And yes, that’s true. But the people who are saying that have never struggled with the challenge of figuring out what to write as a reapplicant. And so what we say to their advice is: DON’T LISTEN We touched on this marginally in the Be careful about applying to Columbia now post earlier this week,…
Based on the title of this post, you may think that EssaySnark is just being friendly. Oh no, ma cherie. We are talking about interviewing!!! There are so many basic questions that can so thoroughly trip up an unsuspecting (aka unprepared) BSer. Your interview, as you know, is your time to shine. As we’ve been…
One of the very best ways you can find out about a bschool that you’re interested in is to talk to the students who are going there. (Yeah, this seems like an obvious statement, but you’d be surprised. Lots of applicants never do any of this.) Right now is a Prime Time Great Opportunity to…
In the category of “wow didn’t expect that”: Applications to law school rebounded in the last year. And then again: Hmm, of course! Shoulda expected that! Everything happens due to the political environment and the economy. The economy is the most obvious and immediate driver in trends in MBA admissions. The political environment is the…
This perhaps is in the category of common sense, but you know how that goes. Sometimes you don’t realize things until later (and if common sense really were all that common, then it seems the world wouldn’t be in quite such the state that it is). If you do make it to the States as…
While we still have the attention of those Class of 2020 MBA applicants who either have already gotten admitted in Round 1 or who are looking like they’re highly likely to get there in Round 2 (yay!), we thought we’d talk today about something you may or may not have thought of:
Studying for the GMAT or GRE was likely eye-opening, in reminding you of how much math you’ve forgotten, but that type of studying is not the same as being in school.
Where you’re like responsible for READING and you have to PREP CASES and ohmygosh there’s even more READING to do.
If you’re lucky enough to be headed off to grad school in the Fall, then we wanted to give you a quick reminder that, like, yeah. It’s gonna be WORK!
For anyone who’s been out of school for more than like 5 minutes, the reality of the academic environment and how hard it is can be easily forgotten. You’ve been practically obsessed with getting into bschool literally a year or more now, when you take into account the time spent in tackling the GMAT and figuring out the app cycle and going through the entire process to this point. You may have overlooked the fact that you’ve signed yourself up for SCHOOL. A quick primer on what that’s about may be worthwhile.
If you were a good student in college, you may fall back into those productive study habits without too much turmoil once you’re on campus. If you were never really that good of a student….
We recently were sent a free review copy of This Book Will Not Be on the Test: The Study Skills Revolution by Paul Rivas.
Here’s what Paul said when he sent it to us: “While designed to help families get their money’s worth in college, everything in the book is probably twice as important for grad students.”
Doing well in school requires effort. It’s work — and a different type of work than you do in your job. The type of focused concentration required to learn something new is a form of mental pain. It’s literally painful to learn, at least it can be when the topic is totally new. That experience of work being painful is something you probably went through when you first started your current job, but you may not remember how awful it is. Be prepared for the shock of it; it may take you some time to acclimate. You’ll be going from an environment where you were doing well, possibly even coasting, where you had full command of your discipline, where you knew what was expected on the job and were able to perform satisfactorily such that they actually kept paying you to do it…. To a totally opposite situation, where not only do you have to show up and focus on a lecture, and then another one, and then probably a third one after that, but then you have to go home and open up the books and study the stuff that made no sense to you in the classroom, and actually teach yourself the topics that the professor was going on and on about.
It’s like 180 degrees from the place of comfort and confidence that you had been in on the job. It’s likely to cause some angst.
This is particularly true given what you have signed up for: GRADUATE BUSINESS SCHOOL. If you’ve not before been in grad school — or at a Top 10 institution of any kind — you may be in for a rude awakening when you land in your MBA classroom and realize that school actually started long before you arrived.
This Not on the Test book that came across our radar is not going to give you instant insights to all the study secrets of the world. You can probably find much of this same information elsewhere on the internet. So we’re not going to advise you to go buy it, though you might want to at least read through the preview on Amazon or go to his website and check out his blog .
However, if you weren’t a straight A student in college — or even if you were — you could find value in some of the practical tips that Rivas offers.
Some of it may seem basic when you read it, especially if you read it BEFORE you are back in the academic environment. But honestly, that may simply be due to a lack of perspective. It’s like if you hear that women are advised to breathe during childbirth. You read that and you’re all, “Well duh.” But then if you’re in a childbirth situation, you understand, “Oh. That advice really means something.”
Same deal here.
Rivas has a series of rules, such as one about planning out your time, and another to take responsibility for your learning, which could be considered fairly rudimentary — unless you’re someone who does not do these things, and suffers the consequences of that without realizing it.
