“The only sustainable competitive advantage is [your] ability to learn faster than the competition.”
First of all, if your GMAT is low, then we don’t recommend writing an optional essay about it at all. The optional essay is meant to explain, and thereby neutralize, issues and weaknesses in your app. If your GMAT is low, there is no amount of explaining that will neutralize it. The only thing that…
DO: Complete your app dataset early – it will take more time than you expect!
DO: Proofread carefully, including cross-checking dates and data across your resume and transcripts!
DO: Follow each school’s instructions, and don’t assume that the way one school does it is the same as how any other one will!
DO: Request a waiver for the app fee early if you qualify for one! This usually includes U.S. military (active duty and veteran) plus alumni from TFA, TFI, TFC, the Peace Corps, and a few others – check with your school!
DO: Ask admissions if you have a question! This year we’ve been spotting a high number of errors in different schools’ app forms. If something does not make sense, it could be a mistake — or, if enough applicants get confused by it, then it’ll be useful feedback for the admissions ops team, so that they can change the wording or add more instructions! Always ask if you’re unsure of what they want!!
DON’T: WRITE YOUR ANSWERS IN THE APPLICATION FIELDS IN ALL CAPS! IT’S LIKE YOU’RE SHOUTING AT THE ADCOM. IT’S REALLY ANNOYING AND THEY WON’T LIKE IT.
DON’T: Use exclamation points! They almost NEVER belong in an application or an essay! They just DON’T!
School-specific tips are also available in My SnarkCenter! Enter your School Targets and then scroll down to see EssaySnark’s latest observations on common issues and some advice based on what we’re seeing others do with their essays this season.
Got any MBA app tips to suggest to your fellow BSers? LEAVE ‘EM IN THE COMMENTS!
We have gotten a few more submissions recently for consideration for freebie discussion here on the blahg and we hope to get to all of them in the next week or two! This one came in for Harvard accompanied by this message: ES, I’m looking for a reality check on my HBS essay! I’m most…
Today we’ll tell you a story.
This one time, EssaySnark was coming home from a business trip, and we were on that little bus that takes you to the airport after you drop off your rental car. Right when the bus driver was about to close the door, a woman came running up behind. EssaySnark said to the driver, “Hold up, here’s someone else.”
The driver closed the door. We said louder, “Hey, wait a sec, someone’s coming.”
Some of the woman’s friends were already on the bus. “Please wait,” they said. “Our friend.”
The driver started to pull away from the curb. EssaySnark stood up in the aisle – surely he must’ve heard us? – and yelled over the engine noise, “HEY! WAIT!”
He looked back in the rear view mirror. Eye contact. Looked away. Kept driving.
EssaySnark went up to the front of the bus. “Didn’t you see her? That lady was trying to catch the bus.”
“Please take your seat while the bus is in motion.”
Couldn’t believe it.
When we got to the terminal, we called the car rental company, and we narked off the bus driver. We asked for a manager to come talk to us. The bus waited too. The airport was not that busy.
A second shuttle bus arrived with the supervisor, and also the woman who’d been left behind, who was reunited with her friends.
You know what the supervisor said? That he’d done it before. That it was against training.
We were like, “Yeah, you used to have that little recorded message saying something about customer service is important but when you don’t play that anymore then we were wondering if new management took over or something.”
She was all, “We do have a recorded message that plays on the bus.”
We were like, “No, there was no recorded message that played.”
The bus driver had disconnected it. Why? Maybe because the little “Welcome to the airport” recording had an invitation to fill out a customer satisfaction survey at the end of it.
Pretty sure that driver was separated from his job that day.
This is a VERY small and VERY insignificant story — not at all comparable to protesting Nazis — but it’s an incident we remember vividly. Somebody was being mistreated, and we stood up and said something. We had planned to share this with you in the context of essays this week. We expanded this post considerably after what happened this weekend.
You don’t have to be out in the streets protesting. Yet we’re sure you have similar stories.
These are how you can reveal your character.
