This seriously happy note came in from a BSer in May last year and we figured it was appropriate to post it now, since so many of you are getting antsy waiting for admit decisions — here’s something that hopefully you can be looking forward to (or at least some variation of it) in the…
This “school fit” thing is really a nebulous concept.
At least, at first it is. When you’re first trying to figure out what schools to apply to and everything. It can be truly overwhelming. Where do you start, and how do you understand this “fit” thing in the first place?
Often this only is revealed in its final form much later in the process.
Initially people will decide where to apply based on multiple and myriad factors. The list will change frequently. The value of “school fit” initially is it tells you where NOT to apply.
How it works is this:
You come up with your list of schools, based either on where other people you know have gone, or maybe just only on rankings. Or geography. You decide you don’t want to go to school where it snows. Or that you want a place with an outdoors culture.
And then you go visit. (Hint: Now would be a grand time to do that!!)
Or if you can’t visit — and even if you can — you start talking to people. You connect with the school. You attend their webinars and go to a local info session when one is in town. You hook up with some students in a coffee chat and learn about their experiences.
Through these points of contact, you start to form impressions. Those opinions will guide you. You will discover what school has people you resonate with.
This is what is meant by “school fit” — at least, it’s one key dimension of it (and, to EssaySnark, really it’s the only one that matters).
The other aspect of “school fit” is a more clinical one, namely: Are you a fit to what type of student they typically accept? It’s coming from the direction of the school, and how you present yourself to them. That’s a whole different topic which we should probably discuss in full another time — or, just read all of the posts on this blahg about planning your strategy and writing your essays, and pick up the school strategy guide for the school that you’re targeting. We cover this stuff 24/7 here.
The final arbiter of “school fit” often does not manifest until very late in the process. That’s when you’re faced with decisions on which offer to accept. If you’ve done your homework and played your cards right and applied to the right set of schools in Round 1, then almost guaranteed you will be faced with the difficult decision of choosing between multiple options.
Sometimes that choice is a tormented one. BSers often agonize in the end, over which one to select, when there are multiple choices on the table.
But sometimes, the choice becomes obvious even before it has to be made (or sometimes it’s made for you).
An example from Round 1 last Fall is a BSer who was invited to interview at three top schools. But then as decisions started getting released, one of those was a “no.”
Here’s what we said to this person in response:
OH NO! How disappointing about [School X]!!!!!!!!!!
(But you wanna know a secret? We see you as more of a [School Y] or a [School Z] person anyway!!! When it comes down to values and all that!!)
Still, really bummed to hear that [School X] said no in the end. 🙁
It’s incredibly happy news to know that [School Y] accepted you, and let’s see what [School Z] does next and maybe you’ll have a difficult decision to make in the coming weeks!!!
Fingers crossed for this last one!
And, here’s what that BSer said back in response:
Thank you!! To be honest, I felt the same way, and have shared with a few close friends that I felt like it might be really hard to pick [School Y] or [School Z] over [School X] if I got into [School X], so getting that off the table almost feels like a relief (though of course I am disappointed). [School Y] and [School Z] were absolutely my favorites! I cried when [School Y] called me – she said very nice things about connecting with my essays and what a great fit I’d be for them. And hey – NO MORE ESSAYS or APPLICATIONS! Let’s see what [School Z] says!
BTW, this person did get into School Z as well.
So the moral of this story is:
Do your research — starting NOW.
Expect your list to evolve.
You’ll be making many decisions along the way, but you won’t likely know that how you’ll feel about any school until you get further into the process of applying, and learning about them, and experiencing those choices firsthand.
There is no One Size Fits All answer to the question of school fit. It’s totally personal and individual. But it’s just like falling in love: You know it when it happens to you.
Here’s what’s gonna happen with GMAT scores: They’re gonna keep creeping up. In 2011, a 48Q was 80th percentile. Today, a 48Q is 69th percentile. On the ESR – Extended Score Report – the GMAT people say this: “Gradual over long periods” eh? Hmmm. Eleven points seems like an awful lot. Test-takers are gonna continue…
This simple sentence can be empowering – or it can really trip you up and even embarrass you depending on the context and to whom you are saying it. If you’re in Silicon Valley and you utter these words, you could get a range of reactions from an eyeroll to a shrug to a look…
Dang. You didn’t make it in. BUT WHY???
Most schools are explicit with a no-feedback policy. All decisions are final, and they’re unable to talk to you about it because they don’t have the bandwidth to field all of those calls.
But some schools are much more generous with their time and attention and encouragement.
For example, if you didn’t make it in to Darden, they’ve often offered the chance to get feedback in case you want to reapply. Usually they make this available in June (mark your calendar now!).
