Good luck with your Round 1 applications!

We were supposed to have something to post today. But we don’t. Because essays. Snarkville is hopping with support for you last-minute types. If you need help on anything, don’t hesitate to ask – but we don’t have any especial wisdom to share on the bschool app process today.

Check back tomorrow, when hopefully our act will be more fully together again.

And good luck with all those apps you’re scrambling to submit!

The realities of being an international student at a U.S. business school

Read this – from a Yale SOM first-year from China.

And then this – from BusinessWeek, about the hurdles, both legal and cultural, that international students face when trying to find work in the U.S.

Certain career paths are much more open to foreigners wanting to work in the U.S. In general, marketing and brand management are quite difficult to transition to if you’ve never lived in the host country. Branding and advertising require so much on cultural nuances that it’s presumed that an outsider would just sort of suck at that role. Consulting (especially IT consulting if that was your prior background) and certain segments of financial services are more open to international applicants, but you’d better be a superstar. After all, there’s plenty of Americans around to fill the job. Why should they go through the hassle of sponsoring you for the visa? You will need to impress the recruiter with your technical skills (modeling, not programming) and your soft skills too. If you’re too stiff in the interview, or if you don’t get comfortable with the American style – or if you commit a faux pas around personal space or any of the myriad other ways you can blunder in this society – then it’s going to be difficult to convince any recruiter that you’ll fit in, and thrive, in their work environment. (Hopefully everyone already got the memo on deodorant.)

Bschool is an intense experience – you’re shoved into what sometimes feels like a hostile environment with all these Type-A people going a mile a minute. If you’re dealing with language barriers on top of the hectic pace, it can be super challenging and very very stressful.

On top of that, some Americans are pretty darned clueless when it comes to people from other cultures (this guy is a politician in Washington, for criminy’s sake). You’re not likely to deal with people that culturally out of it on campus, but you might – and the rest of America is not the melting pot that your bschool classroom will be.

Be prepared for all aspects of the experience. Yes, the U.S. MBA can be awesome, transformative, completely revolutionary in terms of what it can do for your career and your life. And yet, it’s not the easiest journeys to embark upon (that’s true if you’re an American too!). Eyes open as you walk into this, Brave Supplicant. Do your research, and build a network, and have the right expectations for what it will bring you. And good luck! Of course we hope you get into the school of your dreams. :-)

($) Want to extend your Wharton MBA longer than two years?

OK, so admittedly, that headline is misleading; we don’t know of any full-time MBA program that’s actually a full two years. When we talk about a “two-year MBA” we literally mean from August of one year, through May of the second year following. So that’s really like 21 months. In the Spring of your second…


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success story! “I worked with the setbacks and charged on”

Just in time to motivate some of you slaving-away BSers: A Success Story to share!


About this time last year I was reeling from a much lower-than-expected GMAT score (about 70 points lower than my goal), having spent the entire summer taking a class and studying non-stop. I was starting to have a lot of doubt in my decision to apply to business school, since it looked as though Round 1 just wouldn’t be happening. It was a rough time, because I had basically put all my eggs into this b-school basket – earlier in the year, when the Air Force gave me a new assignment and a different job, I had opted to decline. Of course this meant that I would serve out the remaining 9 months of my service commitment and then be forced to separate from the Air Force in May. But the timing could not have been more perfect for applying to business school, which had long been in the back of my mind. In February 2013, all the pieces seemed to fall into place.

But my original timeline quickly eroded. That original plan had been to spend several months during the summer studying for the GMAT, ace it, put together my essays, and throw it all into Round 1 applications, and submit. I’m sure it’s an overly-optimistic timeline that essaysnark sees all the time. After that GMAT score came back disappointingly low, I wasn’t sure exactly what to do. I knew I still wanted to apply to business school, but I needed some guidance, and somehow stumbled on essaysnark’s free comprehensive profile review for military members. I decided it’d be worth having someone review my profile and see what chances I had at the schools I planned to apply to. I’ll admit, essaysnark pulls no punches, and the feedback was blunt, but it was what I needed to hear – some of the schools I was targeting were just not going to be possible for me without some sort of miracle or adcom mistake. They suggested a few other schools I should consider. Some I decided to go with, some I didn’t. But the biggest take-away was that I needed to have a clearer career goal and my GMAT needed work.

