Oh boy. Talk about a feeling of doom. That’s what steals over you when you’re opening up that application and looking back over it again a few days after you’ve submitted it… and you see that you made a mistake. Uh oh. Or for most people, “NO EFFING WAY OMG WHAT THE F@CK WHAT IN…
The Stanford GSB admissions team is fond of telling applicants that nobody but Stanford knows what Stanford wants. What they’re trying to caution you about is admissions consultants telling you what to say and how to say it – because the consultant claims that they know how to get into Stanford. How can someone who’s…
We’re reblogging this very important – and timely! – post that originally went up in 2012. For anyone still scrambling on apps, we’re around to help! We can let you know if you’re ready for Rd 1 or if you may be in a better position by stepping back and re-evaluating your full pitch for Rd 2.
From September 2012:
“Is good writing more important than Round 1?”
But let’s try to answer the question directly:
I was originally planning on applying to my schools in round 1 and had made some headway but I recently was advised that since my writing skills need improvement, I should take some time to improve my essays and apply in round 2. Do you think it matters more to have an essay that showcases good writing skills than applying in round 1 and standing out that way?
Applying in Round 1 doesn’t actually help you “stand out” – but if your writing is really that bad, then that WILL make you stand out – and not in a positive way!
Round 1 is an advantage only when the application is strong. If the writing in the essays is not up to par, then by definition, the application is not strong.
The essays are your chance to shine. They need to show you in the best possible light. If they are hard to understand because of unclear sentence structure or ideas that don’t make sense the way they’re strung together, or if they’re riddled with typos, grammar problems, or even just mild punctuation errors, then they’re detracting from your candidacy. If there’s an overabundance of these issues, then they can keep you out of bschool.
You’ll be competing against candidates whose essays are PERFECT. If yours are not there yet – then go back to the drawing board. Spend more time with them. The CONTENT of the essays (the stories you tell, how you’re presenting your profile) and the CONSTRUCTION of the essays matter almost equally. Both go together to communicate your pitch. If the adcom will have trouble understanding what you’re saying… then it sorta defeats the purpose of writing an essay.
Now… the other very important consideration is, who told you that your writing skills are weak? The quick question you asked of us was flawless – and believe it or not, that’s actually unusual. Many times, the requests for free help that we get submitted through the blahg have some, uh, problems with how they’re written. Sure, that was a very short couple sentences that you wrote, not much opportunity to mess things up. But are you sure your writing is that bad? We don’t have much to go on – and writing an essay is much different than writing a plea for help to the ‘Snark – but… just make sure that you need to push things off, before actually making the decision to do so. If you don’t have to, it would be a shame to lose the Rd 1 advantage unnecessarily.
Hmmm…. we seem to recall some way to get a direct answer on this question… some sanity check thing — what was it again?
If you’re wondering if Round 1 is really an advantage… it’s IMPOSSIBLE to say without reviewing your entire profile, but for many applicant types, yes. This includes military candidates and the overcrowded pools of applicants from places like India and China. It also includes the more narrow pool of white guys in finance or consulting. If you’re in any of those groups, we strongly suggest trying for some first-round apps. Everyone will benefit from a first-round strategy, however. But, if you’re just not ready, then rushing to get rejected is not so smart either! Your essays need to be EXCELLENT. If you feel you could do more with your pitch, then step back from the essays and think things through. You may be just wasting your money by slamming an app in if it’s not the best it can be.
Be sure to read the comment that a 2012 BSer posted here when this went up originally.
- “Should I just put this whole thing off till round 2?”
- Proof that Round 1 is advantageous
- Who should definitely go for a Round 1 application
Finally, if you’re wondering about what to do and worrying that Round 2 is indeed where you end up, then good news! The Round 2 MBA Countdown with EssaySnark will start very soon! It’s a guided tour of what you need to accomplish every week from October through the Round 2 deadlines in early January. Check it out and see if it’s something that might be valuable for you. As, like, a kick in the pants or something. 🙂
We had a question come in some time ago that unfortunately wasn’t a high priority for us because it’s not a universal interest among all BSers and doesn’t affect the app process – which is where we’re trying to focus our limited time and energies in these blahg posts right now. Here’s what we were asked:
I purchased blahg access recently and was looking for some info on design thinking/consulting. Companies like IDEO do recruit from bschools. My request for you is that if you can write a post on design thinking and how it is different from usual consulting?
For starters, the blahg is about applying to bschool and sure, defining your career goals and why you want an MBA are a very big part of that, but we haven’t spent much time here talking about careers. There are gobs and a gazillion sites and resources for that, and once you get into bschool, you’ll be inundated with all sorts of help from the school. So it doesn’t make too much sense for us to be spending time on questions like What is this career about? when you can find that on the open internet. Figuring out your goals and deciding what you want to do with your life is kinda beyond scope for what we’re about.
