. Wharton, booth but if you look at Harvard. Harvard is known for nothing. So every top school wants to aspire to be
a Harvard. It aspires to go to a point where people just
look at it and say, Hey, this is Harvard, whatever you have learned
it is probably useful. How are the classes? Well, the class size is one of the biggest. 928 is by far the largest class size that
you have and what they do is typically split it up into sections. So each of these sections has about 90 students. So you pretty much be in one of the ten sections
that they have. It just makes it easier to put a face to a
name. Otherwise, you can easily get lost. You have 10 sections, within the sections
you have learning teams usually come together for a project and also what the school does. It picks student with a different background,
cultural, functions and in a lot of ways. So that your learning in that sense is truly
diverse. Though you are in a large class you still have
that connection that bond with your learning team. Specifically what has been my experience of
Indians who have gotten in. I have known a few of my students who have
gotten into Harvard. A couple of things, One Harvard is big into brand
names. So that I can tell, So if you have a good brand name in terms
of your education or you have a blue chip employer. That is going to be a huge plus for you. So if you are looking for an IIT, as an undergrad,
just giving an example. IIT has an undergrad and lets ‘s say you have
worked for Bain or let’s say Sequoia or you have worked for McKinsey as an analyst. I think those are the kind of roles that really
make you Harvard material. The other thing that I want to tell
you is Harvard also looks for History of excellence. It looks for people who have consistently
done very well in whatever they have done. So the other thing that I have seen is people
who have had successful setups who have been an entrepreneur and who have had successful
exits. So that’s going to be another thing. So if you had a mom and pop store and your
making a revenue of let’s say 20 Lakhs. Uh well good for you but that’s not the
scale that Harvard is looking at. So if your looking at something big, your
really looking at having a setup. So any impact that you have done, be it your
business, be it community involvement, anything. So if you say that in college I was part of
it, so you should say, I was heading a cultural
fest where the budget was 10 crores or something that had a huge impact. So that’s the other focus. You need to look at impact You need to look at quantifying the size of
your impact. Very important for you to do so. So these are the two broad things that I have
seen in my students, especially Indians have gotten in. So let’s look at the essays that we have
this year! It’s not really changed, I think the last
4-5 years, they have maintained the same format and the question is 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? Interesting thing and no word limit. Let me just answer that part first. What should be an ideal word limit? I would actually not keep a number to it but
I would find it very hard to justify something goes with 2000-3000 words. It reflects poorly on your ability to articulate
your thoughts. I would probably say for the lack of number,
I would say 1000. So assume that it is a 100o word essay. Obviously, if you go to 800 word or 1200 words
I wouldn’t worry. But if you have a number, I would really pick
thousand as a number, this is coming from someone who writes. I know that in writing there is only so much
you can do. In Order to keep that interest. More than that they would probably read it
but not in the way you would like them to read. So I think 1000 words is pretty much on power
and in our past also our students, the applications that we have known. They had written somewhere in that range. Coming to the other thing, what do you write? I am pretty sure, all of you watching the
video are waiting for this, your waiting for. Okay, Arun, great but what do we write? I will tell you what not to write okay. I will tell you what not to write and perhaps
from there, we can go on to what we can write. What we cannot write. Do not write about your accomplishments. I think there is this huge need to show Harvard
that I have done all of these things in life, They use this essay to talk about stuff they
have done and why it was a big deal for them to do that. But what really happens is, a).You end up repeating your resume. So keep your resume in front of you. Assume that during the interview, you will
be asked to defend or you would be asked questions on your resume. It is pointless for you to repeat points on
your resume. In fact, I think you should keep your resume
in front of you when your writing an essay and at any point, your like well am I repeating
anything, probably that point gets knocked off. Second thing, again as I said, a lot of people
try to write what they think will impress the Harvard MBA committee. So I am going to read something from the website
as a suggestion. We think you know what the guidance we are
going to give here. Don’t overthink, over craft or overwrite. So it’s clear “Overwrite”. Just answer the question in clear language,
that those of us who don’t know your world can understand. Do not fill it with business jargon. Again the tendency is, this is Harvard business
school, I have to sound intelligent I have to sound as if I am worthy of Harvard
business school. That is one thing that I have seen in students. I want to show to them that I am good enough! For that, I am going to use words which show
