We get the lament all the time: “There’s too many guys like me applying.” Here was our first reaction to this stated quite some awhile ago (worth reading still). We’ll offer some more today. The best advice we can give you is, don’t worry about it. What we mean by that is, don’t worry about…
“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.
“I don’t much care where–” said Alice.
“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat.
“–so long as I get SOMEWHERE,” Alice added as an explanation.
“Oh, you’re sure to do that,” said the Cat, “if you only walk long enough.”
Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland
(h/t to former Darden dean Bob Bruner for this from his commencement speech at UVA a few years back which we also discussed in the post, “Go where you will do your best work.”)
Getting into bschool takes longer than it perhaps needs to for many BSers, mostly because they’re not clear on where they want to go and why.
By “where they want to go” we don’t mean Harvard or Stanford or Wharton.
We mean, what are you trying to accomplish in life?
Yeah, that. All metaphysical ‘n sh!t.
Many people land on the idea of going to get an MBA because they feel like they’re at a dead end. They feel trapped. They don’t KNOW what to do with their life, so they decide to try for business school. They see it as a way out.
But if you don’t know where you’re going, you’re likely to end up someplace else (thank you, Yogi Berra).
The best thing you can do at the outset of your journey to MBA-land is to figure out why you want an MBA in the first place.
Not as in, “Because I hate my job and I need to do something different.”
But more like, “Because I am excited by THIS and I want to learn about THAT” — and recognize the steps required for you to get from where you are to there.
Bschool is an enabler. It’s a stepping stone. It’s not the goal in itself.
Those who require two rounds around the ferris wheel to get into business school are often the “shoot first aim later” types. The seat-of-your-pantsers who are winging it a bit. Who come in all guns a’blazing but maybe not quite sure where the bullets are headed.
A high GMAT score is not sufficient. It’s a requirement to apply but it does not guarantee you anything about how that application will turn out — and it definitely does not assure you of getting a job when you’re spit out the door later.
You need to know why you’re doing this.
Not all schools care about career goals as the most important part of an MBA pitch, but a lot of them do – and even for those that don’t use it as a primary point of assessment, it’ll still help YOU to figure out what YOU want to do and if an MBA is even the right tool to get there.
Taking some time to figure YOURSELF out, here at the outset of the process, when we’re at the early part of the season, can take you far in your journey.
Want some help with this? Our Career Goals App Accelerator will provide one-on-one feedback on your current thinking and plans for the MBA, through not one, but TWO rounds of review on your short and long term goals.
Yesterday we offered a rule of thumb for recency in your MBA applications. We explained why keeping your content and the stories that you tell in your essays within a range of, say, something like the past two or three years is ideal. Of course, there are always exceptions. The big one is when you’re…
Does your resume still have high school information on it? Is your most recent volunteer experience that you’re reporting to the adcoms from when you were in college? Are you writing your MBA essays about how you were the youngest in your company to get promoted to your current role — which happened five years…
When BSers get stuck on what they’re supposed to say in their essays, they frequently leave an exasperated comment asking for help. “Do you have a sample I can look at?” they ask plaintively, trying to keep the whine out of their words.
We cautioned against this recently when we talked about that “pizza essay” but it’s worth explaining again.
If you read other people’s essays – even “successful” ones that got into Harvard or wherever – you are running a huge risk.
If you claim that you don’t know what to write in your own essay, and you look at someone else’s essay as a way to figure it out, you won’t be learning what YOU should say. All you’ll be seeing is how someone else did it – and guess what? They may have gotten in even with crapload essays! It happens all the time, and the Stanford adcom warns about it.
If you feel stuck on what to write, then reading what someone else wrote will only give you an idea for how to copy them. It won’t let you express the facts of your own profile and history in any sort of authentic way. You won’t be able to help it; you’ll be influenced. It’s like walking down the street and you can’t get that Britney Spears song out of your head, and you don’t even know where you heard it. It’s just there. Maybe you picked it up in the elevator; maybe it was playing in the bodega where you bought your Red Bull. No idea. It just seeps in. You’re defenseless. Same with ideas from someone else’s essay. Once they’re there, they’re there. You won’t be able to help but to think that that’s how to write that particular type of essay.
And you’re also assuming that the person’s essay was halfway decent. Most essays aren’t. How can you tell the difference? If you don’t have a clue what you should write about, then won’t you think ANY essay is good? It has words on the page, and you don’t spot any typos. Must be a winner!!!!
