How to Get Into Harvard Business School

Harvard Business School is among the most prestigious institutions in the world, with the highest ranking MBA program out of the M7. The school’s alumni include some of the most influential leaders in the corporate world and it is undeniable that the resources, the network, and the prestige that a Harvard MBA program offers will have a tremendous impact on your chances at achieving your career goals.

In short, HBS is an incredibly attractive choice if you are interested in an MBA. However, Harvard has a competitive admissions process, and if you landed on this page you are likely wondering what it takes to stand out in this process. So how do you get into HBS? In what follows, prospective applicants will find some tips on how to gain admission to one of the world’s top business schools.

Becoming a Qualifying Candidate for HBS

The first question to ask yourself is whether you currently qualify for a Harvard MBA. You need to have a high GPA and ideally have a combination of five years of post-college work experience, with some leadership experience, and demonstrated high achieving academic performance. HBS is also interested in the honors and recognitions you have been awarded along the way. These are generally the requirements you will be expected to meet to be accepted into the Harvard MBA program.

Acing the GMAT

To get into most top MBA programs, you’ll need to make sure you earn a high score on the GMAT. The average GMAT score to get into HBS is especially high, and you should aim for a placement in the high 700s. This is one of the many reasons that starting early is crucial, as it gives you time to prepare for the GMAT. Moreover, in case your GMAT score is too low, you will have time to retake the GMAT to increase your test scores in time for application deadlines.

If you do not tick all of the boxes mentioned so far, this is an opportunity to figure out how you can fill your resume and build your profile to have a greater chance in the future. A unique personal history, inspiring extracurricular activities, or an outstanding achievement can help make up for other gaps in your profile.

Building the Right Profile for HBS

In addition to the general qualifications that you will likely need to win admission, such as professional experience, academic performance, and an impeccable GMAT score, the admissions committee is looking for MBA students who will fit in with the rest of the student body and will increase the reputation of the school. HBS students come with diverse backgrounds and it is important that you complement these differences with your own story.

This is another reason why you need to start early in the application process, leaving you time to draw out what makes you unique in your essays. Moreover, you need to demonstrate that you are a cultural fit and that you have reflected on why an HBS MBA is right for you compared to other top ranking MBA programs. For instance, HBS emphasizes what it calls “analytical aptitude” and “engaged community citizenship.” This means that they expect an HBS student to be an academic high achiever who prioritizes goodwill projects.

Networking with HBS MBAs

Another great way to build the right profile for HBS would be to demonstrate that you already have a network at Harvard. As an added bonus, talking to current students and alumni will help you to understand their profiles, and in turn, help you to gauge what HBS is looking for. The best way to do this would be to attend MBA events and organize campus visits. You can also conduct LinkedIn research and take notes about the profiles of HBS students and use it to reach out and build your network in that way.

Writing a great application

The next step is to get started on the actual written application. Harvard has an online application system, where you will fill out your resume, add your references, and upload your essays. Filling out an application might come across as a rudimentary step, but make no mistake, the process of putting all the pieces together on the application form can be deceptively time-consuming. It is crucial that you allocate enough time to get it just right.

The HBS Essay

The HBS essay is a big part of the application puzzle. As mentioned before, this is where you get to highlight your profile and demonstrate what makes you unique. This is an opportunity to engage the admissions committee with great storytelling, communicating how you fit into the HBS MBA community.

Recommendation Letters

You will need two letters of recommendation. To ensure that you stand out and impress the admissions committee, you should let your recommenders know early so that they have plenty of time to prepare and write a great reference. The earlier you start, the more time you’ll have to start cultivating your relationship with potential references.

Prepare for your HBS Interview

The final step of the admissions process takes place when you have been invited to an interview. This can be a daunting prospect, but making use of practice questions can be a great way to prepare. The better prepared you are to answer any questions the HBS interviewers might throw at you, the higher your chances of making a good impression are. Moreover, if you feel prepared and have had time to practice your interviewing skills, you will likely feel less nervous.

Harvard Business School Image
HBS will surely open many exciting doors and prepare you for a successful professional life.

Best Tips for How to get into Harvard Business School

Impressive candidates from all over the world wish to attend HBS, and the hard truth is that most applicants will be disappointed in the outcome. To increase your chances of winning admission then, you have to make sure to grab the attention of the MBA admissions committee. Here is a summary of the main steps to consider when embarking on your HBS journey:

  1. Become a qualifying candidate
    • Ace you GMAT! Your GMAT score will need to be as high as possible to compete with other applicants.
    • Build your work experience. Ideally you’d already have five years of professional experience when you start at Harvard.
  2. Build the right profile
    • Organize campus visits and network with students and alumni to ensure that you know what HBS is looking for. Demonstrate that you understand the culture of the school (and the ways you will fit into that culture).
  3. Write a great application
    • … starting with a great HBS essay! Your essays will be an opportunity for you to to go beyond the stats and communicate what makes you unique. Good storytelling is important and it indicates to the admissions committee that you can meaningfully reflect on your personal and professional experiences prior to applying.
    • Have a well-developed set of career goals. When you describe your goals, be specific and be realistic. Show that you have a clear grasp of the trajectory that you are on and the role HBS plays in this journey.
    • Reach out to your references. You will be asked for two letters of recommendation, so make sure you are cultivating professional relationships and giving your references plenty of time to write their recommendations.
  4. Practice for your interview
    • Once you have been invited to an HBS interview, it is time to start preparing. The HBS interviews can be overwhelming, so be diligent in your preparations. One great way of doing this is to work with practice questions.
  5. Start early!
    • Make sure you have all your general qualifications in order and that you have a long runway to work on any gaps in your profile. This includes time to gain more experience at work, participate in extracurriculars, and to earn a competitive GMAT score.

All of the steps outlined above will help you understand that burning question: how to get into Harvard Business School. Becoming an HBS graduate will surely open many exciting doors and prepare you for a successful professional life.

Hopefully, our guide has not only helped to explain how to win admission but has also posed the question of whether HBS is the right school for you. If so, then we wish you all the best on the application!