2023 MBA Essay Questions: Harvard Business School

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EssaySnark's definitive guide to applying to Harvard Business School

Jump to info on the Harvard Interview

Harvard 2023 mba essay & recommendations class of 2026 hbs mba application, hbs round 1 is in 3 months, 1 week (september 6)., harvard’s essay is not actually that hard to do well — once you have your key objectives laid out.

Pssst: Our Harvard Essay Guide will offer some concrete ideas for what those key objectives might be!

Caution! Warning! Alert! Even though Harvard is the first school with an essay question out already, this does not mean that you should start writing your HBS essay today! The Harvard prompt is one of the hardest of all the schools. You’ll be wise to do one of your other schools as your first project.

Applying to Harvard this year? Here’s the HBS MBA essay question they want you to answer:

“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?”

As of this season, they’ve implemented a length limit of 900 words max. It is TOTALLY possible to do an incredible job of answering this question in 900 words!

EssaySnark has refreshed our MBA Application Guide for Harvard Business School to help you with the nuances, details, and gotchas of handling this question. Here’s a cheat sheet to help you prepare the groundwork for your Harvard app:

What does leadership mean to you?

In what ways can you demonstrate that to the adcom — beyond what’s already captured on the resume itself? The resume and this essay must work together as a unit.

You may also find value in this video:

Our Harvard MBA application guide can help you plan your strategy!

HBS 2023 MBA Application Dates and Deadlines – Class of 2026

HBS MBA Admissions Deadlines

And… there is no Round 3 for Harvard! YAY Harvard! The only exception is the 2+2 applicant pool. Everyone else, apply in Round 1!

Yes, we do recommend a Round 1 application to Harvard. Definitely. It’s still possible to get in during Round 2 but you have more competition against you then. Round 1 for Harvard, people. Make it happen.

Harvard MBA Recommendations

The main requirements are:

The first issue of course is, who do you choose to write for you? We have a number of posts about recommenders here on the blahg (on the first page of the site, use the dropdown menu in the righthand panel to choose Recommendations to get a list of all of them).

Interview Invitations at HBS

The admissions process at HBS (and now many other schools too) generally works like this:

The sequence and timing of these interview invites that come out from Harvard Business School has changed from year to year, and sometimes it’s even done differently between Round 1 and Round 2.

These days, all interview invites typically come out on a single day, in one blast.

Also how it’s worked in past years is this: If you applied in Round 1 and didn’t get the interview invitation in early October, then that meant one of two things:

They were either going to hang on to you to think about your application more, called “further consideration” or “FC” which isn’t quite a waitlist but kind of is.

Or they were cutting you loose, aptly named “release.”

We expect 2022 to also work that way, but this has not yet been announced by the Harvard team.

If you apply in Round 2, it’s either an interview invitation, or release, since they don’t have more rounds to consider you in. The FC bucket is a positive because it means that they’re still interested in you, but they want to see how their next round of applicants comes in before they decide whether to move forward with your candidacy or not.

The invitations are issued in batch mode, all at once, at noon Eastern time on the scheduled day. You should receive an email by, say, 12:05pm Eastern time, unless the internet is staffed by slowpokes and there are delays from your mail server. Be sure to check your spam folder too, or you can log onto the HBS application and you should be able to see status there.

SOME DATA (yeah this is super old but it’s been directionally accurate for years) In 2013, HBS invited 1,887 people to interview across the whole season. That was 20% of the 9,543 applications they received. Generally speaking they have invited more of their applicants in Round 1 – something like 1,000 – yet most schools including Harvard tend to get more applications submitted in Round 2 – so right there tells you that Round 1 can be an advantage.

For Round 1 2015, HBS got enough apps that they decided to issue interviews to ~50 more candidates. Here’s more details on the data as of the 2012-’13 season if you want to see how it broke down in past years. It’s actually still useful to review that info if you want to geek out on these, because Harvard is quite consistent in the numbers and ratios and stuff.

