How To Get Into Harvard - The Elite Business School Wants More Entrepreneurs On Its MBA
HBS is shifting its brand focus to emphasize entrepreneurship and innovation
By Chioma Isiadinso
Understanding a business school's brand is one of the most important things you can do in order to craft a successful MBA application. When it comes to getting into Harvard – one of the most prestigious business schools in the world – this is especially important.
But brands aren't stagnant. And while HBS has historically built its brand around “legacy” and “enduring” attributes, these days their focus has shifted to emphasize entrepreneurship and innovation.
How Harvard supports entrepreneurs
The lynchpin of Harvard's efforts to draw more entrepreneurs into the ranks of their MBA program has been a suite of new clubs, competitions, labs, initiatives, and centers designed to provide student entrepreneurs with the support and structure they need to build successful ventures.
Opened in 2003, the Arthur Rock Center for Entrepreneurship is the hub for HBS' entrepreneurship resources. Students can take part in programs like:
The New Venture Competition - an immersive year-long contest in which students compete for a $150,000 prize by developing a new business or social venture, which is refined and presented to investors at each round of the competition.
Startup Studio NYC - a curated co-working space for selected alumni ventures.
Rock Accelerator Program - which provides teams with seed capital and mentorship to develop a business idea and compete for full funding at the end of the year.
Another crucial element of Harvard's commitment to entrepreneurship is the Innovation Lab (i-Lab), which is open to students from any school within the university.
And select Harvard students and alumni are able to take advantage of programs like the “Silicon Valley Student Immersion Experience” at the school's California Research Center, which gives students insight and access to the startup network in Silicon Valley.
How to successfully apply to Harvard as an entrepreneur
With all the emphasis on their emerging brand direction, now is the perfect time to apply to HBS as an entrepreneur. However, the changing brand does not make Harvard any less competitive or prestigious. The school may be looking to attract entrepreneurs, but they are still also committed to building a diverse group of incredibly talented, ambitious students.
If you want to get into HBS as an entrepreneur, you'll need to stand out. You do that by showing the admissions committee that you are an applicant with substance and authenticity. You want to demonstrate that you are not a dabbler, that you have achievements and not just ideas to discuss.
That doesn't mean that you have to have achieved massive entrepreneurial success in order to get in. It's perfectly fine to apply even if you haven't sold a business to Google or built up to millions of dollars in revenue. But you do need to illustrate the depth of your entrepreneurial thinking.
That could take the form of a business that didn't pan out (that's ok – plenty of startups fail!). It could be a time in your background when you've created a charity or a group or a movement, a time when you've sized an opportunity to build a club or otherwise demonstrate leadership. But it does need to be substantive, not just a story about selling candy bars or t-shirts out of your dorm room.
If you want to successfully apply for a Harvard MBA, you need to show that you understand the benefits of the HBS environment, and that you're ready to learn and grow. Try to highlight elements of your personal brand that demonstrate your commitment. What unique value will you bring to your classmates?
If you're ready to learn how to position yourself effectively as an entrepreneur for Harvard Business School’s admissions committee, get in touch with us today.
The free MBA application assessment from Expartus is a great tool for understanding how admissions committee members view your application, and a perfect opportunity to get feedback on the strengths and weaknesses of your personal brand.
She's also a former Harvard Business School admissions officer and the author of the Best Business Schools' Admissions Secrets.
Chioma publishes on the topics of personal branding, leadership development and business school admissions for college students, young professionals, entrepreneurs and executives.