I can’t even tell you how many times I THREW AWAY my MBA application essay drafts and started over.

For weeks, I went in circles…getting to a certain point with one essay, then realizing that I had left something important out, or that I didn’t quite know what to say for that one tricky question… It was stressful. And frustrating. After volunteering for the Admissions Office at HBS and doing admissions consulting for over a decade, I’ve developed a system of ten sequential steps that helps eliminate confusion and the feeling of being “lost”.

Here’s a summary of the 10 steps you need (and how much time to spend on each one, at a minimum)

(click on this thumbnail image to see it full-size, then click again on the image to zoom in):

(Want a more detailed explanation of the steps in the infographic? I added some explanation in this post here)



I’ve spent the past few years developing ApplicantLab, an interactive software system that walks you through a personalized version of these steps. It tells you EXACTLY what to do, step-by-step, giving you advice, tips, and hints every step of the way. It truly is like having me sitting next you, guiding you.


*Note: To the timeline above, add 4 extra hours if you’re applying to Stanford GSB, since “What matters most to you, and why?” is a tricky one (rightfully so). Add ~2 extra hours for HBS’s “What else do we need to know about you?” essay (note: this will fluctuate depending upon whether or not Harvard is the *first* school you are prepping an application for, or if you’ve already got a few applications under your belt. If possible, try to make HBS *not* the first school you apply to – I explain why in the ApplicantLab).