How to Get Into Harvard Business School

Three Parts:Completing Your Preliminary EducationApplyingStanding Out

Harvard Business School is typically the most highly ranked and well-respected MBA program in the country, if not the world. It's also one of the most competitive, admitting about 900 new students each year from an applicant pool of over 10,000. If you want to give it a shot, you can learn how to make your application stand out from the pack, getting the experience and skills you'll need to excel at HBS.

Part 1
Completing Your Preliminary Education

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    Earn an undergraduate degree in business, science, or engineering. While it may seem that business majors will have a leg up on MBA programs, a study of first-year Harvard Business School (HBS) students reveals that undergraduate majors are more diverse than you might think.[1] A large percentage of Humanities or Social Science majors are admitted most years, and science, technology, and engineering students make up an almost equal percentage compared to business.
    • You can technically apply to HBS with any major, from english to math, but if you want the background that will earn you a spot, business and technology majors have a proven track record of success.
    • It's true that a large percentage of students entering HBS come from the more prestigious Ivy League colleges like Yale and Penn, but a significant portion of students (up to 70% of the entering class) come from a variety of state schools. Wherever you go for your undergrad, you've got a chance of getting in, but only if you excel at a high level.[2]
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    Maintain a high grade-point average (GPA). While there is technically no minimum GPA included as part of the HBS application, the average GPA is usually quite high. Average GPAs for entrants hover between 3.6 and 3.75. It's important to do well across all your courses and keep your GPA very high during your undergraduate education.
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    Develop excellent relationships with at least two faculty members. Developing a close personal and working relationship with members of the faculty is an important part of academic success. Faculty members will be willing to go the extra mile for students who get to know them, which can be challenging in bigger lectures with hundreds of students. Make the extra effort.
    • Single out faculty that attended HBS, if you want insider information and tips. A recommendation letter from alumni goes a long way on the application. Recommendation letters are a critical part of the application process, and can help you to stand out from the rest of the pack.
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    Complete an internship. In general, it's important for students coming into the HBS to have extensive experience outside of the classroom as well. Completing an internship in your field of interest is a great way of gaining real-world experience and connections that will make you stand out.
    • Look especially for internships related to e-commerce, technology, cloud computing, and anything based in Latin America, a growing marketplace.
    • To get into Harvard Business School, you need to have creative ideas about leadership, business, and innovation. While you'll get that in the classroom, it's important to go the extra mile. An internship can open up opportunities for you to make that happen.
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    Take the GMAT or GRE test. The GMAT (Graduate Management Admission Test) is a graduate-level evaluation of your business and management skills. The GRE (Graduate Record Examination) measures your verbal and quantitative-reasoning skills, critical thinking, and analytical-writing skills. The school uses these scores to measure your ability to succeed at HBS.
    • Average GMAT scores typically range between 550-800, with the most number of students spring between 700-750. Again, there is no minimum score required, but a high score will help your application stand out.
    • International students with non-English speaking degrees also need to take the TOEFL, which measures English proficiency. You must pass this test to be admitted into HBS.
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    Diversify your academic interests. If there's one thing all HBS students have in common, it's that they're dynamic and innovative future leaders. HBS looks for applicants with the potential for leadership an the skills to back it up. An engineering or technology graduate degree looks great on the application, along with your excellent leadership skills.
    • One in nine HBS students pursue a degree with another Harvard graduate college. Consider getting an advanced degree in a different field before applying to HBS.