If you want to be very task-focused: These are the types of stories that, sometimes, when heartfelt and told with conviction*, can move an adcom reader in an essay.
When we talk about values, we’re talking about stuff like this. It’s the small moments that make up your life. Our values let us know when we’re being true to ourselves. They help us make decisions.
Now before you get all indignant: “OMG EssaySnark, you got that guy fired!!” We’ll counter with some advice that we heard from a career coach a long time ago: When you get fired, it’s a gift. Your company is freeing you to go find something you’re happier in. Because clearly, it was not working out, and you weren’t listening to the evidence that was trying to tell you so. If your job is to pick people up and take them to the airport, then that’s what you do, to the best of your ability. You don’t leave them at the curb.
If in your job, you find yourself leaving people at the curb, then hey, that’s a pretty big sign that you’re not happy!! Either change yourself, or change your job!
We’re telling you this today not just because maybe it’ll help you think of new topics for your essays.
We’re telling you because WHEN YOU SEE SOMETHING THAT’S F*CKED UP, YOU MUST SAY SOMETHING.
We’re living in a world where a lot of f*cked up things are happening.
Did that Google engineer deserve to get fired for what he wrote?
Not sure. That’s a hugely complicated situation. His argument about women engineers has some sound science at the beginning (there are indeed biological differences between men and women) but then the reasoning he used to get to his conclusions is twisted (it is not true that those differences are why there are fewer women in tech). The argument is fatally flawed; it is not logical. Is he entitled to his opinion? Sure. Did he make other valid points about the current environment in Silicon Valley tech companies? Yes. Is a company in California allowed to fire at will? Indeed they are.
Should anyone be resorting to threats or acts of violence to defend their point of view? NO — yet the firing of the engineer provoked many on the alt-right to do just that, and now some Google execs are afraid.
That’s the world we’re living in now.
So what’s the connection to that and the shuttle bus driver and your essays?
It’s that some things are black and white. Some issues are easy to see. Some problems do not require debate or “further study” which is what the President said about the Charlottesville violence on Saturday. WTF?
When you see something that is not right, say something.
Let’s all look at how we respond to everyday life.
“Hate never yet dispelled hate.
Only love dispels hate.
That is the Law,
ancient and inexhaustible.”– The Buddha
The airporter bus driver was not spewing hate.
But what he did was not right.
The Google engineer was expressing his opinion. However that view of the world would not exactly create a welcoming environment for women who had to work with him. What’s more, that kind of faulty reasoning is the basis for much of the alt-right’s indignation about being victimized by others (you certainly see massively bad logic and effed-up reasoning on the left, too; this post is not about right or left, it’s about right or wrong).
It’s not your job to change people’s minds. We’re not saying to proselytize or preach.
But what you do owe yourself, and to all of us as a society, is to speak up when you see something going down.
What moments do you remember, however small, where you know what you did was right?
Some schools invite you to talk about that in your essay.
EssaySnark invites you to live that in your life.
The story we shared today is admittedly very “small”; we also used a lot of words to tell it. But it (we hope) reveals a small slice of character. That’s what stories do. That’s why they’re so powerful to use in your essays.
We also hope that you’ll consider the power of words. If you currently are in the habit of posting inflammatory comments on anonymous forums or you like to rile up others by being intentionally combative in how you respond on social media, we ask that you pause. Look at yourself. Ask why do you do it. Strong views are fine, and commendable; it’s good to believe in something. It is not necessary to hurt other people through verbal attacks, no matter how much “fun” you think it is. Getting a rise out of someone by saying something shocking and rude is a very low form of entertainment. That buzz of adrenaline can become addicting, but is that who you want to be? If you’re doing it online, you’re doing it. Doesn’t matter if you think nobody knows. You are as bad as your worst online habits. What you do on the internet is who you are. All of it. If you currently do anything out there on the web that you don’t want someone to know about, we invite you to face up to that, and ask yourself why. And please, NEVER PARTICIPATE IN DOXING. Or revenge-posting of photos. None of it. Seriously harmful. Seriously not cool.
You could be spending your energy on something so much more valuable.
