Getting into Harvard MBA – Diversity, Work Experience, GMAT & GPA

Harvard Business School is one of the most sought after B-schools in the world. It is also one of the schools with the lowest acceptance rate. While IIMA in India boasts of an acceptance rate of just 0.1%, among US B-schools, HBS has the lowest acceptance rate after Stanford. The rate has historically hovered around the 10-12% mark. The class of 2017 has seen a slight dip in acceptance to 11%, the result of an increase in application volume.

Standing out from 9600 other applicants requires strategic thinking and the power of storytelling. We will teach you how with our essay guide.

Note: When we mention a year, we refer to the year of graduation – the class of that year. The year of admission would be 2 years prior.

Class Size

Over the past 10 years, class sizes have fluctuated from a high of 889 in 2009 to a high of 941 in 2011. The class of 2017 saw 937 enrolled students. Although there are no targets as such, the growth of the class size is three per year.


Diversity is not just a buzzword for Harvard Business School. The balance of keeping the international students and US-based minority students within the 20-35% range is tricky.


North Americans are the biggest geographic group, followed by Asians and Europeans. The massive number of nationalities tends to vary from 66 to 72, fluctuating every year.

Gender and the US ethnic minorities

Women represented just 11% of the class in 1975, but since have steadily increased to 35% in 2005, and went on to set a record of 42% for the class of 2017. US ethnic minorities have increased representation from 23% in 2005 to 28% for the class of 2017, with International representation remaining at 34% for the past 10 years. If you are an International woman applicant, your chances are much higher.

Undergraduate Major

The long-term as well as short-term trends all point to one thing – decrease in Social Sciences & Humanities intake, with a corresponding increase in Business & Economics majors. The former represented 51% of the class in 1995, but in 2017 has hit a new low of 19%. Since Technology sector has seen a post-MBA boom among Harvard MBA graduates, it makes more sense for the Admission team to accept applicants from Business background to take over Sales/Marketing and General Management roles. Applicants from technology background have been consistently represented at 35-36% over the past 5 years.


F1GMAT's Harvard MBA Essay Guide will show:

1) How you should start the essay knowing that extroversion and passion are valued in Harvard MBA?
2) How you should demonstrate Active Learning?
3) How you should demonstrate confidence in decision-making?
4) How you should demonstrate your succinct communication skills?
5) How you should demonstrate your potential as an effective FIELD team member?

Download Harvard MBA Essay Guide (F1GMAT)

Pre-MBA Industry

Finance has not yet made a major comeback in Harvard Business School. Consulting saw a slight dip but made the 16% second position for the class of 2017. The Venture Capital Industry and Technology completed the top three industries with 18% and 14% respectively. The Government, Education, & Non-Profit sector have shown a consistent representation of 8-9% each year. The pre-MBA and post-MBA industries have a high correlation, affirming our belief that HBS values pre-MBA industry experience over any specific job skills.

Work Experience & Age

Evaluating data from the previous eleven years indicates no clear trend. The average experience fluctuates from 41 to 54 months. The data available for the past three years shows that 27 is the magic age. By 30, you are expected to reach at least one major milestone in your career. So, if you are an older applicant, there should be a valid reason for applying.

GMAT Score

The median GMAT score has maintained its record high of 730 for the past three years. The top GMAT score was again the same over this period – 790. The lowest GMAT score in the class rose from 510 in 2012 to 570 in 2014 with the middle 80% scoring in the 700 to 760 range. HBS has set a high cut off for GMAT.

Average GPA

Harvard has a history of not releasing this data because different undergraduate programs have different standards, but for the Class of 2017, the average GPA score is 3.66 (Based on the data of over 600 candidates, whose grades are marked in a GPA 4.0 scale)

Do remember that: diversity is not just measured in facts and figures. How you position your candidacy will differentiate you from other typical applicants. Storytelling is the secret weapon.

Download F1GMAT's Harvard MBA Essay Guide, and improve your chances. We teach you how to write persuasive essays with elements of storytelling.

