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Harvard Graduates on Quora reveal key strategies that helped them get into world's top B-school


About 1 in 10 applicants were accepted last year at the Harvard Business School, the Stanford Graduate School of Business, and Wharton – all of them are the top ranked Business Schools in the world. 

What really distinguishes that one candidate who was accepted from the rest? Is there a way we can get sure-shot ways of knowing the parameter used for judging candidates during interviews? Maybe not. 

But we can definitely get closer to perfection if we get an insider’s perspective, basically get to know about the kind of people who study at let’s say HBS, their qualities, their background and their personality. 
So we collated answers from the posts of several Quora users, who also happen to be studying or ex-graduates from HBS, as they shared valuable information about what could help you to land into the world’s top B-school. Here are some key points that caught our attention: 

Apply by your mid 20's: 
HBS students are actually younger than the students at the other Top 10 MBA colleges. Richard Ludlow, who started studying at HBS early this year posted on Quora – “Bulk of students are 24-26 years old and 3-4 years out of school.” 

The sweet-spot for applying is when you have around 3 years of experience after graduating. The more experience you have, the lesser the chances of getting in. 

Consulting is the clearest path here 
McKinsey Business Analysts have a 92% success rate in getting into at least one of HBS and Stanford GSB. Richard wrote - “People will tell you that consultants are a dime a dozen and you're much better off doing something more interesting, but the fact of the matter is that 1 in 4 students in the entering class had worked at McKinsey, Bain, or BCG.” 

Write that essay with a lot of love 
Ben Schumacher, another ex-HBS graduate, said love your essays. He wrote- “Each essay needs to be a gem that unfolds a new layer about you, further differentiating you from the crowd. Also, if you're from a traditional background, lean more toward writing about activities outside of work than you initially think. 

t’s a must to get these three things right - Talent, passion, purpose 
Tyler Cormney, an MBA admissions consultant as well as a HBS graduate, said he found three common denominators in students – “They all had talent, passion, and purpose. Of course, they were competing with highly-qualified candidates who also had talent, passion, and purpose. The secret sauce, if you'll forgive the expression, appears to be the way in which those three ingredients combine to create a compelling leadership identity. The successful candidates proved in their application and interview that they had impressive talents fueled by exceptional passion and directed by a clear sense of purpose.” 

Emphasize what makes you a great leader 
Meanwhile, Richard wrote - “HBS really does try to select for people that will be leaders in business and society, not people who will be great individual contributors. They simply love applicants that show both leadership potential and technical skill.” 

While all of these opinions really count before you move to applying in HBS, it won’t hurt to know from Harvard itself, the three things it looks out for in students: 

A Habit of Leadership 
“Leadership may be expressed in many forms, from college extracurricular activities to academic or business achievements, from personal accomplishments to community commitments. We appreciate leadership on any scale, from organizing a classroom to directing a combat squad, from running an independent business to spearheading initiatives at work. In essence, we are looking for evidence of your potential.” 

Analytical Aptitude and Appetite 
Harvard Business School is a demanding, fast-paced, and highly-verbal environment. 

“We look for individuals who enjoy lively discussion and debate. Our case and field-based methods of learning depend upon the active participation of prepared students who can assess, analyze, and act upon complex information within often-ambiguous contexts. The MBA Admissions Board will review your prior academic performance, the results of the GMAT or GRE, and, if applicable, TOEFL iBT and/or IELTS, and the nature of your work experience. There is no particular previous course of study required to apply; you must, however, demonstrate the ability to master analytical and quantitative concepts.” 

Engaged Community Citizenship 
“So much of our MBA experience - including the case method, section life, and student-organized events - requires the active collaboration of the entire HBS community. That's why we look for students who exhibit the highest ethical standards and respect for others, and can make positive contributions to the MBA Program. The right candidates must be eager to share their experiences, support their colleagues, and teach as well as learn from their peers. We want applicants who have these traits, as well as bring a variety of skills, accomplishments and aspirations. In each class, we create a dynamic environment that mirrors the breadth and depth of our world economy. Our promise to our faculty and to every student here is to create a class of 900 students who come from as many different backgrounds and perspectives as possible.” 

We hope this helps you in your quest. All the best! 

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