The Leading Independent
Resource for Top-tier MBA
Home » Blog » Admissions Tips » How to Get into Harvard Business School

How to Get into Harvard Business School

Image for How to Get into Harvard Business School

Let’s delve into how to get into Harvard Business School (HBS), one of the most prestigious business schools in the world that offers a rigorous MBA program and international opportunities for its graduates. Admission is highly selective and every year thousands of applicants from all over the world compete for a limited number of spots. So, how can you increase your chances of getting accepted into Harvard Business School’s MBA program? 

First, it’s essential to understand what qualities HBS is looking for. These are the three criteria used to evaluate applicants and determine if they are a good fit: 

  • Habit of Leadership: HBS looks for applicants who demonstrate leadership skills, drive, and the ability to inspire and motivate others. “Leadership really matters,” says Clear Admit’s Co-Founder, Graham Richmond. “Consider the mark you have left on each and every institution or organization of which you have been a part. How have you left these places better than when you found them?”
  • Analytical Aptitude and Appetite: HBS emphasizes analytical skills and looks for applicants with a strong aptitude for data and numbers and an appetite for problem-solving. They want to see that the applicant has experience using data analysis to make decisions and drive results.
  • Engaged Community Citizenship:  HBS looks for applicants who are actively involved in making a positive impact in their communities and have a strong desire to use their education and experience to make a difference in the world.

HBS applicants need to demonstrate exceptional professional and academic achievements. While the GMAT score range for the current class is 540 – 790, the median GMAT score is 730. The median GRE scores for both the Verbal and Quantitative sections are 163. The class undergraduate GPA average is 3.7. No minimum experience is required to apply, but the typical Harvard admit has an average of five years of professional experience. 

Strategies for How to Get into Harvard Business School

This highly competitive and selective process means the acceptance rate is typically around 10 percent. You’ll have to stand out to the admissions team and demonstrate the criteria they’re looking for. With that in mind, here’s how to get into Harvard Business School using four strategies that take you beyond metrics and submitting required documents. 

1. Research the program 

The first step is researching the MBA program and determining if it is a good fit for you. You should be familiar with the curriculum, the teaching style, the resources offered, and the school’s mission and values.

  • Get to know the case method that HBS uses as its primary means of instruction. “It’s an amazing tool that depends on class participation, and it’s quite different from more traditional methods of instruction, so applicants would do well to do their research on this element,” Richmond notes. 
  • HBS has a wealth of information on their website to help candidates navigate the admissions process. Take advantage of the information sessions, class visits, online video tutorials, and more that admissions offers. “Because of these resources, it is almost expected that applicants know quite a bit about the program and what HBS is looking for. Be sure to do your homework!” advises Richmond.

2. Assess your qualifications 

Are you a strong candidate for the program? Compare your qualifications to the class profile. If your stats are not within range, improve your standing. 

  • You can retake exams if your scores are low, and if your GPA isn’t stellar, consider taking a course like Business Fundamentals, HBS CORe, or MBA Math to demonstrate aptitude and readiness. 
  • Have limited work experience? Seek out leadership opportunities to bolster this aspect of your profile before applying.  
  • Be honest with yourself at this stage. If you are not excited by the program design, or your stats aren’t in line with the class profile, think about waiting until you have amassed better qualifications or if HBS is, in fact, the right fit for you. 

3. Start early

There are two admission rounds, and deadlines are usually in early September and early January. Applying early can potentially improve your chances of being accepted, and the application process can take several months, so it’s important to prepare early. 

  • You’ll need to update your resume and CV, document your professional achievements and collect your academic records. You’ll also have to prepare for the GMAT and/or GRE through study and practice exams.  
  • Letters of recommendation should be carefully chosen, as they will speak to your leadership potential, work ethic, and character. It’s a good idea to give your referees enough time to write a strong recommendation and provide them with specific information about your goals and aspirations.
  • It is also important to network! Give yourself time to build relationships with HBS alumni or current students. They can provide valuable insights into the HBS community and give you a chance to shine in the admissions process by being more knowledgeable about the program. 

4. Be your genuine, authentic self

The admissions committee is looking for applicants who are sincerely interested in the HBS MBA program. Be honest about your experiences and goals, and don’t try to be someone you’re not. You want the admissions team to know who you are, so let your personality shine.

  • Your essays are a critical component of your application, and you should take the time to craft a compelling narrative that showcases your achievements, goals, and fit with HBS. The essay is your chance to showcase your writing skills and to provide the admissions committee with a deeper understanding of who you are and why you want to attend HBS.
  • Think carefully about your career goals so you can clearly express them. If you are invited to an interview, be prepared to articulate your unique experiences and qualities and explain how they have shaped you as a person and why you believe you would be an excellent fit for the MBA program. 

If you want to know how to get into Harvard Business School, the answer is to be the MBA candidate they want to admit: a leader who can analyze any situation, make crucial decisions, and make a positive impact. 

Christina Griffith
Christina Griffith is a writer and editor based in Philadelphia. She specializes in covering education, science, and history, and has experience in research and interviews, magazine content, and web content writing.