Round 1 volumes higher?

We can’t say for sure but it appears that HBS saw another high-volume Round 1 this year.

They allocated 950 interview invites. In recent years, Round 1 volumes have resulted in only ~900 interviews. More interview invites is always a good thing since it would seem that each Rd 1 applicant then has a better chance of getting one – unless the total number of applicants bumped up again.

They also are issuing only 100 Further Consideration invitations, instead of the 200 that they do some years.

Higher interview invites means there was a bigger candidate pool; fewer FC invites means they are not going to have as much room to consider those in-limbo Round 1 applicants in Round 2, since they expect Round 2 will also be very full. So they’re managing the FC pool downwards, which is actually the kind thing to do, since it means fewer disappointed Rd 1 applicants who had gotten their hopes up for months and would inevitably be disappointed at the end of January when FC status changes happen (along with the Rd 2 interview invites).

Why are we bothering to call this out?

Harvard’s app volumes don’t necessarily predict the trend for every other school – though they’re frequently correlated. We expect that correlation to hold true especially this year, when the early HBS Rd 1 deadline meant that all the BSers everywhere got their acts in gear earlier, and the distribution of app due-dates on the calendar was more spread out, which meant that more people were able to get more apps in. We predict that Y-o-Y Round 1 volumes have likely gone up for many schools.

For Harvard in particular, an increase in Round 1 apps means that Round 2 is expected to be, again, really really competitive. There’s always more apps in Round 2, and if this presumed Round 1 trend carries through, then there will be more more apps in Round 2.

It could also mean that the HBS post-interview admit rate for Round 1 may be a little lower.

Generally speaking, getting the invite at HBS is an exceedingly positive sign (“Well duh, EssaySnark”) and you have a loosely 50/50 chance of getting an admit in December if you made it to the interview. (Calling it a “chance” of an admit is not accurate since it’s not a random event; it very much depends on how you do in the interview, which is something that you have direct control over.) Anyway, we’re betting that this post-interview admit rate could be lower this year. Maybe only marginally lower, but lower. Meaning, more people who have made it to the happy place with the HBS interview invitation over the past week are going to end up crushed come December. It’s just what the data implies.

Most schools hold app volume data close to the chest, and they hardly ever break out the numbers by round. It’s typically for the best anyway; it’s only self-serving for a school to crow about how its application volume went through the roof (“Look how popular and great we are!” Kinda like a BSer bragging about their GMAT score.). It doesn’t benefit the applicants in any way, and can only stress people out.

“So EssaySnark, if it’s only going to stress out us BSers, why are you making a big deal about it?”

Because it’s early enough in the season for you to put some risk mitigation plans into effect. Like, if you’ve been sitting on the fence about whether your GMAT score is “good enough” or not, maybe hearing about how competitive it is (again) will bump you into action to do the requisite studying in order to bump up that score.

Or if you procrastinated your life away and didn’t manage to get Round 1 apps in anywhere, then you’ll dive in with your Round 2 app development sooner rather than later. (Like, now would be good.)

Or if you walk away from your 12-noon Eastern time appointment with your inbox tomorrow without an invite from Harvard, that you’ll understand that it’s competitive, especially this year, and lots of great applicants are in exactly your empty-handed shoes. (Without going all sour-grapes and making a bunch of lame-o excuses.) If that happens, don’t let it get ya down. This Harvard business is crazy these days.

($) Pro Tip: How to pronounce business school names

Fuqua? McDonough? Kenan-Flagler? INSEAD? Haas? Ever wondered how in heck to say these words? You might want to figure it out before you talk to anybody about them. Like, in an interview perhaps? These are not official phonetic spellings (we’re not sure the rules of all that), they’re just our attempt to help you not…

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Success Story! With an outcome unexpected even to the BSer. Part 1

Some BSers come and go in EssaySnark’s world – and some stick around for awhile! It’s always a pleasure getting to know you people through this grueling process (and we often feel like we really do know you! just like your MMA coach! 😉 after all, sharing your essays with us is sharing the most important parts of yourselves. we are honored to be part of that). Anyway one BSer from last season has remained in touch throughout the entire process and has graciously written up the entirety of their journey – not once, but twice! They submitted today’s story to us originally, which covers the sequence of events that caused this person to seek out an MBA in the first place, and how they stumbled into working with us. They then went back and wrote some more later. So awesome! You’ll get to enjoy this for a few weeks running.

