Took a tour of the Wharton full-time MBA application and wow, she’s pretty! Beautiful design, clean and modern, all 21st century, even – not like so many schools that were so long stuck in the Internet of the ’90s with their web tech. Pretty sure this is brand-new; can’t recall for sure but thought that they were on some other system last year. This new Wharton app? Impressive. Very inviting.
Until you start to interact with her.
You think she’s going to be amenable and friendly, given how nice she looks – but no.
She’s high-maintenance, demanding, and very very insistent that you do things exactly her way. The two of you start out innocently enough, with you logging on, and you see a list of all the stuff she’s going to want from you, arranged down the left menu, just like most schools do. Categories are Biographical Information, Program Information, Application Information, you get the story. Expected stuff, no worries, we can handle it.
We go to click the Essays section and – nothing.
And then we see that all of those categories listed out along the menu are locked, with a little padlock icon.
OK, we can deal, sometimes you need to tell a school which program you’re applying to before it’ll reveal its secrets, since the apps are adaptable and will display different instructions to you based on which MBA track you’re trying for.
To dismiss the alert, you click a button that says “I understand.” We said sure thing, we understand, no worries, Click, and we filled in the fields with the red messages on them on Biographical Information, then went to the next one, Program Info. Selected the full-time MBA since that’s what most of you BSers are focused on. The screen refreshes after the save and we try to go to the Essays section.
But it’s still locked. Like, all of the sections are locked.
Turns out, Wharton requires you to complete the sections of their application one page at a time – supplying the information that they deem “required” before allowing you to even VIEW the next section.
Every time you try to move to the next screen, you find out that you missed something else on the screen you’re on. We became very familiar with that “I understand” button.
This might not be that big of a deal, except:
- You can’t go in and just read all the requirements and get familiar with what they’re asking for; you have to stop and fill stuff out – even if you don’t have that information available yet. Like, GMAT score. Yes, you need to enter your GMAT score before it lets you move past the Test Information screen. And what’s past the Test Information screen? Oh, some trivial little section called Essays.
- Even worse: You have to enter a whole bunch of stuff – including uploading your resume – BEFORE YOU CAN ENTER YOUR RECOMMENDERS.
This is just absolutely completely sucky-poo nonsense. Like, c’mon, Wharton, who designed this piece of crap?
Oh yeah, you bought this. It’s licensed software from some education service provider.
Was it hard-coded to force this? Or were these rules you put in place when you designed your application this year?
Because clearly, someone, somewhere along the way, DID NOT THINK THINGS THROUGH.
Applicants need to get their recommenders tasked up early on. It’s one of the first things most people get started on when they move into heavy-duty application mode. The Recommendations and the Essays section of an app are the first ones that most people look at when they log on for the first time – not the test scores part. Maybe it’s just a small inconvenience, but putting up barriers that get in the way of entering your RECOMMENDATION INFORMATION it’s a not-nice way to go about things. This is not user friendly.
A smart Brave Supplicant would create an account on the school’s application system early in the process, not just to start the data entry but also even more important, to understand what they need. Most schools let you poke around in there to see what they ask for. They don’t ask for this level of commitment on each screen just to see what’s on the next one.
Having to upload your resume before you can send the recommender invitation emails? Really?
What happens if you upload a placeholder resume just to get past this silly system requirement, and then forget to replace it later?
We always recommend for a Brave Supplicant to do a complete resume revision cycle at the end of their application development tasks – not at the BEGINNING. How do you know what your resume should be focusing on if you haven’t developed your application theme yet?
Sure, common practice is you hand over your resume to your recommenders to help them with their recommendation task, so you should theoretically HAVE a resume available at the time you want to invite the recommenders to get started on their duties. So it’s not like it doesn’t exist. But the resume you include in your recommender’s packet does not need to be your fully perfected and fine-toothed-comb-revised MBA Application Grand Finale version – it just has to be your most recent resume, the one that you used to get your current job. It doesn’t even have to be all up to date, it just has to cover the broad-strokes view of your past, to jog your recommender’s memory as they think up all the great things you’ve done in your career, to talk about in those recommendations. The resume recommenders get does not need to be – and usually is not – fully bschool-app-optimized. You should NOT be submitting the resume you happened to have on hand as your application resume.
So what happens to Poor Schmuck Brave Supplicant with the Wharton app, trying to get to the screen where he can enter the recommenders’ info?
He uploads an old version of the resume, because he needs to get past the overly aggressive gatekeeper of a software system, and then he goes on his merry way – and then six weeks later, when the deadline is nigh and the stress levels are nigher, in his last-minute flurry of getting everything done at 2am when the deadline is tomorrow, he goes and uploads the latest-greatest essays, and gets his transcript in, and his GMAT score report, and everything looks dandy, but he forgets to replace the resume.
