How to get into Harvard Business School

If you are applying to Harvard Business School, this guide created by MBA Prep School is a great place to start learning about the program! Below we discuss everything from campus life to MBA application strategy. Read on to learn how to get into Harvard Business School.

This school guide is a great place to begin your journey toward applying to one of the world’s most legendary business schools!

HBS Setting & Campus Life

Harvard Business School (“HBS”) is located in Boston, Massachusetts. The school’s MBA, doctoral, and executive education programs occupy an impressive 40-acre campus, which is separate from Harvard University’s campus to the north. Around 930 students are admitted to HBS each year, one of the largest class sizes amongst MBA programs.

All first-year students take the same courses. During this “required curriculum,” the class is divided into “sections” of 90 students and assigned a classroom. The sections are composed of students from an array of industries and geographies to enrich the case study that HBS is famous for. The second year of the full-time MBA program is called the “elective curriculum” because students have complete freedom to design their educational experience based upon their interests and career aspirations.

HBS School Ranking

  • US News (2022): #5
  • Economist (2019): #2
  • Financial Times (2019): #2
  • Poets & Quants (2021): #4

HBS Application Deadlines

Round Deadline Invites Decisions
R1 Sept 8, 2021 Oct 1, 2021 est. Dec 9, 2021
R2 Jan 4, 2022 Feb 4, 2022 est. Mar 30, 2022
R3 (2+2 Round) Apr 28, 2022 TBA July 2022

HBS Class Profile

Profile data for the Harvard Business School Class of 2019:


  • GPA Average: 3.71
  • GMAT Range: 610 – 800
  • GMAT Median: 730
  • GRE Median: Verbal: 165, Quant: 163


  • # of Applicants: 9,886
  • # of Admits: NA (Class of 2019)
  • Class Size: 930
  • Acceptance rate: NA (Class of 2019)


  • International vs Domestic: 33% international
  • Demographics: 44% female
  • Diversity Information: 45% US students of color

Click to read the full Harvard Business School class profile (opens in a new tab)

HBS Admissions Strategy

As a top school, Harvard Business School sets a high bar for admissions meaning that you will need to present yourself in the best possible light and prove to the admissions committee that what makes you compelling as a candidate matches the strengths and qualities Harvard Business School cares about most.

What fit qualities does Harvard Business School look for in applicants?

Habit of Leadership:

“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.”

-HBS Admissions Committee

Analytical Skill:

“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.”

-HBS Admissions Committee

Community Orientation:

“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.”

-HBS Admissions Committee

What distinguishes Harvard Business School from other top business schools?

Case Study Method: While other schools use the case study method or a hybrid of case studies and other teaching techniques, Harvard is the school that pioneered it. For more information, visit here.

Class size: with one of the largest MBA classes of any top school, Harvard offers significant global and functional diversity.

Academic Rigor and Engagement: The first year at HBS is intentionally designed to challenge students with many hours more work than there are hours in the day. Setting priorities and learning to move from analysis to action are learned by necessity.

What unique/special resources does the school offer?

Students who are interested in Harvard’s unique case study method can participate in case development as, according to the HBS research site, nearly 80% of cases used by business schools around the world were actually created by HBS faculty. This provides opportunities for outside companies, executives, and students to work with HBS on developing cases.

Harvard Business School boasts ten Global Research Centers and Offices across a network of fourteen cities around the world: The Africa Research Office, The Asia-Pacific Research Center, The California Research Center, The Europe Research Center, The Harvard Center Shanghai, The India Research Center, The Israel Research Office, The Middle East & North Africa Research Center, The Japan Research Center, and The Latin American Research Center. The individual centers address research questions that are more specific to that region. For example, the California Research Center examines problems that are specific to Silicon Valley, such as common issues for early-stage companies, venture capital firms, angel financing, and the commercialization of technology.

For those residing in Cambridge, students can get involved with one of Harvard Business School’s nineteen research initiatives. These initiatives include Behavioral Finance and Financial Stability, Business History, Entrepreneurship, Healthcare, and U.S. Competitiveness. The HBS initiatives aim to facilitate conferences and publications as well as to promote multidisciplinary projects.

Who are some of the school’s most well-known or popular professors?