One Brave Supplicant’s Journey to EssaySnark, Part 1

It’s been a trip. I’m happily entering a top executive program this fall, but five years ago my view of people who got MBA degrees in order to wear suits and work in profit-making corporate enterprises was summed up nicely by an early 20th century art school dropout: “To be smart enough to get all that money you must be dull enough to want it.” I still love the sentiment, actually. But this is the story of how I went from a technical specialist with no career ambitions to interviewing with a top management consulting firm, to applying to business schools and reaching out to EssaySnark.

And thank goodness I’m done writing essays. Consulting with EssaySnark was a huge part of putting together compelling applications and telling stories that added value and authenticity to my my raw numbers. But it was like working with an MMA coach who will ask you to spar, pressure you until you are bruised and on the verge of tears, then back off just enough for you to pull yourself together and realize that you can learn how to improve yourself. And then you go back for even more. In other words, it was a difficult but valuable process.

So back to the story.

I was a late bloomer. It wasn’t until my twenties were drawing to a close that I started to figure things out. I suspect this is a normal time for personal growth, so it makes sense that the best full-time MBA programs want this demographic—this segment is ripe for personal development and transformational experiences. But I will skip over how it took five years of hard work, caring mentors, and being driven to tears repeatedly by self-realizations and admonishments to finally become myself. I won’t mention the five-month sabbatical I took to backpack across another continent, where I learned how to step off a train into a foreign city with no preparation and basic language skills. I won’t mention how my biggest professional failure destroyed my confidence in the short term but taught me about management and communication. I won’t mention the friends I met who drew me out of myself further and further each year, nor the coach who expected great things despite my complete and utter lack of any physical talent or coordination, who took me under his wing and pushed me harder than I thought possible to build a better me than I could have imagined. I’m going to skip over all the friends and mentors and life-changing experiences that have helped me–let’s just say that by my early thirties I was getting the itch to push myself professionally as well as personally. This is where consulting enters the picture.

Actually, I should mention my background first, so you can understand the gulf I was facing when I looked towards a career switch. I have several STEM degrees, which is normal enough for a prospective consultant, but I work in a niche analysis group in an organization that is not ordered along the usual corporate or government lines. In other words, while I may have transferrable analytical skills, I have no idea what a business that is concerned with goods and services is like, or how it feels to be concerned about market share, competitive advantage, or financial statements and investor relations. Consulting was going to be a leap. However, one of my favorite people in the world was a consultant, and she was encouraging me. She has an MBA from a Top 3 Program and has worked at an elite management consulting firm long enough to be leading teams. This friend is smart, successful, ambitious, and possibly the most thoughtful and caring person I know. We spent a lot of time together in 2010, and in 2011 she told me, “You would make a good consultant, because you are smart and you speak in a structured fashion.” She was the first person with an MBA I got to know personally, and she set the standard in many ways. With her encouragement and my new, hard-won confidence, I was ready to make a change.

Unfortunately, I did not know how to make the transition from my technical career into a business consulting role. When my friend passed my resume to the recruiting department at her firm, I was rejected. (Actually, I have a decent profile –it was a poorly-written resume, one which did not accurately reflect my accomplishments, although I did not know that then). At the same time, however, I was researching the cottage industry that preps people for consulting case interviews. Based on only a few clues and some online writing, I picked one of the coaches in this segment and sent him my resume and an overly-long and apologetic email asking for help. Over the course of two Skype interviews I was drilled on my background, accomplishments, reasons for becoming a consultant, and tested on ability to maintain poise under pressure. This was the toughest interview I have ever faced, worse than interviewing with partners at an international strategy consulting firm, and worse than MBA interviews at several top-ten programs. But after the interview he offered to work with me. The training was challenging, and I struggled to pick up the skills to pass case interviews. We also spent three months rewriting my resume, and I was coached through the networking process. Although this may sound like a straightforward development process, it was not. Watch the 1997 film The Game and imagine being Michael Douglas to see what I mean.

