Nope, not done yet. (First rant was on Monday. Then, a second hopefully more useful post on Tuesday – with actual advice to Brave Supplicants on navigating recommendations. Today, last words on the topic, and we swear we’ll shut up about it. UPDATE: We sort of shut up on this topic at least, though we did veer off into the arena of Letters of Support in this additional post.)
It pains us to devote another post to this since we’re taking Ross to task… and we really love this school, and have rarely before had to take issue with any of their admissions policies. But this one can’t go uncommented by the ‘Snark.
The tl;dr of that first post on this topic is that the schools were essentially asked to make changes in letters of recommendation by admissions consultants, and several responded by standardizing on the same recommender questions as other schools use – namely, the ones that Harvard and Stanford use. And we made clear our distaste for this because those two questions are so darned limited. So why would they do this?
The one obvious strategy which we’re guessing may be behind Ross’s decision to go this route: Once you get your HBS app all wrapped up, you may be tempted to say, “Hey, why not also apply to these other schools where my recommenders have already developed their content?”
After all, it would not be much of an inconvenience to them, since they’ve already figured out what they were going to say about you, right? They can just literally copy-and-paste what they wrote for Harvard into these other schools’ questions. Seems like a logical way to go.
Except that very few people who are applying to HBS are also thinking they need to stoop so low as to try for Ross.
At least, not in Round 1.
We have very rarely (never?) seen someone say they were going to apply to Harvard and also Michigan in the first round because they thought they were good fits to both. Sure, maybe you are already in love with Michigan and have been planning for awhile to target an app to them, and then you decide, “Why in heck not, YOLO! I’m gonna do HBS too.”
But honestly, that hardly ever happens, because the HBS deadline is so much sooner. People don’t add on HBS as an afterthought.
Someone who goes for HBS Round 1 is typically assuming they have a chance there – or, like, why bother? They typically do NOT appreciate at that stage that they may in fact be a better fit for Ross, until being trammeled by the reality of rejection and coming to terms with what this process is like. That typically occurs in November. Not August.
OK, whatevs. We are definitely trying to read between the lines way too aggressively, but we can only imagine that one motivation for Ross in standardizing to these questions along with this other set of schools is because they want to invite BSers to apply to them as an add-on app strategy, after the BSer’s other upper-echelon apps have been submitted.
Maybe that will result in a smattering more apps – but to us, it’s just like the new Yale policy of a sliding-scale app fee, where you pay less if your annual salary is below certain limits. That lower application fee is not going to be a reason that people decide to apply to Yale. It’s not like people choose schools based on app fees. Someone who’s already in Yale’s market will certainly be thrilled to discover this policy, but we are highly skeptical that it will broaden the application pool for the SOM.
Similarly, it’s unlikely that the standardized rec questions are going to get more people to apply to Ross. Not in the world we live in, where so many are brand snobs and are choosing first and foremost based on how “elite” and “prestigious” a school is.
If someone has categorized themselves as H/S/W material – and maybe Kellogg-/Wharton-qualified – then sorry Charlie (or sorry Soojin), they just aren’t likely to believe that they’ll need to stoop as low as Michigan on the rankings scale for their MBA app strategy.
The one advantage that this move provides?
When those Rd 1 applicants who only tried for the best-of-the-best end up eating some humble pie in December, and need to go back to their recommenders for additional recs in the Rd 2 window, then sure. Ross may benefit there. This is certainly a common trajectory that we see. People get a little overambitious and set their sights high in Round 1, then come back to earth in January and realize that “Hey! Ross ain’t a bad place after all! And look, no new work for my recommenders!”
If you end up resembling this picture in a few months… then great, you’ll be a beneficiary of this new policy!
Good luck to all the Brave Supplicants reading this today. Whether you’re trying for Harvard – or Ross – or any schools above, below, around or between them on anybody’s relative rankings scales – our wish to you is that your Round 1 apps are your only apps, and that you spend the year-end holidays at a ski resort, and not toiling over essays and scrambling to secure more recs.