Harvard can be helpful to applicants preparing to write their own stellar essays. That's why we've provided five of them for you to review and get inspired. So whether you have your eyes set on or just need some help with your personal statement for a different business school, this post will have some valuable information for you.
An MBA personal statement is a short essay that summarizes your goals and experiences, as well as your reasons for pursuing an MBA and choosing a particular MBA program. It is also sometimes called a goal statement or . A good personal statement should convince the admissions committees that you are the most suitable candidate for their MBA program by showing them your skills, experiences, and values. You can think of MBA personal statements as a cover letter for your MBA application. A cover letter is supposed to showcase your suitability for a professional role, and a personal statement is meant to communicate your suitability for a specific program and school.
MBA personal statements are an essential part of your application because most graduate programs, like MBAs, look for well-rounded candidates. That's why they want to know more about your motivations and purpose for applying. To make an impression on your chosen business school's admissions committee, you need to show them the person behind the high grades and impressive . It's also a great way to show the committee that you have outstanding communication skills, a trait that will serve you well as an MBA student and business leader in the professional world.
The admissions committee of most MBA programs will usually pose a question (a prompt) that applicants are expected to answer in essay format. While these questions vary from one program to another and often change from year to year, there are prompts that are commonly used by all programs every application cycle; reviewing common prompts can help you prepare and give you ideas for the statement you will need to write. Harvard Business School (HBS) is a very prestigious institution and the competition to get into their MBA programs is fierce. That's why the admissions committee always gives applicants great personal statement prompts that encourage students to self-reflect on their motivations, perspectives, and goals. This is an excellent way for the admissions team to ensure that your values align with the school's.
Below are some of Harvard's famous prompts with sample answers that will help inspire your own. Pay special attention to the different ways these sample answers respond to the prompt while tying it back to the skills and qualities needed to succeed in business school.
Looking for tips for writing your MBA resume as well? Take a look at this infographic:
Prompt: Describe an internal conflict (or difficult decision) that you have faced. How did you resolve the situation? What did you learn from this? (500-word limit).
As a business owner, I frequently encounter the need to make decisions that affect others, but the most difficult decision I have ever had to make was a personal one about my career.
Five years ago, I worked as a financial manager in a car dealership, and I was rather successful at it. In addition to working as a financial manager, I often spent my weekends working on cars with a friend who owned a small auto repair shop. We often talked about becoming partners and growing the business, but I was too comfortable at my job and unwilling to make such a risky move. My position as a finance manager was well-paid; it involved constant interaction with the public, sales, and business analysis, all of which I enjoy very much. Unfortunately, there was also no room to grow or learn anything new with this position, which I did not enjoy. Eventually, I found that even though I was comfortable, I was not happy with my work, and I was not putting in the same level of effort I once did. It wasn't long before I concluded that I needed to make a change.
I pride myself on my ability to take a step back, look at the bigger picture and objectively analyze a situation. So that's exactly what I did with my career. I was able to look at the different aspects of my life and the skills that I have to offer. I came to the conclusion that my relative youth and lack of dependents made this the ideal time for me to take a big risk. I also felt that being a business owner would allow me to express my talents effectively and bring a significant contribution to the local economy. So, I decided to take a leap of faith and become part owner in the auto repair shop that my friend owned.
The process of making this difficult decision and the resulting experience has taught me the importance of considering all options and that some risks are worth taking. I also learned a lot about myself during this process. I devoted numerous hours to contemplating questions such as 'What do I like to do?' 'What am I good at?' 'What role do I wish to play in my community?' I came out on the other side, strengthened and determined. I made that decision four years ago, and since then, I have not looked back or hesitated. It has been a challenging but rewarding experience. We've been able to grow our auto repair shop from a three-person operation to a company that employs twelve mechanics.
I am dedicated to developing my business administration knowledge for my employees, business partner, and myself. Harvard Business school is the best place for me to do this, as it has a well-rounded curriculum that focuses on building leadership and analytical skills. Both of those are skills that I possess and wish to hone.
Prompt: What are your three most substantial accomplishments and why do you view them as such? (600-word limit).
I’ve achieved a few things in my life, many of which are listed on my resume. But my three most substantial accomplishments are not academic or professional. Still, they have significantly impacted every aspect of my life, including how I approach my work and school life.
