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.
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.
But it’s worth stressing again that content is king and should ultimately dictate your essay’s length. If you’re looking for advice on the content of your HBS essay, you can check out our detailed post here or reach out to us through our free consultation service; we’re happy to chat about your essay ideas, essay length, or your profile more generally.
The above represents our best guess — based on a reasonable but limited sample — of how long successful HBS essays are typically.
As always, the 2016-2017 MBA application essays are a varied lot. Many schools now require just a single essay from applicants to their full-time MBA programs, including Harvard Business School. Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business returns with the question generally considered to be a favorite: “List 25 random things about yourself.” UC-Berkeley wants applicants to name a school that expresses who you are and why. Several schools, including Yale’s School of Management and Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management, have video pop-up questions in addition to their written essays.
Here are some of this year’s batch from leading business schools, listed in order of the school’s Poets&Quants’ rank (see here for the essays to get into the best international schools outside the U.S.)
1. HARVARD BUSINESS SCHOOL in Boston, Massachusetts
As we review your application, what more would you like us to know as we consider your candidacy for the Harvard Business School MBA program?
There is no word limit for this question.
Application Fee: $250 or $100 for 2+2 program
2. STANFORD UNIVERSITY’S GRADUATE SCHOOL OF BUSINESS in Stanford, California
Essay A: What matters most to you, and why? (750 words)
Essay B: Why Stanford? (400 words or 450 if applying to both the MBA and MSx programs)
Your answers for both essay questions combined may not exceed 1,150 words (1,200 words if you are applying to both the MBA and MSx programs).
Application Fee: $275 or $100 for deferred enrollment. Waived for active-duty military
3. UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO’S BOOTH SCHOOL OF BUSINESS in Chicago, Illinois
View this collection of shared Booth moments. Choose the moment that best resonates with you and tell us why.
Choose the format that works for you. Determine your own length
Application Fee: $250
4. UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA’S WHARTON SCHOOL OF BUSINESS in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
1. What do you hope to gain professionally from the wharton MBA (500 words)
2: Teamwork is at the core of the Wharton MBA experience with each student contributing unique elements to our collaborative culture. How will you contribute to the Wharton community? (400 words)
Application Fee: $265
5. NORTHWESTERN UNIVERSITY’S KELLOGG SCHOOL OF MANAGEMENT in Evanston, Illinois
1. Leadership and teamwork are integral parts of the Kellogg experience. Describe a recent and meaningful time you were a leader. What challenges did you face, and what did you learn? (450 words)
2. Pursuing an MBA is a catalyst for personal and professional growth. How have you grown in the past? How do you intend to grow at Kellogg? (450 words)
Video questions required.
Application Fee: $250. Waived for active-duty military & vets within three years, Teach for America & Peace Corps candidates within three years.
6. COLUMBIA BUSINESS SCHOOL in New York
1. Through your resume and recommendations, we have a clear sense of your professional path to date. What are your career goals going forward, and how will the Columbia MBA help you achieve them? (100-750 words)
2. Columbia Business School’s students participate in industry focused New York immersion seminars; in project based Master Classes; and in school year internships. Most importantly, our students are taught by a combination of distinguished research faculty and accomplished practitioners. How will you take advantage of being “at the very center of business”? (100-500 words)
3. CBS Matters, a key element of the School’s culture, allows the people in your Cluster to learn more about you on a personal level. What will your Cluster mates be pleasantly surprised to learn about you? (100-250 words)
Application Fee: $250. Waived for full-time students, military, Peace Corps, Teach For America, China & India.
7. MIT’s SLOAN SCHOOL OF MANAGEMENT in Cambridge, Massachusetts
1. Please submit a cover letter seeking a place in the MIT Sloan MBA Program. Your letter should conform to a standard business correspondence and be addressed to Mr. Rod Garcia, Senior Director of Admissions. (250 words or fewer)
2. The Admissions Committee invites you to share additional information about yourself, in any format. If you choose a multimedia format, please host the information on a website and provide us with the URL.
Please keep all videos and media limited to 2:00 minutes total in length. Please keep all written essays to 500 words or less.
Application Fee: $250. Waived for college seniors, active-duty military, Teach for America & Peace Corps members.