Like working to get into bschool.
Finally: We debated whether to post this. There’s been plenty of posts about values here lately and a charge against us of virtue signaling could have merit. We also like to believe that most BSers reading the blahg don’t need to be preached to about lying or cheating or ramming cars into crowds or taking a gun to an early-morning practice at a softball field. We welcome all belief systems and political views here. Deadlines are coming, and we’ve got plenty to say about apps!
Yet, damn, we just can’t help it. This is a BIG MOMENT in our country’s history. We refuse to say nothing.
Our “new normal” is not normal.
This country has problems, yes. We are also lacking any real leadership that might solve them. Each person individually must stand for their values; after all, you’re interested in the MBA to change the world. Well, this is EssaySnark’s small platform to do that. We hope that someday soon, we’ll be able to go back to talking only about MBA essays.
That UVA Darden essay question sure takes on new significance today:
“When preparing for class at Darden, students formulate an opinion on each case before meeting with their learning teams and class sections. When encountering different views and perspectives from their own, opinions frequently shift. Tell us about a time when your opinion evolved through discussions with others.”
* Please just make sure that the story you’re telling is a fit to the essay prompt.
Man, sometimes we are EssaySLACKER — this most generous contribution was sent in by a former BSer back in April, and what did we do with it? We sat on it! For months! Well, here we are in crunch mode and we can’t figure out what to say to all of youz here on a Friday to inspire and motivate as you’re getting into white-knuckle mode on your apps…. and we were like, OMG WHY NOT LOOK AT WHAT VERY KIND DUDE FROM LAST YEAR HAD SENT IN?? So here it is. Thank you so much, Former BSer Sender Inner!!! Greatly appreciated indeed.
As an EssaySnark “Power User” whose journey from step zero to admit took nearly 2.5 years, I thought I’d provide some details on how EssaySnark can help with applications to the top-tier business schools.
When I first considered applying to business school, I knew the GMAT had to be the first step. Like the Snark says, you can’t begin to seriously examine target schools and build your application strategy until you have a score in hand. Practice tests don’t count; we’re talking official scores from a no-kidding GMAT exam. There are ample resources to get you to a competitive GMAT score, but for most people, myself definitely included, it’ll take some diligent study to get to that point. From cracking my first book to the point where I felt ready to take the GMAT, I studied for nearly 5 months, to include taking 5 full-length practice exams. Key takeaway: start studying for the GMAT a full year before the point you intend to apply to business school. Doing it this far out will give you ample study time, the opportunity for retakes if needed, and still leave you with time for all-important school visits prior to Round 1 kicking off.
I was pleased with my first GMAT score (710) but not blown away. As a transitioning military officer who’s quite a bit older than the average MBA student, I knew that I effectively had one shot at getting into b-school as I made the move to civilian life. For this reason, I wanted to make sure that every single asset in my application was as perfect as I could make it. It was in this spirit that I first approached EssaySnark, obtaining my Comprehensive Profile Review to get an objective assessment of what schools might be in range for me.
The CPR, as many on this site will attest, was invaluable. The Snark scrutinized every detail of my background. Using what I can only assume are reams worth of data, ES let me know what in my profile stood out from the pack and what was less impressive. The CPR also gave me a chance to ask whether retaking the GMAT would be a good decision in my specific case (it was, even though I didn’t manage to improve!) In all of its offerings, EssaySnark is generous and responsive in clarifying any ambiguities within the feedback it provides. In fact, some of the best advice I received was in the “comments” threads of the products I purchased.
Key takeaway for the CPR: take some time to thoughtfully fill out the questionnaire! ES gave me some really solid advice, but it took me several hours to put together a resume, select some preliminary school targets, and think about the career goals I might like to pursue.