Only a few schools do this. In the past, HBS would do it if they interviewed you and/or put you on the waitlist before rejecting you, though they don’t advertise this policy very loudly and we’re not clear if it’s a one-off thing or a standing offer that they’ll continue to make available if you ask. Tuck will do it too. Yale does it. We understand that Berkeley-Haas is no longer doing it, which is a bummer.
If you go for one of these feedback sessions, just manage expectations. The stuff they say tends to be pretty standard. Unless you’re one of those super qualified candidates who just couldn’t break into bschool this year because there were too many others in your pool, then the adcom is more likely than not going to tell you stuff that you should already know. By the time you go for a feedback session, then hopefully will be able to predict what the admissions person is going to tell you. You should have a sense based on profile self-assessment (or a simple comparison to the school’s class profile) what the issues are. If your college academics are not that strong, or if your GMAT is a little low, then that’s what your adcom person will say. Predictable.
They may also tell you if your essays weren’t up to snuff. Maybe.
Generally speaking, the reports we hear back from BSers who ask for one of these feedback sessions are largely the same. The value of such calls is usually a bit limited. The adcoms aren’t going to tell you REALLY why you were rejected (especially not if the reason was the you came across like a jerk in your app in some way, or if your recommenders did not say nice things about you – it’s unusual but it happens, and these reasons will definitely not be directly disclosed). The adcom peeps are more likely than not going to give you some vague comments about how you’re qualified but it’s competitive, yada yada yada.
It can still be useful to go through the experience but honestly, you hopefully by this stage of the game have done enough self-reflecting and gone back over your candidacy in a more objective light, that you are aware of the deficiencies that may have been in evidence. And, even more hopefully, you’re already taking steps to fix them, in preparation for the coming Round 1 season.
We’re of course always up for taking a look at rejected apps – we have the formal Post-Mortem (aka “Oh noz!!”) review where we go into great detail on every aspect of your application. Or you can just get the Comprehensive Profile Review which lets you understand how things may be perceived by the adcoms in the upcoming cycle.
We do still appreciate the schools that do this. It’s certainly an attempt to be more transparent, and it’s an applicant-friendly policy. But it’s kind of like when someone is breaking up with you; it’s possible you’re going to get some variation of, “It’s not you, it’s me” – or maybe, “It’s not you, it’s your test score.” Sometimes people need to hear that directly from A Person In Power before they’ll decide to actually do something about it, so if you’re skeptical of the assessments you’ve heard elsewhere, then definitely get some time on the calendar with your friendly admissions person and see what they say. No matter what, it shows that you are motivated, and if you reapply then they will see that you took advantage of this opportunity, which can only be a positive.
Also, there are some schools that offer such conversations at the beginning of the process, before you even put together your application to submit. Schools like HEC Paris and certain tracks at Duke (e.g. the Cross-Continent MBA) and also many EMBA programs invite candidates to reach out and connect with their admissions teams for a detailed discussion in advance of applying. Typically how it works is you submit your resume to them and then schedule a call where they talk about that specific program and how you might be a fit. Sometimes they’ll steer you to another of the degree programs that that school offers, but often it’ll be a way to encourage you to apply to that program specifically. It’s a high-touch approach that they find valuable, since it lets them start to build the relationship and gain exposure to what they offer, and it can be great for you as a potential applicant since they even sometimes coach candidates or steer them in a better direction on issues like which test (GRE or GMAT or for EMBA, Executive Assessment) and what type of score would be needed. This is more common for some of the European full-time programs; it’s not something that most of the top U.S. schools offer since they don’t have the ability to meet all the demand that they would have for it. Be sure to dig through all the pages of your school’s website to see about such opportunities, and if an admissions team offers it, then jump on the chance.
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We have a few more thoughts to add to our musings and wild predictions about bschool leadership from yesterday.
First off, despite what we said yesterday, the real answer to the question of “Does the dean matter?” is NO.
If you’re thinking about getting an MBA today, then whoever is the dean should not impact your decision-making (with the one outlier case of Cornell which is an odd situation right now as we discussed yesterday). The school you’re applying to is the school you will go to. It’s like deciding to visit a country based on who is the president. There are many significant reasons for why you would choose to travel somewhere and who holds the top office in that country simply does not factor in (at least, for most travelers, and to most countries, though we’re in a weird world right now you could say).
If a new dean comes in today, or at any point during your pursuit of your studies, there will be no impact on you whatsoever. There will be announcements and parties and he or she is likely to host a coffee chat or happy hour or whatever and try to get to know the students. They’ll go on a listening tour and spend lots of time huddling, and send out surveys and such. But there will be few to no changes that will impact your life or the experience of the MBA.