Total MBA Enrollment937932919905903895
Harvard MBA Diversity201720152014201320122011
Countries Represented646068677373
US Ethnic Minorities28%25%24%23%23%23%
Avg. Months - FT Work Exp.N/A47444142
GMAT Score Range700-760*570-790490 to 790510 to 790
Median GMAT730730730730
Average Age27272726
Average GPA3.66* - Middle 80%
Pre-MBA Majors201720142013
Humanities & Social Sci.19%41%42%
Engineering/Natural Sci/Tech Disciplines36%34%36%
Business Administration45%24%21%
Pre-MBA Industry2017201420132012
Consumer Products6%6%6%7%
Energy/Extractive Minerals6%4%
Financial Services11%12%12%14%
Gov't, Education, & Non-Profit8%9%
High tech/Communications14%9%9%6%
Industrial/Heavy Manufacturing5%7%14%9%
Other Services4%5%8%7%
Venture Capital/Private Equity18%16%13%18%

Getting into Harvard MBA is Not Like Catching a Shooting Star

Most applicants have this strange notion that you cannot get into Harvard MBA program without climbing Mount Everest, or leading a start-up to an IPO. 

Trust us, we evaluated a few Harvard MBA Admits. They are like you, but with one difference.

They are Masters at Personal Branding.

We will teach you:

1) How you should start the essay knowing that extroversion and passion are valued in Harvard MBA?

2) How you should demonstrate Active Learning?

3) How you should demonstrate confidence in decision-making?

4) How you should demonstrate your succinct communication skills?

5) How you should demonstrate your potential as an effective FIELD team member?

Also Included in the Essay Guide:

1) Six positioning tips that you should consider for your essay.

2) Two Sample Essays

Download F1GMAT's Harvard MBA Essay Guide 2016-17

2020 MBA Research Guide - Choose your MBA

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F1GMAT's Comprehensive MBA Research Guide will teach you how to select MBA programs through a bottom-up approach. 

Articulating your Post-MBA Goals and Career Path is the FIRST step. Which program will give you that hike in Salary, Switch in Career, Change in Location or Job Satisfaction?

We cover them all through our extensive analysis. 

Pages: 506

+ How to Choose the Best MBA Program: Factors to Consider
Define Post-MBA Goals
Pick your Path: Generalize or Specialize
Use Moral Algebra Method 
Use Multi-Attribute Utility Theory
Understand the Top 5 Risks
Measure MBA Career Service Team's Effectiveness
Use Bookending to Calculate MBA Admission Chance
Use Net Present Value to Calculate MBA Return on Investment
Don't Fall for the Mere Exposure Effect
Best Practices to find the truth in MBA Information Session or MBA Tour

Comprehensive MBA Research Guide:
Top MBA Programs by 19 Specializations:
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+ Top MBA Program Ranking
Top 20 MBA Programs - Tuition Fee  
Top 31 MBA Programs in United States – Total Cost & Salary

Top 60 MBA – GMAT and GPA (Average & Median)
Top 20 European MBA Programs - Tuition Fee, Total Cost & Salary    
Top 20 European MBA Programs (Based on Actual Salary Increase)    
Top 20 European MBA Programs (Short-term return on investment)    
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Top 10 MBA in UK – Salary & Fee   
Top MBA Destinations Based on Happiness Index    
Top MBA Destinations based on Innovation Index    
Top 10 MBA Job Markets based on Cost of living and Purchasing Power    
Top MBA Destination: By Economy    

+Comparisons - Top MBA Programs
Wharton vs. Columbia MBA
MIT vs. Stanford MBA  
Haas vs. Ross MBA    

Kellogg vs Ross MBA    
Booth vs Wharton MBA    
MIT Sloan vs Tuck MBA    

IIMA vs. ISB   

Harvard vs. Stanford MBA

+ MBA in France (2018)
Top Industries in France   
Top MBA Programs in France  

  Class Profile   
  Post-MBA Salary

Scholarships in France
External Funding 

+ MBA in the UK (2018)
Top Industries in the UK   
Top MBA Programs in the UK

  Class Profile   
  Post-MBA Salary

Scholarships in the UK
External Funding 

New Visa Rules: Post-Brexit

+ Germany: Industry Trends, Post MBA Jobs and Salaries (2020) (NEW!)
  • Manufacturing  
  • IoT and IIOT   
  • Technology   
  • FinTech   
  • Management Consulting   
  • Post-MBA industries (German Top Schools)   

Download F1GMAT's MBA Research Guide (2020)

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