Before You Write That HBS Essay....

I’ve read hundreds—if not thousands—of admissions essays so I have a pretty strong sense of what is too short and too long. I also draw conclusions based on other parts of the application or on other school’s applications. Considering that the joint degree essay that joint degree applicants to HBS have to write has a 400-word limit, I would say anything shorter than 400 words is a bit too short for your main HBS essay.

Getting Started with HBS Essay 2015

Free Appraisal of HBS Leadership Essay. What level is your essay from A to D?

Excellent HBS Admissions Essay - Business Insider

The HBS round-one application deadline is less than a week away, leaving a lot of candidates scrambling to make the finishing touches on their essays. Inevitably, applicants also seem to be left wondering whether their HBS essay is the “right length” or what the “ideal word count” is for their essay. Without a suggested word limit from HBS to guide you, it’s a reasonable question to ask.

Read more of our thoughts on the HBS essay .

Ultimately, you have to let the content dictate how long your essay will be, but over the past year we’ve been able to collect enough data at MBA Admissions Advisors to make some reasonable guesses as to how long successful HBS essays typically are. The below histogram represents just that — an educated guess based on a limited sample — and while I cannot guarantee it is perfectly accurate, I hope it serves as a rough guide and useful datapoint as you consider the length of your essay.

Let’s take a look at this year’s 2016 HBS MBA essay which was announced on the HBS  Blog:
Close to 10,000 applicants will be tackling the HBS essay this season, and I wanted to share the two major mistakes folks will make in approaching this prompt.Here is a sample HBS application essay reviewed by our consultant Shana! To help you get the most out of it, she has added comments indicating the strongest areas of this essay for those who decide to apply to HBS. We made things easy for you: the gray boxes below contain the essay content, and all of the text in-between the boxes are Shana’s comments for the text.
So what additional tips should you keep in mind when writing your HBS application essay?

Excellent HBS Admissions Essay - Business Insider

A note on what not to do: We see many applicants tempted to include “why HBS” type information in HBS essays. Explaining why the case method specifically is a good fit for you and your learning style is absolutely appropriate, but more detailed “why HBS” content has never been asked for in an HBS application essay question. HBS admissions is quite clear on the value of an HBS degree, and they would rather see you use the space to provide more information about yourself and your candidacy.

Let’s take a look at this year’s 2016 HBS MBA essay which was announced on the HBS  Blog:

Should you or should you not write the HBS optional essay?

Like all essays, HBS Essay 2015 must have a logic to its structure that allows the best details to shine. Limiting oneself to a reader-friendly 1000 words is one part of establishing that structure. Another is to isolate the five points of differentiation that best translate into a concrete value proposition to the HBS community. HBS essay writers must never forget their primary audience: the 90 section mates with whom they’ll be spending their entire first year. The audience wants to know how you will enrich their experience during your two years at HBS and beyond. Consider what they’ll be excited and surprised to hear about in this mother of all ice-breaker speeches—for example, they don’t want to hear about your affinity for the outdoors without hearing about what you’ve got planned for the HBS Outdoors Club.

So what additional tips should you keep in mind when writing your HBS application essay?

Now, let’s get down to the specifics of the HBS optional essay.

Accomplishments have traditionally been a strong focus of HBS essays, and using at least one accomplishment story in this essay may be a good strategy, particularly if your accomplishments are not obvious when reading your resume or transcripts.