If a dean came in within the last two years, then it’s different. In that case, it’s no longer a “new” dean — you won’t see articles in the news about the change in leadership on campus — but you are DEFINITELY likely to experience their ideas in action in what happens to you in the course of your education. In this case, the dean does matter. You’re going to be the guinea pig who is in the experiment that they’re running for how to reinvent their school for the next era (and definitely, these schools are in the midst of transformation, whether they’re actively embracing it and becoming proactive change agents or the opposite).
We have already seen that with the “new deans” (in the last two years) at Darden most prominently, and to a slightly lesser degree at Tuck. We have appreciated the much higher visibility presence of Dean DeRue at Ross, and we’re aware of some changes that are underway there now too. Can’t say we’ve seen it at Stanford.
What we hope to see with the upcoming announcements of new appointments that are expected at Kellogg and Berkeley-Haas and also UCLA (Dean Judy Olian is also stepping down) and Cornell (?) is diversity.
As of this writing there are no female deans at any top bschools. Kellogg, Ross and UCLA all had female deans; all of those women have left or are leaving those positions. Alison Davis-Blake at Ross was replaced with a white man.
As of this writing there are no deans from underrepresented minority groups at any top bschools. NYU Stern had an African-American dean; he left and was replaced with an Indian man.
We would be SHOCKED if Berkeley-Haas did not find a woman — or possibly even an African-American or a Hispanic woman — to take over from Rich Lyons. If they replace Dean Lyons with another white man, well….. that just would not be the Berkeley that we know today. Haas has put gender issues front and center earlier than most schools and they will be under enormous pressure to make diversity a priority in their hire. We also wouldn’t be surprised if they pulled in someone from the tech industry. There’s currently a debate in academia (most prominently at bschools) whether an academic dean or a professional manager dean is ideal or appropriate, and it’s largely a function of the type of school that you’re talking about. At a public institution like Berkeley, it may make sense to have an academic take over, rather than someone from the private sector who may not understand the dynamics that go into this type of organization. Or, the opposite may be true. We’re betting that the search team at Berkeley-Haas has been speaking with people at UVA Darden to learn how their transition has gone (current dean Scott Beardsley came in from McKinsey, and UVA is a state school so there are many parallels to the UC situation). Perhaps Marissa Mayer is looking for an entirely different role, now that she’s out of Yahoo? (Though it’s unlikely that the UC system can afford a profile like that.)
There will also be pressure at UCLA to replace the female dean with another woman, or if not a female, then a minority. Ditto Kellogg. We had expected the same at NYU Stern but that’s not how it turned out (there are a number of Indian men running top schools both here and in Europe so while yes, NYU technically has a minority, it’s not exactly one adding to the diversity picture of this landscape of top schools.
So, does the current dean matter? You betcha. It lets you know where your school is at and what you might expect in the coming years of your time there. If you have a newer-appointed dean who’s still in the early stages of his or her tenure it’s more likely that there will be visible and obvious changes happening at your school. If the dean has been in his role for awhile, much less likely (with some exceptions like MIT notably). Studying the profile of the dean can give you some insights into the type of place you’ll be walking in to.
And, does it matter who a school appoints if they have a vacancy pending? You betcha. You can look to the announcement of a new appointment to understand a school’s priorities and values. Do they put their money where their mouth is? Or are they all lip-service instead?
We’ll be watching this space with interest as 2018 unfolds.
We last blahgged about bschool deans and changes of leadership back in January 2015 when we talked about Geoffrey Garrett taking over at Wharton in July 2014, Matthew Slaughter taking over at Tuck in July 2015, and Scott Beardsley taking over at Darden in August 2015.
Since then, there has been another round of transitions in the top position at these schools:re
- Stanford’s embattled and scandal-weary Garth Saloner stepped aside and insider Jonathan Levin took over September 2016 (dang was it really that long ago?!)
- Michigan Ross’s dean Alison Davis-Blake resigned and they promoted from within by appointing professor Scott DeRue into the post in June 2016 (ditto the long-ago exclamation!)
- NYU’s well-regarded Peter Henry handed the reins over to Raghu Sundaram in January
- Berkeley-Haas’s beloved Rich Lyons will be stepping down in June and as far as we know, no replacement has been announced.
- Kellogg’s Dean Sally Blount has also announced she’s stepping down at the end of this academic year.
