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.
It’s the first day of class at Harvard Business School. You are in Aldrich Hall meeting your “section.” This is the group of 90 classmates who will become your close companions in the first-year MBA classroom. Our signature case method participant-based learning model ensures that you will get to know each other very well. The bonds you collectively create throughout this charged experience will be lasting. Introduce yourself.
NOTE: This essay was written by one of our consultants—not an actual applicant. It’s meant as a demonstration of the kind of content we believe should go into the essay itself. This essay is copyrighted by The Art of Applying, and should not be copied. Plagiarism is when you present someone else’s work as your own. It is a serious issue; please don’t do it.
Here is the essay!
I’m thrilled to get to know each of you and hear your stories. But more than that, I’d like to publish them! As a writer at heart, I have a vision of how to market books in the rapidly changing landscape that is twenty-first century publishing.
Comments from Shana: Here, I can feel the applicant’s excitement jump off the page! I love how she is immediately showing interest in the other students. This is a good job explaining what her goal is in the very first paragraph.
My story begins in high school, where I served as editor of our school newspaper, The Green Light. Each week I had the opportunity to work side-by-side with the editor of our town’s newspaper, as he reviewed my work and offered suggestions to improve the articles written by my staff. When I got to college, not only did I join the newspaper, but I began to write fiction and poetry, and I was the only freshman admitted to an upperclassmen poetry seminar. Right after college, I moved to New York and took my first job as associate to the managing editor at Time Warner Books. My jaw dropped when I realized that the publication of a book requires so many more people than an author and an editor. I was amazed to discover the extensive team that included marketing staff, sales representatives, cover artists, publicists, and company executives.
Comments from Shana: She mentioned “story” in the first sentence in this paragraph. This is an interesting choice to extend the metaphor of writing stories/publishing throughout the essay.
I’ll never forget the day our CEO met with Madonna before he offered her a million dollar contract. Who knew that it wasn’t only the quality of the publication that determined its success, but like a tail wagging the dog, the decision of how profitable a title would be was often made in-house before the words were even written! In fact, I discovered that the marketing dollars were invested to yield the desired results. I was very curious about how the marketing and sales departments would ensure that Madonna’s book earned out the enormous author advance.
Comments from Shana: I’m glad that she going to tell us a fascinating story (the CEO meets Madonna!) that brings us into the action with her. In the beginning of the second sentence, she began with “Who knew.” When she uses this kind of unexpected sentence structure, she is really showing us her fun personality! Nice.
With the endorsement of the managing editor, I made a lateral move to work as a marketing assistant. Quickly I learned about how the marketing team plugged in metrics—such as comparable titles, an author’s following, and previous sales—in order to estimate likely revenue that would be generated by the new title. I gradually assumed responsibility for managing these estimation models for all book titles in the action-adventure genre. After a steep learning curve, my estimates routinely landed within 3 percent of actual sales, when the department average was 7 percent. People joked that I was psychic and should become a fortune teller. One day the VP of Marketing brought in a giant jar of jelly beans and announced that I was going to tell them exactly how many pieces of candy were in the jar. (I guessed 10,864 but was off by 231. I won the whole jar!)
Comments from Shana: So, I see that she wasn’t passively moved from one position to the other, but her questions and curiosity drove this move to become a marketing assistant. It’s good that she is showing us she is a person of action. In the last sentence, I can relate to her here as a human being. I can tell she has a good sense of humor along with excellent predictive skills. The writing paints her as very friendly, and relatable. That’s one thing that you want to accomplish through your essay—you want to come across as a likable person and not just deliver a list of achievements.
Two years later, I was thrilled to be offered a marketing position at Random House, but it was only six months later that Random House merged with Penguin, and in the process, there were hundreds of layoffs. There was more work for everyone, and we were scrambling to keep up with competition from new publishers like Amazon.com. In the middle of a marketing blitz for bestselling author TD Calhoun, the author’s agent informed us that Calhoun was going to go the nontraditional route and self-publish her next books; she felt she could market her own work through social media and keep a greater percentage of the process.
Comments from Shana: The admissions committee along with cohort peers are eager to hear about how you deal with adversity and make decisions in challenging situations. Here, the writer sounds like she is an innovator with a vision. When writing your essay, make sure to highlight your most valuable assets.
Employees in traditional publishing throughout New York were in despair. But as an avid user of social media, a passionate writer myself, and an experienced professional in the traditional publishing world, I was secretly excited about the possibilities. What if I could help merge the best of what the digital age offers authors with the best of what the big houses provided in order to create a new publishing format? Not only would I like to create a publishing house that is lean yet builds in marketing, sales, and editing, but I’d forgo the traditional advance for my authors and offer a commission-based model that would enable authors to keep at least forty percent of their profits. Although I have many ideas for how this new hybrid publishing model could work, I have even more questions, especially about the marketing and operations aspects. That’s why I’m so excited to be here at HBS. I hope to find answers by taking Marketing Segmentation with Professor Jones and E-commerce Productivity with Professor Allen.
Comments from Shana: This sentence is critical: “Although I have many ideas for how this new hybrid publishing model could work, I have even more questions, especially about the marketing and operations aspects.” She has to make it clear that although she has ideas for her career, there are absolutely missing pieces that can best be found at HBS. You never want the admissions committee or your peers to think you’re already a complete package and you’ve already got all the skills, knowledge, and experience you need.
