Harvard Business School's decision to require only one admissions essay will terrify many applicants. But for truly exceptional candidates, standing out from the pack just got a little easier.
You can’t talk your way into Harvard Business School anymore.
According to Evan Forster, co-founder of Forster-Thomas Educational and Career Consulting, that’s the main takeaway from HBS’s new application requirements, announced in a blog by Dee Leopold and reported by Poets & Quants’ John Byrne.
The most significant change to the application is that there is now only one essay question required of candidates for the class of 2016, a dramatic change from just two years ago, when the school required four essays. It has also reduced the number of recommenders from three to two, and moved its round one deadline up a full week to September 16.
So what is the new HBS essay question?
You’re applying to Harvard Business School. We can see your résumé, school transcripts, extra-curricular activities, awards, post-MBA career goals, test scores and what your recommenders have to say about you. What else would you like us to know as we consider your candidacy?”
Forster, for one, is happy about the move to just one essay, because it takes the emphasis away from writing and puts it where it belongs: on candidacies.
“I’m really excited about this change. It backs up everything we’ve always known about b-school: It’s a place that develops great leaders, not great essay writers,” Forster said. “By cutting the requirement down to one essay, they’ve levelled the playing field. They took away the writing crutch. They’re really going to be evaluating you more on who you really ARE, not on who you SAY you are. Candidates can’t just talk the talk anymore. They have to walk the walk.”
Forster also feels that this gives Forster-Thomas an edge.
“Forster-Thomas has never been an essay mill. We don’t help undeserving candidates sprinkle fairy dust on their essays as a quick fix. We’ve always been about building candidacies. We give our candidates a Leadership Action Plan and help them find ways to make a difference in the world. That’s actually HBS’s mission statement – educating leaders who make a difference in the world. Their new approach to essays shows that the HBS admissions committee is actually on board with their own school’s mission.”
Forster-Thomas co-founder David Thomas agrees with this assessment. But he disagrees with Leopold that reducing the number of essays will bring candidates any relief. “Both this year and last, Dee Leopold has suggested that candidates are too nervous about writing essays. And she seems to think that by reducing the writing requirement, she’s making people worry less about them. But the truth is people are more nervous. I’ve already gotten calls from candidates who are freaked out that they only have one chance to tell their story. And since there’s only one essay, you have to get it right. So in many ways, it increases the pressure.”
Founded in 1995, Forster-Thomas Inc is an internationally-recognised, boutique educational and career consulting firm based in NYC. Co-founders Evan Forster and David Thomas are the authors of the best-selling book, The MBA Reality Check: Make The School You Want, Want You, published in 2010.