8. UC-BERKELEY’S HAAS SCHOOL OF BUSINESS
1) If you could choose one song that expresses who you are, what is it and why? (250 words maximum)
Your song can be in any language, from any culture, and does not need to contain lyrics. The strongest responses will focus on answering why this song expresses who you are.
2) Please respond to one of the following prompts: (250 words maximum)
Describe an experience that has fundamentally changed the way you see the world and how it transformed you.
Describe a time when you were challenged by perspectives different from your own and how you responded.
Describe a difficult decision you have made and why it was challenging.
In your response, clearly indicate to which prompt (1, 2, or 3) you are responding. We do not have a preference among the prompts and suggest that you select the one for which you can share a specific experience, professional or personal.
3) Tell us about your career plans. How have your past experiences prepared you to achieve these goals? How will Berkeley-Haas help you? (500 words maximum)
You are encouraged to reflect on what it is you want to do after business school, including the types of roles, responsibilities, and organizations that are of interest. Through this essay we hope to learn about your professional journey to date and how an MBA will facilitate your success – broadly defined – in the future.
Application Fee: $200
9. DARTMOUTH COLLEGE’S TUCK SCHOOL OF BUSINESS in Hanover, New Hampshire
1. (Required) Tuck educates wise leaders who better the world of business. What are your short- and long-term goals? How will a Tuck MBA enable you to become a wise leader with global impact?
2. (Required) As a diverse and global community, our students arrive at the same place from many different paths. Tell us about an experience in which you have had to live, learn and/or work with other people very different from yourself. What challenges and/or opportunities did you experience, how did you respond, and what did you learn about yourself as a result?
10. YALE UNIVERSITY’S SCHOOL OF MANAGEMENT in New Haven, Connecticut
Describe the biggest commitment you have ever made. (500 words)
Video questions are also required of applicants.
Application Fee: $225. For applicants earning less than $20,000 a year: $175. For applicants earning less than $10,000 a year: $125. Waived for current or former Peace Corps volunteer, current staff or alumni of Teach for America, Teach for China, or Teach for India.
11. DUKE UNIVERSITY’S FUQUA SCHOOL OF BUSINESS in Durham, North Carolina
Short answers: Answer all 3 of the following questions. For each question, respond in 500 characters only (the equivalent of about 100 words).
1. What are your short-term goals, post-MBA?
2. What are your long-term goals?
3. Life is full of uncertainties, and plans and circumstances can change. As a result, navigating a career requires you to be adaptable. Should the short-term goals that you provided above not materialize what alternative directions have you considered?
1. 25 Random Things About Yourself. Your complete list should not exceed 2 pages.
2. Based on your understanding of the Fuqua culture, how do you see yourself engaging in and contributing to our community, outside of the classroom?
Your response should be no more than 2 pages in length.
Application Fee: $225. Waiver for active-duty military & veterans (within three years), Americorps, Teach for America, Forte, MLT & Posse Foundation members.
12. UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA’S DARDEN SCHOOL OF BUSINESS in Charlottesville, Virginia
Describe the most important professional feedback you have received and how you responded to this feedback.
Application Fee: $250. Waived for active-duty military & vets (within three years), Forte Launch participants, Teach for America, Education Pioneers, Peace Corps members.
13. UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN’S ROSS SCHOOL OF BUSINESS in Ann Arbor, Michigan
1. What are you most proud of outside of your professional life? How does it shape who you are today? (up to 400 words)
2. What is your desired career path and why? (up to 250 words)
Application Fee: $200. Waived for active-duty military and veterans, Peace Corps and Teach For American (within three years).
14. UCLA’S ANDERSON SCHOOL OF MANAGEMENT
Required essay for first-time applicants:
We believe that the best results are achieved when you share success, think fearlessly and drive change. With this in mind, what are your goals at UCLA Anderson and in your short-term and long-term career? (750 words maximum)
The following essay is optional. No preference is given in the evaluation process to applicants who submit an optional essay. Please note that we only accept written essays.
