November 30, 2022

Business School

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Approaching The Harvard Business School Essay

A Harvard Business School graduation

Harvard Business School ranked number 4 in P&Q’s 2020-2021 Top Business Schools ranking.

HBS is consistently seen as one of the most prestigious B-schools in the world – and getting accepted into HBS is no easy feat, especially with an acceptance rate of 11%.

Stacy Blackman, founder of Stacy Blackman Consulting, recently offered a few tips on how to approach the HBS MBA essay including insights into what HBS admissions officers are looking for in the ideal candidate.


The HBS MBA essay is open-ended, meaning that there is no word limit. The open-ended prompt is designed to give applicants a platform to tell their authentic story.

Here’s this year’s HBS MBA essay prompt:

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? (no word limit)

Just because there is no word limit, that doesn’t mean you should go overboard when writing your essay.

“Instead, focus on concise and clear writing and consider keeping it in the ~1,000-word range,” Blackman writes. “Our clients have successfully composed essays anywhere from 500-1,300 words. If you find yourself on the upper end of that range, review and cut any unnecessary words.”


The goal of the essay is for admission officers to get a sense of who you are – outside of the rest of your application – and whether you’re a good fit for the culture at HBS. You’ll want to keep these ideas in mind when drafting your essay.

“First, evaluate all of the other aspects of your candidacy – what is the story your resume tells? What do you think recommenders will say? How does your transcript communicate your skills, accomplishments, and interests? Then, evaluate how to fill the gaps with the essay,” Blackman writes.

To best understand the HBS culture and community, Blackman suggests checking out the incoming class profile at HBS. Then, do some thinking behind what your story is and what value you can bring to the community at HBS.

“Choose stories that show your management potential,” Blackman writes. “HBS has always focused on leadership and loves candidates with a track record of leadership impact and future potential. Your goal is to demonstrate a success trajectory to indicate upper management potential. And, your path should show a passion for impact in both business and society.”

Sources: Stacy Blackman Consulting, P&Q, P&Q

Next Page: GMAT Quant Section Advice

The GMAT does not allow access to a calculator for the quant section of the exam.

For those who are not well-versed in math, taking the exam without a calculator may seem nerve-wracking. However, experts say, applicants can still excel in the quant section without the need for a calculator.

Scott Woodbury-Stewart, founder & CEO of Target Test Prep, recently offered a few tips on Fortuna Admissions for how to earn a high GMAT quant score without the need for a calculator.


On the GMAT, the quantitative reasoning section measures test takers’ ability to “reason mathematically, solve quantitative problems, and interpret graphic data,” according to

The section consists of 31 multiple choice questions and test takers are given 62 minutes to complete them.


Woodbury-Steward, of Target Test Prep, says that the GMAT quant section is conceptual in nature, meaning the questions for the most part won’t require a calculator.

“You may be asked to … Determine whether the standard deviation of a set is zero,” he writes. “You’ll never be asked to … Calculate the standard deviation of a set of numbers.”

Woodbury-Stewart says understanding the concept is key to excelling in the quant section.

“As you learn how to recognize which concept is being tested in a given question and how to apply that concept to efficiently answer the question, you’ll see that you don’t need a calculator after all,” he writes.


Practicing basic arithmetic and math function can give you an edge when it comes to the quant section.

“Although GMAT Quant doesn’t require complex calculations, you will need to perform some basic math to answer certain questions,” Woodbury-Stewart writes. “Force yourself to master basic operations, such as multiplication, division, addition, and subtraction, using pen and paper.”

The more practice you have, the better off you’ll be when it comes test time. And, according to Woodbury-Stewart, daily life offers more opportunities for practice than you might think.

“For example, if you need to figure out the sale price of a $175 item that is marked down by 15%, rather than using your calculator, write out the calculation,” he writes. “If you need to split a $250 dinner check 6 ways, again, write out the division by hand and do the calculation. The more you practice basic operations, the more prepared you’ll be to use them on the actual GMAT.”

Sources: Fortuna Admissions,

Next Page: Highest-paying regions for graduate students.

If you have a graduate degree – such as an MBA – and are looking to maximize your salary potential, you may want to move out West.

According to a report released by Grand Canyon University, which determines the best cities for PhD holders, San Jose, California and San Francisco, California ranked as the top two cities where graduate degree holders earn the most. In San Jose, the median salary for graduate degree holders is $131,291. In San Francisco, it’s $113,098.


To conduct the study, the authors compared the 50 largest U.S. metropolitan areas across a variety of criteria (listed below) and weighted each:

  • Population 25 years old and over with graduate degrees (Factor Weight: 2.75)

  • Livability (Factor Weight: 2.50)

  • Cost of living (Factor Weight: 2.50)

  • Median salary of graduate degree holders (Factor Weight: 3.00)

  • Percentage more graduate degree holders make compared to city average (Factor Weight: 3.25)

  • Unemployment rate (Factor Weight: 2.00)

  • Access to arts and culture (Factor Weight: 2.00)

  • Leisure opportunities (Factor Weight: 2.00)


According to numbers published by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, the average starting salary for MBA grads in the class of 2021 is projected to be $87,966 – nearly 11% higher than the average starting salary among 2020 grads.

Looking closer at industry salaries for MBA’s, it seems that Media and Entertainment ranks the highest with a mean base salary of $136,667, according to data from UC Berkeley’s MBA program based on its 2018 class of graduates.

Technology ranked second in Berkeley’s study with graduates earning mean base salary of $132,784 – a number that aligns closely to Grand Canyon University’s report of median salary for graduate degree holders in San Jose – a city that’s run by tech.

Check out the full Grand Canyon University report here.

Sources: Grand Canyon University, UC Berkeley

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