So I went back to the books, studying and practicing the GMAT even harder than before. It may be one of the toughest things I’ve ever done, but damn did it feel rewarding when my score jumped 80 points and pushed me past my original goal! But as most of you know, a good GMAT score doesn’t get you in alone, so while I may have bumped my profile up to be a viable candidate, I was nowhere nearer to completing my essays – in fact, by the beginning of December I hadn’t even started! I let essaysnark know about the new score, and they promptly gave me a response telling me how it changed my chances. I narrowed down my school list to four, since by now my time was incredibly constrained and knew I could only produce four quality applications in the 30 or so days I had left before Round 2 deadlines.

The whole month of December I became an essay writing machine. Not because I was terribly efficient, but because I had no choice but to crank them out. While I wish I had had a little more time to construct the essays and get feedback (particularly from essaysnark), I honestly put my heart and soul into them, and I hold no regrets. I worked with the setbacks put in front of me and charged on. It was such a relief after hitting the last submit button on the last Round 2 application. At that point I didn’t even care too much how it all panned out, I was just proud to have survived the battle.

The next two months I relaxed, but eagerly awaited notification of interview invites. I was pretty elated when I received invites from three out of the four schools I applied to. I was riding high! I tried to do on-campus interviews for all, but was only able to find time off to visit two of them. During one of the on-campus interviews I made a disheartening discovery – I didn’t really like the school. It didn’t feel right to me. At that point I wished I had visited the campus beforehand, so I could have applied to another school that may have worked out better. Oh well.

In March, my Round 2 applications closed out with two admittances (one with a hefty scholarship), 1onewaitlist (my dream school), and one rejection. I attended the admit weekend for the school that offered me a scholarship, the first time I had ever set foot on the campus. This time everything fell into place – the school seemed an awesome fit, and I quickly made friends, developed career contacts, and found myself at home. I accepted the offer, although I will admit, I spent the better part of the summer trying to convince my dream school to let me in off the waitlist, to no avail. It was a disappointment, especially being strung out that long, but I also had a long time to prepare for the eventual rejection – which conveniently was plenty of time to get excited about the school that wanted me so badly they were willing to give me money!

By now I’ve been at my school for a month and a half, but so far it has truly been an amazing experience. It’s still early on, but I feel at home, which in the end, is what’s really important.

Take-Aways:

  • Take tests way in advance if possible so they’re not a factor in your application timeline
  • Visit the schools you’re applying if you have the time and money
  • Be ready for setbacks. And more setbacks. And disappointment. Keep your head up regardless.
  • Be honest with yourself – know what you’re capable of and don’t delude yourself

Mostly we just have to say THANK YOU to this former BSer – thanks for the great write-up, of course, but also THANK YOU for not blowing us off! Yours was a story we’ve been tracking for over a year now and when you got those admits back in the Spring, we knew it would be awesome to be able to share it with this current crop of applicants struggling with the same issues – yet as soon as you moved to campus we were worried you’d fall into the void that is Daily Life at Business School and we’d never hear from you again. Thank you for coming through for us with this great tale of your adventure in getting in! We’re not surprised that you feel you’re at home, given the amazing place you ended up. Life has this weird way of working out in our favor, despite our best efforts to the contrary at times. ;-) Good luck to you and we hope you’ll stop by at some future time with an update of the experience!

Even though stories work well in bschool essays…

We saw a lot of this happen even before our series of posts on telling stories in your MBA essays, but unfortunately it’s gotten worse.

We need to state this for the record:

DEVELOPING MBA ESSAYS IS NOT A CREATIVE-WRITING ENDEAVOR.

Since most of you have no experience with creative writing, that should be good news!

However, this post is directed more at those of you who believe yourselves to be good writers.

Writing a (good) business school admissions essay is unlike any writing you’ve done before (probably).

If in your spare time you currently dabble in poetry, or short stories, or you’ve got the Great American Novel in the works – awesome! That little tidbit might even be worth mentioning somewhere in your apps. That’s unique – especially if you’ve been published (even if it was for something small).

But that type of writing does not belong in your essays.

If at work you write research reports, or you’ve contributed to some type of peer-reviewed publication, or you develop sales proposals or marketing collateral – great! That totally should be featured on your resume. All of that is going to be valuable for your adcom reader to know about.

But that type of writing does not belong in your essays.

(Especially the breathlessly hyped-up marketing shtick that we often see.)

Bschool essays need to be fact based. They need to focus on what you did in a certain situation, or what you want to do in the future with your goals.

Your objective is not to show the reader that you are a fabulous writer.

You should not be trotting out fancy words and super long, convoluted sentences as a way to sound smart.

Most people don’t do this intentionally – but what happens is, you open up Word and you’re staring at the screen and trying to figure out what to say, and you look at the essay prompt, and you type out one tentative sentence of what you think the answer should be… and you type out another… and then pretty soon you’re in full-on Essay Writing Mode, and without even realizing it, you’ve turned into this pretentious wanna-be poseur person where every word you choose is made of marshmallow and Cool-Whip. As in, fluff, and lots of it.

