Given the open-ended length, it is possible to cover more than one meaningful activity, project or accomplishment. However, the fact that HBS has been consistently trimming down its essay set in recent years likely indicates that a 1,000-word essay would be unwelcome. Moreover, it may be tempting to draft a lengthy essay on traditional subjects such as your career goals, greatest successes, and interest in the school; however, your need for an MBA or specific career goals may be adequately covered in your other materials. This should help to narrow your focus, select your topic and craft a succinct essay. You should take care to steer clear of simply “recycling” essays from HBS’s peer schools, such as Stanford or Wharton, as the adcom will probably spot such an essay based on the highly unfocused nature of the HBS prompt and will not respond positively.
In today’s ultra-competitive admissions process, your personal statement has never been more important. Unlike standardized test scores and GPAs, an admissions essay can truly set your application apart from those submitted by the thousands of applicants you’re competing with. Even near-perfect scores and grades are not enough to earn you admission at the most elite schools and programs today. That’s because the average applicant is significantly more qualified today than he or she was a decade ago. With so many qualified applicants competing for a limited number of spots, admissions committees have turned to other elements of the application to make difficult decisions about who to accept and who to reject.
Because so many students at the top universities have great ACT or SAT scores, I do recommend that students *consider* Subject Tests. You’ll only want to worry about them if you think that they can improve your testing portfolio. In the case of elite schools like Columbia, that means 750+ (or at least 700+). You can try tests from the Official Guide published by College Board. Fewer schools than ever are requiring the Subject Tests — especially with ACT scores. It would be a little challenging to fit them in (including preparing for them) as senior year starts and application season begins, so you may want to just sit tight with your ACT score.