Yes, the app gives a preview, he should be able to catch it… maybe we’re overreacting to the possibility of error here… but it just seems so AVOIDABLE. Why set your BSers up in a possible trap like this, by having a computer system that is overly assertive in its duties?
The bigger issue is that from what we could tell – and maybe we were committing so many user errors in the system that our experience in viewing Wharton’s app is not applicable to most, but from how it seemed to us, you need to ENTER A GMAT SCORE before you can view the Essays screen.
That’s just daft. The essay instructions for any school are super important. Even when the school publishes the questions on their main website, as most do these days (it was ridiculous how they used to not do this, you had to log onto their app to see the essays) – even with questions posted publicly, still, many schools have critically important nuances and factoids and special secret-sauce instructions and stuff, tucked away in their apps. Logging on and checking those out early is always recommended.
Whelp, if you haven’t taken your GMAT yet, then Wharton won’t let you see their essay instructions screen.
We had a beyond-irritating afternoon yesterday battling the Wharton application – and oh yeah, did we mention that this thing is dog slow?
We cannot even begin to imagine how bad it’s going to be when it’s under the load of a couple hundred or maybe a thousand (?) people trying to submit apps all at the same time.
And then there’s this:
And we had to laugh at this other one – not only a typo, but this weird “admin only” text field that lets you enter stuff. Any stuff. Whatever you want, just type away right there.
So the Wharton app… let’s just say that it could be improved, usability-wise.
There’s one more thing.
We have saved the best for last.
The way you enter your employment history into the Wharton application is novel indeed.
For the company name, you don’t just type in the name of your company. Oh no. Instead, you click this little button, and up pops this large screen with an alphabetical listing of what is apparently the name of every single company that every applicant before you has entered into the Wharton employment history section. We’re guessing that this is data captured from last year’s application. We don’t recall seeing it done this way before but maybe it was.
It works the same way when entering your college/university name on almost every schools’ app – which makes sense. There’s a core set of colleges – a quite large one, but a core set – that people go to before heading to bschool. That list probably doesn’t change much year to year, and having it standardized where you select through a lookup table lets them do reporting on the backend. Helpful stuff, if you’re adcom.
And we can see how that would be helpful for them too, with this here employment data.
But guess what?
If you work at a very small company, then you will be pretty much instantly outed if someone else at that small company is also applying to Wharton.
It was pretty fascinating to do a few strolls through the list. Just as an example, Manhattan GMAT is listed there. Someone from Manhattan GMAT applied to Wharton last year, apparently. Columbia Business School is listed, too. Someone who worked at Columbia… applied to Wharton.
Didn’t we say it was fascinating?
Actually, Yale SOM Career Development Office is on there too, so clearly that’s a trend. Makes you wonder about Columbia and Yale, perhaps.
This is a non-issue for the many applicants working for big companies. McKinsey or Deloitte or Google – they’re all there.
There’s almost 8500 names in the list right now. The list contains every employer that anyone has entered for any part of their work history. If they had somewhere around 6,000 apps last year (we haven’t seen firm numbers for app volumes for Class of 2016 yet, it was probably more than that, but we’ll be conservative) and everyone listed on average two employers, then take away the overlap for the large companies that send lots of kids to bschool, well we can see total of 8500 employers from one season.
If you work for some small no-name company, that doesn’t affect your chances of getting in – Wharton has gone on the record as saying that it does not matter whether they’ve heard of your employer or not.
But if you work for that small company and you want to keep your apps to bschool on the hush-hush, well, anyone else applying to bschool has access to this fun little list of employers. No, it doesn’t show the names of the people working at the companies; it just is a list of companies. But doesn’t it seem like a tiny bit of an invasion of privacy, to have your small company name immediately appear in this quasi-public space, announcing that someone from that company is now, or in the recent past had been, applying to Wharton?
What if you work for a small private equity firm, and someone at one of your portfolio companies is applying – or vice versa? Usually we like to be in control of the timing of when our announcement of the MBA plans is made. It’s probably a very small chance that any of this would ever blow up on someone but it still seems like it’s revealing too much.
Call us oversensitive or paranoid or whatever, it just doesn’t seem right.
Opinions, anybody? Are we totally crazy to care about this? Does it matter to you, or no?
Or are you going to log on right now and see what company names you recognize in that list?
And did we mention that this sucker is dog slow?
PS: Spotted a typo on Booth’s app too. Yeah it happens. We’ve got typos all over the place on this here blahg. But this is a BLAHG. Your app needs to be PERFECT you bschool adcom people.