Are there any extenuating circumstances in your profile about which the Admissions Committee should be aware? Please use your best judgment. (250 words maximum)
Required essays for re-applicants:
Please describe your career progress since you last applied and ways in which you have enhanced your candidacy. Include updates on short-term and long-term career goals, as well as your continued interest in UCLA Anderson. (750 words maximum)
Application Fee: $200
14. CORNELL UNIVERSITY’S JOHNSON GRADUATE SCHOOL OF MANAGEMENT
1) At Cornell, we value students who create impact. Please indicate the opportunities for impact that you have identified through engagement with our community and describe how these interactions have influenced your decision to apply to Johnson. (500 words)
2) You are the author of your Life Story. Please create the Table of Contents for the book in the space provided or upload it as an attachment. We value creativity and authenticity and encourage you to approach this essay with your unique style. Alternative submission formats may include a slide presentation, links to pre-existing media (personal website, digital portfolio, YouTube etc.), as well as visually enhanced written submissions. (Maximum file size is 5 MB. If you choose to submit a written Table of Contents, limit your submission to 500 words or fewer. Limit multimedia submissions to under five minutes).
Optional: Complete this essay if you would like to add additional details regarding your candidacy. For instance, if you believe one or more aspects of your application (e.g., undergraduate record or test scores) do not accurately reflect your potential for success at Johnson.
If you are reapplying for admission, please use this essay to indicate how you have strengthened your application since the last time you applied. (500 words)
Application Fee: $200. Waived only for active duty military or veterans.
16. NEW YORK UNIVERSITY’S STERN SCHOOL OF BUSINESS in New York
1. Professional aspirations: Why pursue and MBA (or dual degree) at this point in your life? What actions have you taken to determine that Stern is the best fit for your MBA experience? What do you see yourself doing professionally upon graduation? (750 words)
2. Personal expression: Please describe yourself to your MBA classmates. You may use almost any method to convey your message (e.g. words, illustrations). Feel free to be creative.
17. KENAN-FLAGLER BUSINESS SCHOOL AT THE UNIVERSITY OF NORTH CAROLINA
One required essay and three optional essays. The essays for the 2016-2017 application season are:
Required: Please describe your short and long term goals post-MBA. Explain how your professional experience has shaped these goals, why this career option appeals to you, and how you arrived at the decision that now is the time and the MBA is the appropriate degree. (500 words maximum)
Optional: What personal qualities or life experiences distinguish you from other applicants? How do these qualities or experiences equip you to contribute to UNC Kenan-Flagler? (300 words maximum)
Optional: If your standardized test scores are low, or if you have not had coursework in core business subjects (calculus, microeconomics, statistics, financial accounting), please tell us how you plan to prepare yourself for the quantitative rigor of the MBA curriculum. (300 words maximum)
Optional: Is there any other information you would like to share that is not presented elsewhere in the application? (300 words maximum)
Application Fee: $250. Waived for active duty military & veterans, Teach for America & Teach for India alumni.
18. MCCOMBS SCHOOL OF BUSINESS AT THE UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS-AUSTIN
The University of Texas at Austin values unique perspectives and cultivates a collaborative environment of distinct individual contributions. It is the first day of orientation. You are meeting your study group, comprised of five of your classmates from various backgrounds. Please introduce yourself to your new team, highlighting what drives you in your personal and professional life.
Select only one communication method that you would like to use for your response.
Write an essay (250 words)
Share a video introduction (one minute)
Based on your post-MBA goals and what drives you in your personal and professional life, why is the Texas MBA the ideal program for you and how do you plan to engage in our community?(500 words)
Optional Statement: Please provide any additional information you believe is important and/or address any areas of concern that will be beneficial to the Admissions Committee in considering your application (e.g. unexplained gaps in work experience, choice of recommenders, academic performance, or extenuating personal circumstances). (250 words)
Application Fee: $200. Waived active duty military & veterans, Teach for America alumni, Forte MBA Launch members.
19. CARNEGIE MELLON UNIVERSITY’S TEPPER SCHOOL OF BUSINESS
Required: Imagine that you meet up with a member of the admission committee at an airport while on a layover. You have an opportunity to make a memorable impression. Use this essay to introduce yourself. Include any information that you believe is important for the committee member to know about you both professionally and personally (300-350 words)
Optional: Use this essay to convey important information that you may not have been otherwise able to convey. This may include unexplained resume gaps, context for recommender selection, etc.