If you’re placed in that pre-interview “Further Consideration” bucket in Round 1, then you’ll either get invited to interview, or released, on the Round 2 interview-invite date.

If you do get interviewed in Round 1, and then in December they put you on the waitlist, you’ll get the final answer (admit or deny) on the Round 2 decision date in the Spring.

Pre-pandemic, getting an interview invite meant you had to travel somewhere to interview with the admissions team, who went to major cities around the world to host these. Obviously everything went to Zoom for the past few years, and it’s likely that Zoom will be maintained as an option again this year. However, it’s also possible that the admissions team will resume travel again, and if so, going to meet them in person would be wise if you can swing it.

Harvard doesn’t tap alumni for interviewing; the admissions folks themselves do it. Therefore, if travel is indeed required, you’ll need to make some arrangements, and yeah it’ll likely require taking some time off of work. But don’t freak out about that part; if you end up getting the invite, you will make it happen, we’re confident. Harvard is always flexible with situations like remotely-deployed military.

So that you can be prepared: here’s an explanation from the ‘snarchive of the HBS Mid-Cycle Decision and the Moods of a BSer .

Harvard’s Post-Interview Reflection

Within 24 hours after your interview, you’ll need to submit something (an essay that’s not an essay but it’s basically an essay – even if the admissions people claim it’s not an essay) that is totally open-ended. This is another way for Harvard to see how you deal with ambiguity. That’s kind of what leaders have to do all the time, right?

The Post Interview Reflection is a chance for you to tell the Harvard Admissions Board that thing that occurred to you, that you realized you should’ve said the moment you walked out of the interview room. Or it’s an opportunity or try to fix your answer to that one question you completely flubbed. Or if you can’t think of anything else, maybe reiterate your application “theme” (though honestly we don’t think that’s such a great idea, that’s just our personal Snark opinion).

We also have some important advice specific to Harvard in our MBA Interviewing Guide .

Also useful for Harvard specifically? EssaySnark’s Custom Interview Questions service.

We’ve got a fast-turnaround Interview Express Essay Decimator too — though we’re betting you can do just fine on your Reflection assignment on your own! It’s an option in case you’re interested in some additional support in that last leg of your process.

HBS Useful Info and some Snark

Direct from Harvard

Snarkety snark snark

and finally, just:

Many years back, The New York Times ran a pretty important feature on Harvard about gender dynamics. A few days later, a follow-up article was published on class at HBS (not the kind of “class” with teachers). This resulted in lots of media coverage and big conversations across all the business schools. EssaySnark’s reaction is here.

Our Essay Ideas App Accelerator includes a free BONUS: a sample early-draft essay from a former client who ended up getting an admit! With comments from the ‘Snark! Review the original draft and EssaySnark’s complete Essay Decimator critique for an old essay question from Harvard asking about “three accomplishments” – study it for free and make your Harvard essay that much stronger.

And we’ll say it again: Our HBS MBA application guide is very detailed, and it gives you important insights into how the HBS Admissions Board thinks about stuff. Don’t apply to Harvard just because it’s Harvard; you’re likely to end up heartbroken. Read that guide, and study this blahg, and then make an informed decision – and create an infinitely stronger strategy ( with a professional’s opinion on your HBS essay , even).

Fifth Business

By robertson davies, fifth business essay questions.

How does Dunstan relate to his mother? How does she shape the rest of his life?

Dunstan understood Mrs. Ramsay; he even loved her. And yet he also loathed her, because of her controlling nature. This paradox haunts Dunstan for much of his life.

Mrs. Ramsey is the archetype of the sensible Scottish mother, practical and efficient. However, she is also extremely conservative in her tastes and expectations. When Dunstan shows a predisposition towards the mythic and the fantastical, her authority controls and smothers him. Because of this tumultuous relationship, Dunstan has trouble not only with other women in his life, but also with societal expectations. He swears he is above the resentments towards his mother, and yet has trouble manifesting that remove into action with either women or his lifestyle, which remains mostly conventional. Ultimately, he himself embodies a similar paradox to that which he feels for Mrs. Ramsay, repudiating his mother's conservatism and yet somewhat conforming to it in spite of himself (at least until he meets Liesl).

