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  • Malvika Patil

Harvard Business School MBA Essays & Analysis 2024 - 2025

Harvard Business School (HBS) has released its MBA Essay Questions for the 2024 - 2025 application cycle. This year, HBS has opted to do away with its iconic 900 word essay, instead choosing to ask three essay questions with shorter word limits. Let’s explore each in turn.

Here are the Harvard Business School MBA Essays for 2024 - 2025.

Harvard MBA 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)

This is your classic career goals essay. The 300 word limit is shorter than the typical career goals essays at other schools, so be direct and brief while writing about your answer. 

HBS states that it looks for candidates who “are passionate about using business as a force for good”, i.e individuals who have a clear impact they want to make in the world. 

We recommend starting with a story that explains what has inspired your career decisions and goals. This experience should give rise to your ‘purpose’ - the positive, overall impact you want to have on businesses, organizations, and communities. 

Now that you have outlined your core mission, explain how you will create a path towards it. What do you plan to do right after your MBA? These short-term goals should be specific, clearly stating your target role, company/companies, industry, and geography. Briefly, discuss the skills you will build and the impact you will have through this role.

Finally, describe your long-term goals. These may be less specific than your short-term goals, but they should align with your ‘purpose’. Explain how you’ll achieve your purpose through this long-term dream job. 

Harvard MBA 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)

Harvard’s mission to “educate leaders who make a difference in the world” has been its main influence when it comes to evaluating its MBA applications. The school traditionally focuses on leadership qualities and demonstrable impact. So it comes as no surprise that one of HBS’s essay questions this year is geared directly towards your leadership approach.

In this essay, you will need to connect your experiences together to demonstrate what has influenced your leadership style and how you effectively lead others. 

You may want to start with an experience which was formative to your growth as a leader. This could be a challenging situation, something new you experienced, a turning point in your personal life, or someone who impacted you. With only 250 words, space is tight, so make sure your story focuses on what you learned. 

Then, your second experience could explain how you applied this lesson to positively impact others, or how you plan to apply this lesson in the future. 

The AdCom wants to see evidence not only of leadership, but also how you collaborate and invest in others. They want to know that you will add value to the school’s community, so make sure your stories reflect well on the relationships and trust you build as a leader. 

Typically, your leadership approach ties back to your career goals and your time at HBS. So if there are any leadership programs or student clubs you will be involved in, you might want to conclude with those. 

Harvard MBA 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)

This is a curveball of an essay question! It’s unique to HBS, so you may have to dig deeper to find a story that demonstrates your curiosity, appetite for learning, and adaptability. 

HBS asks this question to understand your academic readiness. The case study method that is heavily used in the HBS classroom requires students to actively listen, think critically, and collaborate with others. So in this essay, use a story that demonstrates how you take initiative, solve problems creatively or unconventionally, or learn through challenges.

Note that HBS hasn’t asked the “Why HBS” question anywhere, so you might want to include how you will bring your curiosity to the class, an extracurricular, or other community activities.

Use the SCAR structure to answer this essay. 

  • Situation: Provide context to your Curiosity story

  • Challenge: Outline the challenge you faced

  • Action: Describe the action you took

  • Result: Discuss the outcome and quantify it where possible

  • Analysis: Introspect on the what you learned from this experience and how you'll apply it in the future

Harvard MBA Essay 4

Briefly tell us more about your career aspirations. (500 characters)

This is a short but important essay. You've already written about your goals in Essay 1, so keep them consistent with your essay answer. Here, you can describe your employment plans, industry and function in the online application portal. This essay is an opportunity to showcase precision, clarity, and strategic planning about your goals after your MBA. 

Center the essay around your short-term and longer-term goals. Be aspirational but also practical. These goals should be achievable, actionable, and logical.


"My post-MBA plan is to return to Oliver Wyman, which will sponsor my MBA. Upon my return, I will focus on FMCG clients, helping them to restructure and navigate new regulations. After 3-4 years, I may transition to one of these client companies, directly leveraging my leadership and strategy skills to transform the way that Vietnamese consumer goods companies finance their M&A. My long-term goal is to launch a health-tech startup with my sister in Hanoi."

Harvard Optional Essay 

Please use this space to share any additional information about yourself that cannot be found elsewhere in your application and that you would like to share with the Admissions Committee. This space can also be used to address any extenuating circumstances (e.g., unexplained gaps in work experience, choice of recommenders, inconsistent or questionable academic performance, areas of weakness, etc.) that you would like the Admissions Committee to consider. (500 words) 

Few applicants have followed the “traditional” employment route with no bumps in the road. So it’s not an issue that you took an unconventional path, as long as you make it clear. 

But it is a problem if the reader of your application doesn't understand your journey. This essay is your opportunity to make it crystal clear.

Some unconventional aspects of your application might include: a low GPA in an academic semester or a gap in your resume because of Covid-19. Or perhaps you have an overlapping experience you’d like to address.

Important: Don’t be tempted to use the entire word count! Instead, be as concise as possible in explaining your exceptional circumstances, and close the essay with a constructive outcome, such as what you learned from the experience.


Check out our Harvard MBA Interview Guide for in-depth insights into Harvard's interview process, what they're looking for in prospective candidates, interview questions, and tips to ace your interview. 

For the full HBS MBA application course with example essays based on real essays by previous applicants, check out the Harvard application program on 

We help determined applicants get admitted to top business schools. Get in touch if you think we can help you with your MBA application. Book a free 20 mins chat now. 


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