As you probably know, we offer reviews of BSer’s MBA essays. You can send over your drafts and we can decide whether or not to
take you through the wringer offer some helpful input on the content and direction you’re going in. You can also now post your essays for free peer reviews in our Crowd-Sourced Essay Reviews private site.
The school we get submitted essays for the most is Stanford. The essays we post critiques of the least is Stanford.
We’ve always been reticent to do too much with the Stanford essay questions, mostly because Stanford is one holdout school in terms of dealing with the reality that APPLICANTS ARE GOING TO GET HELP ON THEIR ESSAYS. They haven’t been the friendliest of all adcoms when it comes to admissions consulting, and we understand why. There’s a lot of lousy MBA admissions consultants out there, feeding candidates with misinformation about the Stanford program. Stanford frequently does “Myth-Busters” posts on their blog to try and counter some of it. It must suck for a school to have to deal with the flyby of bad advice.
Even worse, we know how having a consultant involved in an applicant’s process can skew the final product. We’ve talked about it before, since BSers should be warned. Many consultants are way too heavyhanded with the input they give. The net result is that often, the adcom gets a finished product that’s nothing like what the candidate would ever have come up with on her own. We appreciate how the adcom might object to that (you do, too, we hope). We don’t do things that way but since so many consultants do, we understand why Stanford dislikes this whole endeavor. Of course, people can get just as much badly misguided advice for free – current students are a massive source of lousy information – but there’s something significantly more unsavory about an applicant PAYING to get crappy advice. That p!sses us off too.
Another reason why we tend to not talk too much about the Stanford essays here on the blahg, is for the same exact reason: If we tell you how to get into Stanford, then it’ll be us getting into Stanford – through your application. Or the other way around: you getting in through ours. We refuse to do the thinking for anyone. We definitely won’t tell you what to write about. And it gets tricky when we are asked to review an essay on “what matters most”.
Here’s the thing: If you come up with your answer to that question, and then some consultant says “don’t say that”, for whatever reason – then will the answer you come up with to replace your original answer actually be true? If first you decide that what matters most to you is X, and you’re told that X is no good, then any other answer you construct from there – Y or Z or A or B – is by definition disingenuous*.
We hate that.
But then conversely, sometimes we run into a completely sincere BSer, a good person, someone we think would benefit tremendously from a little objective feedback. So we’re torn.
We do end up working with BSers on Stanford. But we can see why Stanford doesn’t like it, and sometimes we don’t either. And despite our concerted efforts to toe the line appropriately in our consulting practice, and also in our essay guide, the one book that we’ve repeatedly gotten negative reviews on is the Stanford guide. We’re thinking about just yanking all of our Stanford support from the market entirely. People, we are NOT going to tell you what to write in those essays.
Or maybe the schools can start to implement a full disclosure system, where applicants can disclose not just the fact that they worked with a consultant, but WHICH consultant – just like the IRS does with paid tax preparers. That might make for more transparency. It would probably freak out a lot of the applicants though – not to mention the consultants.
It would be nice if there weren’t such a stigma. We’re still thinking about what the right thing to do is for Brave Supplicants and EssaySnark.
* This isn’t entirely true though; many people come up with an answer to the “matters most” question based on what they think they’re supposed to say. Often, the essays we read on this topic are posturing blather. Our process of working with BSers on Stanford is to challenge them to get real in what they say. But it can be a slippery slope of receiving appropriate feedback, and trying too hard.
Here's what others have said about this:
Hi there, I’ve submitted my application to Stanford R1 this year. I’m a bit anxious for an answer, as I’m sure many are. I was wondering what you would say about visiting the school now. Do you think it would make a difference if I visit them? Would it increase my odds of getting an interview invite?
Hi Ana – great question – and one that we’ve actually already answered in the comments on this post about school visits.
Short answer: For Stanford, no, it won’t help you get an invite, but it could help you significantly if you DO get the invite, to present yourself more strongly to your interviewer.