We were talking about partners applying together recently and figured we’d take the opportunity to issue a reminder: What the schools say, and what you may be hearing, are often very different things. Frequently the admissions directors are asked about this topic in info sessions, and what they will usually do is play to their…
That is the statement on the Kellogg website . And it’s what the admissions directors at many other schools have told us for years. Yet we often get BSers who believe that if their GMAT score is super high, and they indicate on their application that they’re applying with their spouse or boy/girlfriend whose GMAT…
Our customer support folks at Team EssaySnark got this email recently:
Today we’ll offer up some Curmudgeonly Old-Person Snark advice on how to email.
“‘How to email’?!? C’mon EssaySnark, I’ve been emailing since I was born! I know how to email.”
Ah, Grasshopper, but do you?
Please go back to that email and think through what it conveys.
You can scroll down to see what WE think it conveys after you have done so.
No really, did you think about it? What are your thoughts? Or are you just scrolling straight to what we think? Use your own thinking first, Grasshopper!
Let’s start at the beginning. Here is the situation.
1. This person is emailing a generic customer service account at some company.
2. This person is likely frustrated that they don’t have access to the product that they thought they should have access to, and harumph dang it, they NEED access, and now have to frickin jump through some hoops and d@mn what a hassle.
Who knows if that’s all of it, but likely that covers 75% of what was going on in the head of the sender. Writing this email is a reflection of that person’s state of mind at the time, which — we’re only guessing here and extrapolating based on very few facts — was probably some form of irritation, impatience, and possibly anxiety too, if this person is sending this note because they were either a) invited to interview at Stanford (yay!) and want the help of our essay guide, or b) put on the waitlist at Stanford (F__k!) and need the help of our essay guide. Or, it could simply be a Round 3 applicant who realized that the deadline is fast approaching and got wound up with the stress from that (ack!! sh!t!!).
Regardless of which it is, we can assume that some degree of emotions and a sense of franticness may have been involved, thus the brevity of the request.
Let’s move on.
As a recipient of this email, what would be going on in the head of the Team EssaySnark person?
Well, think about it. If you were a customer service type worker, what would be your reaction to getting that email?
Because — and here’s our #1 point to offer today: Even when you’re sending an email or request to some big (or small) corporation on the internet, it is always a person who reads it.
This email-sender clearly was taught good manners by their parents. There’s a “please” and a “thank you” in this message.
There’s even a modicum of a salutation.
But on the whole, well hm.
It does not exactly come across as a request now, does it?
This person was asking for assistance on their account. It wasn’t that there was a technical issue with the EssaySnark servers. It’s not that the EssaySnark service had let them down or was not functioning properly. This person had bought a subscription to one of our essay guides, and that subscription had expired. They were asking for a gimme. “Please give me access even though the access that I have paid for is over.” (Plus, 10 minutes to 5 on a Friday. That’s fun.)
It’s like walking into your gym after you canceled your membership and demanding to work out. For free. When you have not paid anything for it.
Therein lies the rub: This email comes across as a demand. Not a request.
When you’re asking for help, then the tone of your ask kinda matters, don’t it?
Yes we understand, this person was in a hurry. They were probably emailing from their phone and we know how sucky it is to try and write an email on a mobile.
But we didn’t even get a subject line on it, and we definitely didn’t get any warm-fuzzies or sense of gratitude in how it was phrased.
Technically there’s nothing wrong with what they sent in; again, they have the requisite “please” and “thank you.”
But it’s kinda like when you’re in an argument with someone and they pop off with an “I’m sorry you feel that way.”
As if the “I’m sorry” in that sentence counts as an apology.
Um, no. That “sorry” is not a “sorry” it’s a backhanded attempt at asserting your own righteousness.
EssaySnark may be of a dying breed, of those who care about good manners, who believe that taking a bit of time in crafting even an email correspondence is the right way to interact with a fellow human. We have a surprising number of posts talking about such things here on the blahg.
But check it out, Grasshopper.
At least for now, and into the foreseeable future, the people who control your destiny are more likely than not to be wired like EssaySnark. Those making the admit/deny decisions on your MBA apps. Those determining whether you’re a good fit for their company. Those wanting to offer you a job or who you will report to up the chain in your new company.
Not all of them care. But a lot of them do.
Call us the dinosaurs who are still occupying space in corporate America, but we exist out there. And until you Millennials have completed your takeover of the world, you’ll have to deal with us.
