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Entrance Requirements for Harvard Business School




Entrance Requirements for Harvard Business School

By Cassandra Ifie

Harvard Business School programs are highly regarded and extremely competitive.

Harvard Business School is one of the most prestigious business schools in the world. Highly selective, Harvard’s Business School only accepted 12 percent of applicants for the class of 2015. Consistently ranked by “U.S. News and World Report” as a top academic institution, a degree from Harvard can lead to an extremely successful career in the corporate world.

Harvard Business School

Harvard University offers a Master of Business Administration degree, doctoral programs in business and an executive education program. Each year, thousands of students apply to Harvard Business School; however, the institution only accepts the most qualified scholars. Harvard does not require students to have a specific grade point average or specific test scores to be admitted. Instead, a prospective student’s application materials are thoroughly evaluated as a whole by the admissions committee, and students are selected based on evidence of leadership potential, a desire to impact their communities and ability for intellectual growth.

Master of Business Administration

Students applying to the Master of Business Administration program at Harvard University must have an accredited four-year degree from an American college or university or an equivalent international degree. Students planning to apply for admission to Harvard must also register for the GMAT or GRE as early as possible. M.B.A. applicants desiring to attend Harvard must submit an online application, test scores, transcripts, a resume, an essay and two recommendations from recent supervisors or individuals qualified to speak about the applicant’s personal skills and qualities. As of 2013, the essay question requires applicants to share additional information about themselves not included in the other admission materials. Some candidates may be invited to participate in an interview session with an M.B.A. Admissions Board member. All application forms are available online. International students who did not attend an undergraduate institution where the primary language of instruction is English must take the TOEFL.

Doctoral Programs

Students can earn a Doctor of Business Administration degree and a Ph.D. in business at Harvard. Potential doctoral candidates must have earned an undergraduate degree and graduating seniors are encouraged to apply. Application materials can be accessed online. Potential doctoral candidates should submit an application, a resume, a statement of purpose, transcripts and three letters of recommendation, including at least one from an academic source. Also, scholars must also submit their test scores from the GMAT or GRE. Applicants whose native language is not English and who do not hold an undergraduate degree from an institution at which English is the language of instruction must submit TOEFL scores.

Executive Education Program

Harvard’s Executive Education Program prepares executives for leadership roles. Executive Education at Harvard involves numerous training programs and courses focusing on topics related to such issues as corporate social responsibility, leading global businesses and strategic negotiations. As of 2013, 79 programs are available and each program has separate admission requirements. The Executive Education Program has no formal educational prerequisites except fluency in written and spoken English so that participants can complete assignments and participate in classroom discussions. Generally, Harvard accepts individuals based on professional achievement and organizational responsibility who show evidence of business talent and leadership potential.


  • Harvard Business School: Statistics: MBA
  • Harvard Business School: Doctoral Programs: Admissions Requirements
  • Harvard Business School: Executive Education

About the Author

Cassandra Ifie is a librarian living in Richmond, Va. She has also been a writer since 2008. Ifie received her Master of Library Science degree from Texas Woman’s University and earned a Bachelor of Arts in sociology from Rust College.

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Admissions into Harvard Business School

Harvard Business School

Master of Business Administration Degrees

How do I get into Harvard business school for MBA?

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11 Answers

Jonathan Deforge

Jonathan Deforge , Founder of & seasoned insider in Global Business Education

It’s a very vague question.

First thing you need to understand is that applying to HBS is a gamble. They are oversubscribed and have therefore so many terrific profiles to choose from that not being accepted at HBS cannot be considered as a failure. The only people that apply to HBS with less gamble are people who have family who are alumni of the schools and known donors.

To answer your question. There is no miracle potion. Now, if the question was, how do I maximise my chances to get accepted, you will find below what you should do if being admitted at HBS is your dream and that you don’t want to have any regret.