Here’s a nugget that resonates with EssaySnark:
“If you approach the real world [meaning, life outside of school] seeking nothing more than the external validation of an A grade, you’re in for a world of hurt. Aiming for As amounts to doing the minimum required to meet an arbitrary and inconsistent standard, whereas aiming for awesomeness amounts to committing to a lifelong process of incremental improvement, of which straight As happen to be a convenient by-product.”
Yup, we agree precisely with all of that.
You may not have this orientation to learning today, but the way to make school the most enjoyable is to find a way to enjoy school. Sounds either hopelessly circular or perhaps idealistically unrealistic, but we hope that you’ll discover the power of this for yourself.
You may not want to learn accounting, or marketing, or statistics. Nobody is naturally interested in all subjects that they will require you to take for your MBA. However, if you’re able to appreciate the process of learning itself, then even something unappealing or difficult can still be tackled and learned, because you’re figured out ways to both motivate yourself to do the studying, and tricks to use to retain the material that’s so difficult for the brain to hold onto. Like the periodic table of elements in chemistry, or all the equations and different acronyms in corporate finance.
Or it’s possible that someone trying for the GMAT or the GRE for the first (or the umpteenth) time could find value in some insights at the beginning of Chapter 6:
“You’re not a poor test taker. You have poor study skills.
‘You don’t have test anxiety. You have anxiety because you know you haven’t mastered the material and are not going to do well on the test. The problem is that you don’t know why. (Poor study skills.)”
A huge chunk of this book is stories from the author’s experiences as a college tutor, and as he warned when he sent it over, it’s really written for parents. The real “meat” of the material in the context of actual advice to use for studying doesn’t start until page 93 — of a 130-page book. So it’s probably not really ideal for all of your soon-to-be MBA students.
But. If you read this post with some trepidation, knowing in your heart that you had trouble applying yourself to school the last time you were there, then take this as an early intervention, before you even need it. Bschool will be far more reading than you can ever stay on top of, and nobody will be watching to see if you fail. Good intentions won’t make you successful. You’ll need to do school differently this time if you want to get different results. Getting early prep and developing systems that work for you from the very beginning will be key.
And, ask for help! If you find you’re not keeping your head above water, don’t just pretend that everything is fine. There’s a lot of unspoken peer pressure in bschool where everyone pretends that they’re doing fabulous, even if really they’re not. Don’t let things go too far if you’re in trouble. All schools have resources available but they won’t be able to help you if you don’t seek them out.
From Lao Tzu:
Mastering others is strength; mastering yourself is true power.”
We started on this topic yesterday with our Bschool is what you make of it post. Today we’ll give a few practical tips specific to those who are tormenting themselves over which school to choose. We mentioned Welcome Weekend yesterday which is an obvious excellent resource and opportunity — but there can be a showstopper…
If you’re sitting here in early 2019 thinking about applying to bschool in the fall for the Class of 2022, then we hope you’ll take today’s advice seriously.
And if you’re sitting here in early 2019 having already gone through that process, feeling grateful that you’ll be starting an MBA program this fall yet tormenting yourself with the decision about which of your multiple-school admit offers to accept, we also hope you’ll listen close!
We’ll call the pre-applicant BSer Case A. You’ve not yet applied to any school (or perhaps you have and you’ve only seen rejections so far 🙁 ).
We’ll call the happy success story BSer Case B. You’ve made it in and felt the rush of excitement, not once but twice or more, and then gone through many difficult days of trying to figure out this all-important decision on where to actually attend.
The Case A BSers may not appreciate this, but the Case B BSers probably do:
The most important task in the entire MBA application process is school research.
Why do we say that?
Because the only way that you’ll be able to easily navigate Case B is if you have figured out which of the schools is the right fit for you.
Yes that should happen BEFORE you apply. But often, it doesn’t.
Everyone wants to go to “the best” bschool. Many many many applicants, though, outsource the determination of “the best” to some external source. Rankings will not tell you what school is best for you. You come up with a list based on M7 or some other nonsense and you get those apps out. It’s very possible to still make it in even without doing your own firsthand research, but then if you were lucky enough (aka, your profile was strong enough and you worked hard enough on your apps) to get in to multiple schools, well, then what? Do you just go with the school that’s ranked higher?
Or, sometimes, Case A BSers figure, “All bschools are the same and I just want to go to a good one” so they paper the country with applications, which rarely works and is VERY expensive.
For Case B, the tl;dr is:
There’s a lot of factors that go into the decision of which school to choose but in the end we always tell folks to go with the gut — and to solicit opinions, but not really listen to any of ’em, ‘cuz nobody else has any skin in the game for this except for you! If you were admitted to two or more schools among the Top 10, then some people simply choose the one that they feel is “better” — so, if they get into Duke and Kellogg, many choose Kellogg. If they get into Tuck and Wharton, they choose Wharton. Etc. Often, in an admit-pairing, there’s one school that’s got more prestige, where you’ll be impressing your friends to say you are going there.