Making us dinosaurs happy — or at least, not being an irritating schmuck in your interactions — might help you get where you want to go in life a tiny bit easier.
You probably are totally not interested in but you may want to read anyways:
- First Impressions and Ongoing Professionalism: Email Etiquette
- A simple suggestion for all you Millennials making your way in the world.
- How to contact the MBA admissions office.
PS: If you’re really wanting to be kind to a customer service person on some internet site, and efficient in getting your request addressed, then include the username you used to register or the correct email address that you signed up under. Don’t make that poor schmuck dig around to figure out who you are. It may also help to keep in mind: You’re probably paid way more than any customer service person in a public-facing role is — and your job even on its worst day is probably way better than theirs. It’s always nice to be nice.
Final PS: The BSer who wrote the email that prompted this post ended up writing a very quick but very sincere thank-you after their question was answered. So we know that they were not intentionally being curt! But that’s why we’re writing this reminder, as it’s when we’re not thinking that it matters most.
We’re not exactly advocating this as an actual strategy for selecting your MBA programs to target. But it’s something to consider! It’s certainly more practical and intelligent (yes we said it) than using rankings as the priority tool to choose where to apply. If a top MBA program has a special scholarship fund earmarked only…
[WARNING: This is a looooong post! May want to jump to the bottom and hit that little Favorite button to save it for later! (Favorite feature available to blahg members)]
We originally wrote this in 2018 and we’re republishing here in 2019 to help you eager-beaver BSers who want a leg up on the quintessential of the quintessential-est schools.
Because anybody who first starts thinking they want to get an MBA is immediately going to be thinking about Harvard.
And why not?
Harvard is a world renowned brand.
EVERYBODY has heard of Harvard.
Even if you have only a vague notion of what an MBA is or why you might want one, you have still heard of Harvard Business School, and you probably wouldn’t mind going there.
An application to the MBA program at Harvard in many ways is going to look like an application to an MBA program anywhere.
They want a GMAT score, or a GRE is fine.
You’ll upload your resume and enter your work history.
They need an essay, and some letters of recommendation.
Pretty standard stuff.
However, that’s where the similarities end.
The approach that you take with your Harvard application should not necessarily be the same as what you might take with, say, Columbia.
Both these schools offer the MBA degree. Both have semi-similar profiles that show average GMAT and grades and they’re not terribly different from one to the next. You can expect that a high GMAT score will be beneficial to you in getting into Harvard, as it would be for Columbia, or Kellogg, or anywhere else.
If you want to get into Harvard, though, you can’t be just another cookie-cutter candidate.
The secret to getting into Harvard is to show how you’re different.
BUT!! There is risk here!!!
Being “different” for the sake of being different is not going to help you.
Wearing different-colored socks to your interview will not demonstrate that you’re unique.
All that will do is demonstrate that you want to stand out and attract attention. That might get people talking, but it’s not necessarily going to land you an offer at this school.
The most important thing to keep in mind with Harvard is that they are trying to construct a class.
That’s true at any school in the world, but Harvard gets first pick.
They’re like the Cleveland Browns but for opposite reasons.
(For any non-US-football-fans out there: The Cleveland Browns were the football team with the worst record in 2017, so they earn the privilege of picking their players from the college draft first in 2018.)
In the bschool market economy, since EV-ER-Y-BO-DY wants to go to Harvard, then Harvard has an abundance of riches. They can cherrypick the ones that they like most. They get first dibs. The best of the best.
Or, in this case, the most unique and differentiated who will fill out their class.
What this means is, if your profile is stereotypical — the Princeton grad who went to McKinsey and now wants to go for an MBA — then HBS will need to see superlative grades and an exceptional GMAT and particularly wonderful recs.
You need to be the best out of a crowded category of very good players.
What if you…
Work at Deloitte (not the most prestigious firm) and went to BC (Boston College; good but also not considered “the best”). You have a 3.6 GPA and a 730 GMAT.
When faced with the profile of the Princeton-McKinsey person, you may assume you have no chance at all. You’re obviously qualified but being qualified and being accepted are two different things.
Or, what if you…
Are an international applicant, like the Indian engineer, or you are coming from finance? Or applying from Singapore or Hong Kong or China?