If you are a re-applicant, explain how your candidacy has strengthened since your last application.
Application Fee: $250. Waived for active duty military & veterans.
20. EMORY UNIVERSITY’S GOIZUETA SCHOOL OF BUSINESS
Define your short-term post-MBA career goals. How are your professional strengths, past experience and personal attributes aligned with these goals? (300 word limit)
The business school is named for Roberto C. Goizueta, former Chairman and CEO of The Coca-Cola Company, who led the organization for 16 years, extending its global reach, quadrupling consumption, building brand responsibility, and creating unprecedented shareholder wealth. Mr. Goizueta’s core values guide us in educating Principled Leaders for Global Enterprise. Provide an example of your leadership – professional or personal – and explain what you learned about yourself through the experience. (300 word limit)
Complete one of the following statements. (250 word limit)
I am passionate about…
The best piece of advice I’ve received is…
The best day of my life was…
A personal goal I want to accomplish is…
Share with the committee and your future classmates a fun or noteworthy fact about you. (25 word limit)
Optional: If you have additional information or feel there are extenuating circumstances which you would like to share with the MBA Admissions Committee (i.e. unexplained gaps in work experience, choice of recommenders, academic performance issues or areas of weakness in application). Please limit your response to 250 words.
Application Fee: $150. Waived for active duty military & vets (within three years), Forte MBA Launchers, Peace Corps volunteers & Teach for America alumni.
21. INDIANA UNIVERSITY’S KELLEY SCHOOL OF BUSINESS in Bloomington, Indiana
Required: Discuss your immediate post-MBA professional goals. How will your professional experience, when combined with a Kelley MBA degree, allow you to achieve these goals? Should the short-term goals you have identified not materialize, what alternate career paths might you consider? (500 words)
Respond to one of the following short essay prompts. (300 words) a. My greatest memory is…b. I’m most afraid of…
c. My greatest challenge has been… d. I’m most proud of…
Share a brief fact about yourself that your classmates would find interesting, surprising, or noteworthy. (25 words)
Optional: Is there anything else that you think we should know as we evaluate your application? If you believe your credentials and essays represent you fairly, you shouldn’t feel obligated to answer this question. (300 words)
Application Fee: $75
22. UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON FOSTER SCHOOL OF BUSINESS
Required: 1) Post-MBA Plans – Tell us your ideas about what lies ahead for you in your career. What are the gaps or deficiencies currently preventing you from pursuing these potential career paths? How do you plan to use your time in the Foster MBA program to fill these gaps and advance your career? (750 words)
Required: 2) Inspiring Experience Essay – Please tell us about an experience that inspired or confirmed your decision to pursue the MBA (500 words)
Optional: Please include this essay if you have additional information that you believe would be helpful to the admissions committee in considering your application (500 words)
Application Fee: $85
23. WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY OLIN SCHOOL OF BUSINESS
Required: In one or two sentences, please describe your immediate career plans upon graduation from Olin. At Olin, we pride ourselves on our close-knit community and aim to know every student by name and story. In an essay of no more than 500 words, please introduce yourself as you would to your future Olin classmates.
Required: Please provide any additional information not previously addressed in other areas of the application that you feel would be helpful to the Admissions Committee in its assessment of your candidacy. (300 word maximum)
Application Fee: None required. Olin also does not require recommendation letters.
24. GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY’S MCDONOUGH SCHOOL OF BUSINESS
Required: We would like to learn more about you. Please answer the following essay question in 750 words or less: “Why you?”
Optional: If you are not currently employed full-time, use this essay to provide information about your current activities. (250 words or fewer)
Optional: Please provide any information you would like to add to your application that you have not otherwise included. (500 words or fewer)
Re-Applicant Essay: How have you strengthened your candidacy since your last application? We are particularly interested in hearing about how you have grown professionally and personally. (500 words or fewer)
Application Fee: $175. Waived for active duty military & veterans, MLT Fellows, Forté MBA Launchers, Consortium members, Peace Corps volunteers.
25. NOTRE DAME UNIVERSITY’S MENDOZA COLLEGE OF BUSINESS
Required: One of three essay options.