  1. Academic:
    1. your undergrad GPA got to be at least at 3.5 and preferred 3.75+ (you can always apply with a lesser one but you already hurt your chances). You must have graduated from a top undergrad college/university (otherwise chances get down)
    2. GMAT: 720+ and you better aim for even higher. 760+ puts you in a much less competitive position (but is far from being enough; I’ve seen quite a lot of 760+ applicants being dinged)
    3. TOEFL: it’s written black on white on their website – they discourage applicants with less than 109 at the TOEFL to apply – so get that done first.
  2. Professional Background:
    1. 2 years minimum of post-graduate work experience. As other top MBA programs, the AdCom at HBS love applicants who have worked for companies that are known for their selectivity in their recruitment practices (companies like Google, MBB, Apple, Investment Banks, etc.)
    2. Preferred industries? You can’t really go wrong being in Consulting, Finance, VC or Tech before your MBA and those industries each represent 15% of the student-body.
    3. Career progression: a key factor here. How fast is your career advancing. You have to look at your career in terms of achievements (with figures) and promotions – are you on a fast-track? That’s a big + Are you slower than your peers? Forget about HBS
  3. Extra-curricular: no joke, almost the most crucial part of your application. This is where profiles really get differentiated. One of my Stanford admits didn’t perhaps have the best profile of all (very solid) but he was extremely involved with veterans and established a foundation a few years back that he kept on running – that was a crucial point here. You really have to take those extremely seriously (and this applies for most U.S. MBAs; a bit less for non-U.S. MBAs). The key word is COMMUNITY; you have to look for activities that have an impact for a community (that could be yours but even better if it’s another one). For instance, U.S. applicants who have been part of the Teaching For America or Peace Corps programs have an edge on other applicants.
  4. Application:
    1. Essay: 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? They change the essay again this year and went back to something a bit less tricky – however, one major mistake here would be to start working on your essay before even having completed the online application. So first thing first, an applicant to the HBS MBA 2017 intake should this year complete the online application first and look for anything that wasn’t covered AND that would bring value.
    2. Reference letters: this is the part of an application that is often fatal for many applicants. You must spend time on this part. First you need to pick the right referee (and yes, ideally, your current supervisor has to be one of the referee). But you must also spend time with each of your referee to brainstorm the content with them. Too often, applicants take care of this at the last minute.
    3. CV: 1 page MBA application CV – 3 parts: Professional experience, Education & Additional

If you make the cut, you will face the interview. But let’s not talk about this yet. Focus on the first part 🙂

Hope that helped!



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Suheb Hussain

Suheb Hussain , Curious Harvard Business School aspirant

Let me tell you a 7 step process, which will help you get into Harvard Business School for MBA.

Harvard Business School to Admits in 2014 – “The answer is YES”

That’s how Dee Leopold, managing director of admissions and financial aid, informed applicants that they have been accepted for admission to Harvard Business School’s MBA program.

  1. Start Research Early
  2. Research External Factors
  3. Research Internal Factors
  4. Think like Harvard Business School Admission Committee – Identify gaps
  5. Work on the gaps in your application
  6. Prepare and ace the GMAT
  7. Apply to Harvard Business School

To read an elaborate response, read my article on how to get into Harvard Business School , where you’ll also read unique takeaways from every step

Step 1 – Start Research Early

Start your research at least 1 year before you plan to apply. The Round 1 application deadline for the HBS MBA class of 2021 is September 5, 2018, and Round 2’s deadline is January 4, 2019. I would suggest applying in the first round itself.

Step 2 – Research External factors

Word of Caution – Before you start this research, be prepared that you will feel overwhelmed and that’s normal. Keep your cool and remember, all those people who eventually got an admit in HBS started just like you.

HBS website research – In External research, you should first start with Harvard Business School’s website . Research on the program you are planning to apply for (2- year MBA, executive program, HBX, Doctoral programs). Look at the facts and figures of their MBA program, Alumni, research and their campus & culture.

LinkedIn Research – Review the profile of people who made to Harvard Business School. There is a chance that you might feel that you are not as accomplished as those people are. That’s because they have presented their profile better than most individuals. And even if you stumble upon profiles of extraordinary individuals, just aspire to be better than them. It’s never too late to start.

Contact people on LinkedIn – When you have researched LinkedIn profiles, it’s time to contact them. Remember, they are busy people so they might take some time to respond. The idea is to contact lots of different people from diverse backgrounds and get their advice on your profile.

Step 3 – Research Internal factors

By researching internal factors, I mean introspection. Once you have done your external research, you’ll have enough information to compare yourself with. Now, start thinking about your life. What makes you tick? If someone asks you, “How will you measure your life?”, What will your answer be? I would suggest reading an HBR article of the same name by an HBS professor Clayton M. Christensen . He has also written a book called ‘How will you measure your life.’