For all of you, finding ways to stand out will be crucial. It’s not going to be only the basics of your profile. The adcom will need to know who you are — best revealed by what you have done — for you to have a true chance. This is where the advantages of an MBA admissions consultant can pay off. (A very good one, that is. A merely competent consultant is not necessarily going to add much value for Harvard.)
We saw some stat somewhere once that something like 90% of applicants to Harvard are qualified — meaning, they fit within the parameters of acceptance that the school has mapped out. Not sure if that’s saying that 80% of applicants fit within the class profile (the range of GMAT or GRE scores and college academics) or if it was against some internal measure of acceptability that the Admissions Board has.
Regardless, almost anyone applying shows evidence that they could succeed in the curriculum, and that they are capable of completing the program.
That is hardly enough to guarantee admission. It’s kind of like going with a competent admissions consultant. If you’re going for the gold and you’re going to pony up the dollars for help, then make sure you’re going with one that actually can add value in the game that you’re in.
If being qualified is not enough to get in to Harvard, what then does matter? What will tip the scales and convince the HBS adcom to want you?
There is not a specific profile or a specific collection of app stats that will ensure you get in. However, over the years, we have identified what we now call the “Harvard type.” It’s someone who is obviously a go-getter, an overachiever who’s done something interesting in life.
We cover it in many posts here on the blahg:
What is “the Harvard type”? is a good place to start.
We also discuss it at length in our MBA essay and application guide to Harvard Business School.
Heck, we have a whole category of posts here on the blahg on HBS and what they are looking for.
What we would boil all of this down to is one simple word:
The secret of getting into Harvard is that you have to show evidence of drive.
This fact is the main reason we’re able to with complete confidence predict people’s chances of interest from Harvard in our Comprehensive Profile Review. Through that service, you lay out the details of your background, your career, your school targets and core stats, and we go through it all and assess your chances to see if you are presenting enough evidence that will give Harvard reason to say yes. We are very very rarely off base with these and when we are it is only marginal misses. Usually we have BSers come back to us at the end of the season saying some variation of, “Wow, you were right! You said I wouldn’t get into X but that Y would admit me, and they did! That’s exactly how it went with my apps!”
For almost every single business school in the world, we are firmly convinced that getting help on the app is beneficial.
For Harvard? Yes also beneficial, very much so — but only to one certain extent.
The people that Harvard is likely to admit are very likely to get into Harvard anyway. Even without outside help.
Will outside help be useful? Sure, in giving an assist to the process. In making sure that you don’t step in it, and mess things up in an avoidable way. (See also: A Stanford applicant case study: Avoidable Mistakes)
But very often we see Harvard give interviews even for applicants whose essays truly sucked. Where they did not take advantage of what the essay could do.
But based on the other aspects of their profile — or more often, based on how they are coming from a less-crowded pool and so it was easier to stand out against the crowd — this person earned an invite to interview even in the face of a pisspoor job on the essay.
For whom then is getting help on the app the most helpful? In what situation would an MBA admissions consultant (an exceptional one, if you are serious about Harvard) add the most value?
Either for the applicant who is overwhelmed by the steps of applying, or who does not know where to start, or who lacks confidence in her own writing ability, and especially for someone who finds value in the ability to bounce ideas off of someone. Or all of the above. A very good admissions consultant can help that person create a very good essay for Harvard.
You do not “need” an admissions consultant to get in though.
We remain unmoved by any admissions consultant who brags about how many applicants they got into Harvard. It’s like a coach at the Olympics. The coach cannot take credit for the athlete’s success. Yes, a coach can be supremely helpful. But it’s not the coach who earned the medal. It’s the hard work and dedication and the willingness to persevere and the sacrifices made by the athlete that earned that person the spot on the podium.
When Harvard admits people, many times they would admit that person whether or not the essays were incredible. It’s because they are admitting the whole package; the entire set of facts. Not just granting a Best Essay award. That’s not always how it works elsewhere. Sometimes, an exceptionally mediocre applicant can put together an amazing set of essays that totally wins him or her the admit at another school. An incredible essay alone won’t do it for Harvard.
Of course, an MBA essay can keep you out of Harvard, too.
Very often, BSers make foolish mistakes in their essays. They say silly things. They focus on the wrong elements. They don’t maximize the opportunity at hand. For these people, a (highly qualified) admissions consultant can do wonders.