You have to ask yourself: “Self, what is it I am hoping to gain by reading a sample essay?”
Can you answer that?
Are you looking for how they structured it?
Well, you don’t need a sample to tell you that – EssaySnark will tell you!
A well-structured essay has a clear intro, with the answer to the question in the first paragraph (or even the first sentence); it includes a body of a paragraph or two that backs up that answer; and then it ties everything up with a bow through a conclusion at the end. Voila. Now you have the answer to that question.
We suspect that that’s not what you are looking for, though.
You very innocently say, “No, ‘Snark, ya silly. I don’t care about essay structure.” (though you should!) “I care about what they wrote.”
OK, well, we got that covered too!
If it’s a career goals essay, start here.
If it’s a leadership and achievement essay, here.
If it’s any other type of essay, well, we’ve probably discussed those, too. Just wander over to the first page of the blahg and in the right panel you will see a dropdown that says Select Category. There are oodles of posts on most anything you dare to dream up, if it involves applying to bschool, that is.
We don’t post sample essays* and we won’t give you suggestions for what you should write for your goals. We pretend to give you a sample letter of recommendation in this post (but do we, really?). We don’t even give you a template in our Resume App Accelerator.
In our App Accelerators, we definitely do lay out a structured approach for how to present your background and stories, along with gobs of exercises you can go through to dig into your past and uncover the good stuff in your life experience and professional history that the adcom might be interested to learn about. Yes, it means rolling up your sleeves and figuring stuff out on your own, however in our experience, that heavy lifting of working through your own material is the only way to get there. If we could just tell you what to write, it would certainly make our job easier, wouldn’t it? But besides it being unethical, it’s also not in your best interest. If you want to be prepared and ready for the MBA, then one awesome way to make sure of it is going through this whole essay / introspection process. It may seem like an unnecessary hazing exercise that the adcom is putting you through, but it actually has benefits (beyond just serving as EssaySnark torture device).
Another huuuuuge risk with reading someone else’s essay is, you’re reading a finished product. You’re probably only interested in those “essays that got in!” right? Well, that’s going to represent the final version of what some applicant sweated over through round over round of revision last year. That’s what it takes to write a good essay, at least.
So you’re sitting here in No Essays Ever Written Land, feeling already overwhelmed and discouraged, and you decide to read a a Polished And Gleaming essay from the distant shore of I Got In! Hmm, yeah, we can see how useful that would be!
Reading someone’s essay who already finished the process is like looking at pictures of super models in bikinis or buff bodybuilder dudes when you have only just decided to go on a diet. It’s not likely to be very helpful. Instead, it’s more likely to make you feel even worse about the shape you’re in. But there’s nothing wrong with the shape you’re in. You’re just at one end of the process. They’re at another. With time and hard work, you’re going to get there, too. And then you will be able to explain to all your friends who are trying for bschool in a subsequent year why it’s not going to help them to look at your essays.
This isn’t entirely true. We do post essays but those are always ones with pretty significant flaws that are posted with the BSer’s permission in order to offer comments (submit yours to be considered for such treatment here!); we also have one HBS essay contributed by a long-ago BSer who got in that’s made available as a teaching tool with the purchase of the Essay Ideas App Accelerator.
We know many BSers are itching to get started on their apps and we keep getting asked, “When is School X gonna release its questions?”
We did a full post on this last year which covered app / question release dates for 2015. Based on that, here’s what you can expect from here.
Stanford, Harvard, Columbia, Yale, Ross, NYU and Haas already have released questions and maybe UCLA too (we can’t tell if their site is saying it’s same requirements for 2017 or not). We’ve already released an updated SnarkStrategies Guide for Stanford GSB, Harvard HBS and Columbia, so if you’re trying for any of those, you can most definitely get started now!
(Pro Tip: YOU CAN GET STARTED NOW ON ANY OF THEM!)
This is one reason for a rare Saturday post – it’s the weekend – we’re encouraging you to actually do that! Like, TODAY!
The other schools will all have questions coming out soon as well. How soon? Here’s when that happened in past years.
