…read their bschool essays and expect to get anything of value from it.
Brave Supplicant, we know you work hard. We know you want your application to shine. And we know you have supersmart friends, many of whom already have their MBAs from the topnotch superamazing bschool you want to go to. And so it’s only natural you would ask their opinion on your stuff. Right? Because they wrote essays, and they got in. They’ve got to be able to add value to your process.
Well…….. In our experience……….. not so much.
Think about it: They graduated from the school, when? Last year? Three years ago? They’re going to graduate in May?
OK great. That means they wrote their essays when? Two years ago? Five years ago? No matter what, they did NOT write essays THIS YEAR.
Even if they got accepted last year (in the 2009-’10 application season), their experience writing essays is worth NEXT TO NOTHING. Sometimes, people get accepted to bschool despite their essays (not often but it happens). And, someone’s experience successfully gaining admission in one year does not translate to being an expert in essays for anyone else, or to any other application cycle. Very rarely does anyone, accepted or not, get feedback from the adcom on the content and quality of their essays. Holding an MBA from a school just does not make someone an expert on how to GET INTO that school. (Case in point: One of EssaySnark’s clients from last year who’s currently at Columbia did not know there was a changing of the guard in the admissions office.)
That is our opinion. Sure, call us biased, since we are admissions consultants. Who ostensibly get paid to offer our opinion on people’s essays. You can accuse us of having a self-interest in trying to persuade you against using other (free) sources of help on your own application. Except for the fact that, ahem, this blog is absolutely free. And we’re giving you our best goods here. Right out in the open. On this thar Internet thang. And, we’re not accepting any paid business whatsoever through this channel. None. Nada. Zilch. Have turned away clients in fact. Maybe that will change in the future, but for now, we’re just doing this crazy snarky blog thing out of some bizarre desire to give back a little.
But we digress.
We find it usually ends up to be some variation of useless when one of our (paid) clients (yes we do have those too – just not through the EssaySnark blog) gets “feedback” on their essays from a friend.
This came up recently in a discussion list — a Brave Supplicant said he had his essays reviewed by several alum — here’s what we said about it over there:
In general, EssaySnark usually lacks confidence in what any school’s alumni say about someone’s essays — even if that alum was on the adcom at the school — just because there are so many factors that go into play and it’s really strategic and if you’re not, like, doing this stuff for a living, it’s near impossible to stay on top of it all. Even the best writers with the most noble intentions who graduated from the school itself often aren’t great judges of what an adcom may or may not be looking for in a set of essays, in a particular admissions season, in a particular day or week.
The other major point, though, is that the schools change their own strategies pretty dramatically, often every year. No need to look further than the radically different essay questions that Wharton has used over the past few admissions cycles. Maybe we’ll do a compare-and-contrast on this some day, to show you how the school’s interest and intent can be at least guessed at from some of these switches in direction. They change their questions to get at a different element of response from the candidate pool. So they can better evaluate each and every app that comes in. Sure, some of our analysis is pure conjecture. We’re not on the adcom of Wharton or any other school (can you say “conflict of interest”??) But what alumni of any school — who’s not in admissions consulting — is paying any attention to the changes in their school’s essays from year to year? And imagine what might be so easily overlooked by someone who is not paying attention in that way. How would they really know if the essay is good or not?!?
The other huge point EssaySnark needs to make is, so many people who think they’re good writers are, arguably, not. We see this firsthand in our own clients. The ones who think they can string together a sentence are often the ones who come up with bloated, meandering, quasi-meaningless essays, who cannot construct a logical argument in a million years (or, at least, not without significant coaching and like five rounds of revision). We’ve had essays come back from “review” by a client’s friend riddled with grammar issues and even more convoluted than they started out.
So, Brave Supplicant, our words of advice here are — be selective who you ask for words of advice. No, you don’t need to use an admissions consultant, and we definitely don’t expect you to use us, just because you’re here reading up on our suggestions. But just because some alum says your essays are good, don’t expect to be greeted with an open invitation from the adcom to automatically join their next incoming class of MBA students.*
* We’re not meaning to imply that the Brave Supplicant who prompted us to write this posting had this attitude — if anything, this person seems incredibly motivated, helpful to others, and sincere, and EssaySnark is not directing any snarkiness whatsoever towards said Brave Supplicant — in fact, we hope that you end up with multiple admissions from these schools you’re targeting!!! If you want us to check out your essays for you, send ’em on over and we’ll (anonymously) give them a once-over on this blog.