But the secret of getting into Harvard Business School does not come down to the essay. It’s the entirety of who you are and what you are presenting, and it’s at least as much about Harvard as it is about you.
That’s why when you’re rejected from Harvard, it’s not actually that big of a deal. So many incredible people are rejected each year that you cannot read anything into it.
Harvard is the one school that’s least served by the admissions consulting industry.
We’re not saying not to get help on your HBS MBA application. We do believe we can help you! We have dedicated services exactly for that.
But someone who is the Harvard Type is likely to get into Harvard anyway. Not because they paid the big bucks to a consultant to assist them.
It’s one reason we strongly recommend against reading other people’s essays in your quest for the HBS admit. Seeing what someone else said is not going to let your best essay come through — and frequently, an essay did NOTHING for an applicant’s chance of success. All you can extrapolate from reading a Harvard student’s essay is that the essay did not PREVENT them from getting in. You cannot know that the essay itself helped them at all.
ESPECIALLY not when the essay was written in a different admissions cycle for a different entering class in a different era of MBA admissions, such as we’re entering now.
Someone who got into the Harvard Class of 2009 was operating on a totally different playing field as an applicant, compared to someone who got in for the Class of 2019, and most definitely there are major differences from what the ’19 applicant faced compared to what the Class of 2021 will be facing this year. It’s a different school. It’s a different admissions landscape. Almost definitely it will be a different application for Harvard this year. You cannot make inferences from one person’s essay to your own.
The only constant that remains?
The Harvard Type.
It’s something that we recognize when we see it (the Comprehensive Profile Review being the best way for us to assess this). It does not come down to any static descriptor or a set of stats on a profile. It’s the sum total of who you are based on how you present yourself — in the resume, in the college experience, in your profession today. Yes, in the essay itself too, but that’s rarely the differentiator that it can be at other schools.
There are many ways to get your message across in your HBS MBA essay, and we’re not saying that the essay is inconsequential. The essay matters — for some candidates even more than others. But the adcom is going to overlook a subpar essay if the profile itself shows as differentiated against the pool of others with whom you’re competing.
If you’re wondering right now whether or not you’re the “Harvard type” then that’s a fair question. We can help you with some objective advice on whether you might be perceived that way today.
And what else you can do is work on being that even more in your day-to-day efforts at work.
Nobody can predict with certainty if you’re going to be accepted into Harvard. But stepping it up and doing all that you can to be a better person every single day is the best way to find out.
We wrote a whole book on how to get into Harvard Business School!!
You may also be interested in:
- More examples of the “Harvard type”
- How to add greater value at work (plus, Harvard secret)
- The Harvard secret we didn’t get to yesterday
- Which came first, the ambition or the advantage?
- Once more with feeling: SOME ADMISSIONS CONSULTANTS MAY HURT, NOT HELP
Are you (re)taking the GMAT? What’s your score cancel strategy? A key driver of GMAT score inflation among MBA applicants is the relatively new development that allows you to cancel your test score. Years ago, you took the GMAT and that was that. Bad score? Oh well, tough luck, it’s part of your permanent record….
There’s nothing worse than some admissions consultant telling you you have a shot at a top school and then not even getting the interview. It can REALLY tick you off.
And understandably so!
After all, that’s what you PAID THEM for!
MBA admissions lacks so much transparency and having a so-called expert help you focus your efforts can be a massive benefit.
Unless of course, they’re wrong.
If you’re working with someone who does not have a depth of experience to truly assess YOUR profile against the schools you’re in love with, then they can be doing more damage than good.
We’ve made our share of bad calls before, notably this one that we posted about publicly. We’ve never gotten it that wrong before or since. That was a learning experience for sure.
This is one reason why our Comprehensive Profile Review will tell you which schools are in range for you — but with a gazillion caveats, reminding you that it’s the execution that will be the determining factor. If your core stats and the essential background you are presenting shows you as QUALIFIED for a top MBA program, it’s still up to you to put the application together in a way that makes the admissions reviewer say “Yes!”
You may remember from some long-ago science class that a false negative is when a test comes back as a “no” when it’s actually a “yes” — and when you’re testing for life-threatening diseases, then this is a problem! If a test says “No, you do not have cancer” but really you do, then that’s bad.
A false positive is when the test says “Uh-oh you do have it!” but you actually don’t.
