6 Tips for a Stronger Application: HBS-Accion Program on Strategic Leadership in Inclusive Finance

Being to the point, on topic, and not being shy about reaching out with questions are good tactics.

With the deadline for the 2020 HBS-Accion Program on Strategic Leadership in Inclusive Finance rapidly approaching — applications are due Tuesday, January 21 — we thought it would be helpful for the admissions team to offer some insights on crafting the best possible program and scholarship application to raise your chances of acceptance.

1   Be specific

A lot of times, applicants answer the questions generally, which makes it hard for us to judge their application against other candidates or how useful the program would be to them in their work. A few of our prompts ask for an example or to list three challenges they face, and often people just list one challenge, or don’t answer the entire question, which is a pretty easy way to eliminate applicants right away.

2   Stay on topic

This is similar to the above. Applicants to the HBS-Accion Program have unique and deep experiences, and we look forward to learning more about them in reading their applications. However, this program is fairly specific – both in terms of the course content and the profile of applicants and their respective institutions – so to level the playing field, we encourage you to review the questions/prompts closely to make sure you answer them directly. This will help us better equally compare the merits of each application.

3   Be concise

We also have word limits on the short answer questions, and they are often ignored, or applicants use the additional information box to write an entire essay when, often, it’s not necessary. When there’s too much information, it’s sometimes challenging for us to decipher what’s the actual answer to the question and what’s just extra information.

4   Reach out with questions

In general, most of the people who have emailed us with questions this year have ended up submitting stronger applications. Clarifying is a good way to make sure you provide a relevant answer to a question that otherwise might be confusing. This happens a lot with the scholarship question in particular.

5   Answer all the questions

We understand the application is long (we want to be thorough!), but each required question must have a response associated with it. We think your application is a reflection of how you might perform during the course, so please take the time to complete it in full and with special care.

6   Answer in complete sentences and check spelling and grammar

We understand that English isn’t the first language of a sizable percentage of our applicants. We don’t expect applicants to be world-class writers in English – after all, this isn’t a scholarly degree program. But there is a fair amount of reading and writing involved, and being able to share your unique perspectives in a clear and cogent manner is important to getting the most out of the program. This is why we encourage you or a friend to proofread your application and use your word processor’s spelling and grammar check function.

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