Around about late November or early December every year, we start to get a bunch of emails that go something like this:
Hi EssaySnark –
I am an aspiring MBA 2016 candidate and looking for some help with second round applications. I have already applied to three schools first round: Stanford, Chicago, and Berkeley. Unfortunately I was dinged without an interview from Stanford and Chicago and have yet to hear back from Berkeley. I’m worried that I did not do a good job conveying my candidacy with these applications and do not want to make the same mistake with second round applications. I was able to get some brief post-mortem feedback on my Booth application from a current second year student on the Admissions Committee. His main feedback was that I focused too much on my professional side and not enough time conveying my interests/passions outside of work (too much depth on investment management without showing breadth/diversity of interests).
I’ve reviewed some of your paid offerings and am considering either the Complete Essay Package or the Re-applicant Roadmap. I am planning on applying to Columbia and Wharton by the first week of January and have already begun formulating my approach to these applications (although I have not started writing the essays yet). Do you have a package suggestion given my situation?
I’ve attached my resume to give you a sense of my background and look forward to hearing from you.
First off: We’re a bit skeptical that the feedback offered by the Booth student was on target. We’ve never ever ever seen someone rejected from bschool because they focused too much on their professional background. We never saw this BSer’s Booth app so this is a pure guess on our part – but truly, our bet is that this person simply didn’t bring it with how they answered the Booth essays and presented themselves in the PPT. While we’re sure that the student offering the feedback was well intentioned, and we typically say that info offered direct from the adcom has more weight than anyone else’s in this process (including our own), in this case, we’re just not buying it. It doesn’t sound like this student/adcom person was involved in this BSer’s app review (if so then it seems wildly out of place for that person to actually be speaking to the BSer about it – Booth doesn’t offer feedback like that and it’s out of policy for them to have done so). While we appreciate that BSers often feel desperate once they’re faced with rejections piling up, we have to wonder how accurate that advice actually was.
We’ll never know, since this BSer disappeared into the wilds of application wasteland and we never heard from them again after this inquiry.
The point of today’s post is not to tell you not to listen to students on school admissions committees who are offering you advice. (Well, maybe it is to say that.) Instead, we’re trying to caution you about becoming That Guy.
From the limited information shared with us, this BSer seemed to have more than enough going for themself to make it into a top school. The GMAT was bright and shiny. The GPA was solid and they had some good schools under the belt already. The resume showed a very bschool-appropriate career progression. This is the type of person who should totally make it into bschool – ESPECIALLY with a Rd 1 app. Any of the schools they named are perfect targets for this profile.
We don’t even need to see the essays to know: This was a problem in execution.
Writing essays is not what you do for a living. (We hope.) While there are fewer and fewer essays required as part of the MBA applications these days, they are still a critical component of anyone’s pitch. In fact, they ARE the pitch. The essays are where you share yourself with the adcom. If the essays suck, then it’s not gonna fly.
This person didn’t even get invited to interview. That right there is a massive red flag which tells us pretty much everything. It was either the essays, or the recommendations (or maybe both). But unless the recommendations said “DON’T ADMIT THIS PERSON!” then it’s unlikely they were the showstopper. You can have mediocre recommendations and still at least get the interview – that is, if your essays are good.
Your essays don’t have to be amazing. They just have to be decent.
Again, we never saw this person’s essays – but we have gone through this sequence with so many people before that we’re pretty darned confident in our assessment, sight-unseen.
So don’t be That Guy. Don’t commit an unforced error. Don’t throw away your chances at a great school – especially when you’re doing everything right in terms of GMAT and grades and Round 1 timing. Sure, plenty of people make it into bschool all by themselves, with no help from any consultant-type person. It’s not necessary that you enlist our services or those of anyone else.
Just recognize that you’ve not written admissions essays in a really long time, probably – and that you’ve never before written them for a top MBA program. This project is a whole different beast than you have faced in your past. Help is available. And regret sucks.
We hate getting those emails in December. You’re reading this now. You have your act together. We want to help you make it in during Round 1. And yes, there’s even still time to do the Complete Essay Package for some Round 1 schools – we’ve seen people crank through that entire cycle in ~2 weeks when they’re motivated.
It was only after writing this that we discovered that there are lots of “guys” that we don’t want you to be “like” – in other words, we’re quite enamored of the phrase we’ve used as the title to this post. We wrote one on a totally different topic in 2011 (that one was about bad interviewing etiquette) and again in 2013 (that one on a-holes). After 5 years of this snarking stuff apparently we just go on repeat.