In medicine, that’s not necessarily so bad — the main issue being of course that you’re subject to treatment that you don’t actually need, and sometimes the treatment is damaging.
But in this case, a false positive would be, “Oh yes, you definitely have a shot at Harvard!!” when actually, you don’t.
Man, that one hurts, when October comes around.
In medicine, a false negative is a major problem, particularly if it’s an infectious disease. A false negative says “You’re healthy!” when actually you might be walking around spreading it to others.
In MBA apps, a false negative is something you will never, ever know about because if you believe your consultant and trust in him, and he says “Nope, not a chance, don’t even bother” and so you never apply…. and if they were WRONG….. nobody ever will know. If your consultant says “Sorry, I don’t see Harvard as being a fit” and you don’t try for Harvard, then dang. Apparently he was right! BEcause now you have not applied to Harvard, and so the consultant has made Harvard’s decision for them. The consultant decided you weren’t gonna get in, and you never tried, and so of course, you didn’t. (And yes, we frequently have the deep-seated opinion that a BSer won’t get into Harvard, and we do advise them of such, but we try to do so in a way to make them feel empowered to still apply if they are motivated to do so. Because it’s their life, not ours, to be living.)
More often, we see consultants being unrealistically optimistic, sometimes this may be intentional, but probably in most cases it’s because they have an unconscious bias: If they’re talking to you FOR FREE during a pitch for their services, then a) they’re usually looking at very limited information, often only GMAT and GPA and maybe the resume; and b) they’re trying to get you to sign up with them. Even if they are authentically wanting to only provide value to you as a person and are not fixated on making a sale, it is only human nature that they are trying to make a sale. It’s really hard (impossible?) to set that aside. And it’s also really hard to be speaking to someone on the phone and telling them, “Nope, you’re crap, nobody is going to want to admit you.”
This is why EssaySnark does not do free consults as part of a pre-sales process, and it’s why we do everything in writing.
It is much much easier to be honest and forthcoming when we can type it out on a screen and deliver the news. It’s just hard to shatter someone’s hopes in Real Life one-on-one conversation. Yes, good consultants find a way to say this but sometimes it’s couched in so many platitudes that the message is not heard.
And very often, a consultant who is working closely with a candidate over many weeks or months gets to the end of the process with them and is looking at the final product of the essays that they have created together with the applicant (because many consultants get their fingers very deep into the pie) and they have lost objectivity. They see how far the client progressed from the beginning and yes, the final drafts are better, but maybe they’re still not good enough? And they’ve been subject to how many rounds of review? The consultant is tired. They just want the project to be done with. They sign off on the essays with a note of confidence, and the client submits an app that still has no chance at all. But whether the consultant consciously knows this or not, they have tacitly given their approval and rubber-stamped it, so the client/applicant thinks they have a real shot. After all, there was a tremendous amount of WORK involved – they MUST be good essays by now!!
Or so the thinking goes.
And yes, this is a self-serving post, and here is where we plug our Sanity Check review that gives you our unbiased opinion of whether your application has come together in a way that this school will respond to.
Your consultant needs to have experience with the tier of school that you’re targeting — with the understanding that someone who is truly HBS material is likely going to make it into HBS with or without a consultant!! There are absolutely cases where the consultant helped someone who is borderline get tipped over into the HBS pool, but there are many consultants who managed to only not hurt the applicant’s chances. The applicant was going to get in, regardless, and the consultant perhaps helped them with polish and presentation.
Your consultant also needs to have extensive experience with the type of applicant you are. If your consultant has never worked with military candidates, or has only done so here or there, then honestly, how much help can they offer? Particularly when this segment of the applicant population has been booming and the competition has ratcheted up.
If your consultant has never helped someone with a really low GPA make it into a school like Columbia or Duke or Kellogg, how much help can they be if that’s the challenge you’re facing?
These are the questions you need to ask.
And yes, obviously we’ve helped people in your shoes before — regardless of what shoes you’re wearing! We’ve been doing this practically for-ev-er and we have high confidence that we’ve seen a profile EXACTLY like yours before. Whatever uniqueness you bring or challenges you offer. You can find out in our Comprehensive Profile Review, or if you just want a confirmation before you dive in with even the most basic service, hit us up with a question about your profile and how you’re so special and we will let you know yay or nay if we’ve never seen one like you before (who got in! as a result of our efforts).