But is that automatically “the best” school for you?
Maybe it is. Certainly, if you cracked the Top 10 with more than one app, you cannot go wrong, whichever you choose! It’s not like we’re dissing any of these schools. It’s totally your decision, and if you feel that the best school for you is the one that’s ranked higher, that’s totally normal and natural and nothing wrong with making that choice.
But is it “the best” for you as an individual? Can you identify the reasons why? For you personally?
If you’ve got the curse of good luck and you’re sitting here stuck between multiple admits, then the most effective way to decide of course is to participate in the Welcome Weekend events for both schools. That’s how you discover what the school culture and experience will be, where you get to know your potential future classmates and get a feel for what this school is like. And the food.
But you wanna know the better way to go?
Bschool is about people, yes. You want to see what these other admits are like and figure out if you sync with them.
Bschool is about the jobs, yes. You want to know if the employers you’re interested in are recruiting at your school to fill the jobs you’re currently planning to pursue — knowing, too, that those plans may change, and so not being overly fixated on these specifics, but researching them nonetheless.
But in the end, the paper-the-country applicant is absolutely right: Bschools are in fact interchangeable on this one very important dimension, the dimension that matters most in this process:
What about YOU? Which school will allow you to do your best work? Which school is the place that you get excited about, that has the programs and initiatives and opportunities that make your mouth drool? (and now we’re not talking about the food)
Here’s a trick:
Dig out that essay you wrote for your school.
Now that you’ve been admitted, go back over the reasons you cited for why you wanted to go there in the first place.
For 99.9% of all applicants, those reasons at the time were totally manufactured. It was an artificial process, where you read through the website until you found something that fit the point you were trying to make about the career goal that you’re interested in. It was pretty arbitrary; it was just plugging School Resource X into a box, and then going back and finding Resource Y, and Resource Z, and doing the same on the next school’s essay thereafter.
But now that you’ve been admitted, open up those essays. What did you say about this school at the time, when you were begging at the altar of an admit?
Do those reasons still apply?
Or do you have others?
Can you articulate clearly why this school is right for you?
What will you actually DO there when you get on campus and start, like, learning stuff?
Many schools have very similar programs and clubs and opportunities so it’s not like, “Oh, this school calls it this but this other school calls it that….”
We’re talking about, have you actually discussed these programs and resources and clubs with actual students? Do you know what these things will do for you, what you will gain from them, why you should bother? On the surface they may sound alike but are they REALLY alike? What are the differences? Why do they matter? Based on what type of person YOU are, how are they relevant? What are your specific priorities? If you can only do one significant international trip as part of your MBA, which one will it be, and why? What school has the best opportunity for that? What is the timing for that experience, based on where you will be in the course of the overall education? How will you leverage it? Will you already have been able to take Course X that you want to do first, or will that course only be offered after the trip?
These are just basic ideas to help you analyze all of the options. All of this is meant only to emphasize: The most important part of this process is school research.
Or another way to put it is, go to the school where you will do your best work (thank you, Dean Bruner). Understanding that requires you to understand yourself first. What kind of environment do you thrive in?
All of these questions need to be asked.
Regardless of whether you’re at the very beginning of this process and just starting to kick the tires on which programs you might be interested in, or at the very end where you’re making the seemingly impossible decision and selecting between two awesome opportunities, keep that in mind: Where will you do your best work?
That’s all that matters in the end, don’t you think?
You may also be interested in:
- An MBA is what you make of it
- The deal with culture and school fit
- Choosing between top-ranked MBA programs
Here’s a quick-hit rando assortment of advice, warnings, and some rebuttals to that advice that will give you
fodder for procrastination on ideas for reflection when prepping for your interview. We’ve collected these links over a period of time and rather than trying to distill them into a snarkolicious post of our own, we figured we’d just give you a direct line to the source. These are almost all written for job interviews so adapt where needed.
Hope this is helpful!
- Interviewing? Slow down – and practice becoming more aware of your use of filler words (um, ah, like)
- And a rebuttal to some of that advice about words like “like” (based on gender/generation)
- Great interview tips from HEC alum
- Excellent advice for when you mess up during an interview
- Play-act your interview prep as a rehearsal for your big moment
- Some behavioral questions to practice with – preparing for these types of questions in your interview lets you share more substance
- Language matters in your interview
- Did you REALLY ace the interview?
- A little basic but still worth remembering: Interview etiquette
Columbia Business School is as you know a great school, but they do their entire process differently, both because they don’t have rounds in the same way as other schools, and instead have rolling admissions. And this could trip an unsuspecting Brave Supplicant up. So every year around this time, we take it upon ourselves…