How To Get Admission In Harvard University For MBA? (Updated 2020)

Piyush Bhartiya
Modified on 2018-12-14 in MBA
Read time: 8 mins

Source: MBAPodTV

Each and every student who is aspiring to get an MBA degree dreams of paving their way into Harvard’s Business School. For some, it is the only passion and desire in their lives. However, with such big dreams rise even greater queries of how to meet the eligibility criteria, what does HBS actually look for in a candidate, how much will the entire education experience at HBS cost, and so on. Let us try to address and answer all these queries once and for all right here.

To start with, Harvard never really depends on MBA rankings for the credibility. Surprisingly, it is the other way around! A business school ranking automatically loses its credibility if it does not have an MBA from Harvard Business School among its top.

From a technical perspective, Harvard University was not the first in setting up a business school. It was first set up by Wharton. However, the century-long existence of Harvard has earned it a gigantic first move benefit. Over the decades, Harvard has fixed its position on the driver’s seat and no university has successfully taken its position in terms of innovation as well as setting the bar for the management education.

Harvard has the capability of tapping into resources which just a handful of universities can. HBS possesses one of the biggest endowments in the education sector. HBS Publishing and Harvard Business Review have successfully established a self-sustaining ecosystem which pushes and pulls idea all across academics for keeping its relevance stable.

All this attracts the most promising and the brightest MBA applicants from across the world hoping to bag a seat at their dream school.

 The brand of Harvard is very strong, not just from an educational point of view but also in the industrial sector. Almost in every field of specialization, the MBA students of Harvard have achieved great accolades, fame, and success. This pretty much brings under the complete spectrum of opportunities that await students post MBA.

How to get into the MBA program of Harvard Business School?

Harvard operates with the help of a filter system which picks out the best innovative and technical minds and then trains them in becoming business leaders, entrepreneurs, and tycoons. Most of the Harvard students already possess engineering or a technical undergraduate background. If you look at it from an Indian student’s angle, you need to hold an engineering degree and a high score on GMAT, TOEFL, and other such exams. The low scorers of GMAT are not really picked so do not ever get fooled by such stories of low rankers from India getting into Harvard.

As HBS has an enormous batch size, it highly depends on Indians and other such similar high-scoring international students for offsetting their decision of admitting low-score holders.

Harvard uses case method courses, multimedia simulations and field projects for teaching MBA. Students get to exercise their leadership traits while gaining experience and expertise in businesses and beyond. During the second year, the students are required to pick from the unparallel options of elective courses which would enable students in integrating all the functional skills that they learn in their first year of understanding the firm as a total enterprise.

The best age to apply for an MBA programme at Harvard is in your mid-twenties. If you go through a full-fledged research, you would find that the students of HBS are usually younger than the students of other MBA colleges in the Top 10 category. It would be great if you apply with roughly three yours of experiences after graduation.

You must also keep in mind that Harvard has a world-class reputation to maintain at the global level. So, it is very well aware of how the brands function. One out of every four students of Harvard has worked with top-notch consulting firms like BCG and McKinsey. The graduates from Harvard are extremely skilled and talented. Therefore, while picking international students for MBA, Harvard filters out only those who have great leadership qualities or are already leaders. The reason why Harvard is so hyped about and the tech-savvies and born leaders dream of getting into it is because Harvard unlocks many doors of opportunities and the scope of a bright future becomes a lot more achievable. Also, the opportunities that a Harvard pass-out gets is way more lucrative, grander and bigger than an MBA from any other university. Remember to put your best foot forward and let them know you are born with great leadership qualities as well as communication skills. This will highly increase your chances of getting into Harvard.

What is the eligibility criterion?

Bachelor’s Degree: All the applicants are required to possess a university or college degree which is equivalent to the four-year baccalaureate degree of America. Three-year bachelor degree programmes are also included in the equivalent degrees.  

Work Experience: The MBA programme at Harvard is designed for candidates with a full-time work experience before the matriculation. The candidates must focus on their responsibilities, roles and all the learning and knowledge they have attained from the kinds of work experiences they have been a part of.