- Cornell Johnson is experiencing some turmoil. They underwent some radical transformation (for an academic institution) in 2016 where they merged three of their graduate schools under the umbrella of one. The Johnson School, where you would go if you were getting an MBA, joined with their world-renowned hospitality school and the Dyson School (economics) under a newly-named College of Business. Their Johnson School dean Soumitra Dutta took over as dean for this merged College of Business entity. But then Dean Dutta suddenly resigned at the end of January. They appointed an interim dean (Joe Thomas), but now it looks like they have promoted the Johnson School (MBA) dean (Mark Nelson) to permanently lead the merged College of Business… but we’ve honestly lost track of the plot.
So to discuss the question posed at the top of this post:
Does the dean matter?
In light of that convoluted web of Cornell confusion we just tried to summarize for you, we’ll have to say, yes it does.
But only to an extent.
We have yet to learn the circumstances around Dean Dutta’s sudden departure from the dean position at Cornell (supposedly he’s still on the faculty, but he’s never taught a class, so it sounds like a case of a golden parachute to us). We do know that the merger into the College of Business was not sold well to internal stakeholders and there were many protests and lots of dissension when it happened. We heard that the hospitality folks especially were unhappy. So as outsiders going on these two datapoints alone, all we can say is that there were issues with the way leadership has been done there. Is that enough to stop you from applying to Cornell? No, it shouldn’t be — but you DEFINITELY should travel to Ithaca and learn what you can from current students and ask direct questions of admissions folks to discover what type of impact there might be. There will still be professors showing up to teach classes and you still will be able to earn an MBA there. But innovate? No, that’s not going to happen. This place is going to be stalled out for the foreseeable future until they get their house in order…. and obviously when a school that’s supposed to be teaching you leadership demonstrates such an epic #leadershipfail then it does call some basic assumptions into question.
So that’s a cautionary tale, and we acknowledge that we don’t have all of the data, mostly because the school itself is playing very hush-hush. If we hear back from our on-the-ground sources we will update this post (or if any of you have actual knowledge of the situation — not more rumors and gossip but concrete facts — then we’d love to hear them!).
On the opposite end of the examples-of-leadership spectrum, we have a separate case:
We just learned yesterday that rockstar dean Ted Snyder will be stepping down from his leadership of Yale SOM next year. Our understanding is that he’s on sabbatical this year, so is already not on campus, and he’ll return to the deanship next year but thereafter will move back to teaching, which is what many deans do when they leave their deanship. Traditionally, deans were academics who started off as PhDs doing research and teaching classes, and eventually took on more and more administrative responsibilities in running their school before getting the top spot. Those people often are academics at heart and they may long to go back to their roots. Stepping down from the leadership position often means staying at the same institution and just moving out of the spotlight to resume a faculty role. Sometimes a dean “stepping down” means that they are resigning from the workforce entirely, or that they’re going to leave that school completely and go somewhere else, but often it means that they’re sticking around and just will no longer be the dean at their campus.
We’re going to make a wild prediction: Dean Snyder may initially take up a faculty role at the SOM but there’s a school that REALLY is overdue for some new blood in the high office and we’re going to place a bet that Ted Snyder eventually ends up at Columbia. This is total guesswork in looking at the graduate school landscape from a complete outsider’s perspective. If there were a school that could benefit from a makeover right now then Columbia is it, and if there were a dean who could do it then Ted Snyder is your man. Columbia’s Glenn Hubbard has been serving as dean since 2004 which by our count makes him the longest-serving dean at any top school. If it ain’t broke, then why fix it, but…….
So does the dean matter?
If you’re Chicago Booth in the first decade of the 21st Century, or Yale SOM in the second, the answer to that is h3ll yeah.
Ted Snyder made Booth into the school that it is (we keep waiting for current leadership to do more) and then after that, Ted Snyder worked his brand of magic again at Yale. Chicago and Yale were both excellent schools before he arrived but his tenure at each respectively made them more than excellent.
MIT and HBS are the other schools with a long-running dean. At MIT, Dean Schmittlein has been quietly creating a success story since 2008. Across the river, Nitin Nohria has been running the show since 2010. Duke’s Dean Boulding has been there since 2013 and was just reappointed to another five-year term. All of those schools seem to be doing fine (not necessarily seeing bold innovations of late from the latter two, but they’re both in good shape — no scandals!! — and no threats to their relative positions in the rankings, and MIT is doing just fine, thank you). We don’t expect big changes at any one but who knows. If Ted Snyder isn’t ready to retire yet (he’s only like 65 right now) then perhaps Harvard might try to lure him. But we doubt it. If he lands at another top bschool then we’re just wildly flapping our gums and crystal-balling that it would be at Columbia.
This has grown long. We have more to say. We will pick up with it again on the morrow (which is now posted HERE).