“I’m so excited! I got into my safety school!”

…said no BSer, ever.


The whole idea of “safety school” is, to EssaySnark, totally demoralizing and depressing.

Look at it like this: If you are not excited about going to a particular business school, and are only applying there because you are lacking confidence in your chances to such an extent that you’re willing to lower your standards to that point… well, isn’t there perhaps another way to look at it?

A diversified list of targets is of course a smart strategy. We do not believe that everyone should be applying only to H/S/W and then throw in Columbia or Kellogg to round it out. No. If you’re SERIOUS about getting into bschool then you need a considered approach, based on YOU and what you need/want out of bschool, and what your school of interest is looking for.

One idea: If you decide you need to add a “safety school” to the mix… Do your research on the programs and talk to people at the schools you’re considering. If you do enough of this, then a) you’ll be able to rule out, in advance, the schools that you actually would NOT want to attend, and b) you’re very likely to be surprised and even find yourself falling in love with the program you’d previously dissed with this label of “safety school.”

Every program is unique. When you dig in with understanding what a school is about, then it’s probable you will become surprised by how awesome it is.

Yes, awesome.

Even if they happen to have a higher admit rate.

Don’t be a bschool snob, people. It would be a shame to be brought back to reality in December by being rejected by schools that you deign to be in the “safety” category.

And please don’t think that a school like Duke or NYU or Berkeley is a “safety school.” The ignorance behind such a statement is laughable. For many people, those schools are just as hard to get into – if not harder – than Wharton.

What’s a “safety school” is vastly different for one profile versus another. But honestly, we don’t like that term at all. It just seems disrespectful to the school, and disrespectful to yourself.

If you’re settling so much to even consider applying to a certain school, to label it in this derogatory way, then why bother applying? It doesn’t seem like you’re all that enthused about it.

So either get enthused – by finding out more about them – or strengthen your profile and come at this swinging for the fences, after doing the legwork and homework and all the other kinds of work needed to make your first-choice programs in range for you.

If you end up at the far end of this whole cycle in Spring of 2016 with only an admit to a “safety school” in hand, are you going to be satisfied with that? (Especially after you blabbed around to everyone that that school is in the “safety school” category for you?)

“Reach school” is certainly an appropriate label for many (most) people to use for lots of school targets – though frankly we often feel that putting more energy into realistic school targets makes a helluva lot more sense than cranking out apps to schools that the person really doesn’t have a shot at. But that’s an individual decision. Having a well-considered portfolio of MBA targets that includes one or two reaches makes sense (provided, again, you do your homework and actually KNOW why you’re applying to them – beyond just the brand name, which is such a superficial criteria it’s ridiculous – the whole “M7″ thing just makes us laugh).

But this talk about “safety school” just seems slightly insulting to the schools, and also you could be setting yourself up for a tasty meal of crow in a few months, if you don’t manage the whole situation carefully.

Maybe it’s just semantics. Most people shouldn’t even be bothering with apps and strategies for their second-tier schools now anyway. The whole definition of a school that’s easier to get into means that your app to that school can be safely relegated to Round 2. So it’s not like you need to identify these Plan B schools right away.

When you’re talking about your schools of interest, just keep an open mind – and some humility. It’s an attractive position to operate from.

Do you qualify for an application fee waiver?

Most people do not.

However, many (not all) bschools offer a goodwill gesture in waiving the app fee to certain groups of candidates, specifically those who currently serve or recently exited from the U.S. military, or Teach for America. Some schools extend this to Teach for China and Teach for India, as well as the Peace Corps. In most cases you need to have been active in service within the past two years to qualify.

Duke is also very community-minded, in that they offer some fee waivers to applicants who get a letter of support from a Duke student or alum.

A variety of schools will offer waivers or at least discounts on applying if you attend one of their info sessions for women or minority candidates. Again, Duke has a bunch of these.

Yale implemented a sliding fee scale in 2014 based on income (though we said at the time it was announced that it seemed like a PR ploy).

Why are we mentioning this? Obviously it’s nice when a school has such programs available – but if you don’t act fast, you won’t be able to benefit from them.

If you’re in one of these categories, you need to request your waiver now. In almost all cases, the school needs to get your request ahead of time – BEFORE you are ready to submit – so that they can review your documentation and then configure your account in their app system to let you submit without requiring payment.

Lots of people wait till the last minute on lots of things to do with their MBA applications. Lots of things can bite you in the butt if you do that. This is one case where schools are being generous to certain candidate groups. If you’re eligible for one of these discounts, you may as well take advantage of it!

($) Where’s the line between spinning your stories, and lying?