To the extent that a goal matters in how you pitch things to an MBA admissions committee then absolutely, yes, we do spend time on that. We even wrote a whole book on it! At least, as far as entrepreneurial MBA goals go.
You’ll notice though the massive-mouthful of a title for that book:
Can you see how we’re trying to position it?
When we talk about goals, then we are talking about them as the beginning of your research process. Hopefully that’s been made clear from the very title of that guide!
So when we get the question from this BSer about design thinking and consulting, while we certainly do know something about it, it’s also a) pretty niche, where not that many BSers are going to be focused on this subject, and b) something that you’re likely going to learn a helluva lot more about by talking directly to students and alumni and people in your professional network who are working in this space. EssaySnark isn’t really the right resource for you to be asking to tell you about “design thinking and how it is different from usual consulting” – we’re more downstream than that. We have toyed with the idea of doing more to present information on various post-MBA careers here on the site but that’s not our focus. The best way for you to learn about design thinking is to talk to people who are in that space. That’s not EssaySnark. We know about it from a high level, sure, and the jobs available and what you might do with such a specialization at school. But if you’re trying to learn about the variety of jobs available and which ones are right for you, well, we’re not in a position to do that.
It’s not because we can’t suggest jobs or that we don’t know; it’s just that it feels a little too much like spoonfeeding. We’re not saying that that’s what this BSer was asking for, but it’s just one of the ways that we make sure that the individuals we’re working with are putting in the appropriate effort themselves. A huge part of learning is in discovering things on your own – and when it comes to the career goals, then that’s even the most fun part of it!
We can say that, sure, expressing an interest in design thinking may be very valid as part of your MBA apps. We can also say that there aren’t a whole lot of jobs coming out of most MBA programs as “design thinkers.” (Not that this BSer said that – they asked about consulting – but the whole “design thinking” dealio is not a core MBA path, at least not at the moment.)
We will say that just recently, Darden has been one of the schools making design thinking a focus with their new IDEA curriculum (not to be confused with IDEO which is a company with roots at Stanford).
Design thinking is also integral in the HBS FIELD curriculum. Here’s the HBS i-lab course and here’s a 2014 Forbes article about FIELD (note that FIELD has changed from what’s described in that article).
And of course Stanford has their d.school and design thinking is kinda a big deal there.
So what is design thinking?
The tl;dr is: Start with the customer, work backwards. Figure out their problems from their perspective when determining what type of product or solution to build.
Here’s what HBS says from that course description linked above:
“The term emerged at Stanford in the 1980s, as a way to characterize the broad approach that those trained formally in design generally architecture, industrial design, and applied arts take toward problem solving. The approach is human-centered, focusing intensely on users, their needs, and their motivations. Through close observation of people in their environments (“Look”), direct engagement with them through interviews and shadowing (“Ask”), and even attempts to experience the world as they do (“Try”), researchers can gain deep understanding of users’ motivations and needs and, using this knowledge, produce solutions crafted to address those needs directly. Given its roots in the world of design, the approach also embraces visual thinking (including sketching, diagramming, and making) as legitimate and useful ways to develop understanding and communicate findings and ideas.
“Design thinking is most commonly associated with product design, but it can as aptly be applied to solve problems in processes, business models, management, and strategy. While fewer students outside of schools of design may have spent much time developing these skills, basic facility and familiarity is certainly within reach for anyone. The user-centric orientation of the approach, as well as these “designer-ly” skills, should be regarded as just additional “ways of knowing/understanding,” which can complement the analytical and written communication skills that are generally far more developed in students of business, medicine, government, education etc.”
Here’s the wikipedia page on Design Thinking .
(The point of this post kinda is, you can easily find this stuff on your own. Right?)
Is design thinking part of consulting?
Sure, it can be.
Is it part of product management?
Much more likely so.
Is it part of other things you’ll learn in bschool?
Maybe, though you could complete an entire MBA without ever focusing on it very much.
Design thinking is in the category of sexy and fun – and trendy, which has its own risks in how you present if you’re thinking about incorporating some of this into your MBA pitch.
That’s really the part that EssaySnark can help with. Once you have a sense of your goals, then come to us and we’ll help you present them with polish and verve.
There’s this feature of the EssaySnark blahg where we will allow you to submit your essay for a possible freebie review right here on the website – out in the open, where everyone can see, and hopefully benefit, from the things that you could be improving. There’s this unfortunate habit of Brave Supplicants who are…
Well, besides “all of them.” The opening sentence is obviously important; we’ve talked about that before. The conclusion is also seriously important. We’ve talked about that before, too, but it’s worth talking about again – and today we’ll go more specific (since that’s what we’re always exhorting all of you BSers to do in your…
There used to be this cheap-y haircutting chain that had a slogan: “We cut hair for your ego. Not ours.” We remember that because way back when EssaySnark was a wee little snark, we had never heard that word before. “Ego.” What’s that? Had to ask Mom about it. Can’t remember what she said, but…