We see BSers all the time writing in their essays about how they are applying to School X because of “the network.” They do this because it’s what the schools talk about. We can’t imagine a BSer anywhere in the world coming up with the idea on their own. Nobody chooses a school because it has a big alumni base – not initially at least. This is not the first thing that comes to mind when someone starts thinking about getting an MBA. It’s just not.
The idea that the alumni network matters is placed in the applicant’s mind by the schools themselves. You go to an info session, and it’s gonna come up. The SCHOOLS think it’s important.
We’re not saying that it’s not important, we’re just saying that maybe it’s not THAT important.
To finish up our latest series on the (relative) strengths of different schools’ alumni networks, we have to ask: Where did this idea originate?
Our guess is that it came from the schools’ administrations.
You get a bunch of bschool admissions peeps together with their different deans (they have deans of everything you know, not just one Big Kahuna dean – deans are scattered around all over the place on bschool campuses – admissions deans and deans of career services, and vice deans and associate deans and assistant deans – you’ve even got Dean Dean at UNC – no wait it’s better than that – his name is actually James Dean, and yes, he’s the Dean of Kenan-Flagler – he’s probably never heard any of THOSE jokes before) —
Anyway. You get these People-Running-the-School together and they’re in this brainstorming session trying to figure out how they can differentiate themselves so that they stand out from the peers, lamenting the fact that it’s a crowded pool, and everyone looks the same on paper — oh wait, you thought that BSers were the only ones dealing with that problem? Look around, ma cherie. The schools all look the same, don’t they? Cruise their websites and they’re all talking about the same stuff.
They’ve had this problem of how do they break away from the pack for years and years now – but it wasn’t always like this. Years ago (rocking chair creak), whatever marketing was done by the schools was largely limited to publishing a school catalog with an application form in the back. You would call them up and ask them to send you one. Not exactly an instant-gratification process for a potential applicant looking to do some research on different programs. The applicants had to get a little more invested in a school – and yeah, they had to complete the application ON PAPER. Can you believe it?? And they had to choose the school based on very little information. It took much less time to actually apply to bschool because there was no GMAT Club and Beat the GMAT (and essaysnark.com) to waste hours of your life on. (You’re not ‘wasting’ the hours you spend here though. 🙂 )
All this changed when, first, the rankings started, and then, the Internet happened.
The rankings changed the equation pretty radically, actually. All of a sudden, there was this third-party list of schools, and it quickly became the perceived authority – indeed, that put some schools into a tizzy, when this magazine started claiming that their school was behind this other one. (Magazines are not the same as peer-reviewed publications. Magazines are for the masses. Academics don’t rely on magazines for their information.)
And then all of a sudden, there sprung up websites where applicants could get information about the schools – information not actually produced by the schools themselves. Information from – egads! – other applicants! And there sprouted up all these different publications producing their own rankings lists. It all just got to be too much.
And so – EssaySnark is imagining all this of course, we have no idea how it went down – but we’re guessing that many years ago, these bschool folk all started gathering around their respective dark-wood (mahogany?) conference tables in their respective high-ceilinged conference rooms overlooking their respective stately and well-manicured lawns of their respective esteemed university campuses (or, in the basement, in a cramped room with clanging pipes, if it was just the admissions people meeting). And they asked themselves, “Whadarewegonnadoaboutit?” And they came up with a list of “features” of their schools that they thought would differentiate themselves.
Competitive advantages. You know, like any self-respecting marketer would do.
The schools are supposedta know something about marketing, right?
Or maybe they had some consultants come in and help them.
So they went down the list and they asked themselves, “What makes us different? What distinguishes us?”
And guess what? This “alumni network” thing got floated around. And everyone nodded and said, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, that’s a good one.” And it got written down as something important to be emphasizing.
And out it went, into the marketplace, onto their glossy brochures, and into their PowerPoints, and, eventually, onto their websites, when they finally realized that they needed one of those whatchamahoozit website thingies (many bschools were slooooooow to recognize that the Internet was something to, like, be on. With a website. As recently as four years ago, you could still submit an MBA application on paper to many schools. Yup, it’s true.).
So here we are today. If you’re applying to bschool, chances are high that somewhere in your essays, you will mention how you want to go to School X because of its alumni network. And that’s fine. It’s good to tell the schools that you care about the things that they care about. And they obviously care about their alumni networks, since they talk about them so damn much.
But just stop and think for a moment, woodja, about what this all-important alumni network means, and why?