We got this submitted the other day in our Request a Free Essay Review form thingie: Hey essaysnark, I am applying for multiple European and US schools as part of Round 2. Have been a regular reader of your blahg and simply love the candid, straight-forward style you use. I fall in what is called…
Today we’re going to offer some additional thoughts specific to that contingent: Military candidates.
If you have access privileges on your account to view our Military MBA content then you’ll see this material.
[start nifty special military-only content here]
[end meandering and probably super boring EssaySnark blabbering about Military MBA peeps]
What we’ll offer in conclusion for everyone today is another reminder:
Career goals are not where you should be striving to differentiate yourself as a candidate; coming across as flamboyant or fancy-sounding in what you say you want to do with the MBA can backfire. However, you CAN differentiate yourself by having LOCKED DOWN AND REALISTIC plans that you express with confidence and conviction in your MBA apps.
Now THAT would be one differentiated BSer.
We got a question from a military MBA candidate recently and what they were asking is not at all unusual. We asked for permission to post it here on the blahg because we figured that others may be interested to hear what we had to say. Here’s what they said: Happy Thanksgiving! I talked with…
We recently shared with you some tips on Stanford Essay B based on a Q&A exchange from another Brave Supplicant wrestling with their GSB essays. We also offered a don’t-do-this essay critique on Stanford Essay B. Here’s another quick tip that’s not necessarily quick to internalize, again based on real-life feedback we gave to someone…
About those rules for recommendations? We kinda forgot one.
We do say this fairly frequently (like here: You cannot write your own letters of recommendation and here: Writing your own letters of recommendation is unethical) but we apparently cannot say it often enough.
So we’ll spell it out:
You cannot write your own letters of recommendation. Writing your own letters of recommendation is unethical.
Around this time every year, we get people submitting their no-go Rd 1 apps to us for the Post-Mortem Rejection Analysis and we see letters of recommendation that we strongly suspect were written by the BSer themself. Sometimes we mention our suspicion, sometimes we don’t. If we do, we’re either met with indignant denials (perhaps justified; who knows, maybe we’re wrong), or innocent-sounding questions about what made us think so. (This is why we often don’t mention the suspicions. Because, what’s the point? Note: If we recently reviewed your application, we are NOT using this post as some passive-aggressive method of accusing you of doing this. This post is about patterns observed over years. It’s not about any specific BSer or any specific app we’ve reviewed lately. Please don’t get all paranoid ‘n stuff.)
Every now and then we get into an honest dialogue with a BSer about it and they serve up plenty of reasons for doing it:
“My recommender is too busy.”
“My recommender doesn’t speak English.”
“My recommender doesn’t write well.”
Or maybe what the BSer says but doesn’t actually say out loud: “My recommender won’t say good things about me.”
Regardless if they’re true or not, none of those are legimitate reasons for you to write your own recommendations.
There simply does not EXIST a valid reason for you to do that.
Writing your own recommendations is UNETHICAL.
It’s DISHONEST. Another word for that is CHEATING.
Do you really want to go through life cheating your way through? Are you that kind of person? Even unintentionally? (Or carelessly, by just not thinking it through and recognizing this behavior for what it is?)
The other point to be making is: Very often, an outsider reviewer – like, an admissions person at the school you’re applying to – can TELL when you wrote it. There are signs and indications. It’s often not that hard to detect. And that is the quickest path to rejection that exists.
Besides which, many schools have added clauses to their recommenders’ section, whereby a) you have to attest that you did not write the recommendation, and b) your RECOMMENDER has to attest that you did not write it. So by writing your own rec and then having the recommender upload it, not only are you being a liar, but you’re forcing the recommender to lie, too.
That certainly feels more than a little distasteful.
BTW, if you’re worried that your recommenders are not well equipped to handle the task of producing those letters of recommendation, we have the Recommenders Instruction Sets for exactly that purpose.
Now that we’ve gone all negative and yucky-feeling on you today: How do you deal with those tricky situations where you aren’t convinced that your recommender is up to the job?
Well, the very first step is TO TALK TO THEM. There are no laws or morals against having conversations with your recommenders, to figure out a) are they willing and able to perform this important task, and b) do they have a clue what they might say about you. On point a, you should be able to gauge if this person is excited about your professional prospects and eager to help you advance in your career, and thus will be willing to put forth the effort to complete this task in a positive manner. If you sense that they’re not all gung-ho about you or your interest in bschool, then that right there is reason to consider asking someone else.
On point b, it’s totally fine and acceptable for you to be suggesting ideas for them on what to write. Or at least, brainstorm with them. You don’t want to dictate what your recommenders say – either by being too adamant about what topics you think they should cover, and also specifically you don’t want to literally spell out the contents (that’s pretty much the same as you writing it, right?). However, it’s absolutely OK for you to come prepared with some projects or examples that they might want to discuss. If you want some guidance on what you’re planning to suggest to your recommenders – or who you should be tapping for this task in the first place – then our Letters of Recommendation App Accelerator is perfect.
Our point with this discussion is to help you think through some ideas that you might then suggest to your recommenders. THEY must write the recs themselves. To do it any other way is unethical and not only is it highly likely that the adcoms will be able to figure out that you wrote your own letter, which means they won’t let you in in the first place, but it will also invoke the ire of the ‘Snark should we hear that you’re doing this (or see it firsthand when you submit your app for some feedback). Play by the rules. You’ll get further in life that way, we promise.
