No offense, Columbia, but this is a crappy essay question and we’re surprised that you are using it. But maybe the admissions committee knows something we don’t. Here’s what we do know: Most people’s essays about “a leader you admire” totally and completely suck. Or perhaps that was the whole point. Maybe Columbia is using…
We got such an overwhelming response to our invitation to critique the answers from the politicians! (not) That’s OK. We don’t really have a heavily interactive community, and we don’t mind. It’s fine for all of you to come here for your daily dose of ‘Snark and move on. We know you’re busy. Besides, critiquing…
…getting a gift like this dropped from the heavens cannot be passed up.
You probably did not watch the Democratic debates last night but apparently there was…. an essay question asked of the candidates?
A classic format for many top schools is to ask you to talk about a significant challenge and what you learned from it. This question pops up from time to time in actual essay requirements for different bschools, and it’s a frequent question in MBA interviews too.
Well guess what? THE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES WERE ASKED THIS!
Here’s the entire clip – it’s almost 10 minutes but truly, it’s worth watching with an essay-writing hat on.
As you watch these, keep the question in mind:
You might even want to jot down notes on what each candidate said – not because we’re evaluating candidates, but because we’re evaluating answers.
We encourage you to watch; even though the video is edited, it’s still insightful to hear people answering in real time. If you don’t have time for a 10-minute video, the answers are also captured in this Washington Post article and here is a locally saved PDF of that in case you can’t get behind their paywall (sue us, WaPo, for illegally distributing your content if you want — we’re just trying to help essay-writers get better!): Washington Post: Presidential candidates at Democratic debates asked about recovering from a setback (September 12, 2019)
When that question was asked, there must’ve been admissions directors around the country scrambling to write it down.
Because it’s a good question!!
Does anyone want to comment on the answers that the candidates gave?
Would love to see you folks use your analytical minds to see how well they did!
The comments are open if anyone wants to
procrastinate on writing essays contribute some insightful thoughts over the weekend.
We’ll come back with thoughts of our own after letting you BSers chime in first if you want.
We went into some detail the other day on the subject of “What major should I select on my MBA application?” and of course as soon as we published that, we realized that it could send some Brave Supplicants down a wrong path.
As we explained then, in choosing a major on your app, the stakes are highest for Wharton in one specific area: Their Healthcare Management MBA. If you apply to Wharton HCM, then you need to opt into that at time of application — and if they decide you’re not a fit to HCM then they’re not going to admit you to Wharton at all. This is apparently a change this year; in the past, you could say “Yeah, I’d love to do healthcare, but if you just want to accept me to the regular Wharton MBA then that’s fine too!” and they’d consider you for both, or then default you into the standard MBA applicant pool if they denied you to HCM. Now, if you say you want HCM, then it’s an all-or-nothing proposition. (They’ve made this change for Wharton/Lauder this year too, though that’s even more a different application than the Wharton HCM is.)
For other schools, and other majors at Wharton, you don’t need to declare your interest upfront. You just apply, and yes, most schools want you to indicate what major or concentration you’re interested in within the app, but you’re not committing to it, and they’re not making admit decisions based on what you pick.
Or are they?
We know of some applicants who like to overthink things. They look at a list of concentrations spelled out in an MBA app and they go, “Hmm. There’s probably not many people choosing X from this list! Maybe I’ll pick that! That way, I’ll stand out and be different!!”
Welllll…… yeah sure OK, they may be curious to read more about you if you choose an atypical or less-popular major, but then they’re going to study the rest of the application. Does that major line up with what you’re saying you want to do with the MBA? Is there evidence of past exposure or interest or studies, at least tangentially, that backs up your choice of that in the application?
If not, then this ain’t gonna fly. It could even work against you. Don’t get too creative with this.
This type of overthinking happens even more often on career goals — and it’s even more of a risk if you do it there. It’s basically the opposite of authentic if you’re strategizing on how to get noticed, instead of reflecting on what’s the true answer to each question you’re being asked.
And as we warned you in that prior post, even if you’re not intentionally trying to game the system, you still need to step back and do a reality check against everything you enter. Is everything consistent? Does it line up?