With a full year between my 2nd GMAT exam and Round 1 of application season, I took advantage of the time to clarify my career goals. No prior business experience meant I really had no idea what I might like to do with my hoped-for MBA. Using EssaySnark’s Foundations package, I re-worked the resume I submitted for the CPR. For someone who’d never before had to write a resume, I found the Snark’s feedback very instructive in the crafting of “impactful” accomplishments, not to mention all the helpful formatting tips. Foundations also included the opportunity to submit my preliminary career goals for two rounds of review. I received valuable back-and-forth regarding the realism and achievability of what I envisioned myself doing post-MBA. It would take another year of research for my goals to finally solidify, but the exercise of thinking critically about my career was really useful even in the early stages. Those tenuous beginnings encouraged me to think more about options I hadn’t even considered – and taught me just how powerful a polite email can be in helping to learn about potential career paths. Without the counsel of EssaySnark, I would have put forth vague, unrealistic, uninformed career goals in my b-school applications. Definitely not where you want to be! Key takeaway: start thinking early about how your work experience and background will help you bridge the
gap to your desired future career, and how you might “connect those dots” in your application assets.
As ES advises, I also made time to visit some of the schools that interested me. I took a week of leave and hit a total of five schools on both coasts. It was a fun little vacation and I enjoyed the chance to participate in a “day in the life” at a real b-school. I took advantage of everything on offer: class visits, admissions presentations, student Q+A sessions, and guided tours. From what I’ve read, some people find these experiences very helpful in determining
whether a school is a cultural “fit”. I didn’t leave my visits with any strong feelings one way or the other on fit, but I did leave with a much better understanding of each school’s curriculum structure, academic offerings, surrounding community, and student life. These little tidbits proved invaluable come essay time; referencing a class I’d attended and tying it to my career goals helped make for a more authentic essay that showed genuine enthusiasm for the program. Key takeaway: take good notes during your visit! Even little things like the name of a particular case discussed in class have the potential to make your essays shine. I neglected to do this, and having to reconstruct these details made for more work when essay writing time rolled around. Though it was tempting to “work ahead” based on prior year essay prompts, heed the Snark’s advice and wait for the prompts to be released in the May-June timeframe. And then, once they’re out…get to work! DON’T PASS UP THE CHANCE TO SUBMIT A ROUND 1 APP! It’s a nice bennie that it’s a *slightly* less competitive round, but there’s another advantage: You’ll have decisions prior to the holiday season. From here, you can simply kick back and celebrate (the preferred course of action), or knuckle down and finish out a set of Round 2 submissions if your first applications don’t turn out how you’d hoped. Key takeaway: if going to business school in the fall is critical to your life’s plan, you owe it to yourself to maximize your chances by starting your applications in Round 1!
Once the prompts were out, the Snark quickly updated the school-specific strategy guides. The essay-writing advice in these is second-to-none, and each offers a great discussion of what the school historically values from its admits. I read these over and over while writing my essays as I tried to maximize my limited word counts to effectively answer the questions.
Though the guides are great, there is truly no substitute for EssaySnark’s signature product. If you’ve read this far, odds are you already know what that is: the Essay Decimator service. I applied to 3 schools in Round 1, and I used the Essay Decimator for each school’s submissions. Some may get the hang of essay-writing after their first tangle with Decimation, but I wanted to make my essays as polished as possible to counter a lower-than-average GMAT score for my target schools.
The Essay Decimator definitely helped make my essays shine. Within 3 days of sending my essays out for review, ES responded with fully marked-up drafts of each essay, pointing out incoherent phrasing, unconvincing logic, purple prose, time shifting, and every other essay writing misstep I may or may not have perpetrated. I appreciated that they offered a rebate for essays that are submitted in good shape, i.e. free of obvious typos and grammar/usage errors. Not only does it incentivize you to do your best work, it results in more effective feedback for you since ES doesn’t have to spend so much time correcting basic mistakes that can be caught with a good proofread. Separate from the revised drafts, EssaySnark also offered a summary analysis of the essays as a whole, thoroughly commenting on the effectiveness of my messaging and whether I answered the prompts in a convincing and authentic manner. ES pulls no punches in its feedback, but that’s not to say they aren’t professionals through and through. In every draft I sent their way, it was obvious that EssaySnark put in significant time to construct advice that made me better. Aside from the GMAT score and undergraduate performance, the essays are the most important part of your application – and you have ample time to get them into fighting shape! Key takeaway: enlist EssaySnark’s help on at least one set of your essay drafts.