There’s a few rules to keep in mind when choosing your recommenders for your MBA apps: Get a recommendation from your current direct supervisor if you can (if you can’t, that’s OK but you just need to explain why not) Choose recommenders who know you well and can answer in detail about your performance (this…
Whether or not you have apps pending in Round 1, you should be putting at least tentative plans in place for Round 2. If Round 2 will be your first apps (or if none of the Round 1 apps have worked out thus far) then you really (really really really) need to be getting busy, like, NOW.
You need to:
- Figure out which schools to apply to
- Figure out which to do first
But really, none of that matters. You just need to GET STARTED. Round 2 is your last opportunity if you’re aiming to be sitting in a bschool classroom in the Fall. Round 3 will simply be too late.
Do you think you want to apply to Columbia this year? OK great, do that app.
Get started on those essays today.
Or, do you think you want to apply to Ross?
Do that one.
It honestly does not matter at this point which schools are on your list. If you’re thinking you’re probably going to apply to a certain school, then that’s a great place to begin.
The point is, BEGIN.
As you know all too well, time has this crazy habit of moving fast.
It moves especially fast when a deadline you’re trying to avoid is on the horizon.
Well, guess what?
That deadline is more than just on its way.
It is HERE.
If you are serious about trying for bschool this season, you need to get serious NOW. You do not have the luxury of time any more.
Yes, Round 1 is an advantage. Whether you took advantage of that advantage or not is at this point irrelevant. Round 2 is what you’re left with. Unless you have an admit in hand, you must be planning to also apply in Round 2. If you haven’t applied anywhere yet and thought you had two more rounds to choose from, well, hate to break it to you buddy, you don’t.
If you want to be in the MBA Class of 2019, then you’re in one of these categories:
- Applied and admitted – woohoo! Congrats! There are a few schools that have issued decisions on early apps already, and some of you are in this enviable position (but most BSers are not).
- Applied and interviewed – another woohoo, you’re still in the running! Lots and lots in this category. If it was a by-invitation school, then you must’ve done something right. But, no counting chickens till they’re hatched, old boy.
- Applied and interviewed – at an interview-everyone school. This is also a good position to be in since you now have some experience in writing essays and also with interviewing, and that’s valuable if you don’t make it in, but the problem is that you have literally no idea if you’re going to make it in or not.
- Applied and rejected – uh-oh. That’s a super bummer. But! At least you got the rejection part out of the way early! You know that you’ll be doing Round 2 and that’s some valuable information there.
- No apps submitted yet. Well, better late than never, BSer! But we’re definitely talking to you when we say that Round 2 is your time. Round 3 just won’t work for the vast majority of applicants to the very best schools.
The highest-risk class of BSer is #3, and of course #5 since you have no prior experience in this process to build from. If you’re in the #3 group, then please take this advice seriously and get moving. Don’t get lulled into complacency by the fact that you interviewed at, say, Kellogg. That does not mean anything! It’s the admit that matters.
To the #2 group, we’re feeling more confident on your behalf but we also don’t want you to get blindslided. Applying to bschool is like dating – you keep going with the process until you find The One – and until The One says yes to you!
Why are we rattling your cage now? It’s still November! Don’t you have time? After all, the Ross adcom is fond of saying that you don’t need to spend a whole lot of time on the essays. However, they clearly do not appreciate what goes into writing a good set of essays. The BSers we know who get admitted to Ross put just as much effort into their essays as they do for the “harder” schools – which means, they put in A LOT. And, over and over again each year, the ones who we see winging it with their apps are the ones who end up with few (or zero) options.
Except for Ross, every other adcom wisely advises to put some serious time into this essay-writing endeavor.
That means, do it now.
That does not mean applying to all the schools. It means applying to the schools that are right for you. Hopefully you have a sense of which those are by now. If not, you’d better get busy on that, too! (Our Comprehensive Profile Review offers some real-world assessments of whether your current list is in line with reality or not.)
That being said: Part of a viable strategy is to NOT submit apps everywhere just to get them submitted. This is not a numbers game. We strongly suggest that you hold back on at least one of your top-choice schools, and NOT apply right now.
That way, you’ll have one school in reserve to do as a “fresh” application for Round 1 in the Fall if none of these Round 2 attempts work out this season. It’s always easier to get in as a new applicant rather than a reapplicant, particularly when the original app is submitted in Round 2 which is only a few months away from when Round 1 apps will be due next season (it may seem like forever away to be talking about Round 1 next year but honestly it will be here very quickly!!! remember how fast the summer went this year, and how Round 1 snuck up on you? yeah, that.)
If you have more than one Round 1 app still active and in play, then congrats to you for being set up so well in this hypercompetitive season. You still don’t want to assume anything about those apps. At least sketch out a preliminary plan, and take a look at the deadlines, so you know what you’re facing if the news coming down the pike in two weeks’ time does not go your way. Obviously we hope that it does, and that you end up with an abundance of riches and the dilemma of which to choose! But taking the conservative approach, it would be wise to have a short list of targets prepared, and start having a look at their essay questions, and even a plan of attack of how you might proceed, if worse comes to worst and you walk away empty-handed when all the decisions come down.
If you do have apps in play, then the next few weeks are going to be brutal; you’re probably done with the interviews and all you can do is to wait. And drink egg nog. Many BSers tell us every year that the waiting is the hardest part.
We don’t wish more essay-writing on any of you. But we also don’t wish any panicked essay-writing on you either. Walk through your options, so you come into this prepared. You do NOT want to end up facing down a boatload of more applications with only three weeks to complete them.
When you get the happy news of successes, we will be here to celebrate! We hope that time comes soonest for all of you.
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