Making Your Way into Harvard

Admissions Director Brit Dewey tells MBA hopefuls: We want to understand what moves you've made...and what you learned

Brit Dewey is managing director of MBA admissions and financial aid at Harvard Business School (No. 3 in BusinessWeek's 2002 B-school rankings). A 1996 alumna of HBS, she's now in charge of determining which aspiring leaders will join the class in Boston each autumn, and she says MBA hopefuls should reflect on their goals before applying.

On Sept. 23, Dewey and two second-year MBAs -- Jim Whitehead, 26, and Fabiola Currarino, 31 -- fielded questions about admissions and financial aid from a live audience and from BusinessWeek Online's Jack Dierdorff and Mica Schneider. Here's an edited transcript:

Q: Do you expect to read more applications in 2004 and 2005?

Dewey:

Our first application deadline is Oct. 13. At that point, we'll have a clear indication as to how much reading we'll be doing during the first round. We're hopeful for a strong group of qualified candidates.

Q: Surely you've got some indication as you meet with MBA hopefuls at HBS forums around the world and look at applications being started online...

Dewey:

We're well in the midst of our marketing and outreach worldwide, [and] attendance at our events has been strong. We're hopeful for at least the same level of applications -- 7,139 -- we received last year.

Q: This reader asks, "I assume that with thousands of applications, you have a method of sorting. What is your first line of sorting?"

Dewey:

We read them one by one by one.

Q: Is there a significant advantage to applying in the first round?

Dewey:

No. However, our preference would be for candidates to apply in rounds one or two and not to wait until round three. People admitted in round three will have less time to arrange for financial aid and a visa. And should [that] student want to live on campus (the vast majority of students do), the student would miss housing lottery deadlines.

Q: What are the biggest do's and don'ts for the essays?

Dewey:

The essays are a terrific opportunity for a candidate to help us best understand who they are: their goals, passions, interests, and experiences. Take time to reflect on the questions asked and focus on helping us understand where [you] have been, where [you] are, and where [you] want to go.

Q: Is using humor in the essays a good idea?

Dewey:

Share with us who you really are. If humor is part of that package, it should be part of your application.

Q: In the essays, should applicants assume that you know almost all kinds of functions in all industries?

Dewey:

Trained admissions professionals with MBAs read applications at HBS. We're aware of a lot of different contexts. Adhere to the word limits. Should you feel you need to provide more information, use the additional information section of the application.

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