We see weirdness happening in app datasets all the time. If the adcom has a Scooby Doo reaction to anything you say:
Then that’s kind of not so great.
Say on the student clubs page, you choose the PE/VC Association, but then for the major, you choose Supply Chain. We can see how maybe those things work together, but that’s a non-obvious set of choices. Is it somehow touched on or explained elsewhere? Is it logical in the big-picture view?
Validate. Verify. Confirm.
Go through everything one more time when you’re fresh. At the beginning of the day, not at 1:30am.
You all are making great progress right now. You want to prevent those “Doh!” experiences later, where you review the application after it’s been submitted and catch all the things you wish you’d taken just a wee bit more time on before. Now is your “before” opportunity. Slow down, be methodical, and you’re much more likely to find these things before it’s too late!
Aw man, here we go again. Yet another post from EssaySnark on ethics. You’d think we’d get sick of hearing ourselves talk about this.
Because it matters.
Especially in this mixed-up world we’re living in now. Ethics really really matters.
In case you missed it, our title says:
That thin line between being smart and cheating.
But that title lies.
There is no thin line.
It’s a bright red line that is really easy to see, and even easier not to cross.
Admittedly, it may be a tiny bit confusing, when there’s admissions consultants like the ‘Snark out there, helping you with developing your strategy for writing your essays to bschool. When it’s so open and accepted for MBA applicants to work with admissions consultants, then that may send mixed signals.
It can also be confusing when the accepted wisdom for smart Brave Supplicants is to work openly with your recommenders, to talk with them about what they might want to write, to even suggest some possible ideas or do some brainstorming with them about your qualities and traits. To remind them of the things you worked on together and the ways you did impressive things on the job. That too may send mixed signals.
But actually the line is very clear on how to operate ethically in constructing your apps:
Nobody but YOU writes your essays.
Nobody but YOUR RECOMMENDER writes the recs.
There. Done. Nothing else to say!
We still hear of applicants who went ahead and drafted a letter of recommendation for their boss because he was really busy and he wouldn’t have done it otherwise. Or she doesn’t speak good English so this just seemed like the easiest way. Or culturally it’s not really common to have a manager write a recommendation, so the only way you thought you could get one was to do it yourself.
Or for certain international applicants who have doubts about their own English skills, to just outsource the task and have one of those academic essay writing services write things up. Or heck, there are even unscrupulous and no-morals so-called “consultants” out there who will just create your entire application out of whole cloth.
Dang, there’s even a Resume Writing Service available at a major website that explicitly advertises that they will write your resume for your MBA app.
THIS IS NOT OKAY, PEOPLE.
EssaySnark is probably most miffed at the so-called consultants and advisors who market their services to do this kind of stuff, because they are totally and completely unprofessional and absolutely gaming the system. Yes the applicants are at fault too — nobody should be misrepresenting someone else’s effort as their own. No, it’s not as bad as Photoshopping applicants’ heads onto the bodies of athletes, but damn, it’s not really that different.
It is FRAUD.
So, just a (not) gentle reminder, Brave Supplicant:
If you’re applying to business school, you need to do so based on a presentation of reality. Your own work. Your own essays.
Yes, you can get input, help, education, coaching from others. There are experts who know what to do, and what to avoid. Use them wisely.
But paying someone to write your drafts? Or writing recommendations for your own application? These both are big no-nos and if you’re found out, you will be rejected for this reason alone.
It’s the same as lying on your resume and making up jobs you never held or degrees you don’t have. It is unethical and WRONG. Don’t do it, grasshopper. Just don’t. There is no justification in the world that makes any of this right.
Also, how odd to be posting a regular ol’ post today. Here we are, talking about getting into bschool. On September 11th. Like the most significant day that most of us Americans have lived through in our entire lifetimes. And yet, so much time has now passed from that fateful day…. Weird, how it can be just another day on the calendar now.
Actually this tip applies to any essay for any MBA application, but it’s especially important to do this for the Stanford GSB MBA essay about “What matters most and why?” That’s because that’s typically a longer essay (recommended in the 750-word range by the GSB adcom) and because longer essays sometimes take on a life of their own.
What happens is, they start out in one place, with a particular statement about what matters to you in this crazy and mixed-up world… and they….
