How to Get into Harvard Business School

Harvard Business School

Program Overview

Many people are intimidated by the prestige of Harvard – the worldwide reputation, internationally known professors, beautiful campus with manicured lawns – but once students settle in to the HBS experience along with hundreds of diverse peers from around the world, it just feels like the perfect place to earn your MBA. The environment is more supportive than its cutthroat reputation suggests. Students help other students, whether through study groups or after class or over the weekend. Using the case study method, HBS teaches you how to think, analyze, and act. Officially, HBS is looking for a Habit of Leadership, Analytical Aptitude and Appetite, and Engaged Community Citizenship. There are also important intangibles that the admissions committee is seeking:

  • Exceptional Communication Skills: HBS teaches almost exclusively through the case method. As a result, you need exceptional communication skills to demonstrate you are up to the task of not only grasping concepts and clearly relaying them, but also teaching others. If you are invited to interview at HBS and have trouble articulating your thoughts clearly and confidently, it may be more difficult for you to demonstrate that you have the skills to excel in a case method classroom. If your essay is too long and rambling, you have not demonstrated you can convey information and thoughts clearly.
  • Growth Mindset: HBS is looking for people who are able to grow from setbacks or failures and who are open to learning from others’ very different perspectives. Demonstrate your learnings in your essay using examples from your work or extracurricular experiences. HOW did the experience help you grow? What did you learn to do differently next time?
  • Passion and Enthusiasm: Use your application to let HBS know what makes you tick. Maybe it’s an aspect of your job, or an outside activity that’s near and dear to your heart. Showing that you care a great deal about something illustrates to HBS that you’re likely to bring the same energy and enthusiasm to a classroom of 90 students.
  • Humility: Dean Nohria has spoken often about the importance of humility in our future leaders. No one knows everything and HBS wants students who are confident but also understand how much they have to learn from others. Keep excessive hubris or self-importance out of your application.


HBS employs a required curriculum (RC) in the first year, which concentrates heavily on the case method. One notable exception to case-method teaching at HBS is FIELD (Field Immersion Experiences for Leadership Development), a year-long, two-part course that offers first-years the opportunity to test ideas in small-group, interactive settings. At the end of the spring term, student teams are sent into global markets around the world, where they develop a new product or service concept for global partner organizations.

In the first year, students take all their classes with their sections, each with about 90 people, and professors for each class come to the section classroom rather than the students switching rooms. This dynamic creates an intense bonding experience among section mates, who come up with section traditions, games and inside jokes. Sections often have parties so students can socialize with their peers outside the classroom as well. All that time together tends to make students more comfortable speaking in class, which is critical since a substantial part of one’s grade is class participation.

In the second (EC) year, students choose from among 120 courses in 10 subject areas including 32 courses on entrepreneurial management. Students also can choose an immersion experience and/or to cross-register at other Harvard schools. HBS has several renowned resource centers to supplement classroom learning, including Innovation Lab (iLab), which is designed to help students grow their ventures at any stage of development. Another standout resource is the HBS Global Initiative, a team in Boston and in key centers around the world dedicated to the school’s efforts to build expertise in global business practice and innovation.

Extra Curriculars

HBS students are very social and find many opportunities to gather outside the classroom. It’s definitely a work-hard, play-hard atmosphere. Most student activities are organized by clubs or the student government. There are more than 70 clubs on campus, so odds are your interests are represented, and clubs are a great way to get to know students outside of your section. HBS clubs also host numerous annual conferences that draw people from around the world, including the HBS Health Care Conference and the HBS Social Enterprise Conference. Some noteworthy clubs include the Armed Forces Alumni Association, General Management & Operations Club, Partners’ Club, Tech Club, Wine & Cuisine Society and the Women’s Student Association.


Class Profile

Class Size: 934

Average Age: 27

Average Work Experience: 4 years

Women: 43%

Underrepresented Minority: 25%

International Citizenship: 35%

Median GMAT: 730

80% GMAT Range: 690-760

Average Undergraduate GPA: 3.67

Career Placement

  • Consulting: 25%
  • Consumer Products: 3%
  • Entertainment/Media: 3%
  • Financial Services: 28%
  • Healthcare: 8%
  • Manufacturing: 5%
  • Nonprofit/Government: 2%
  • Retail/Trading: 2%
  • Services: 4%
  • Technology: 19%


  • Outside US: 14%
  • Mid-Atlantic: 5%
  • Midwest: 6%
  • Northeast: 43%
  • South: 3%
  • Southwest: 5%
  • West: 24%

Counselors with HBS Experience

Blogs about HBS

MBAnalysis Blog: Doppelgänger MBA Programs – If You Liked X, You May Like Y

How do you “fit”? Whether it is about you liking a school or a school liking you (to the point that they accept you), the question of fit is one that should always be top-of-mind for any applicant. Do you like a school’s teaching style? The focus of the curriculum? The location? Are these your

How to Write a Great HBS Essay

(Updated for 2020-2021) HBS asks an open-ended question that can be hard to decipher but really, the admissions committee is just looking to learn more about who you are and what drives you. Follow this approach to help put together a strong and compelling HBS essay. Like last year, the sole essay prompt for HBS

How to Answer the HBS MBA Admissions Essay Prompt

  Valuable advice every Harvard Business School candidate should read to craft a winning essay. The question HBS poses to its prospective students this year is, on the surface, very simple: “As we review your application, what more would you like us to know as we consider your candidacy for the Harvard Business School MBA