Recent Harbus Alums Publish Essay Guide

Former Harbus Publisher, Dan Erck (HBS ’04) and Harbus Chairman of the Board Candidate, Pawel Swiatek (HBS ’04) spent their second year at HBS doing more than writing papers, looking for jobs, and bonding with sectionmates. They also wrote and published a book. 65 Successful Harvard Business School Application Essays was released this summer, after a year of work on the project by the two authors and half a dozen other volunteers. Each chapter presents a different essay topic, such as ‘Discuss an experience that has had an impact on your development as a leader’. Within each chapter, individual essays from admitted students on the topic are followed by analysis and commentary from a Harbus writer.

The idea for the book was conceived by Pawel, who brought it to the Harbus Board during his campaign for the Chairman of the Board position. Pawel saw it as an opportunity to diversify the paper’s revenue, which was historically dependent on recruiting advertisements and which had suffered since the end of the boom in 2000. Though he didn’t win the election, publisher Dan Erck loved the idea and the two agreed to pursue the project. In the summer of 2003 between their RC and EC years, the pair developed a proposal, secured a book agent and began recruiting other members of the Harbus staff to participate.

Their proposal was ultimately awarded with bids from three publishers. After choosing St. Martin’s Press from among the offers, the authors began the legwork of soliciting the essays, reviewing and editing the writers’ analyses, and writing chapter introductions. They eventually received over 300 submissions from which they selected the 65 essays that are included in the book. Erck commented that the work went in fits and spurts, though “there were two or three weekends when Pawel and I basically worked on it 24-7.”

The authors were very pleased that the book release came just in time to benefit applicants to the Class of 2007 who can use it as a guide when crafting their own admissions essays. According to Erck, “Our goal was to have this out before the next admissions cycle. We weren’t always sure we would make it, because things often take longer than you think.” These things included writing, editing and conducting legal review, among other steps in the book publishing process.

The authors were also surprised by the unexpected publicity that followed the book’s release. The Wall Street Journal reviewed the book in August, and Pawel also recently appeared on CNBC. The media attention has given the authors an opportunity to articulate the book’s purpose.

“Our message in the book is that there isn’t a magic formula [to being admitted]. We’re trying to show that HBS is a very diverse school, with students of very diverse backgrounds… Each chapter also presents a wide range of opinions on the essays; there isn’t one unified voice saying ‘this is how you get in’. We’re not the admissions committee, and we’re not pretending to be the admissions committee.”

All proceeds from the book will go to the Harbus News Corporation which has historically given excess profits to the Harbus Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to venture philanthropy.

For the Wall Street Journal’s review of 65 Successful Harvard Business School Application Essays, please see Arts & Entertainment, p. 31.