2015: July 8th app opened with essays and deadlines (no pre-announcement of details)
2016: June 17th essay questions announced
2017 estimate: SOON! (we expect essay to change)
2015: May 7th deadlines announced; essays announced in June
2016: June 16th essay questions announced
2017 estimate: SOON! (we expect essays to change)
2015: May 7th essays and deadlines announced
2016: June 24th essay questions announced
2017 estimate: Adcom says app will be out in mid-July;
2015: June 9th essays questions announced
2016: July 5th essay questions announced
2017 estimate: Around July 10th (we expect essays to change)
2015: June 15th essay question announced
2016: July 1st essay question announced
2015: June 17th deadline announced; essays were not confirmed until app opened on July 22nd
2016: July 7th (?) essay question announced
2017 estimate: Around July 1st (we expect essays to change)
2015: July 8th app opened with essays and deadlines (no pre-announcement of details)
2016: June 14th deadlines announced, essays came later (ack it’s a hole in the data!)
2017 estimate: Around July 15th (we expect essays to change)
Unless noted above, these are EssaySnark’s estimates for 2017.
Now let’s get more practical:
Your essays will be better – and you can save $$$! – if you start now.
We try to make both of these points very clear:
1. You need TIME to develop good essays.
We do not recommend waiting till essay questions for your school to come out before starting on your essay strategy! If you read our school questions page for your target school, you will be able to see what they have asked before, and you’ll get an overview of what that school cares about.
Is it career goals? Many schools are very focused on that. Are you able to present your short-term and long-term goals effectively? Like, can you do it right now, reading this post? You need solid career goals for Columbia and Berkeley, and it’s likely that Wharton and Tuck will also have essays on goals. (Want help? The Career Goals App Accelerator or for many of you, the MBA Career Goals Planning Guide for Entrepreneurship, will get you started!)
Is it accomplishments and achievements? All schools are focused on that but that doesn’t mean they’ll end up as essays per se. You still need to be able to show your achievements and professional readiness in the app, even if you’re not writing an essay on it! THIS IS IMPORTANT FOR ALL SCHOOLS! (Want help? The Accomplishments & Achievements App Accelerator is your answer!)
Is it personal qualities, and life experience? Or commitment and values? Fewer schools are outwardly focused on this, and yes, it makes sense to tackle such topics through the confines of an actual essay question. But these schools already have their questions out, for the most part! Yale and Stanford and Berkeley Haas and Ross are all looking for essays on these topics. You’ll want to pick up their respective SnarkStrategies Guides as the best resource — and yes, all of those will be updated soon if they haven’t been already!
In addition: Your first drafts are going to suck.
You canNOT wait to start your essays until two weeks before the deadline and expect them to be as good as they could possibly be. You need time – that composting thing we’ve been talking about recently. You also need time for the standard cycle of:
– Write a bunch of stuff and think that it’s totally good
– Submit it for feedback and EssaySnark tells you it’s actually not
– (two weeks go by)
– Come out from the corner where you’ve been pouting and try again
– Read read read and read some more. Devour the blahg. Study the resources we’ve been pointing to all along. Think think think (ouch this part hurts!). Try writing another draft. Throw it away out of discouragement. Sit on it for awhile. Come back – AHA! lightbulb – write something that you think may actually be on target.
– Submit it for feedback and hold your breath
– Cry again but this time in relief because EssaySnark said it’s on track and it has potential
– Revise revise revise
That is how you write good essays. That does not happen overnight.
And oh hey look!
2. You will save MONEY if you start now!
Now that we’ve actually got your attention…
Here’s some data. Two totally different BSers from last season who both made it into the schools of their dreams. One started crazy early like we don’t even know if anyone has ever started this early before (we’re talking YEARS ahead of their planned applications) and the other started ohkindalate.
Here’s how much they paid for the exact-same EssaySnark services:
Brave Supplicant #1
Brave Supplicant #2
First Essay Decimator purchase:
Total price paid for these services: $1,583
First Essay Decimator purchase:
Total price paid for these services: $1,822
You see, EssaySnark pricing goes up as we get busier. That’s how this supply/demand thing works. We incentivize you to start early by offering lower prices as encouragement. We’re already so busy with other motivated BSers that we will most definitely be raising prices again soon (we’re even wondering if this might be the first year we have to shut the doors on new sign-ups based on capacity). You can bet that if you wait till August to sign up, it’s going to be more expensive than if you start now (heck, if you even wait till July…).