Why is Dunstan so upset with the article published by Colbourne?

The article in the College Chronicle is the primary catalyst for Dunstan's memoir. Ultimately, what truly upsets him is its implication that his life and career were entirely conventional. In condescending terms, it sums him up as reliable, like a piece of heavy furniture in the College’s library. His offense indicates his well-formed belief that every individual has the potential for a type of greatness, provided he embraces his place in the mystical order. Dunstan has indeed embraced and explored his position in this order, generating a number of meaningful and singular experiences in the meanwhile. From the battlefields of WWI to holding the secrets of one of the country’s most powerful men, Dunstan has experienced a full life. And yet what lies behind the resentment is an even greater idea: things are only conventional if we choose to see them that way.

Describe elements of myth and magic realism that Davies utilizes in Fifth Business .

Many of Dunstan’s experiences border the realms of magic realism. In terms of realism, his story is grounded in everyday experience, from his childhood in a seemingly recognizable village up through his time traveling with a circus. And yet all of these experiences possess a mythical element, largely because Dunstan is willing to see them that way. Mrs. Dempster is not just an influence on his life, but actually a saint. Liesl is not just a mentor, but actually a Mephistopheles-like bearded lady. And Boy's death is not just a confluence of circumstances, but in fact Dunstan's redefinition of his place in the mystical order. These are only some examples of how Dunstan's life remains grounded and yet indicative of a more mythical order.

Why were Boy and Dunstan so eager to leave Deptford behind?

Both Boy and Dunstan work to leave Deptford firmly discarded in their past. While they have very different reasons, there is some significant overlap to their relationships with their home village. For Boy, Deptford reflects everything that is small, mediocre, and limiting. He wants to be larger than ordinary life, which is summed up by Deptford. Dunstan is similarly turned off by these qualities, though his resentments have a more moralistic and mythical basis. He is particularly unhappy with Deptford's sanctimony, clearest in its treatment of Mrs. Dempster. Likewise, he sees Deptford as a grounded place entirely contrasted with the mystical quest he wishes to conduct. Ironically, both men work hard to escape Deptford because of who they are, and yet Deptford is an essential part of who they are. Thus, they can never truly leave it behind.

By the time she dies, what has Mrs. Dempster come to mean to Dunstan?

Dunstan spends years trying to determine exactly what Mrs. Dempster means to his life. Is she his personal saint? A manifestation of childhood guilt? Or perhaps simply a mentally deranged woman who fascinates him? While each reader can determine this answer for himself, Mrs. Dempster ultimately proves a manifestation of Dunstan's complicated relationship with his past. As much as he wants to reinvent himself, he is forever drawn to reexamine his past in order to understand himself and his place in the universe's mythical order. Mrs. Dempster is a perfect externalization of this journey.

What role does Liesl play in Dunstan’s life?

More than anyone else in Dunstan's life, Liesl serves the role of a personal mentor, instrumental in revealing Dunstan's darker side to him. Like a Jungian Mephistopheles, Liesl helps Dunstan complete his identity. By forcing him to admit his violent and sexual urges, and then to celebrate them, she leads Dunstan to eschew his self-assigned role as "Fifth Business" and take the lead in the situation with Boy and Paul at the novel's end. Hideous yet beautiful, Liesl is a symbol of Dunstan's inner paradox, his dark side that he works to transcend but is hampered by because he refuses to acknowledge it.

Discuss Boy and Dunstan's attitudes towards women.

