Marking yesterday’s round one application deadline at Harvard Business School (HBS), Poets&Quants today ran an article asking admissions consultants how the applicants they worked with on this year’s application to HBS felt about the school’s move to reduce its required essays from four to two. According to the P&Q report, between 30 and 50 percent of candidates to Harvard are estimated to work with a consultant during their application process, making consultants a good gauge of market reaction to the changes.
The majority of admissions consultants polled by P&Q reported frustration on the part of their clients about the new application format, in which applicants have a total of just 800 words to answer two direct questions, namely, “tell us something you’ve done well” and “tell us something you wish you had done better.” According to several consultants, applicants felt like the change didn’t allow them the opportunity to fully tell their story or “fan out all their feathers” as one put it.
Clear Admit Senior Admissions Counselor Stacey Oyler had a different view. “I think that the clients took the changes in stride,” she told P&Q. “After the initial surprise, they focused on sharpening their message and telling their stories with the two essays and their resume. It took some fine tuning, but I think most are happy with the applications they crafted.”
HBS is one of several top business schools that have moved to lessen the role of essays in the application process in recent years. MIT Sloan School of Management and Stanford Graduate School of Business each require fewer essay responses from their applicants this year, and the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania this season is rolling out a new group interview portion of the application to provide its admissions committee with an opportunity to see applicants interact with other applicants as part of the admissions process.
According to HBS Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid Dee Leopold, the move at HBS comes in part because the essays had become too large a part of the admissions process. “I’ve been saying that admissions is not an essay writing contest and that is where a lot of the anxiety is,” Leopold told P&Q. “When we never met anyone, essays were the only way we had for applicants to get some form of personalization of the application. But since the Class of 2004, we’ve been interviewing all admitted applicants. The interviews are a big investment of our time, money and assessment energy, so I think it’s time to have a corresponding reduction in that initial (essay) hurdle.”
Read the full P&Q article, “The Early Verdict on HBS’ Application.”