The other advantage of course is that BSer #1 was done with their essays much much earlier and was not sweating around deadlines. BSer #2 ended up paying significantly more than this in Speedy Review add-ons, whereby you can get super-fast turnarounds, because they were up against the deadlines; we did not include those charges in the above costs because they are optional. These data are core services only. Start now and you’re not going to be at risk for any such add-ons once Snarkville gets crazy and our dance card starts to fill up. You’re going to be done early, and boy, won’t your Future Self be thanking you!
If you’re sitting here thinking, “But wait, how do I work on my essays when the essay questions aren’t out yet and I only have 60 days on the Essay Decimator subscription based on EssaySnark’s terms of purchase?”
Well, there are options:
1. The Complete Essay Package has a whole heckofalotta other steps to start on BEFORE you’re gonna write a single word of a single essay. It includes all the App Accelerators referenced on this page. Those’ll keep you busy for at least two weeks!
2. We can’t guarantee this, but we’re assuming all of the schools will have their essay questions out in the next month. That gives you another month to do the essays. That should be plenty of time to work through the two-stage review process on any of the Essay Decimators we offer (HBS or Standard).
3. If you are diligently working on your essays and you simply run out of time, we will always entertain well-intentioned requests for extensions. If you’re a slacker, an extension can be purchased at an additional fee to reactivate an expired service. No, you can’t warehouse services; you can’t buy stuff now at early cheaper pricing and expect to get a free extension later if you aren’t actively working on them. That defeats the entire purpose of our subscription model and it just won’t work.
So that’s our pitch for today.
Whether you use EssaySnark or not, please take this opportunity – you have the whole weekend ahead of you! – to START ON YOUR MBA APPLICATIONS!!!!
We’re obviously around in case anyone has questions.
Good luck with those apps this year, Brave Supplicant!!
In Spring 2016 we got this very happy note from a BSer we’d been working with the prior December for Round 2 and, well, we’ll just let them tell you about it themselves.
I am writing to share great news!
I was accepted into HBS, Stanford, and Wharton this week and I am still letting it sink in…Never in my wildest imagination that I’d imagine I’d get this far, especially given I was dinged at HBS and Stanford last year.
I wanted to thank you for your no-bs feedback on my GSB and HBS apps. For GSB, based on your feedback, I did toss away that whole original essay – it’s a monumental story for me personally, but you were spot on, why would the GSB care and invest in me as a person?? I recreated a whole new positioning and a theme that worked much better and tied my background together nicely. And it worked! You told me I never answered the question on what matters most to me, and again, I made it clear in my new essay in the new version and I was so glad that Derrick resonated with the piece since he actually wrote down in the offer letter on my deep sense of emotional solidarity (i.e. what matters most to me) will allow me to contribute, learn, and grow at the GSB. In short, I’m so glad I took your advice!
As for HBS, we already chatted briefly, I went with many more rounds of edits for the essay and my interviewer actually told me before I started the interview that she was really impressed by my story and can’t wait to ask more questions. I walked out of that room feeling I had a fabulous conversation with the interview board and am so excited when she called to congratulate me on the acceptance on Wednesday! Again, I couldn’t have made it without your feedback on my essays – I was trying too hard to make myself look impressive, when in the end it’s the non-professional stories that I truly enjoyed writing and sharing about.
Also, your Wharton guidebook was very helpful and I definitely leveraged it for my career goal essay.
All in all, I cannot express how thankful I am in getting to where I am today, and I am so glad that I was able to take your advice (very harsh for sure. 🙂 ) and just restart from scratch when I had 2 weeks left before deadline. Hell of a ride for sure, but I made it!
So THANK YOU ES!!
Obviously we LOVE getting reports like that! This was a Round 2 candidate who was reapplying to these schools. If you’re reapplying, please don’t wait till Round 2! There are only a very few reasons why that would be more strategic – and if you do decide that Round 2 is better for some reason, please don’t wait till December to start working on things. Obviously this person pulled it off but it was a crazy time as they scrambled to get it all done in extreme pressure, and it’s unlikely you’ll be producing your best work under such circumstances.
So we’re posting this today to say yes, schools like Harvard and Stanford do accept reapplicants – and yes, you can expect to have to throw out your first ideas and start all over again as you wrestle with what to present!
If you’re thinking of getting started, then hopefully this is enough encouragement. We’re prepared and ready to support you!