It’s not your fault. Most schools don’t teach how to put together a thought on the page. It’s the trap of the Smart Kid, and all of you BSers are smart. This stuff is hard.

The main cause of this is not necessarily a lack of writing ability – it’s a lack of THINKING ability. And often that means a lack of focus. And, if you consider yourself “A Writer”, well, in our experience, this process is going to be even more difficult for you. Your habits of creativity may get in the way. You may sabotage yourself quite severely.

In order to have an essay with substance, you need to know what the answer to the question is BEFORE you start writing. The words don’t matter; the IDEAS do. If you start writing without knowing what you’re going to say, then your draft is going to wander off into the woods and you will end up getting lost like Hansel and Gretl – and you won’t even know it, because you’ll be dropping those fancy words like bread crumbs along the way, thinking you’re safe. Because you can write!

This is the kind of thing we can warn you about, but most people are unable to diagnose this ailment in their own work. You are too close to it; you would never try to write mind-numbingly ridiculousness unto the page. It just happens. And once it’s happened, well… that draft is DONE. Why would you want to rip it apart? It’s the right length, it looks all bright and shiny, sitting there on the screen smiling at you without any of Word’s red squiggly lines announcing a problem – it must be great!

Nobody ever sends in drafts for us to review knowing that they suck (OK, every now and then people do … sometimes for a halfway decent reason, typically not). When someone sends over a draft they believe that it’s done. Most people, their first time out with this process, probably even expect us to come back telling them how good their essays are.

Nope. Hardly ever happens. Even with those who are “good” writers (or maybe especially not for those).

This is a different type of writing. It can be a shock to get back a reviewed essay from us, with how ripped-to-shreds it typically is. But that’s what happens for most people. From there, most people are able to reflect on the feedback and look back at the essay question, and take a deep breath (and maybe some gummi bears) and dive in again. And more often than not, the second drafts we see are kinda good. It’s a process.

But don’t assume that just because your friends think your essays are really good, that they actually are.

And if YOU think the drafts you’ve come up with are really good…. well, we certainly hope that you’re right!!!!

($) “Beware of GMAT Score Cancellations” and the optional essay

When the GMAC changed their GMAT testing procedure to allow test-takers to cancel the score at the end, after previewing it, we laid out our opinion that nobody should ever cancel their score. What if you have canceled a score? What should you do about it? Is it something you need to worry about? Well…


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If you are human, you do not have “underlings”

Several months ago someone sent in an email that started like this:

I just read your military blog piece, I have a couple of bosses and underlings who never respond to emails, totally drives me crazy haha.

Apparently they were referring to this post where we called out some people for a lack of manners. And apparently this opening was meant to show us that they had actually read our site and were thus in the “in” crowd, or something.

But “underlings”? Really?

What kind of jerk is this?

People, please. Even if you’re trying to be cute (haha), email is never the place to use such borderline-slang, particularly when you’re, uh, trying to get a complete stranger to do something for you, and thus – we presume? – trying to come across as professional, or at least, a decent human being.

We get it, everything is casual now, but, just, ugh.

Along those lines: We recently read an essay from a BSer who mentioned the “girls” that he works with. “Girls”? Yeah yeah we know, innocent mistake. But. Let’s enter the year 2014 shall we.

These incidents brought to mind this post we read about a female CEO who says she’s being propositioned by the programmers she’s trying to hire. Item #3 on her list of what it’s like to be a female CEO includes a screenshot of an email she received – heck, we’ll just include a snippet of the whole thing here:

Article from female CEO on inappropriate emails she receives

It’s pretty damn lame that some jerk-o said that to her; totally inappropriate and inexcusable.

Except… just wondering if we have the whole story on that? If you’ll notice, the subject line of the email which presumably she sent to the programmer just says “Hey” – which indicates that they were already on a very casual basis. We get it, the Valley is casual, that’s its nature, everyone is young and hip and nobody has time for formalities. But if your relationship with someone is such that you’re sending emails of “Hey” – especially if this is an email from you as CEO of a company – well, it implies that these two were friendly. (We actually left a comment on the article saying exactly this but the CEO-author-person didn’t approve it for publication.)

Even if there is more context and they were friends – they couldn’t have been close, since he doesn’t know if she’s single or not – no matter what, none of that would excuse the dude’s response. Like, what was he thinking? Did he really expect to get a positive reaction from that?

Oh yeah, “haha”.