Both Boy and Dunstan have disjointed relationships with women, although in different ways. Boy uses his women for sex and validation. His cruelty towards Leola reveals how little he expects of his lovers, and his marriage to Denyse is purely for selfish reasons. While Dunstan is nowhere near as cruel as Boy, he does similarly sees women merely as a means to look for himself. He treats Diana well, but discards her once she has served her purpose. Ultimately, both characters keep women at arm's length, never really investing their complete selves into a relationship, and hence neither has a lasting relationship with a woman. Of course, the exception to this comes with Liesl, who leads Dunstan to an even more complicated place than he knew before. And yet it is no mistake that Liesl is marked by her masculine as well as feminine qualities.

Is Dunstan ultimately a dynamic character?

While a question of this sort seems inherently subjective, there are objective ways to approach it. Dunstan is certainly a decent guy, a likable and reliable protagonist. And yet his position as "Fifth Business" makes him largely an observer throughout the novel. Truly, most of the interesting things happen because he has fascinating interests and friends, not because he takes decisive action.

And yet he does change considerably, if subtly, by novel's end. As he ceases to remain "Fifth Business," he tears apart the tapestry - between all the men who came from Deptford - in the novel's final section. Unlike in many novels, we do not get much of a sense of how this change manifests in Dunstan, outside of the knowledge that he leaves to join Magnus's carnival in Europe. And yet the change is significant and thematically profound. In this way, he is entirely dynamic.

What role does Padre Blazon play in Dunstan’s life?

If Dunstan’s life is a mythic journey, then the Padre is Dunstan’s archetypal mentor figure, gently leading Dunstan to conclusions about both his life and Mary Dempster. These conclusions transcend the understanding of the Catholic Church or any other religious denomination, while also acknowledging the value such religion has for lost souls. Ultimately, Blazon represents one of Dunstan's paradoxes: he wants the comfort of a mystical order, but is too skeptical to conform to any established creed. Blazon, while a Jesuit, echoes these sentiments and through his life models the freedom that one can have in embracing such a paradox, rather than trying to transcend it as Dunstan does.

Explain the title's significance.

Liesl first quote the term "Fifth Business" to Dunstan, though the reader knows the phrase from the inscription of the novel's first page. A dramatic type that was meant in certain periods of theatre to serve as the confidant character, with little direct influence on the plot, the "Fifth Business" is destined to remain in the background. In many ways, Dunstan's role as "Fifth Business" is what endears him to us. As an everyman protagonist who is simply in position to report on extraordinary events, we get to experience his singular life as he does. And yet Dunstan ultimately transcends this role, suggesting that the title is supposed to be somewhat ironic. This irony helps establish one of the story's ultimate points: we ought to embrace our identities so that we can then work to transcend and grow past them.

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Fifth Business Questions and Answers

The Question and Answer section for Fifth Business is a great resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.

Hi Aslan, I understand your point however I have an essay prompt that says: compare and contrast mary dempster, paul dempster, and dunstan ramsay as "wonder workers".

Paul Dempster is a magician. His "wonder work" isn't metaphysical so much as psychological. He is able to manipulate and even hypnotise. The snowball rock in Percy's mouth or the Brazen Head illusion at the end of the book is proof of this. In...

Who gives Paul the name Magnus Eisengrim, or does he rename himself? Also how does this name change represent his rebirth?

I believe Paul names himself this. Paul takes what Dunstan teaches him (magic) and later re-invents himself, first as a carnival performer and then as world-famous magician Magnus Eisengrim. Like Dunstan and Percy, Paul becomes a new person, and...

How does Dunstan perform wonders?

I don't think Dunstan himself has performed miracles. He wants to prove that Mary Dempster has performed miracles.

Study Guide for Fifth Business

Fifth Business study guide contains a biography of Robertson Davies, literature essays, quiz questions, major themes, characters, and a full summary and analysis.

Essays for Fifth Business

Fifth Business essays are academic essays for citation. These papers were written primarily by students and provide critical analysis of Fifth Business by Robertson Davies.

Wikipedia Entries for Fifth Business

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