Part 2

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    Fill out the introduction page on the Harvard Business School Web site. You can express your interest and intent to apply to HBS by entering your basic contact information and demographic data here: This is a great way to stay organized and receive helpful updates during the application season.
    • This form signifies to the school your intent to apply. The school will then send you information about the application process and about events in your area.
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    Mark the application deadlines on your calendar. Always check in to the HBS website to make sure that you get your application materials in on time. There are typically three rounds of applications, starting in the Fall during your senior year, for admission the following school year. Students are encouraged to apply as early as possible.[3]
    • Round 1: Application due in early September, notified by early December
    • Round 2: Application due in early January, notified by late March
    • Round 3: Application due in early April, notified by mid-May
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    Supply your recommenders with the instructors for uploading their letters. Typically, you'll need to provide two contacts who are willing to fill out letters of recommendation for you. These are people familiar with your work abilities, talents, and academic skills. It's good to make sure your recommenders are familiar with the due dates, online portal for entering the letters, and questions they'll have to answer. There will be a variety of questions, including the following:
    • How do the candidate's performance, potential, background, or personal qualities compare to those of other well-qualified individuals in similar roles? Please provide specific examples. (300 words)[4]
    • Please describe the most important piece of constructive feedback you have given the applicant. Please detail the circumstances and the applicant's response. (250 words)
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    Write your application essay, including the optional response. It's important to write specifically and vividly about what you want to do beyond the scope of a degree at HBS, and how HBS will help you achieve those goals. There is only one required application essay, which is extremely short (500 characters), which encourages you to describe your career goals briefly.
    • It's a good idea to complete the optional essay as well to give the panel a sense of who you are as a person, which has no length-requirement and basically just encourages you to write about yourself: "Tell us anything else you'd like us to know regarding your candidacy."[5]
    • Make yourself multi-dimensional. Take the essay as an opportunity to give yourself layers. What's your story? What does your story say about you? Why does your story make you an ideal candidate for HBS?
    • Pick a central theme and stick to it. You don't have to tell your whole life story. A good application essay, though there's no limit, should be no longer than 2-3 pages.
    • Don't include stuff that's on your resume. A list of your achievements is what a resume is for. Use the essay to tell your story. Use clear and vivid details.[6]
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    Submit your application online. There's a brief and basic application to fill out online, which will prompt you to upload the various scores and documents necessary for consideration. The online portal can be accessed here. When you complete the application, you'll also have to sign and complete:
    • The Harvard Business School Community Values Statement
    • A signed and completed Statement of Application Integrity
    • $250 nonrefundable application fee ($100 for college seniors)
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    Send in your transcripts and test scores. Self-reported transcripts from all undergraduate and graduate academic institutions you attended will be included in the online application, but you'll need to send in official copies as well. Contact your prior institutions to have your transcripts sent.
    • Your GMAT, GRE, and TOEFL scores will also need to be sent directly to HBS. You can request to have the scores sent to the schools you're applying to when you take the test.
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    Go in for an interview, if requested. If the admissions board is interested, they will set up an interview with you. The content of these interviews is typically private, but it's usually an attempt to get to know more about your personality and ability to succeed in the high-paced and dynamic environment of HBS.
    • Interviews are usually conducted by a combination of alumni and admissions officers. They're typically done in person at Harvard, but can also be done online or over the phone.
    • After the interview, applicants are typically requested to fill out a brief written reflection on the application process. Further instructions and direction will be given during the interview itself.

Part 3
Standing Out

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    Have a strong sense of where you're going before you apply. HBS rewards students who are already achieving at a high level, assured and confident in their abilities to change the world in industry and technology. Students at HBS have a track record of success, strong leadership skills, and the technical know-how to get things done.[7] If you're not sure what you want to be doing in 10 years, HBS probably isn't the place for you.
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    Start your own business. As much as 20% of first-year students have founded or co-founded a business before being admitted to HBS.[8] The ingenuity and innovative skills gained from starting a business are highly valued among the admissions board when evaluating a student's ability to succeed.
    • If you don't start a business, try working for or interning with a start-up before applying. Typically, technology companies encourage you to define the nature of your own job, growing and expanding your responsibilities on your own. This is a big part of what you'll be learning at HBS.
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    Work for a while after college. Most students entering HBS have worked in the business or technology industry for a few years before applying. Many students come to HBS from tech start-ups or jobs on Wall Street.
    • Financial consultants make up a big percentage of new HBS students. The better a job you can get at a well-known firm like McKinsey, Bain, or BCG, the better a chance you'll have at getting in.
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    Apply as soon as possible. Harvard Business School is on the cutting edge, and isn't typically a place where non-traditional graduate students end up. Most students entering HBS are 24-26 years old and have only been out of school for a few years. As soon as you get some experience under your belt, start thinking about applying to graduate schools.
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    Have a dynamic and vocal personality. HBS wants students people that will be leaders and are already well on their way, achieving at a high level, not creative types who may go somewhere with the right push. It's a very competitive atmosphere that requires students to have a strong sense of self and a willingness to speak their mind.
    • Most coursework in HBS is debate-driven and vocal, meaning that you'll be standing up in a large lecture hall and arguing over a particular topic with a professor and other students. It's intense, not typically a place for introverts.[9]


  • Attend a school that follows the IB program in grades 10 and up. Passing the IB program guarantees that you will meet all colleges academic requirements to enroll.

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