1. Leaving my hometown
I know that this is something that hundreds, if not thousands of people do every day, but I believe that it is a substantial accomplishment for many of those people too. I grew up in a small, conservative town with a population of less than 2000, and for a long time, my view of the world did not extend past the borders of our little town. I am an avid reader and was content with traveling only through the words of others. However, as I grew and started thinking about college and the career that I wanted, I realized that I could not succeed the way I wanted to without expanding my worldview. I then had to decide: stay in my comfort zone and settle or leave everything I knew behind and pursue my dreams of being an environmental lawyer. My ambition won. At the age of 17, I packed my bags and moved to the other end of the country. To this day, it is one of the hardest things I have ever had to do, but it is also the best decision I have ever made.
2. Becoming a firefighter
Six years ago, I started volunteering as a firefighter, and it has been the most rewarding experience of my life. When I moved to this city, it took me a while to find my footing, but so many amazing resources were available to support me in my transition. So, when I finally settled down, I decided to give back to the community that had welcomed me with open arms, and I wanted to do that in a way that also challenged me. The training to become a firefighter pushed me both physically and mentally, and being in the field also pushed me emotionally. Unfortunately, as a firefighter, there are days when we can't get there in time, or we cannot save everyone. On the other hand, it also serves as a big motivator, and I can honestly say that every time we save someone, it feels like a substantial accomplishment.
3. Making my workplace go green
One of the many things that I appreciate about my hometown is the community spirit. Everyone often comes together and does their part for the good of the entire community. It's something that I try to take with me everywhere I go. It is why I got involved with the student union in college, why I hope to get involved with the one at HBS, and why I decided to take the initiative and spearhead a project that would have a long-term effect at my workplace. I was able to enlist the help of three of my colleagues. We worked together to digitize the company's filing system, thus increasing efficiency and pushing us forward in our efforts to use less paper. In the last year, we’ve continued working towards becoming a greener company. I am proud of the progress that we’ve made because it took a lot of hard work, but it will positively impact not only the company but also our community.
I think my accomplishments show a trend of persistence, community spirit, and diligence. I hope to bring all of these to Harvard Business School and carry them with me as I practice as an environmental lawyer in the future.
Would you like to see these prompts all in one place to help you practice? This infographic is for you:
Prompt: What do you enjoy and what do you dislike about your current job? Why? (300-word limit).
I have been working in a customer service center for almost a decade. When I first started as a customer service representative, I enjoyed making someone's day a little easier by providing a simple service. Today, I have worked my way up to my current role as Team Leader, and the thing that I enjoy the most about my work has not changed. As a Team Leader, I get to make my agents' days a little easier by doing everything I can to ensure they have what they need to do their job and enjoy the process.
Another thing that I equally enjoy is that this role is constantly pushing me. I have often had to challenge myself to look for new and creative ways to keep my staff motivated and working as a unit. I am particularly proud of the points reward system that I created for my team, which is now used by all the different teams on the call center floor.
On the other hand, I dislike my salary. Salary isn't the most important thing for me, but the reality is that money is an important factor when it comes to employment, especially when you have a family to support and bills to pay. I have discussed this with my employer, and unfortunately, there is just not much they can do while I am working in this particular position.
It is one of the reasons why I wish to attend Harvard Business School. Over the years, as a student union member and then an employee, I have proven that I have the dedication and leadership qualities needed to succeed in a managerial role. Now, I am ready to invest in my future by learning from a school with a track record for creating creative business leaders.
Prompt: What are your career aspirations and why? How will you get there? (300-word limit).
My long-term career goal is to occupy a senior managerial position in a corporation that manufactures, distributes, and markets high-end clothing. I plan to accomplish this by using the knowledge that I will gain from my MBA, and the analytical and leadership skills that I have honed over the years as a marketing director.
I have been fascinated by fashion since I was a child. I was the kind of little girl who spent hours playing with dolls and trying on her mother's high heels. I have a curious mind and enjoy learning, so I started reading about fashion and its history. My fascination with the clothing industry, and consequently the size of my wardrobe, grew as I learned more about the subject.