After six months of work, I finally earned an invitation to interview with a prestigious strategy firm. This was a huge boost to my confidence—I don’t have an MBA, my profile is full of highly specialized technical achievements, and there are no well-known corporate or Ivy League brands on my resume. I made it past the first round of interview and aced two cases in the final round, but tripped on my shoelaces coming out of the gate on a straightforward profitability case and never recovered. They declined me, of course. For anyone keeping track, I now have rejections from two elite consulting firms. It was a setback, but actually my resolve was strengthened.

At the advice of my coach, I took a sabbatical from work and networking to go for a long walk. (You will know what kind of walk this was if you have seen The Way with Martin Sheen or read Wild by Cheryl Strayed, which Reese Witherspoon has turned into a box office hit). During that sabbatical I decided to go for an MBA. What I learned about consulting during the networking and interviewing cemented my desire to switch careers and consult—either at the corporate management level, or doing something that more directly leverages my technical background. Seeing myself stumble because I did not know how to think about business problems and did not know how to lead the case convinced me that I needed an MBA. (In the immediate aftermath of the rejection my coach suggested I had a confidence problem, and it took me two years to understand what he meant. Now I understand: my networking success meant that it was not a communications issue. When I eventually earned a 99% score on the GMAT that I realized it couldn’t be a mental horsepower issue. Therefore my problem was business judgment or, more likely, confidence. An MBA would address both of these, so going for the degree made sense).

We are almost to the point where EssaySnark enters the picture. Actually, I’m pretty sure I ran across the Blahg at some point while I was studying for the GMAT, but I regrettably did not engage. Instead, I reached out to another MBA student turned admissions consultant, who had just recently earned admission to several elite programs. This was a mistake, and the time I lost prevented me from being ready for Round 1 applications (However, I am satisfied with the final outcome, so I don’t regret this mistake… very much). For all the reasons EssaySnark writes about, people who succeeded in getting themselves in may not be well qualified to help others. In addition, this consultant acted unprofessionally. The biggest mistake I made was to excuse consistently delayed email responses. I should have politely disengaged. Sigh.

It’s after all of this that I finally reached out to EssaySnark.

By the way, one of the marks of a good consultant is professional values. Just like a doctor, lawyer, or engineer, consultants must be willing to put their clients’ interests first, maintain confidentiality, etc. (Note that putting the client’s interest first does not mean making the client happy, or doing what the client expects. It means doing what is best for the client. This is a subtle but important distinction). Furthermore, these values must come at a cost, or they do not come at all. For example, not making time to answer my emails in a timely fashion speaks volumes about what the first admissions consultant I worked with valued. So not only did my career coach teach me how to network, and not only did EssaySnark help me write better essays, but they were also teaching me how to be a good consultant by example.

But wait! There’s more! Please come back next week for a continuation of this – we think you’ll agree – seriously fascinating story.

($) The best way to prepare for ANY interview

Moving away from Harvard for a moment (not that we’re not fully aware that the second wave of invites is happening today): Let’s talk about MBA interviews in general. Or more specifically: What’s the best way to shine in this all-important meeting? This advice is applicable to any interview – MBA or otherwise. In the…

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($) The best way to prepare for your Harvard interview.

This advice is mostly specific to Harvard. And we’re already bracing ourselves for the retorts we’re gonna get for it — “EssaySnark, are you kidding?!?? That’s so damned basic. You’re an idiot.” — but it’s the truth. Or, one of the many truths, when it comes to preparing for your all-important meeting with the Harvard…

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First cut of Harvard invites coming today

Not like we need to remind you! 😀

Dee Leopold walked through the process on the HBS Director’s Blog yesterday and of course we did the same a few weeks ago (our post includes some handy dandy timezone conversions).


It all happens at 12 noon Boston time today – that’s U.S. Eastern time. If you don’t get an email by, say, 12:05, it ain’t coming, bucko.

But we hope it does!! We wish all of you Brave Supplicants the best of luck!


To help pass the time:


And for those getting the golden ticket:

($) The wanderer wants to use bschool to find a new path.

“All who wander are not lost” – maybe not, but some of them are. 😉 Sometimes, someone who’s had a bit of a rough time of it career-wise sees the golden opportunity that bschool can be. They want a do-over. Maybe they majored in a subject they detested during college (usually in an attempt to…

While much of the blahg is available completely for free, the content here is reserved for members with full blahg access only ($9.95/month, cancel anytime). Please login to view this content or purchase a membership – or return to the home page.