But it’s not evolution in the context of adaptation to a positive good, like Darwin and how our species is now walking upright. It’s not about being a better fit to the environment, where we’re good at breathing air and we’ll let those fishes continue breathing in water. Oh no, it’s not evolution like that, in favor of life. Instead, as this beast of a draft, this essay-as-organism wanders down the page, it mutates. It shifts. It undergoes this weird slithery transformation. (Some — not naming names — might even call it a regression.)
We’re not sure what kind of dark alchemy you’ve done in your draft, but frequently, by the time we get to the end of it, we’re like, “Whu?”
The ending of your essay bears no resemblance to the beginning.
It’s like one of those hydra monsters, or a Medusa of snakes, each one writhing in its own independent direction.
(Can you tell we’ve been reading too many essays today? The ‘Snark brain is fried. Forgive us our many metaphors.)
Where were we.
The tip for testing your Stanford Essay A is a very easy test for internal consistency.
Read the last paragraph of your essay.
Now go back to the beginning. Read your introduction.
Do they match?
Or did your answer to “What matters most?” wander off into the thicket of confusing ideas somewhere in the middle and get hopelessly lost, never to be heard from again?
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We wrote a how-to guide for applying to Stanford!
When they announced their Class of 2021 profile recently, Harvard made a point to say that they’ve updated the industry categories that they use in describing their incoming class. They said that this would be “easier for students” because it’s in line with what their Career Services office uses. We’re a little baffled on how…
As we started yesterday, in the category of “Oh crap! How did this happen?!??” aka Yes, Round 1 is here! Here’s the thing: Regardless of how awesome your profile may be, you should still have a balanced strategy if you’re committed to sitting in a bschool classroom next Fall. That means including a less-competitive school…
We know some of you are seriously stressing out right now. You had every intention of making Round 1 happen, and yet Real Life conspired, and now you’re not where you had planned to be. Should you just plan to take advantage of Round 2 instead? This is a legit question!! And it completely depends…
If you’ve submitted to one or even two schools now (Darden also had a deadline this week, and we know a bunch of BSers who’ve submitted to Columbia, and also to INSEAD, earlier this summer), then we issue you a heartfelt CONGRATULATIONS! It’s so tough to get that first one done, and you deserve a huge pat on the back if you managed to pull off an application to any school already. Hitting that “submit” button can be a scary step to take! It may fill you with excitement, but also nervousness, and perhaps a little dread. Your fate is now sealed – it’s in the adcom’s hands!
So what can you expect from here?
Thankfully (or not) with HBS, the wait actually won’t be that long. If you’re like most, you’ll be slammed with other apps through the rest of this month, and then not too far into October you’ll know if you’re moving forward or not at Harvard. Chad Lossee will likely be announcing the actual schedule of interview invitations on the HBS Directors blog soon; if it follows patterns of recent years, it’ll be a couple days of stress in the first week of October. And then you will know. Our Harvard info page captures the general outlines of what to expect.
We do have to issue some unfortunate warnings about the Harvard process especially. Here’s where we lay out the major problem with the way HBS manages admissions and how it can totally mess with your head.
The tl;dr of it is, you’re going to find out if you’re (not) moving forward at Harvard really soon.
For most people, that’s going to be in the “not” category. It’s just how it goes.
And, it can throw you for a loop and make you feel like a total loser. (Just go read the whole post where we lament in full.)
What you have to focus on right now is: Take all the learnings that you have wrought out of your completion of that first application, and stay motivated. You’re going to roll straight into essay writing for your second application.
Just because you know some of your stories now, and have a better handle of how to write an essay in answer to these questions, you will resist the urge to copy and paste. There are very very few schools where you can reuse much of your content (we have pointed out the ones that have commonalities to be exploited here!).
Oh hey here’s a Pro Tip:
[paywall starts here – if you’re reading this, then you are missing out! you may sign up for a membership to the essaysnark blahg quickly and easily here!] [end restricted members-only content]
No matter what: Be proud that you got your first application done! That’s a massive achievement unto itself. Now use this momentum you’ve built up, and no coasting. Don’t take any breaks. You can sleep in October, when all of this is done. Keep moving forward, BSer — that’s how you conquer the next hill!!
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