No matter the year - if you're applying to HBS, you really should watch the video the HBS admissions committee once referenced in their essay instructions way back in 2015. Why? Because the Case Method is often referenced as HBS's primary differentiator.
Per Dee Leopold's instructions on the "Direct from the Director" admissions blog:
There is one essay question for the Class of 2018:
It's the first day of class at HBS. You are in Aldrich Hall meeting your "section." This is the group of 90 classmates who will become your close companions in the first-year MBA classroom. Our signature case method participant-based learning model ensures that you will get to know each other very well. The bonds you collectively create throughout this shared experience will be lasting.
Note: Should you enroll at HBS, there will be an opportunity for you to share this with them.
We suggest you view this video before beginning to write.
Summary of key points from the "Inside the HBS Case Method":
- The Case Method really mirrors what managers do in the real world.
- The Case Method puts the student in the seat of that manager or employee confronting a problem. It helps to imagine yourself as the protagonist; analyze and respond accordingly. Think - “what would I do if I were the protagonist in the case?”
- Learning (via the Case Method and at HBS) is fun, but it is also challenging. You have to be prepared each day and for each class. Nothing is spoon fed and you have to come ready to play every day.
- The Case Method establishes an open dialogue in class and in your learning team/group. You have to be intensely prepared for your case and for class. This is crucial because if you are not prepared for class you will not be able to have a friendly and dynamic discussion with all your classmates. (The video seems to drill this point home again and again.)
- The Case Method also allows professors to engage each other with different views about the same material – of course, the same goes for students – you can look at the same facts and come to very different conclusions.
- At the 5 min, 51 second mark (https://youtu.be/eA5R41F7d9Q?t=5m51s), the video takes you into Aldrich Hall – which is the building referenced by the HBS essay prompt! This is where all the Learning Team magic happens - that is - it's where your Learning Team will meet and where you hold each other accountable for developing a vetted perspective on the case.
- At HBS and with every Case, there is someone who has direct personal experience with that individual Case. I suppose this is a testament to how diverse and experienced HBS students are.
- Through the learning environment (produced by the Case Method), each participant should prepare to have their thinking changed or evolved into another paradigm, and after discussing it with your learning team. This is your chance to go out on a limb to discuss your ideas.
- Knowing that you may be called upon to articulate your intelligent opinion in front of other people that you respect is a powerful motivator to properly prepare your Case before class.
- Everyone at HBS does a really good job of listening and then coming up with reasons as to why they agree or disagree. And then (of course) articulating their point in turn.
- Great class discussions are where the debate is "still raging 20 mins after class."
- Professor says "We need people in many ways the courage to act under uncertainty. The facts in the case are always limited. The amount of information you have at hand is by design quite compressed. You are working under great time pressure."
- Another Professor says "We are asking people to learn how to take a stand. Learning at Harvard is not a passive process and management in the real world is not a passive process. At Harvard you get to try out a lot of this process in the classroom. You need to build muscles around proper judgment. If you can leave Harvard with good judgment, you have a depth of knowledge in your head and in your gut – you know when to go left as opposed to right."
- Per HBS – “There are special moments that pull everything we have learned into focus. When theory, practice, experience and talent all come to one sharp point -- a decision that shapes a definitive course of action. When it's no longer an issue of what can be done, but of what you will do.”
Overall, HBS has made some very clean and beneficial changes to their essay that help candidates respond in a way that is on point. They also do a much better job at clarifying what type of person succeeds in the HBS learning environment - the Case Method being core to the DNA of the school. Overall, what Dee Leopold is really looking for has remained intact.
To find out more about that and how we can help you with your app, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or www.amerasiaconsulting.com/contact