Step 4 – Think like Harvard Business School’s Admission committee – Identify gaps

If you want to build your profile to get an admit in Harvard Business School or any other top business school, you should –

  • Understand the different factors considered in the application
  • Weight-age of all those factors in the application
  • Which factors are under your control (unchangeable and changeable factors)
  • Work on the factors which are still under your control

A rough weight-age of different admission evaluation factors is as below

Out of all these factors, few will be out of your control by now, and a few will still be in your control. So, let’s understand those factors.

Let’s look at changeable vs unchangeable factors and see how much of them are still under your control.

Step 5 – Work on the gaps in your application

Changeable vs Unchangeable Evaluation Factors

In the MBA application process, there will be several parameters that are not under your control now (GPA/employer’s brand etc), but a whopping 56% is still within your immediate controlGMAT, essays, interview and recommendation letters. You should focus on putting your best foot forward as far as these fronts are concerned.

  • Read more about changeable and unchangeable factors
  • Read more to understand the importance of essays in B-School applications

Step 6 – Prepare and ace the GMAT

Your GMAT accounts for 22% weight-age (16% for total GMAT score + 6% for GMAT quant score) in your application. Most students require 3 months of preparation time to achieve a 740+ score. Make sure to target a score which is 20+ more than the average GMAT score of your target B-school’s incoming batch . For HBS it is 731.

To get into Harvard Business School, you need an envious GMAT score. Try this free online resource for GMAT preparation which is the highest reviewed GMAT prep company (1730+ reviews) on gmatclub.

Importance of GMAT score

Take a look at the below chart. It has been compiled by gmatclub for a sample size of 10029 applicants. It shows the role of the GMAT score in getting interview invites and post-interview acceptances in M7 elite business schools (Harvard, Wharton, Stanford, Booth, Columbia, Kellogg, MIT Sloan)

Step 7 – Apply to Harvard Business School’s MBA Program

There are 3 steps in the application process

  • Written Application – You need to prepare the following
    • Transcripts
    • GMAT/GRE ScoreTOEFL/ IELTS/ Pearson Test of English (PTE) – Make sure you get a TOEFL score higher than 109 on the iBT, an IELTS score higher than 7.5, or a PTE score higher than 75.
    • Resume
    • Acceptance of policies
    • Fee
  • Interview
    • After submitting your application, it will be reviewed, and you may be invited for an interview
  • Post – Interview reflection
    • You have to submit a written reflection through the online application system of HBS within 24 hours of your interview

So, Let’s start with Step 1 of ‘How to get into Harvard Business School.’

If you are planning to take the GMAT, check out this free strategy webinar on GMAT. Moreover, you can take a look at a free trial version of an online resource for GMAT, which I have been using myself. You can also write to [email protected] to help you with a personalized study plan.

To know more about MBA application process, read my article on MBA Application Process – GMAT Score Weightage and other factors .


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Adarsh Ravi

Adarsh Ravi , worked at Purandara Graphics Sales and Services (2015-2017)

Originally Answered: How can I build a profile to get admission in Harvard Business School for an MBA?

Heres a guide to what you must do to get into HBS or any other top MBA program:-

  1. Excellent Profile – Were talking about one of the worlds best MBA programs, a program from which top I-Banks and Consultancies hire. So, ideally theyll look for the best, i.e., consistently good performance in Academics and guys with a good extra-curricular involvement.
  2. Application Essays – The application essays are one of the most important, yet ignored components of any MBA application. Please try your best in making a perfect application essays, because they carry a huge weightage. B-Schools will make up an image of the applicant after reading their essays and then make a judgemental regarding the interview calls. So, you definitely must give them the best possible image.
  3. High GMAT Score – Theres no cut off FOR GMAT scores. HBS has denied offers to people with 760, and have offered admissions to guys who scored as low as 590 on the GMAT. But the person who got in at 590 had an EXCELLENT profile, mind you. The average GMAT score for HBS hovers around 710, i.e., we can assume that half the students at HBS have scored more than 710. Ideally, to be on the safer side, a score above 710 is good enough. But that doesnt guarantee an admission either.
  4. Work-ex – The average work-ex is around 5 years. Ideally, you would be better off with 5 or more years of experience. Let me also mention that the quality of work-ex matters a lot. Someone with 3 years of work-ex in an I-Bank profile might get preferred over a guy who has worked 6 years in a back end role. Here, the HD and brand value of the firm will also be looked upon.
  5. Have it all figured out – Top B-Schools look for a clarity of thought and goals. If you prove to them that you know what you want out of your career/stint at a B-School, youve a good chance. An obscure barometer of this ‘Figured out factor’ are the answers to the questions, “Why MBA?“, “Why MBA now?”, and “Why HBS?”. Might seem easy at the first look. But getting really good and convincing answers to these questions require serious introspection and clarity of thought.
  6. Diversity – This is a debatable criterion. Top MBA schools look for candidates with diverse backgrounds in life, culture, and even academics.

