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Success Story! “Snarkly Focused” military officer makes a meal of the GRE

We got an uh-maz-ing contribution from a soon-to-be-bschool-student recently and we’re just gonna share it with you in all its excitement and glory.

Snarkly Focused

‘Snark… I’m not really sure how I stumbled across this goldmine of a website but when I did it completely changed my MBA application strategy. I can attest that without the ‘Snark’s help I would not be going to a top business school.

It was Memorial Day 2013 and I had decided that I needed to start studying for the GMAT if I wanted to get my applications in for the class of 2016. After doing extensive research and self-analysis I quickly realized that the GRE was a better testing option for me. I started a grueling 10-hour/10-week self-study program and aimed to take my GRE in the beginning of August. I viewed studying like the main course of dinner. It was decent; it was substantive and filling. But researching schools? That was like dessert; interesting and exciting. The problem, however, with dessert is that there is so many sweet options and no real way to narrow it down. With the GRE I had a target score but with selecting schools to apply to I had no real direction. I was a military officer who had no mentors or friends who were applying to business school and it was challenging for me to grasp how competitive I was at the top schools. Thankfully I met the ‘Snark.

The single greatest purchase that I made throughout the application process was the Comprehensive Profile Review. (Full Disclosure: I didn’t actually pay for it. ‘Snark is awesome and comp’ed me a pro bono profile review.) The Comprehensive Profile Review gave me objective insight into where I should be applying and what my chances were at those schools. This focus and direction was priceless.

My original plan was to use the fall of 2013 for my application window but that window was instantly shattered in early July when I was told that I was going to deploy in late August. I now had to take the GRE, finalize my resume, write my essays, and complete my applications within 7 weeks. My leisurely plan of Round 2 applications was no longer an option and I was now a Round 1 workaholic.

With my summer being ruined by business school applications and my deployment beginning, I can honestly say that August was a mess. But by the time the calendar turned over to September my applications were complete. Again I cannot reiterate this enough. The only way that I was able to accomplish this monumental task was because ‘Snark caged me into the 4-5 schools that I needed to apply to.

The good news started trickling in by late October, when I was invited to interview by all 5 schools that I applied to. But because of my wonderful situation of being deployed (sarcasm) I had very little time, resources, or flexibility to prepare for interviews. So who did I dial up for help…? You guessed it. ‘Snark.

I purchased several of the ‘Snark’s interview guides. These were extremely helpful in that they explained what principles and tenets are important to each school and (again) gave me focus on what elements of my profile that I needed to highlight. These guides saved me a ton of time and were the key to me crushing my interviews.

In late December I got the great news. I went 5 for 5. I applied to 5 schools and got into 5 schools. I was batting 1000% and looked like I was heading to Cooperstown but after a full-tuition scholarship, I decided to head west of Cooperstown to Ithaca.

From start to finish my MBA application process took about 8 months. 8 months of 5:00 AM study sessions, Summer Saturdays in SoCal doing practice exams, writing admission essays on the back of newspapers in transport helicopters, and making awkward eye contact with my computer camera during Skype interviews. Throughout the journey, however, I knew that I had the support of the ‘Snark.

A few words of wisdom…

  1. Start early.
  2. Use the ‘Snark to provide clarity and to focus your application strategy.
  3. Network. This was one area that really helped me throughout the process. Reach out to current students and alumni in order to learn about the school. I would highly recommend emailing a club that you are interested in. This is a great way to connect with complete strangers over a common interest.
  4. Develop a study and application routine. (Ex. Study on weekday mornings. Work on applications on weekday nights. Practice exams on Saturdays. Admission essays on Sundays.)
  5. Use your friends. They can help you network, they can proofread your essays, they can help translate your industry jargon on your resume, and most of all they can help you celebrate when you get into your dream school.

Wow what a great story – particularly since it’s so clear that there was lots of WORK involved – and no whining! This makes for a great combination in a Brave Supplicant and points to success in all things. We also dig it that this person went it alone – we of course always enjoy helping people one-on-one yet at the same time, we have produced a bunch of resources designed specifically for the do-it-yourselfer type, and it’s very gratifying when people are able to make use of those to such a great extent and see outcomes like this.
Thank you, Military Success Story! And congratulations. You’re going to be in very good company in Ithaca.

($) Joint-degree MBA options.

They’re breeding like rabbits. Business schools everywhere are popping out more and more joint degree and dual degree options. You can get your MBA and… Get a master’s in Electrical Engineering at Stanford – just announced this year. Get a law degree in just three years at many schools like Wharton/Penn Law, Columbia Bschool/Columbia Law,…

While much of the blahg is available completely for free, the content here is reserved for members with full blahg access only ($5.95/month for 6 months, cancel anytime). Please login to view this content or purchase a membership – or return to the home page.

Looks like we dodged a bullet.







Crazy people need not apply.