Though I took what some might call a more leisurely pace writing my essays, I still worked on them in some form nearly every day from June through Round 1 deadlines in September. Like any creative endeavor, writing essays will take some time. Don’t try to force them out in one draft over a long weekend. The results will be lackluster, and in a landscape as pathologically competitive as b-school admissions in 2017, the odds are stacked heavily against any application with superficial or poorly-executed essays. Your draft may turn on a single phrase that comes to you at 2AM a week after you’ve hit an impenetrable writer’s block.
Key takeaway: give your brain the time it needs to mull over your essays and bring them from good to great– start early! As everyone says, the transition from essay obsession mode to deadline fretting mode is a rough one. Luckily, the Snark’s timely blog entry helped pass my days, until lo and behold, the interview invites started rolling in. With these interviews being the first I’d done in over 15 years – the last were for my undergraduate school – I didn’t want to leave anything to chance. I used EssaySnark’s custom interview prep service for one of my schools, and took advantage of the automated prep system for another. Both were great; one of the custom interview questions actually came up during my real interview, and the automated system helped me distill my rambling answers to succinct, well-structured responses. Key takeaway: practice your interviewing skills by going over likely questions beforehand, even if it’s just with a friend or family member.
With all my interviews complete prior to Thanksgiving, I waited anxiously through the first couple of weeks of December. I think the best way to recap the events of December 14th, 2016 is simply to share the message I sent to EssaySnark that evening:
Apologies for the late word as it’s been a busy, eventful day.
At 9AM (PST) this morning, I logged on to the HBS applicant website and learned I had been admitted to the MBA Class of 2019! W00t!
Though I was stuck in class all day, I was busy checking my phone during the breaks. In the midst of one of my afternoon lectures, I received a call from an “Unknown” number that kindly left a voicemail. When I checked the message, I learned I had been admitted to the Stanford GSB MBA Class of 2019! Double w00t!!
As I drove home from class, my phone buzzed again from a number with a 510 area code. It was the Haas admissions office, informing me that I had been accepted to the MBA Class of 2019!
I wanted to say, from the bottom of my heart, thank you for everything you’ve done. By my count, it’s been 2.5 years since I first cracked a book for the GMAT, and nearly 2 years since I first enlisted the services of the EssaySnark Team on this journey.
It goes without saying that I could not have realized these successes without the dedicated help of the EssaySnark team. You never shied away from the truth, and constantly pushed me to make my essays better in every way. The highest praise I can give? Besides my husband and my parents, I can’t think of anyone to
whom I was more excited to relay this news. And that’s no BS.
For someone like me with his heart set on business school, having a trusted adviser like EssaySnark was worth every penny. As I prepare to join the Class of 2019 this fall in the Bay Area, I am fully convinced I would not have earned the opportunities I did without the Snark’s guidance. ES is equal parts coach and friend, always ready with encouragement and laserfocused advice to keep you on the right path. I cannot recommend their services highly enough, especially for military candidates who don’t have the first idea about where to begin in this daunting process. Thank you, Team Snark – I couldn’t have done it without you!
This incredible write-up of this BSer’s journey was produced completely by them, with no input from us – they did it solely out of the goodness of their heart! Can’t believe we let it lounge in the inbox for four months before getting off our duff to share it with you. THANK YOU, KIND HEARTED FORMER BSER!! You’re probably off doing MBA things now. HAVE FUN IN BSCHOOL!! You worked hard for this big win – you deserve all this success that you’ve gotten.
To all of you current BSers: EssaySnark will be around this weekend, if you’re feeling like you could use some help right about now!
If you’re going for a part-time MBA, today’s post is not for you. Many part-time MBA programs REQUIRE students to be working while completing the MBA. Today we’re talking about the “why MBA” essay where you toss out the idea that you’ll do an internship during the school year. This brilliant idea gained a foothold…