Michael Porter is the Bishop William Lawrence University Professor of Harvard Business School and is affiliated with the Institute for Strategy and Competitiveness. Porter’s research focuses on corporate strategy, competitive advantage, and strategy. Porter’s work has been featured in the Harvard Business Review, Strategic Finance, and even the New England Journal of Medicine. He has won several McKinsey Awards for the best article in Harvard Business Review as well as the first-ever Lifetime Achievement Award in Economic Development from the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Laura Alfaro is Harvard Business School’s Warren Alpert Professor of Business Administration as well as a Faculty Research Associate for the National Bureau of Economic Research’s International Trade and Macroeconomics Program. Her research, which focuses on capital markets, foreign direct investment, and international finance, has been featured in top journals such as the American Economic Review, the Journal of Political Economy, the Journal of International Economics, and the Harvard Business Law Review.

HBS Application Checklist

The Harvard written application components are fairly standard. Applicants are asked to submit the following:

  • Unofficial transcript (with an official copy to be submitted upon acceptance to the program)
  • GMAT or GRE scores
  • Two recommendations from a direct supervisor, former supervisor, or colleague
  • One essay question (with no word count limit)
  • Current business resume or CV
  • If the applicant did not attend an undergraduate institution where the language of instruction was English, they should submit their TOEFL, IELTS, or PTE scores
  • $250 application fee

HBS Essay Analysis

2021-2022 Harvard Business School Essay Prompts

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?

Guidance from HBS Admissions Website: There is no word limit for this question. We think you know what guidance we’re going to give here. Don’t overthink, overcraft and overwrite. Just answer the question in clear language that those of us who don’t know your world can understand.

2021-2022 Harvard Business School Essay Tips

MBA Prep School has published detailed essay guidance and tips. Click to read our Harvard Business School MBA Essay Tips.

HBS Recommendation Letter Questions

Harvard Business School asks recommenders to respond to two questions in their recommendation letter.

  1. How do the applicant’s performance, potential, background, or personal qualities compare to those of other well-qualified individuals in similar roles? Please provide specific examples. (Recommended: 300 words)
  2. Please describe the most important piece of constructive feedback you have given the applicant. Please detail the circumstances and the applicant’s response (Recommended: 250 words)

HBS Interview Tips

There are a few things that make the HBS adcom interviews different from the blind alum interviews conducted by many other schools. HBS interviewers typically don’t focus on very general, generic questions like walk me through your resume, why do you want an MBA and what are your career goals. Instead, HBS interviewers tend to engage applicants in very in-depth discussions about specific topics – often about sophisticated insights/perspectives from the applicants’ industries/jobs, about the applicant’s motivation for academic/professional decisions in life, and about how various experiences have influenced the applicant’s personal/professional/academic development. Basically, applicants really need to come across like they “know their ****” about what they do, and like they have thought hard and long about the various choices they made in life and why they made those choices.

The best HBS interviews are those where the interviewers came away feeling like the applicants actually taught them something – this is truly a hallmark for HBS, going back to the foundation of the case study education that requires all students to be capable of being “teachers” through their own experiences and perspectives. According to my client, over 50% of her interview was about various shampoo products and why her company (P&G) produced these specific products, and how consumers should use the products.

So, interviewees must be prepared to talk very extensively and intelligently about their work and life. While it’s good to have responses ready for generic questions like why MBA/why HBS/career goals, don’t focus on these as much; HBS simply doesn’t care nearly as much about this stuff as the applicant’s experiences to date. Again, go back to case studies – students can contribute most significantly to case study classes through the experiences/perspectives/insights they already have, not through what they claim they will do in the future.

HBS Interview Sample Questions:

  • Why did you choose your college/major?
  • Why did you decide to work at Company X?
  • Why did you leave Firm Y after a year?
  • Tell me about the impact you made in Z community service activity.
  • How is your company different from [competitor]? Tell me about the structure of each company and how it influences brand performance.
  • What is the difference between your two recommenders? What constructive feedback have they given you? How is it different?
  • How did you manage to go directly into [highly competitive industry]?
  • Do you think you have too much on your plate?
  • Tell me about a company you follow.
  • Tell me about a time you had a challenging experience with a coworker.
  • What’s a new trend in [industry]? What do you think about that sector’s long-term potential?
  • What is a typical day like for you?
  • What’s a common misperception about you at work?
  • Do you plan to build your career in [your current city/state]?
  • Why [goal field] with all of your interest and work in [current field]?
  • What do you wish I had asked?

HBS Post-MBA Careers

What fields or industries do most graduates go to work in post-MBA?

Financial Services (29%), Consulting (25%), Technology (19%)

Which companies hire the most Harvard Business School MBA graduates?

McKinsey, Bain, BCG, Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, Google

Additional Resources

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