Harvard Business School has lobbed a solid googly this year by asking for just one essay in the MBA App and that too an open ended one - without a specified word length. So how many stories should one write here? What should be the length of the essay? The essay topic is "You are applying to HBS, we can see your resume,school transcripts, extra curricular activities, awards, post MBA career goals, test scores and what your recommenders have to say about you. What else would you like us to know as we consider your candidacy?"
Well, according to us, from the wording of the essay topic it is clear that the AdComm wants to see something other than all the hard facts already presented in the application form, your resume and recos. A good strategy could be to bring out some of your soft skills which otherwise don't come out in your GPA or GMAT score. Use some events from your past - from your work-ex or your college days, even your family life or a vacation you took - which bring out such skills. Take care however that what you write must be clear, concise, compelling and authentic. And while it may be compelling to go into lengthy storytelling, remember that Quality always scores over Quantity in such cases. Try to keep it to within 600-750 words, though this would be very case dependant and could vary significantly. This could be one long story or several short ones but the story style must be brief. Also do not reach or claim more than what you actually did or you will lose authenticity. And finally, howsoever great it reads to you, be sure to get it reviewed by some outsider, someone who can give you an unbiased critique, and ask them if your essay conveys to them, what you started out to convey.