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HBS Essays & Analysis 2024-2025

HBS Essay Harvard MBA

The following essay topic analysis examines Harvard Business School’s (HBS) MBA admissions essays for the 2024-2025 admissions season. You can also review essay topic analyses for all other leading MBA programs as well as general Essay Tips to further aid you in developing your admissions essays.

Harvard Business School MBA Essay Topic Analysis 2024-2025

Let’s take a closer look at the essays for this admissions cycle.


The mission of Harvard Business School is to educate leaders who make a difference in the world. Our community strives to accomplish this through a focus on hard work, with humility, for humanity.

Through the rich case- and experience-based curriculum at Harvard Business School, students will develop integrated thinking and judgment skills that will broaden their perspective, impact how they lead, and enable them to make a difference in the world. The HBS classroom and community thrive when we bring together people who can share a variety of experiences and perspectives, while also ensuring they share the common characteristics of being business-minded, leadership-focused, and growth-oriented.  With that in mind, please answer the following questions using clear and concise language. We recommend pre-writing the essays on your computer, then copying and pasting the final products into the text boxes below, as you may lose your work without pressing “Save” often.
You can start by considering who HBS states they are looking for: business-minded, leadership-focused and growth-oriented candidates. The first step is for you to assess how you best embody these qualities, and how you may elaborate on them outside of your other application materials, including your recommendations, test scores and undergraduate records.

Moreover, when evaluating an applicant’s credentials, HBS has traditionally been very focused on leadership qualities as well as the impact that the applicant has had on a project, group, or company. Thus, as you brainstorm potential topics for these essays, it might be useful to think about any quantifiable positive change you’ve created that is not adequately described in your other materials.

Essay 1

Business-Minded: Please reflect on how your experiences have influenced your career choices and aspirations and the impact you strive to make on the businesses, organizations, and communities you plan to serve. (up to 300 words)
HBS elaborates on the meaning of business-minded by noting, “We are looking for individuals who are passionate about using business as a force for good – who strive to improve and transform companies, industries, and the world. We are seeking those who are eager to solve today’s biggest problems and shape the future through creative and integrated thinking.”

Applicants should concisely describe their plans after graduating from HBS. While you can cover the particular role and responsibilities you are interested in, HBS emphasizes anticipated impact. With this in mind, you should be sure to account for your desired impact in your career—this will be most relevant for your long-term plans. You can then cite your motivation for these goals and career path to-date with direct references to your related experiences. Remember that anecdotes tend to have more impact on the reader instead of a list—so, we caution against simply reiterating your titles and companies from your resume, but rather suggest digging deeper into a particular influential action or situation that reflects your motivation for your career and goals.

Essay 2

Leadership-Focused: What experiences have shaped who you are, how you invest in others, and what kind of leader you want to become? (up to 250 words)
Space will be tight to cover this much ground. An effective approach might be to describe the initial experiences (plural!) and their broad implications in a few sentences, followed by a brief illustrative example of investing in others before concluding with how the experience has influenced who you want to become as a leader.

At its core, this is a chance to tell the adcom who you are and what you care about. It is also a good place to highlight instances of resourcefulness and persistence, especially discussing how far you’ve come, if you were a bootstrapper or first generation in your family to attend college. You can provide insight into your personal and professional maturity and collaborative nature over the course of a narrative. The adcom wants to know that you’ll be supportive and collaborative at HBS and be a good addition to the student community—hence the request about investing in others. Be sure to include how you made direct connections and impact accordingly. The reflection on the kind of leader you want to become would ideally tie back to your career plans. HBS looks for candidates with vision—do not shy away from expressing bold or grand impact as a future leader.

Essay 3

Growth-Oriented: Curiosity can be seen in many ways. Please share an example of how you have demonstrated curiosity and how that has influenced your growth. (up to 250 words)
The case study method at HBS requires active listening and participation; hence the adcom wants to see your open-mindedness, drive, and ability to adapt. You will need to possess creative problem-solving skills, demonstrate teamwork and show growth. This is an opportunity to shed some light on your relevant personal or professional history, in line with what HBS seeks.

Once you settle on the related example, consider the following structure in telling your story:

  • Situation – Set the stage—what were you curious about, what needed to be resolved, who was involved.
  • Action – Describe the actions you took in the name of curiosity, e.g. teamwork, leadership, knowledge gathering.
  • Outcome – Summarize the (positive) result and how you grew as a result.

Given the short word limit, stay focused on sharing your story–you just want to showcase your strengths and interests here, not use precious space describing how your candidacy fits with specific elements of the HBS program.

Career Goals Short Answer

Briefly tell us more about your career aspirations. (500 characters)
This answer needs to be consistent with the essay answer. In the online application, there is a short section for your post-MBA goals. Applicants are asked to pick their industry group and function from a dropdown menu. There are 11 options in the industry group pick list, e.g. consulting, venture capital/private equity, and nearly 50 under function, e.g. business development, product management, etc. Then you will have 500 characters (about 80-85 words) to elaborate—albeit briefly.

When explaining your goals, make sure they are aspirational while also being realistic. You’ll want to include why they makes sense. Identify your goals and even name a company or two that you are targeting immediately post-MBA. Then, cover how the short term is a stepping stone to the long term. Highlight the impact you hope to make because of what you’ll be doing, too. Remember, leaders have vision—and HBS will be looking for higher-level plans here.

Additional Information

Please share additional information here if you need to clarify any information provided in the other sections of your application. This is not meant to be used as an additional essay. Please limit your additional information to the space in this section.

We know you’ll be tempted, but please don’t send us any additional materials (e.g., additional recommendations, work portfolios). To be fair to all applicants, extra materials won’t be considered. (75 words)
There are other sections in the application in which to address gaps in employment, academic disciplinary action and re-application, if applicable. In those cases, applicants should keep their responses brief and to-the-point, offering explanations without making excuses and humbly bringing mitigating factors to the reader’s attention. For this short answer, it’s possible that there are other elements of one’s background that would be appropriate and not covered elsewhere in one’s application, for example an anticipated promotion or an element of one’s identity not covered in the program’s data forms. While applicants should make an effort to fully represent their candidacies within the required elements of the application, this leaves a bit of room for short exceptions.

Harvard MBA Essay – Post-Interview Reflection 2024-2025

Since the 2012-2013 season, applicants who are invited to interview have been asked to write a reflection about their interview experience. Typically, this Harvard MBA essay must be submitted within 24 hours of completing the interview. Additional instructions regarding the reflection will be sent to applicants who receive interview invitations.

To help draft this reflection, applicants would be wise to jot down some notes immediately after interviewing so that they can later refer to a clear record of what was discussed as well as what, if anything, they would have liked discuss, but did not get a chance to cover. When it comes time to write the essay, applicants should approach their response as if they are crafting a closing argument to their application.

You’ll want to take inventory of the message you’ve conveyed throughout your application materials (essay, résumé, data forms, etc.) and your interview, and then write your reflection with an eye towards emphasizing the key attributes of your candidacy. Lastly, the 24-hour turnaround means that this reflection will require a focused effort from applicants as well as some careful advance planning.

Clear Admit Resources

Thanks for reading our analysis of this year’s HBS essay topics. As you work on your Harvard MBA essays and application, we encourage you to consider all of Clear Admit’s HBS offerings: