A common and understandable motivation for many (most? all?) BSers who decide to get an MBA is to increase their salaries. This is even more true with the international BSers out there – especially when coming from developing countries where wages are low. It makes sense that you’d want to come to the U.S. for…
If you’re just joining us, then you may not know the tight focus of the EssaySnark blahg: We concern ourselves (obsessively so, some may say) with the admissions policies and practices of the top MBA programs in America, and to a lesser degree, those in Europe. “What,” you may wonder, “is defined as a ‘top…
We watched an adcom presentation at a top school recently and we were honestly a little turned off. It seemed like every single point that the admissions director made included the comment of “We’re the only one who has this.” or “No other school does that.”
First of all, in almost every case, it simply wasn’t true. There are not any business schools that are completely and totally unique. There just aren’t. All of them have qualities and features of their programs that are shared by other schools, at least in part. Yes, there’s one school – Yale – that has a unique approach to their curricular design, and sure, there are plenty of schools that were the first to implement such-and-such an initiative or program, like being first to offer a flexible curriculum, or being first to do field-based projects, or being first to require an international experience, or being first to offer lifetime education opportunities to alumni. But so what? Just because you were the first to do something does not mean that others aren’t doing it now, or that yours is automatically better.
We have been struck in different info sessions over the years by this tendency of admissions folks to make claims about how their school is different, and, well, it’s almost never the case that it is. We mentioned this back in 2013 when we wrote this “We don’t think it’s as big as you say it is” post about the size of, err, a top bschool’s alumni network. We talked about it even longer ago, in 2012, when Harvard’s then-new Dean Nohria claimed that their FIELD initiative was the first-ever at any top bschool. Oh hey dude, you mean except for like Michigan Ross? Or are you saying that Ross is not worthy of a comparison?
Where are these admissions people getting their information? Sure, we know that some schools pay attention to the market of MBA providers – meaning, they watch what other business schools are doing. They look at other schools’ essay questions and application requirements. They check out new initiatives being launched. They’re also frequently friends (or at least, friendly) with the admissions people at other schools. They all know each other.
The real reason we’re writing this post is not that, though. The real reason is just how distasteful this behavior is.
These are schools that say that they value the culture and community. That talk about collaboration and teamwork. And yet their main representative – the face of the school to the applicant community – is basically giving us a puffed-out chest and a whole series of braggadocio claims about how they’re “the best.” The not-so-subtle implication is that any other bschool out that is clearly second-rate because they aren’t as forward-thinking and innovative and all-knowing and profoundly awesome as WE are.
Or at least, that the admissions person thinks that.
Now, we acknowledge that yes, different schools have different combinations of features, and DEFINITELY they are different from one another in terms of culture and who they attract and what they specialize in and which type of student is going to thrive. But there’s also plenty of overlap. We’re not trying to say that an admissions person should be meek or pretend that these differences do not exist. But there’s also a way to present them that’s not quite so boastful.
Look at it this way, oh ye admissions folk out there: If you ran across an essay from a Brave Supplicant who was touting their qualities in this compare-and-contrast way, talking about how they’re the “only” applicant who has XYZ, not only would you say “Bullsh!t” when you read it, but also you’d more than likely be at least slightly turned off by the attitude.
To the BSers reading this: When you write about the reasons you want to go to School X in your essays or talk about it in your interview, it’s totally appropriate to talk about how you’re attracted to the features and elements of that school’s program. But it’s not necessary to use these compare-and-contrast statements to do so. Instead, mention the thing you’re attracted to, and say WHY it’s important or valuable.
And when you’re listening to a pitch from a school, and the admissions person tells you, “Our model is different in this way” or “We have this unique feature that nobody else does”, then please examine that claim, and make sure that the thing they’re talking about is even worth something. Who cares if this school is the only one to have some type of program if nobody uses it or it’s not worthwhile? Like, wouldn’t ALL the schools adopt that program if it were so great?
It’s a competitive marketplace. You have to be a sophisticated consumer when looking at advertising. Don’t fall for the spiel just because it’s coming from an adcom person who is in a position of authority. What they’re saying may be absolutely pertinent and meaningful to you and your goals for the MBA – or not. Make sure you evaluate it for yourself.
If you’re unfamiliar with U.S. geography overall or where the top American business schools are actually located, here’s a cute little mapping gizmo thing that we put together.
This is admittedly simple but it lets you visually identify which schools are in places that, say, get lots of snow in the winter, and which are more rural. It also has school attributes, so you can, for example, see which larger schools are easier to get into.
Check out the key at the bottom left with the button that currently says “Competitiveness Level” – you can flip that to other attributes and see which schools fit your interests and requirements.
We’re using a freebie version of that mapping tool so the ads being displayed are from them, not us; EssaySnark tries to keep ads off the site but this one seemed like a worthwhile tradeoff. Hope you don’t mind.
What other attributes would be useful to add to this map? Let us know in the comments and we’ll see if we can get them added.
Also which other schools should be on here? Right now it’s got the 16 U.S. schools from our Top 19 list. If we get enough votes for others then we’ll consider adding them, too.
Yeah that’s the longest title that has ever been written for a post on this blahg. Last year in the throes of Round 2 essay ideas, we wrote a post about Darden’s essay question (last season) on “constructive feedback”. Before you get too crazy with that, remember that Darden changes their essay every year, so…
Our opinion is that school rankings skew the system and despite what were probably good intentions by the people who thought them up, they don’t help anyone, mostly because they reinforce this idea of “I must get into a good school in order to be a good person.”
No, that’s not the literal, conscious thought that runs through anyone’s mind. But it’s essentially where the whole thing comes from. If you go to a great school, then automatically you have been bestowed with worth and value in the world.
Two articles came across our desks very recently that are worth sharing.
One is a bit tongue in cheek: A high school counselor whose job is to help kids get into college originally compared the process to The Hunger Games, and then yesterday wrote an opinion piece titled “I’m sick of reading about golden kids getting into Harvard. Here’s the story I want to see.” The tl;dr is, there’s all these other great colleges that are totally worthwhile – dubbed “Colleges that Change Lives” – which are overlooked in the hype around Harvard and Stanford et al.
The more important article is this one: “Why We Stopped Participating In US News’ Medical School Rankings” which was written by the deans of two medical schools and appeared in a health journal. That headline says it all, but it’s worth copying in some key phrases:
- Why would they not want to participate in the rankings?
“After scrutinizing what is known about the process, we concluded that continued participation is a disservice to medical school applicants.”
“The medical school rankings have no practical value and fail to meet standards of journalistic ethics.”
- What’s the problem with the process?
It was studied by academics 15 years ago who found the USNews rankings “are ill-conceived; are unscientific; are conducted poorly; ignore medical school accreditation; judge medical school quality from a narrow, elitist perspective; and do not consider social and professional outcomes in program quality calculations.”
- Are you two dudes the only ones who feel this way?
At a conference five years ago, the dean of Yale’s med school said: “I think what’s frustrating everybody … is that there’s nothing really in [U.S. News’] formula that is really evaluating the quality of medical education. That would be so much more useful to the applicants, to the students. And it would incentivize us to do a better job in education.”
All that was just in the first few paragraphs.
EssaySnark has no knowledge of the med school space and we don’t know if this will have any impact at all. These schools are – wait for it – not highly ranked so does anyone really care whether they’re participating in the rankings or not?
In this article at the Washington Post, the main guy at USNews has offered a response (scroll halfway down to find it). He states that their methodology for medical school rankings no longer weighs the students’ GPA or MCAT scores, which, as he says, means that “medical schools don’t have any incentive to favor applicants with super-high MCAT scores and GPAs.”
That is NOT how it works with the USNews bschool rankings . We don’t know the history with the med school rankings or why USNews changed them, and we’re not well informed enough to say anything about whether that change has had an impact on their applicants or that overall market. Every now and then you hear about a bschool who decides to opt out of the rankings system and in all the cases that we’re aware of, they’ve always been lesser-known schools.
The higher-ranked schools have no incentive to opt out. Why would they? They’re higher-ranked.
We will continue to watch with interest and see if this world may change.
The problem is, in most cases, the consequences will hit so far in the future that the cause is practically divorced from the result.
Take the choices you make today about what to eat or drink, or whether to skip the gym or push yourself to go, or how late to stay up tonight binge-watching the latest TV series on HBO. By now we all know the possible outcomes of smoking, and we recognize that more sleep and less caffeine are probably better for us (though there’s debate about the latter), yet in the throes of the day to day, it’s hard to perceive the actual impact. That’s because these things accumulate over time, and it’s typically only after many years of questionable decisions have gone by that the impact will be known in the body.
OK, so before you tune out because we’re waxing too philosophical on you, we have to point out that the decisions you make today will also affect your outcomes in getting into bschool.
We harp on BSers every year at this time that getting started on app strategy early is wise. (Very wise.)