my expertise and skills. Do not do that! Write simple language under 1000 words. Now let’s get onto what do you write Very hard for me to really give a brief description
because Harvard themselves are not prescriptive so it would be incorrect for me to be prescriptive. Let me give you a couple of ideas so that
after this video you can really think about it. If your applying to Harvard, you can always
write to us. I am more than happy to see if there is a
way by which we can work and brainstorm on the ideas. Now coming to the specific part of the content
to write. First of all, as I said, it’s not going
to be a resume. What a lot of people do is they turn into
this life story. “When I was 5..I remember my father telling
me that… You know.. He had to do something..and that seeded this
idea of who I wanted to be and at 10… I did this and at 15, I did this and at 20
I did… this and at 25 I am doing this and this is what I want to
do at 30” You know what it’s great unless and until
you are Shahrukh Khan, nobody wants to know what you have done. What I would do is, I would probably go towards
the “Why” to kinda paraphrase Simon Sinek on this. I want to start with the why I want to know
more about who you are. I want to know what do you bring, what are
your values, what is it that defines who you really are. So that would be the core. What I would do is, I would probably do this
very simple exercise. What you can do is, you can sit with a bunch
of post-it notes and what you can do is, you can just talk about everything that you
feel that you have done in your life. What defines that. For example, let me give you a personal example So one pattern or a trend that I have seen
in my life is that I tend to, I like to help people. I have gone out of my way and I have helped
people. That’s what I do, That’s what gives me
a kick. That now becomes one why so one thing. So I would probably put it as “Arun, The
Giver” “Arun, the teacher” or “Arun, the mentor” So now that becomes my why! Now what I am going to do is from that why,
I am going to the next level and I am going to say How. Now that I have defined my why, How is
it that I actually do that. Then I get into the details. Again it’s slightly below the surface level
but things like what is it that I want to impact? What does it mean to me to be a teacher? What is it that I think I have done? Then I would get into the what. So that would be the last part. So the last part would be talking about, a
little bit of what I have done and also a little bit of what I want to do. So I would probably pick the why, how and
what framework. Pick a bunch of post-it notes. For each idea, you develop the why. Once you know the way, you develop the how. Like now this is why, how have I done it. So how is this? What interacts me? A little bit more about it. And then you get into the what, like what
have I done? What have I planned to do? So that’s what I would keep as one way to
write this. Now the other thing that a lot of people ask
is “Arun, can this not be my career goal essay?” Yes, It can be your career goal essay but
I would probably take a slightly larger view. Because If they wanted to give a career goal
essay they would have given you a career goal essay. So what I would, I would take a larger view
of it. What I would do is, I would go in and I would
use the same Why, How and what framework. Pick one piece that I am really passionate
about. Maybe be talk about why am I passionate. How did I become passionate! That’s an interesting backstory. What is it that happened to me that made me
passionate about it and then what is it that you’r your going to do with your gift. What is it that your going to do with your
talent. So I would probably pick that approach, Probably pick a slightly larger approach. Maybe talk about the fact, what I wanted to
do but not keep that as a focus for the essay. So yes careers can be a backdrop but not
the main story. So that’s what I would have to say about
the essays and I know it’s a little tough to start writing. So here is a tip on writing the HBS essay. Now there are two types of writing, One is called “The focused writing” So what happens in focused writing is you
have a very clear structure More schools will give you 300 words. Tell me what you want to do post-MBA and How
such and such school would help you get there. Now over there you have a structure and it’s
easier for you to fit into structure. For Harvard, I would recommend going for an
unfocused view. Unfocused writing! Where you are writing and not really thinking. Many times, especially Indian students! We tend to have problems expressing our thoughts
on paper. So What I would suggest maybe maintain a journal, Maybe keep a word document and everyday commit
to writing 30-40 min. Do that for about a week. Try doing that! It looks easy but it’s actually very hard. Try to spend 30 mins every day, for the next
one week. Just writing! This could be your thoughts, this could be
what you want to do. Why you want to go to Harvard. Do not judge what your writing. Once you have done waiting, that’s it! And give yourself a timer. 30 mins. I am going to write and step away. Then what you may do is perhaps, a week later
go back and look at what an all you have written. And maybe there is a pattern that emerges
from that. This could be a prequel to having post-it
notes. So that’s all I had, I think I hope I have helped you getting some
ideas, some directions with your Harvard business school essay. As always, in case you have anything, Please go ahead and drop us a mail. We would be more than glad to get in touch
to see how we can help you And if you liked this video and if you think
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