Since we’re on this subject – not of “crazy people” but of asking for help from us – we would STRONGLY encourage anyone who’s considering engaging us on services to spend some time studying this site. We have a lot of help available with standard answers to common questions — OH LOOK, THERE’S A LITTLE LINK CALLED “HELP” AT THE TOP OF THIS SCREEN!

When our first interaction with a Brave Supplicant is them sending in a bunch of questions about stuff that we cover in that easy-to-find place on the site, well, that just doesn’t create the best of first impressions.

And BTW, you should be taking the same approach with the schools. Before whipping off an email to admissions about something, scour their website and see if you can find the answer yourself.

Yes, the schools track that stuff. No, it won’t get you rejected, but it does matter.

Remember, the schools look for maturity and self-awareness and other measures of emotional intelligence (EQ) – and they also seek to admit leaders. Leaders research answers for themselves before asking for help. It’s just what they do.

Don’t be lazy.

And please, don’t be crazy, either.

($) Here is an example of “show, don’t tell”

This is one of the slipperiest concepts for people to get their heads around – so much so, that we don’t even tend to use that phrase anymore. “‘Show, don’t tell’? What in heck does THAT mean?” Here, today, in the ultimatest of the most meta posts ever, we will SHOW you what “Show, don’t…

While much of the blahg is available completely for free, the content here is reserved for members with full blahg access only ($5.95/month for 6 months, cancel anytime). Please login to view this content or purchase a membership – or return to the home page.

Why we react so negatively to someone focusing on brand or “prestige.”

Any long-time reader of the blahg knows that we don’t care for rankings.

Yes they’re useful as a starting point, but they’re artificial, and they don’t communicate all that much in terms of what you need to know about a school or whether you’re a good fit to the place (or vice versa).

When someone comes to us with a list of target schools that was obviously pulled directly from the rankings, we bristle.

We came across this article recently which really crystalized for us a key reason why we find this focus on brand so distasteful. The author is talking about Indian colleges – the IIMs and XLs – but the point translates equally well to H/S/W. In case you’re a tl;dr type, the main point of that article is that once you graduate and actually start working, you’re tossed out into the Real World and nobody is going to care what school you went to – and in fact, you risk alienating your colleagues tremendously if you trot out your bschool badge all the time.

Here’s the deal:

If you’re saying you want to go to schools A, B, and C because you understand the value that they offer and you know how you would take advantage of the unique opportunities within their distinct curriculas then great. We give you a pass on picking those schools. You’ve done your homework.

But if you’re saying you want to go to schools A, B, and C for no reason whatsoever except that they’re named “A”, “B”, and “C” and everyone has heard of those names and thus you will instantly impress the girl at the cocktail hour when you tell her that you went there…. because it’s such a (EssaySnark fans self) GOOD SCHOOL… and you must therefore be such an IMPORTANT PERSON by mere association…


All that does is tell us you have exceptionally low self-esteem.

Or, that you’re exceptionally puffed up about your own value as a person taking up space and breathing air in this world.

Or sometimes both.

(Yes those two realities can co-exist in the same person, sad but true.)

The thing is, awesome people make it into ALL the schools. And annoying and obnoxious people do, too. (You may be putting EssaySnark in the latter category based on this post today.) Just because a school decides to admit you says NOTHING about you as a person.

Our massive objection to the fixation on rankings and reputation and brand is that it’s just so darned shallow.

The underlying message for many seems to be, “I’m going to School X because I DESERVE IT. Because I’m special. Going to this school is rubber-stamping me. Everyone knows the school is elite, and now you know that I am, too.”

It’s the need for validation that is so sad.

You want to go to a school that is RIGHT for you.

ALL of the top bschools offer a transformational experience.

Do you know why that is?

It’s because they are all:

  • Fast-paced
  • Difficult
  • Different from what you’ve done before

You will be out of your element. For most of you, you’ll be transplanted to a new city, often on a new continent. It will be all new people, and many many new experiences, crammed into a very short timeframe where you’re feeling breathlessly rushed and never can clear your inbox and always playing catch-up. You’ll be in GRAD SCHOOL, which is by definition harder than what you’ve ever done before, probably. If you haven’t been in ANY school for awhile, then it’s gonna totally kick your butt. You will undoubtedly undeniably unescapably change. Transform. Not be the same.

It’s what EDUCATION is about.

The transformation you get at Harvard is NOT more than the transformation you’d get at, say, Ross. If you want to go to bschool to change your life, honestly, we say that the schools are equivalent.

If you want to impress your gramma, great. Tell her all about your fabulous time at Hah-vahd when you go home for the holidays. There will be oohs and ahhs and much awe and appreciation. You will be the golden child.

That will last about 10 minutes, and then another round of schnapps will be served up, and someone will ask Judy when she’s going to find a man, she doesn’t want to end up an old spinster now does she? And the conversation will turn, and the spotlight will be off.

And you will just be you.