Over the years, as I learned about fashion, completed an undergraduate degree in statistics & marketing, and started working as a marketing specialist, I came to understand that only 50% of a successful business depends on the product or service it sells. The other 50% depends on business operations. If the accounting, marketing, and logistics are not right, then it does not matter how good the product is. Since I, unfortunately, have no talent when it comes to clothing design, my short-term goal is to master everything to do with the second half of running a successful business, and I believe that HBS is the best place for me to do that.
I genuinely believe that my academic background, love for learning, and over six years of experience in fashion marketing have prepared me to handle the demanding nature of an MBA. I also know that Harvard's well-rounded MBA curriculum will give me the knowledge and network I need to accomplish my short-term goal, thus bringing me closer to my long-term career goal.
Have you started thinking about MBA interview prep at all yet? You'll want to check out this video when you get to that point:
Question: 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 specific word count)
Beyond the achievements and qualifications listed on my resume, I would like you to know that I am a leader who is passionate about education technology, and I believe that Harvard is my calling.
Harvard Business School is the institution that initially piqued my interest in management sciences. Prof. Jonathan Smith, who taught my introduction to management course at the University of X, is a Harvard alumnus. He introduced me to the IBM portal, where he often read articles and case studies, which I still keep up with today. It is actually one of those articles that convinced me to apply for this Master in Business Administration/Master in Public Administration-International Development program.
Last year, there was an article about the different ways in which technology can help increase the quality of the education for underserved populations. This topic is very dear to me because I grew up in an immigrant community and saw firsthand what it means to live in a poor, remote part of a country. While I completed my undergraduate teaching degree, I worked as a research assistant for Dr. Jane Laporte, who was conducting a study on a similar topic. She found that children who had access to certain technologies learned a lot better, even when all other circumstances were not ideal.
I intend to leverage my teaching experience and the business acumen I'll acquire at Harvard to increase access to education through Ed-Tech products. My experience as a teacher in low-income communities has given me the knowledge needed to take on such a project. I also have a proven track record as a leader, starting in high school as a co-president of the student body and captain of the varsity soccer team, continuing in college as an elected vice-president of the student union, and even now, as the head of the teacher's association in my local community.
Now, I am ready to take the next step in my academic career by attending Harvard Business School and completing the MBA/MPA-IDM program. I have selected this program because it offers a well-rounded curriculum focusing on international development and business administration. I believe that it is the best way for me to acquire the business savvy that I need to fulfill my long-term career goal.
1. What is an MBA personal statement?
In short, an MBA personal statement is like the cover letter for your MBA application. It is a short essay that tells the admissions committee about the person behind the application.
2. Are MBA personal statements important?
Yes, they are. Your MBA personal statement is an integral part of your application. It is supposed to show the admissions committees what skills, experiences, and fresh perspective you bring to their program. When done correctly, it can make your application stand out.
3. How long should my MBA personal statement be?
Many business schools have a specific word limit, so you should always check the specific requirements or guidelines provided by the school. If there is no word count mentioned, you should aim for around 400-1,000 words.
4. Why should I review Harvard MBA personal statement examples if I am not applying to Harvard?
It is always a good idea to review personal statement examples and look at statement of purpose examples and tips for assistance in crafting your own statement. Harvard Business School has some excellent prompts that require applicants to dig deep and self-reflect. Therefore, they are a great tool for inspiring applicants who may be having a hard time brainstorming for their own statement.
5. Do all business schools have a personal essay prompt?
Not all schools provide a prompt, but they may provide different requirements. It is essential to always check the specific guidelines provided by your chosen school.
6. Does the personal essay prompt change every year?
Yes. Usually, schools will change the essay question every year or every application cycle. However, even if the wording of the prompts change, the core of the questions they ask remain the same. This is why it’s always a good idea to look back at old prompts.
7. Can I use the same personal statement for different schools?
We do not recommend doing this. First, many business schools have specific questions or prompts that your personal essay will need to answer. Secondly, different schools value different things, and your essay should reflect the values and skills that your chosen school is looking for in candidates.
8. Should someone else read my essay before I submit it?
Yes. We highly recommend having someone else look at your statement to make sure it is grammatically correct, coherent, and compelling. To ensure that this is the case, you might want to consider investing in .