Harvard Business School made application essays mandatory again because overachievers won’t stop writing them

Two years ago, Harvard Business School took the highly unusual step of removing the word count limit from its application essays, and making them entirely optional. The point was that getting into the school “is not an essay writing contest,” and nixing the word count made the experience more like the real world, admissions head Dee Leepold told Bloomberg.

At the time, the administration thought that they might get some essay-less applications where the credentials and recommendations would speak for themselves.

But of course, the sorts of overachievers that apply to HBS see “optional” and think “absolutely mandatory to demonstrate commitment.” Every single applicant for the class of 2017 submitted an “optional” essay.

From Leepold’s blog post last week announcing changes to the admissions process:

We were trying to signal that the essay wasn’t The Most Important Element of the application so we thought saying “optional” might accomplish that. But, this season, every applicant submitted a response. We get it. You want to tell us things.

So the required essay is restored for the class of 2018. It’s still in simplified form compared to years past though, with just one rather open-ended question:

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.

Introduce yourself.

There’s still no word limit.

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