Every year we get comments like this after doing a final-hour essay review for someone:
Lastly, I know you probably still feel this is a polished turd, but considering I submit tomorrow please help me get to the best product I can in the next 18 hours. (I fired my consultant because I’ve had this essay done for a month and he loved it).
Obviously that BSer sensed that perhaps something was off on the essay they’d created, enough to seek out a second opinion — but not everyone has that premonition.
Even more often, we get people sign up for our Post-Mortem Review at the end of November after their previous consultant told them they were a shoe-in, and they got nowhere on all of Round 1.
So yeah, this is a self-serving post — but honestly, we want all of you to be successful!! You found your way over to EssaySnark by some turn of fate and we feel very invested in helping you get in. We shoot straight. We keep it real. We offer feedback and advice to help you aim higher when warranted, and tools to support you in climbing. We want you to get into the best school you can!
If there’s more we can do, please ask!
You may also be interested in:
With our recent posts encouraging BSers to take advantage of this moment in time to improve their profiles, including on the very important topic of GMAT score, you may be wondering, “Well heck EssaySnark, it would help for you to let me know if I’m really in trouble on the GMAT or not. I’m hearing so many different things. What’s a good GMAT score, anyway?”
Ah, if only there were one simple answer to this question!
We do discuss this topic quite a bit here on the blahg so doing some digging into the ‘snarchives might be worth the time. All of these posts are categorized under the “GMAT/GRE” topic, or if you’re already knowing that you’re not in the best shape on this dimension, you can jump straight to the “low GMAT” section instead.
The main caveat we can offer on the “low GMAT” posts is this: “Low” is relative.
What will be considered “low” at one school would be seen as a totally healthy and absolutely acceptable score at another.
What might be seen as “low” for one candidate could be a kind of midrange or normal score for another — so again, totally acceptable.
What might be considered “low” in one highly competitive season might be considered standard in another.
What we know is that we’re currently in a more normalized admissions environment at many of the very good schools, including Columbia and Tuck and Duke. It’s still an extreme situation at the most competitive programs like H/S/W and perhaps including places like Kellogg too.
For several years running, we saw app volumes push higher, and average GMAT scores went right along with them. It was becoming downright ridiculous at places like Darden and Ross. We believe that things have settled out again and that the statistics for the Class of 2021 (the admissions season that’s just wrapping up) the app volumes will be about the same at these schools, and the GMAT means will moderate or even start to tick down at some places.
This is all good. It was unsustainable for scores to be pushing higher and higher every year and it was royally unfair, because there were just too many well-deserving candidates who were being edged out by another person with an also-solid background and a touch-higher test score. That hardly seems fair. It’s oversimplistic to claim that schools were making margin decisions based on test scores but sometimes it did seem like that.
So in this era and the 2019-2020 admissions season to apply for the MBA Class of 2022, what would be seen as a “good” score at these schools?
Well, if you’ve got a 730 then we’re not feeling too nervous about your chances from a topline perspective; but as always, it depends on the entirety of your profile, what you offer by way of distinction, and the schools that you’re aiming for. (Shameless plug for our Comprehensive Profile Review goes here. /endshamelessplug)
Many applicants seem unaware of the importance of each individual subscore, so don’t be lulled into a false sense of complacency based only on your GMAT total. If you landed a 730 but it was on the back of a superstar verbal score only, and your quant score is mired in the muck and the mud, well then we still could be concerned about your chances.
Also be careful about listening to assurances surrounding the relative safety of submitting a GRE score instead. Yes, in the past, the GRE has allowed some candidates to gain acceptance to a perhaps higher-tier school than a similar GMAT score would’ve allowed them — and that prompted boatloads of fresh candidates to go for the GRE instead of sweating through the GMAT. We haven’t seen too much shift in the data to indicate a significantly more competitive GRE landscape, but these things tend to be status-quo for quite awhile and then spike suddenly. The data that you see reported for the Class of 2020 is not necessarily what you should expect to see on GRE scores admitted to the Class of 2021, and that data won’t be released at most schools until mid to late summer at the earliest. And that will be much too late to do a pivot on your test strategy if we all discover that the GRE admissions tightened up in this past season. It’s not information that most schools are very open about, and only recently did any of them even publish any data on GRE scores. So tread carefully if you’re doing a GRE strategy. Past patterns may still hold this year, but at some point those tides will turn and the GRE pool will start becoming significantly more competitive compared to what it traditionally has been.
