EssaySnark has a soft spot for the military guys trying for bschool — and when we hear of one of ’em making it in, we get pretty excited about it. (Actually, we get pretty excited about all of you guys getting in!) And this particular candidate had a LOT going for him — yet he still didn’t get more than a nibble in Round 1. So when we heard his news recently, we were partying right along with him. Here’s his story — and all the civilians out there, take heart: If a Green Beret thought that this process was a struggle, you know it’s hard! You’re not crazy with all the emotions you’re feeling on this rollercoaster!
Business school application is a marathon, not a sprint. I applied to six schools, four business (two each in R1 and R2) and two public policy schools. Six is not an astronomical number, but it was nonetheless physically and mentally draining to live and toil under a cloud of uncertainty for the last six months, first madly dashing to the R1 finish line then taking too long of a break before starting my R2 essays, all the while working on my public policy school essays. As others learned before me, inhale deeply before you start your journey to business school and take the long view. If you are among the lucky ones to receive R1 admission from your top choices, great. For the rest of us, the application season will last half a year or more. Pace yourself. During the summer before applying, craft a multi-round, multi-school game plan of your top choices and your backup schools.
In hindsight, I felt that I rushed my applications to my initial top choices. If given a chance to re-do my applications, I would have waited until R2 to apply to my top choices. [We understand why he’s saying this but Rd 2 is more competitive – Rd 1 is *always* preferred. -ES] Feeling that I was racing other applicants, I wanted to get my applications in the door as early as possible to my dream schools and consequently rushed to submit them. My R1 results were an outright rejection and an interview that led to a waitlist decision. At the time, I thought that my essays were the best that they could be. After enlisting EssaySnark’s help for my R2 applications, I realized that they were not and my writing could have benefited from further distillation. For the lucky ones, R1 led to success and rejoicing. For the rest of us, R1 resulted in disappointment and an essay writing scramble during the holiday season. Ensuring that you have adequate time to put the finishing touches could mean the difference between a rejection and an invitation to interview. In many ways, I believe essay writing is more a race against oneself than against other applicants. It is an inner exploration of your hopes and dreams as well as searching for those life defining moments in your life. It is one thing to think that you know what your short and long-term career goals are, but an entirely different matter when attempting to commit your thoughts to paper. My initial attempts sounded foolish and naïve (as I’m sure they did to my consultant). It takes time for the good-idea fairy to simmer in your head.
There is a learning curve to b-school essay writing. With the tight word limits imposed by the adcoms, you must develop and utilize a direct, succinct style of prose that still fully communicates and fleshes out your ideas. The academic writing style that many who graduate from liberal arts colleges are used to is ill-suited for conveying career goals, the life-shaping experiences, and the success/setback stories that b-schools seek within their word caps. Even those who are veterans in direct, business style communication will find the word limits challenging. My first hacks at the essays were hundreds of words over limit. Again, adequate time is necessary to adapt to b-school writing, as well as letting the good ideas percolate through the filters in your head. The good news is that the essays will (hopefully) get progressively easier as you advance deeper into your applications and successfully adapt your writing style. Start writing even if you are not sure what the end-state of your essays will look like. The mere act of putting thoughts to paper will engage the gears inside your head and start the process of finding the right stories and adapting your writing style.
I realize that it is hypocritical for a former BS’er to preach patience and calm to those anxiously reading the tea leaves. Taking a Zen approach to b-school applications helped stabilize my emotional highs and lows. Between my rejection from my first school, interview then waitlist from second, admission from my third, and not hearing back at all from my fourth, I rode an emotional roller coaster for the last 6 months (as I’m sure many fellow BS’ers have). After hitting the submit button, it is out of your hands. Knowing that you put your best foot forward by ensuring that you had adequate time helps in instilling an inner calm. There is nothing more to do but hope for the best and plan for the worst. Develop alternative courses of action in case business school does not immediately pan out. It could mean going back to your old job or switching to a different job to beef up your resume, or taking additional classes to address an academic weakness. For the older applicants or military members, this may not be possible and you may only have one realistic shot, so it is even more critical to plan ahead to schedule GMAT (anticipate the possibility of having to retake the exam), consultation services, and strategy development.
These are all the things that I didn’t do and wished I had done in my quest to get into business school. I hope future BS’ers find them helpful. As I was told once in Special Forces selection, as you slog through with no end in sight, keep your head up and don’t forget to smile![Addendum that came later] A caveat I would like to add is that the b-school essay writing learning curve applies to b-school interviews as well. Ideally your first 1 or 2 interviews will not be with your top choice(s) so that you can get into the interview mode mindset and learn from it and apply to future interviews. Mock interviews help your preparation but nothing can replace the actual cold feeling in the pit of your stomach going into your first interview. Probably won’t matter a lot for people like consultants and bankers who have lots of business interview experiences, but for a military applicant who’s been out of the game like myself, my second interview definitely felt more comfortable than my first.
EssaySnark here again. Do you know what “Special Forces selection” is about? Check out these videos: Special Forces Diver and Army Ranger (there’s a bunch more too if you get sucked into them) and you will have at least a passing appreciation for what these guys do!
<More Success Stories
- 12/9/11 A Success Story and a bit o’ advice
- 12/16/11 Doing what it takes and gettin’ it done
- 12/23/11 A .500 batting average ain’t that bad!
- 01/10/12 Going it alone with just gummi worms for support!
- 1/20/12 Another Take Two story! With advice from an MBA friend!
- 03/16/12 The “worst writer on the planet” gets in!
- 03/23/12 “Could I make a wrong decision?”
- 06/22/12 A little bit of hope and Lady Luck