Option #1: At Mendoza, we encourage our students, faculty, and staff to Ask More of Business. We embrace a threefold commitment to achieve this goal: Greater Good, Effective Organizations and Individual Integrity. Tell us about an experience in which you lived out one of those values.
Option #2: The University of Notre Dame was founded in 1842, by Father Edward Sorin, C.S.C, with a mission to become “one of the most powerful means for doing good in this country”. In 1879, Father Sorin’s vision for Notre Dame appeared to be at a sudden, abrupt end. A massive fire destroyed the building that housed virtually the entire University. Instead of giving up, Father Sorin interpreted the fire as a sign that he had dreamed too small, and decided to rebuild, bigger and better than ever. That Main Building still stands today, topped by the gleaming Golden Dome, not only as an iconic campus building, but as an ongoing symbol of perseverance and vision. Tell us the story of a time in your own life or career when you had to overcome an obstacle, start over, or rebuild.
We seek students who will become active, engaged members of our student body. Tell us about how you were able to make an impact at your alma mater, in your workplace, or in your community.
Application Fee: NA
26. MICHIGAN STATE UNIVERSITY’S BROAD COLLEGE OF BUSINESS
Required: 1) What are your (immediate) post-MBA professional goals? How do you feel your current resume aligns with these goals? (500 words)
Required: Video Essay- access the video essay and instructions on how to complete the essay.
Optional: You should only answer this question if you feel your complete application for admission does not adequately represent you. What other information do you believe is necessary in the assessment of your candidacy to the Broad MBA? (375 words)
Application Fee: $85. Waived for active duty military & veterans, Peace Corps,
AmeriCorps & Teach for America volunteers, Forte MBA Launchers, MLT members, non-profit staffers & more.
27. UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA’S MARSHALL SCHOOL OF BUSINESS
What is your immediate short-term goal post-graduation from the USC Marshall MBA program? (Please include industry and function information in your answer)
How will USC Marshall enable you to develop or improve your skills in order to reach your goals? (Both questions have a combined 700-word limit)
Tell us about a time when you went beyond what was defined, established, or expected. (200 words)
Application Fee: $150
28. RICE UNIVERSITY’S JONES GRADUATE SCHOOL OF BUSINESS
1) Describe your short-term and long-term goals, and how the MBA will help you to achieve those goals. Include in your discussion: Why is now the appropriate time to pursue an MBA and why are you interested in obtaining a Rice MBA?” (750 words)
2) Choose one of the following three options:
Describe a defining moment or event that changed your life (300 words)
If you had to tweet something to the world for the first time about yourself, what would you tweet?” (140 characters
Introduce yourself to your classmates in a 90 second video.”
Optional: You may use this essay to discuss anything else that you would like the Admissions Committee to know about you, or to provide information or clarification on any aspect of your application. (Maximum 750 words)
Application Fee: $200
29. VANDERBILT UNIVERSITY’S OWEN GRADUATE SCHOOL OF MANAGEMENT
1) Explain your short-term and long-term career plans as specifically as possible (500 words)
2) Discuss how you think you could contribute to Owen and the program (500 words)
Optional: If necessary, you may provide an additional statement to explain poor academic performance, weak test scores, significant gaps in full-time employment, lack of recommendation from your current or most recent supervisor, academic misconduct or anything else that you think is important for the Admissions Committee to know about you that is not already addressed elsewhere in your application.
Application Fee: $175. Waived for active duty military & veterans, Peace Corps & Teach for America volunteers, member of or proven advocate for an underrepresented minority,
graduate of Vanderbilt MS Finance or accelerator program.
30. UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA’S CARLSON SCHOOL OF MANAGEMENT
Write a personal statement answering the following three questions (no word limit)
Briefly describe your short-term and long-term career goals. Why are you choosing to pursue an MBA at this time in your career, and what are you hoping to accomplish by doing so?
Why are you interested in pursuing an MBA at the Carlson School of Management?
What do you feel makes you a strong candidate for the program? How will you contribute to the MBA Program overall?
Application Fee: $75. Waived for active duty military & veterans (within three years).
DON’T MISS: 2016-2017 MBA APPLICATION DEADLINES FOR LEADING BUSINESS SCHOOLS