So, the question “Is my GMAT score good enough?” is a very important one to be asking!
Unfortunately it’s not one that anyone can answer for you without digging into your profile in some depth.
Sure, if your GMAT is a 620 then it’s easy to say that Harvard is a long shot. But even that is not something anyone can be definitive about. Because yes, it is possible to get into Harvard with a 620. Likely? No. But possible, yes.
It’s actually sometimes more probable that you can crack HBS with a lower GMAT than some other schools like Wharton. But it all comes down to the actualities of everything in your profile. There are many moving parts, and not one will be the definitive reason that you are in or you’re not. So please be cautious when you see all the consultants on the admissions boards trying to rank your chances or tell you a thumbs up or thumbs down based on scant information. It requires spending time with the entirety of a profile before you can offer any insights at all, and even then, y ou cannot say for sure how things will turn out. The actual application is needed to make a truly informed assessment. Don’t let an admissions consultant decide your chances for you; that’s the admissions director’s job at the school.
One heuristic we can offer by way of self-assessing your GMAT score: If your score is below 750, and you think you can do better, then do it. Take the test again, and nail it.
If it’s already above 730, then you probably don’t need to take it again. But if in your heart of hearts you know you can do better — and you have not tested more than 3 times already — then yeah, it’s worth it to do it one last time and nail it down.
Can you test too many times? Oh yes absolutely. This too needs to be taken into account — and please don’t be fooled by this “But I can cancel them” idea. That is a wobbly strategy — and that myth about canceling scores is so important that we’re going to dig into that topic coming up soon too.
For now, we apologize for the squirreliness of this post, where we pose a question and then never really answer it. Hopefully we’ve offered at least some tools or bumper-rails that let you examine your own current score and figure out a next step approach. If this year is your first application, then there’s a learning curve involved of who to listen to and what really matters, and all of that is totally context-sensitive, dependent upon the details of your own profile and the schools that you’re targeting. GMAT is one element under your full control. If you truly want to aim high, then do all in your power NOW to give the schools every reason to want to accept you. You don’t want to end up a reapplicant at this point next year, looking around at options and wishing you’d taken action when you first got word of it (which would be now).
Questions? We’re open for business! Lay ’em on us in the comments and we’re happy to give input, or go for that Comprehensive Profile Review if you want to roll up your sleeves and get started.
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You’d think we’d gone on long enough about this. After all, we began discussing extracurriculars on the MBA application, like, weeks ago now.
But there’s one more category of candidate that we should mention.
We’ve mentioned before that an MBA applicant from the military need not have traditional volunteer activities on the resume in order to make it into business school. (There’s a lot more to our position on this than just that simple statement; please read that full post if you’re applying to the MBA from the military.)
The same thing is true about volunteer work is largely true for someone who currently works in non-profit.
If your day job today (pre-MBA) is helping some charity to do its mission in the world, well, probably that’s more than a typical full-time job in terms of hours (at least, if it’s a smaller organization, that’s likely to be true). And the fact that you’ve been driven to devote your life to the whatever-it-is cause that you’re championing… probably for less pay than you could make at a for-profit… this also says that you’re of the “service” mindset. And you’ve put in the time, just in doing your day job. You don’t have to worry about buffing up your profile with other outside-of-work charitable efforts.
But the thing is… Someone like that, who’s already working in non-profit, probably IS volunteering. We see it all the time. It’s just in their nature. If that’s you, then bravo. You’re likely to have more stuff to talk about in your apps than you know what to do with.
The challenges of a non-traditional applicant like that applying to bschool typically take other forms … like, that bear of a test called the GMAT. If you’re already doing service-y stuff in your career, then you’ve got that angle of your profile covered. Make sure you’re coming on strong in everything else.
Balance is what’s important. Balance looks different for each and every applicant. Step back and try to see your profile objectively, like the adcom will. Look at your resume from the eyes of a complete stranger. Where are the natural strengths? Where are the obvious weaknesses? Spend time on the latter – that’s what you have control of, in these weeks and months before the admissions season officially begins.
Different schools definitely do this differently, and not all schools even conduct background checks — but many of them do now and the process may seem intimidating. “Ohmygosh. They’re going to dig into my background. I have so many skeletons in my closet. What will they find?!?” Relax, Brave Supplicant. If you are an honest…