Hope this helped. Good luck 🙂

Varun Sharma

Varun Sharma , Founder and Admission coach at

Hello there!

The Answer to your question can be given in two parts- first is Eligibility & second is Admission Success.

Part 1- Eligibility

Allow me to generalize the criteria for you here.

  1. Fulfill general conditions- Graduation, Work ex, GMAT/GRE, TOEFL/IELTS
  2. Take the GMAT/GRE (goes without saying, aim to score high)
  3. Write Essays or Statement of Purpose (Why MBA? Why now? Why Harvard?)
  4. Provide professional recommendation letters
  5. Apply with all this information (applications open sometime in second half of the year)
  6. If shortlisted, attend an Interview
  7. If interview is successful, congratulations on the admit. Program usually begins in September. This whole process may take up to a year.

It is always advised to check the exact requirements on the institute website.

Part 2- Admission Success

What is the Admissions committee looking for?

Getting into Harvard can sure be daunting. But it is quite simple to break down what the admission committee is looking for in a good candidate.

Admissions in top b-schools happen on basis of GMAT, Essays, Recommendations & Interviews.

A combination of these four pillars helps the admission committee judge the applicant on primarily six parameters-

1. Academics– Past Scores + GMAT to judge if you can handle the academic rigor.

2. Work Experience– CV, Essays and Recommendations will display your relevant quality work ex or the ability to do research.

3. Goal Clarity– Most important- Why MBA and Why Harvard? What is your compelling reason?

4. Diversity– B-Schools get several bright applicants every year. Why should they admit you? What unique perspective will you bring to the institute? (CV, Essays and Recommendations)

5. Leadership– Essays and Interview will help you tell your story. Do they see a potential leader or researcher in you?

6. Communication– How well can you communicate an idea (Essays and Interviews)

You have to be very strong on most of these elements to secure admit. Sure, a weak area in an applicant’s profile may be offset by another very strong element. For instance weak academic record could be offset by a stellar work experience or a strong GMAT score.

However, overall profile of the applicant is very important. No single strong element can decide the outcome of your result. Do not rest on your laurels if you have a strong GMAT or undergraduate degree. At times applicants spend disproportionate time on the GMAT and falter in writing great application essays or become tongue tied in the interviews due to lack of preparation.

Spend equal effort on making each element of your profile strong.

All the best.

Remember- the process may look simple but it is Not Easy. To know what Harvard is looking in a candidate you could read- Profile of an MBA Applicant- How to get admission at top B-schools

All the best.

Mikal Mann

Mikal Mann , former Assistant at Harvard Undergraduate Admissions (2016)

Follow Jonathan’s advice; it’s solid. I have two additional points to add that might help.

One is a different route to admission than to work at a top-tier firm, which is to create a successful company that disrupts an industry or somehow contributes to the wellbeing of humanity. One of Harvard’s core institutional goals is to create and educate leaders who will change the world for the better. If you can show your potential to be such a person with the creativity and wherewithal to found and run a game-changing company, they’ll probably look twice at you. This is likely much harder than just squeezing your way into Google, but it’s an option if you have an idea.

The other point is whatever you do, be different. HBS receives an absurd number of applications, and the best way to increase your chances of getting in is to be memorable. Sure, some students get admitted with impressive but otherwise predictable applications (prestigious undergrad institution, student government position, high GPA, high GMAT, worked at Apple for 2 years, etc.), but if that’s you, then you’re just hoping to be one of those picked from a lineup of people with your exact same qualifications. However, if you can be the person who did something remarkable but very unexpected (stereotype breaking works very well), you’ll be remembered, and thus more likely to get chosen.

Best of luck on your path to HBS!

Vibha Kagzi

Vibha Kagzi , MBA from Harvard Business School

Originally Answered: How do I get into an MBA program at Harvard Business School?

First, visit the Harvard Business School Website and get an idea about the class profile. The class profile will give you a fair idea of the requirements like the scores, number of international students, etc.

Once you know the requirements work towards getting everything in place and then begin with the application procedure.

All the best! Visit ReachIvy website incase you have any further queries.