After completing a resume review some months back, we got a very good question from a sincere BSer. This person is not coming from the traditional MBA profile and was struggling to put together a resume – a new task for them! As the post title indicates, they asked us: “Where is the line between…


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Continuing with our Interviewing Guide giveaway for those brave souls diving in with our Complete Essay Package, congratulations this week to rchinga! You’ll get an email from Team EssaySnark soon with details on sending you your free guide.

When all that hard work pays off…

We were tangentially involved in the process of getting in for one BSer last season and thought we’d share the note we received after we sent them our congratulations on their successes:

Hi squirrels,

I did see your comment on my success at [Great School] from last week — I’ve been enjoying something of a respite from, well, anything remotely productive since getting the good news, so getting back to you fell by the wayside for a few… weeks. As I’m sure you can imagine, getting the call from [Great School] was incredible news. They’ve been my top choice for as long as I’ve been interested in b-school, and all others have been attempts to hedge in one way or another (with the clarity of hindsight, Wharton was not a good fit for me, for example [despite the strong healthcare focus]). I just submitted the deposit today, and it feels amazing.

While I really appreciate the excellent quality of the CPR, résumé review, and strategy guides, I’d prefer not to share my story publicly (I’ve been very cautious through this process for a few reasons, and will need to continue to be so for a few more months, unfortunately). I would like to thank you for the help, though: The CPR, especially, might be the single most valuable step I took in the application process (I’ll make sure to review it on the website). Your combination of unvarnished truth, a la carte services at reasonable prices, and a little humor in a process that can be way too serious was exactly what I needed, and I hope it continues to pay off for you (I’m recommending you to a friend who’s applying next season as I type this). So thanks for everything,
[Brave Supplicant]


Thanks, former Brave Supplicant – we always appreciate the kind words and referring others our direction! (Did you know that we offer a referral bonus? Have your friend submit your name to us through My SnarkCenter after they sign up and well send you a thank-you gift in appreciation!) This BSer is now well on their way to bschool so no risk in sharing this now… we understand the need for discretion along the way. Good luck to them, and GOOD LUCK TO YOU! We hope you also make it into your first-choice school this year!!!!

Fail early.

There’s this odd fetish in Silicon Valley these days with failure. It’s, like, celebrated and stuff. We don’t get it.

No of course we get it – in the context of startups, we understand that any successful venture is unlikely to be successful the very first time out of the gate. The adage is to iterate fast and go through lots of ideas and find the ones that really work – and pursue them relentlessly – and if you realize that they don’t work, well, don’t sweat it, cross that one off as a failure and pivot or whatever and dump all your drive and ambition into the next plan. The assumption is that you need to make some mistakes before you find your groove.

(That’s oversimplified but it’s our take on the general attitude out in CA.)

While we’re not a fan of “celebrating” failure since failure is, um, whassicalled, oh yeah, failure – we also can tell you that in the domain of bschool admissions, if you’re going to fail – that is, not make it in – then we strongly encourage you to get that out of the way early.

Like, early.

You really need to apply in Round 1.

Not only are there advantages in terms of chances of admission, particularly at the top-top schools and even more particularly for residents of any super-oversubscribed class (at any top school, not just top-top ones) but Round 1 also offers this major huge advantage TO YOU. If you don’t get in, then you have actionable information you can then use in Round 2. Basically, if your Round 1 apps go over with a thud, then guess what? You now know that they sucked! You can adjust course and try again in Round 2. That is just all-around HUGE in terms of advantages.

If you wait till Round 2 for your first apps, then it’s all of those eggs in the proverbial one basket. There is no Round 3 (well, there is, but it’s really not a smart move for most people at most schools).

Hopefully all of you BSers won’t fail AT ALL! Hopefully your first apps will be your last apps.

But nobody can guarantee that.

This is why you need to be getting yourself in gear for Round 1.

There are some cases when it will prove impossible. If your GMAT score just isn’t up to snuff, then obviously no, we’re not suggesting to apply anyway. You need to have your apps be the best they can be. Don’t just cram in a bunch of submits because it’s supposed to be “easier to get in.” It’s never “easy” for anyone. The ones who sail through the process are the ones who bust butt and put in the work to make it happen in the months and, usually, year(s) before ever getting ready to push that little Submit button.

If you’re just waking up to the reality that Round 1 is on its way, there’s still time! Just don’t let this precious opportunity slip past due to some avoidable unable-to-get-it-togetherness on your part.

F@ck failure. May we soon be celebrating your successes in Snarkville!

($) What we recommend you don’t do in your Stanford essays.

Honestly, if you’re applying to Stanford, you need to pick up our Stanford essay guide. We keep getting confirmation after confirmation that our advice is sound (besides the obvious fact that our clients get in all the time! 😀 ). First it happened in the biggest way possible this year: Harvard (sort of) changed their…


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.