Starting in the 2012 admissions season, all of a sudden all the bschools started racing each other to have the slimmest MBA apps.
It’s like they all collectively looked in the mirror one day and said, “Does this app make my butt look big?”
And they went on a crash diet, cutting out sugar – no, fat – no, CARBS – I’ll just take lemon juice, honey and cayenne pepper please.
Well, everybody suffered because of it.
Or not everybody.
And, EssaySnark secretly suspects, the adcoms suffered, too.
Sure, it’s tiring (nay, exhausting) to read endless essays of endless BSers pontificating endlessly. Reading essays is hard work.
But WRITING essays is even harder – ESPECIALLY when faced with unreasonable limits on length.
We have been griping for years on behalf of Brave Supplicants everywhere that the schools pared back too much. It was all a big rush to see how short they could make their apps. The schools’ fear of decreasing app volumes meant that everyone fell over each other to make their essays less burdensome.
Congratulations! Schools saw more apps. But were they quality apps? These small changes from Stanford give hints that maybe the schools cut back too much.
The main outcome of the fewer-and-shorter essays trend was to add major stress to candidates who had to deal with unnecessarily short essay lengths, and it made them feel like they weren’t able to actually share anything important with their adcom readers. Frustration and grief, and dissatisfaction with the process.
BSers were dissatisfied before and griped about writing all the essays, but the complaints were never that they felt their applications were BAD because of what the schools required. In this new skinny-essay era, a common feeling at the end of the process is that the candidate never got to share herself with the adcom.
It’s like going on such an extreme diet that you’re miserable all the time.
So how can it change? The leaders need to change.
Harvard was the one who originally set this wheel in motion and everybody wants to be like Harvard so you had a mad rush to replicate their strategy. If Harvard changed things, then you can bet there would be more copycats further down the rankings. It happens every season. As much as the schools are touting “innovation” there are few adcoms who truly innovate. It’s very much a follow-the-leader mentality (note to adcoms: even if that’s not intentional it’s how it’s often perceived when all of you implement such similar stuff in the same timeframe).
Knowing all that, how happy was the ‘Snark yesterday when we saw the new Class of 2018 application requirements from the Stanford Graduate School of Business.
Nobody would argue with the idea that Stanford is a top school. However, they have not ever tried to be leaders in the admissions policy game, that we know of. And why would they? They’re not worried about a dip in their app volumes. Other admissions directors would likely kill to have HALF the number of apps that Stanford gets. They could do their own thing with no repercussions in the market of MBA applicants.
And they have done that, and still are doing that today. Stanford being extremely consistent with its application from year to year is actually a sign of its leadership. They’re not chasing anyone else for marketshare. (Sure, HBS gets more apps, but do you really think that the GSB cares?)
Last year, Stanford finally acquiesced and made some cuts to its requirements, specifically in ditching their previous requirement of three recommendations, down to the industry standard of two, and also dropping their third essay.
Two recs makes a lot of sense. Two essays? OK fine.
But one of those two essays was awfully short. And they asked for applicants to cover a lot in it.
So, seeing that they’ve loosened up that length limit this year by adding a whopping 50 more words – well, that may not seem like much, but in this age of the ever-shrinking app, it’s golden.
Stanford loosening up on the limits is GREAT!
In terms of the actual essays themselves: Whoa Nellie are those tough ones. Year in and year out, people struggle the mightiest with essays for Stanford. They have preserved their classic “What matters most?” essay, so you can start thinking about that now if you’re feeling motivated. We don’t fault them at all for keeping the same questions. They are HARD! They make you work for it. Leave some space in your schedule – like, the entire months of August and September – to figure out how to handle these questions. Stanford’s essays tend to require more revision than any other on the planet! Be prepared for some work – and possible hair-pulling – if you’re trying for the GSB.
We of course cover all of this on our Stanford MBA page and in our Stanford MBA application guide.
Thank you, Stanford, for doing all of us a favor with these changes, and for injecting a very tiny dose of reality back into the world of bschool admissions requirements.
Tell us what you think.