But making a decision is hard – especially when it involves effort. It’s easy to join the gym on January 2nd, when you feel guilty about overindulging on December 31st, and ready to embrace the New Year with all sorts of vows to change. But when January 5th rolls around and it’s dark outside when your alarm goes off, it’s way easier to hit the Snooze button like a gazillion times and blow off your planned early morning trip to the gym entirely.
Decisions about the future are hard, because the person making the decision NOW is not the person who will need to execute on (or live with) the decision LATER. You are assuming that the motivation you feel after finally shaking off that New Year’s Eve hangover on January 2nd, that you will turn over a new leaf and make a real effort of getting into shape this year, will still be intact in your psyche on the remaining 29 days of January when you have committed to yourself that you’ll be going to the gym without missing a day. The person who wakes up on January 5th is simply not that person who made the commitment to join the gym in the first place. The person who wakes up on January 5th is tired and grumpy and hasn’t had any coffee, so who can blame them for not wanting to drag themselves out of bed to subject themselves to the unpleasantness of a grueling early morning workout?
EssaySnark is writing to you today on behalf of your FUTURE SELF.
Your TODAY SELF does not realize how quickly the time will be passing. Your TODAY SELF feels like the Round 1 deadlines in September are a forever away, and that you will get started on your applications soon enough to make it all happen. Your TODAY SELF is living in a mirage.
You do not have all the time in the world. If you start now, you will have JUST ENOUGH time to do all that needs to be done at a reasonable pace without getting too wound up about things. In fact, if you start now, you will still feel that you don’t have enough time at the end – but at least your FUTURE SELF will also feel proud that you took EssaySnark’s advice and didn’t dick around in the Spring, but instead made the most of this long stretch of days and weeks leading up to those deadlines. You will feel stressed, but you won’t be pissed off at your own self for screwing around.
(You will also save money, BTW, if you choose to use our services – all MBA admissions consulting options are super cheap right now!!)
The decision to get started on your MBA applications is one you’ve probably already made. That part is simple. That part is what brought you to the blahg in the first place. And while we compliment you for being forward thinking and planning ahead, and for starting to get started, for most of you reading this today, you haven’t actually gotten started. Instead, you’re pretending to work on your apps by reading the blahg, or the forums, or whatever other MBA-focused site you are frequenting in your daily internet rounds these days.
But you need to recognize that reading blahgs and BSer forums is not actually getting started. Our post today is to exhort you to MAKE A DECISION that your future self will thank you for. And you know what? THIS DECISION IS EASY.
It’s even what Jeff Bezos calls a Type 2 decision – one of low risk:
Some decisions are consequential and irreversible or nearly irreversible – one-way doors – and these decisions must be made methodically, carefully, slowly, with great deliberation and consultation. If you walk through and don’t like what you see on the other side, you can’t get back to where you were before. We can call these Type 1 decisions. But most decisions aren’t like that – they are changeable, reversible – they’re two-way doors. If you’ve made a suboptimal Type 2 decision, you don’t have to live with the consequences for that long. You can reopen the door and go back through. Type 2 decisions can and should be made quickly by high judgment individuals or small groups.
That was from the Amazon 2015 Letter to Shareholders (download here if you’re interested – fascinating read about the way the business is run).
When you read it in context, you realize he’s talking about something quite different than we are today, but it’s still relevant and true to the point we’re making.
It’s the Type 1 decisions that change your life:
- Propose to the girl (or boy)
- Put the bid in on the house
- Accept the transfer to the overseas office
It’s the Type 2 decisions that get you to the point where you can make the Type 1 decisions:
- Buy the engagement ring (you can always return it!)
- Make an appointment with the realtor
- Tell your boss you’ve always wanted to work abroad
You’ve decided you want an MBA – and probably you’ve even taken the GMAT or are in the process of doing so – but both of those are still Type 2 decisions. You’ve committed, but you have not committed.
Even starting on your apps is not committing – that won’t come until you pay the first deposit at a top MBA program sometime next year (and even then it’s not irreversible, you can always decide not to go).
But that “pay the deposit” thing cannot happen until you’re accepted, and that cannot happen until you’ve convinced the adcom that you’re the one they want, and that cannot happen without doing a bang-up job on the app, and that cannot happen without a lot of effort on the essays, and that cannot happen if you don’t get started soon.
Right now, what you’re faced with is a long stretch of days full of many, many opportunities to make Type 2 decisions:
- Shall I go out with the gang to Happy Hour tonight?
- Or shall I stay home and watch Netflix?
- Shall I head to the gym instead?
- Or shall I … work on my MBA application strategy?
All of those seemingly have little to no consequence in your life, but all of them will lead you to very different possible outcomes. The decisions seem inconsequential today, but they change your destiny in the aggregate.