Test Scores: HBS doesn’t have any minimum exam score for applying. However, any student with PTE scores less than 75 are discouraged from applying by the MBA Admissions Board. Similarly, there is no minimum score for TOEFL but the Board discourages application of those students who have a TOEFL score below 109. For IELTS, score lower than 7.5 is not entertained by the Board either. GRE and GMAT scores are also acceptable. The median GMAT score of Harvard is 730. 580-790 is the GMAT scores’ range.

ELP requirements are waived from all those students who have a bachelor’s degree or any degree of graduation from a college where the sole language of instruction is English.

What is the fee structure at Harvard?

Studying at Harvard can be really expensive. The total fee that needs to be paid for one year is roughly around Rs. 77.87 Lakhs. This would include tuition fee, personal expenses, hostel and meals, program material fee, student health fees, computer costs, and insurance. However, these are just rough estimates which keep changing. To know the precise figures, it’s always better to check the website.

How to apply at Harvard?

There are three steps that you need to undergo in the process of getting admission in HBS. Here is a detailed step by step guide to keep your worries at bay and make your application procedure easier:

Written Application

For this, you need to get the following prepared or at hand:

  1. Resume
  2. Transcripts
  3. GRE/GMAT Score
  4. Fee
  5. Acceptance of policies
  6. IELTS/TOEFL/Pearson Test of English (PTE)- Keep in mind that your TOEFL score needs to be higher than 109 at the iBT, PTE score needs to be higher than 75 and IELTS score has to be more than 7.5.


Once you submit your application, it will undergo reviewing and only after that, you will be called for an interview.

Post-Interview Reflection

After you are done with your interview session, you need to submit a written reflection via HBS’ online application system within twenty-four hours of your interview.

What are the things to keep in mind while applying to Harvard MBA?

Begin Research Early

You must begin with your research at least one year before you are planning to apply. The deadline for Round 1 applications for the MBA class of 2021 at Harvard was 5 September 2018. Worry not! Even though the deadline has already passed, you still have Round 2. The deadline for the same is 4 January 2019. However, it is always better to apply in the first round itself.  Researching the website and going keenly through all its key components is very essential. Research about the programme you have planned on applying for. There are 2-year MBA, HBX, executive programs, and Doctoral programs. Scroll carefully through the figures and facts of the MBA programmes, campus, alumni, culture and all that the school has to offer.

Connect with Alumni

Look out from HBS MBA pass-outs on LinkedIn and contact them through their profiles. Ask them to guide and help you. The idea is of contacting various people from various backgrounds to gain their advice and responses to your profile.  Interacting with them will not only help and guide you but will also inspire you. Remember, they too have gone through what you are going through right now.

Improve your profile

Look out and study the gaps that are there in your application. If you have an exceptional work experience, then adding extracurricular work with it would make your resume exemplary for sure. Also, if possible, get into leadership activities that might positively affect you and your peers. For example, if you think you have an interest in social work, then go ahead and become a part of an NGO and do your bit in building up weak communities.

The admission committee of Harvard Business School looks out for a candidate who is not only worthy of ‘getting in’ but also of ‘getting through’ the MBA programme of HBS. If you are willing to build up and polish your profile for getting admission in HBS or any top-notch business school for that matter, you must keep these few things in mind:

  1. Understand all the factors which are considered in the applications.
  2. The weight-age of those factors in your application.
  3. The factors that you can keep in your control (changeable and unchangeable factors)
  4. Start working on the factors that are still in your hands.

Now, go through the changeable and unchangeable factors in your application and analyze which ones are under your control. In the process of MBA applications, various parameters are obviously not in your control. For example, the employer’s brand, GPA, and so on. However, 56% of it is still in your hands-essays, GMAT, interview as well as recommendation letters. Stop focusing on things that have gone wrong and start looking at the brighter side. Start preparing well and ace all these aspects that you can still change and make better.

Lastly, stop worrying about it too much. Everything is difficult before it gets easy. Also, HBS has various scholarships and financial aid to support international students and make their education easier and stress-free. Shoot for the moon!

About the Author

Piyush BhartiyaPiyush values education and has studied from the top institutes of IIT Roorkee, IIM Bangalore, KTH Sweden and Tsinghua University in China. Post completing his MBA, he has worked with the world's # 1 consulting firm, The Boston Consulting Group and focused on building sales and marketing verticals for top MNCs and Indian business houses.

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