Also, I’d like to start my own publishing industry club on campus. I know each of us has our own fascinating story to tell, so I hope you’ll join me as a marketer, sales rep, or business executive of our own HBS Publishing Club and turn everyone in our cohort into authors. I can’t wait to publish your titles and share your wise insights and experiences with a wide audience.
The Art of Applying team agrees that this is a great essay! One thing you may have noticed is that the essay writer didn’t include any information on her personal background or what family life was like growing up. This was a choice this particular author made, but it doesn’t mean you can’t or shouldn’t include information on your personal background. It just depends how you want to tell your story. We hope that this sample essay guides and inspires you as you work on your HBS introduction essay.
If want us to help you tell your own story, reach out and contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Feel free to leave questions or comments below. Share this article with your friends if it helped you!
Subject: Introducing Yourself to Your Instructor
My name is Amit Vaidya. I am from India. I am in my first semester of senior year in Civil Engineering at Clemson University, SC. In this memo, I am going to tell you little bit about my background, interests, achievements and my goals.
I was born in a small village called Bilimora. Bilimora is located about 70 kilometers south of the city of Surat which is 8th largest city in India, in the state of Gujarat. I spent my first 16 years of life in Bilimora. Bilimora is famous for temples, textile mills.
My everyday activities included going to school, playing cricket, watching television, and going to temple at the night time.
I spend my first 16 year of life in Bilimora before moving here in Greenville, SC on August 23, 2002 with my family. I started going to South Side Highschool as a sophomore and was enrolled in ESL program for a year. At South Side, I focused on achieving my goals including learning English language, participating in extracurricular activities, and doing well in all my classes. In my junior year, I had joined Math club, Robotics club and also enrolled in few honor classes. Along with school, I also found a part time job at a local restaurant to help my parents financially. Moving in to a new country and settling there (here) was a huge challenge for me and my family.
I like playing Chess and Cricket. I
always enjoyed reading, writing and doing math. Growing up as a child and until now, (my adulthood) it has been mine (my) and my parents dream for me to become a Doctor or an Engineer.
----- I decided to become a Civil Engineer because I have always been fascinated by looking at the bridges, buildings, and skyscrapers.
------I decided to become a Civil Engineer because I am always fascinated by looking at the bridges, roads, and skyscrapers.
A degree in Civil Engineering enables me to achieve my goals and also gives me an opportunity to make a difference in the community.
I have achieved many different goals in life. Some of my achievements are bigger than the others, which has given me greater satisfaction. The top five achievements that gave me the greatest personal satisfaction includes:
1. Being student of the month in my English class
2. Getting my first job
3. Going to college
4. Learning English language
5. Getting my driver's license
My achievements have helped me to get ahead in life.
I hope to get better at technical communication this term. Five years from now, I want to become a project manager of a construction project, and technical communication is one of the most important skills that a project manager should have. As a project manager, my primary goals are managing people, set budgets, and making decisions of all kinds.
need help with editing and grammar
My name is Amit Vaidya. I am from India. I am in the first semester of my senior year studying Civil Engineering at Clemson University, SC. This sentence makes me a little dizzy with all of the prepositions. You might want to break in into two sentences . . . one telling what you are studying and the other where.I'd like to tell you a little bit about my background, interests, achievements you need a comma here to keep it consistent with the rest of your writing and my goals.
Bilimora is famous for temples,take out the comma and add the word "and" textile mills.
I started going to South Side Highschool high school should be two words) as a sophomore and was enrolled in put either "the" or "an" here ESL program for a year.
Moving in to a new country and was a huge challenge for me and my family.
I like playing Chess and Cricket you don't need to capitalize either chess or cricket. I enjoy reading, writing and doing math.
Growing up as a child and until now, (my adulthood) it has been mine (my) and my parents dream for me to become a Doctor or an Engineer. This sentence is awkward. You might want to reword it to something like: Since I was a child, my parents and I have shared the dream of my becoming a doctor or an engineer.
----- I decided to become a Civil Engineer because I have always been fascinated by bridges, buildings, and skyscrapers.
includes: Should be include
I'll give my ideas to help, along with Eric's ideas.
Here is an idea for this sentence: I spent my first 16 years of life in this city, which is famous for both its temples and its textile mills.
...watching television, and going to temple at night .
While growing up, and even now, it has been my and my parents' dream that I would become a Doctor or an Engineer.
Some of my achievements are bigger than the others, but they all have given me great satisfaction.
Very impressive!! Good luck. :)
first 16 years of my life I spent in
Actually, Quaker_75, "I spent my first 16 years of life" is correct. Your correction introduced an error. In English, the subject comes first in a statement, unless it is preceded by a subordinate clause or the object and subject have been deliberately reversed for a special effect. In this sentence, "I" is the subject, "spent," is the verb, and "first 16 years of my life" is the object.
Subject-Verb-Object is the standard structure.
If I were you, firstly I will think of which one aspect of yourself can mostly attract your Instructor.Then you can emphasize that aspect ,while others you don't need to spend lots of time.
Good luck :-)