Things are really happening! As essay questions have come out, we’ve been silently updating the respective MBA essay questions pages but we haven’t made a big deal on announcing them here on the front page of the blahg. The bschool index page indicates which schools have questions out, and you can always find a snapshot commentary on any school’s essays from that dropdown menu (with far greater details and discussion available in their respective MBA essay questions guides when those come out). Today we’re going to recap which schools have done what with their apps so far this year.
So far, essay questions have been announced for:
- Columbia – no big changes
- Harvard – no big changes
- Stanford – no changes at all
- Michigan Ross – no big changes
- Berkeley Haas – no big changes
Are you sensing a pattern?
Given how the schools were wallowing in applications last season, it makes sense that they may not feel motivated to be switching things up too much this year. The whole “If it ain’t broke” thing, right? The most we’ve seen are variations in wording by schools like Columbia and Haas, and a clarification of what they’re looking for in the essay instructions offered by schools like Stanford and Berkeley.
What does that mean for you, particularly if the school you’re interested in has not issued a peep yet of what its requirements will be?
Well, for starters, you can expect that other schools probably also won’t be making wholesale changes to their apps. One reason for this is simply the herd mentality – particularly the “follow HBS” mindset that seems quite prevalent at other admissions offices. Harvard has long been the innovator in this space. They were the first one to start whacking essays from their app, first reducing their original 4-essay set down to 2, and then taking it down to 1. They also led the charge in reducing essay length limits even before then. There have been other ways that Harvard has introduced important changes to the application process that many of you will go through this year, including many that other schools have adopted, including much-shorter cycles (the time from app submit to final decision is shorter now at many schools) and the mid-cycle “release” where applicants who won’t be asked to interview will now be set free at a much earlier stage. Wharton and Booth also do this now, following in Harvard’s footsteps.
When Harvard does not make major changes to its application, then that means the follower schools are given permission to keep things the same, too.
That does not mean that none of the remaining schools will change things up. We actually are looking to Wharton to potentially make some modifications to its application this year (we have no inside information on this, it’s just a sense that a switch-up there is overdue). We’re also quite torn about the Chicago Booth presentation; last year they introduced a novel approach where applicants were asked to respond to one of an assortment of photos from the Booth community. The way they set up the prompt for that assignment was a bit convoluted and it resulted in some rather cumbersome responses. We like the idea of the photos but we’re not sure it was all that conducive to gathering useful content from applicants. So we’re unsure where Booth will go with it this year. They’re undoubtedly going to stick with the “presentation or essay” format (Pro Tip: A presentation is always better!!) but hopefully they’ll modify how they’re setting up the exercise for all of you up-and-coming Brave Supplicants.
Here’s where we expect certain other schools to go:
- NYU Stern – likely to keep same questions
- Duke – likely to keep same questions
- Cornell – likely to keep same questions
- Tuck – likely to keep (nearly) the same questions
- Yale – we expect at least a tweak of the question
- Kellogg – we expect at least a tweak of the questions
- UCLA – we expect they will tweak the question
- MIT Sloan – tough call; at least a tweak of the question but possibly a whole new one
- Wharton – as above; they’re overdue for some changes, and their current question could be improved
Obviously we’ve been surprised by what schools have done in the past – some years our predictions are pretty close (this year we were on the nose with Harvard) and in other years, we’ve been totally off.
In terms of app volumes, we’re not going to make projections there. Apps to many schools for the Class of 2018 were up – and they were up at some schools the year before that, too. That means there’s going to be a lot of spillover: Many BSers are still on the treadmill and will be reapplying this year. In the past, we’d assumed that too many up years in a row meant that a down year was coming, but we were wrong then, and we cannot tell what’s happening in the world to cause so many more apps to be flowing through the door at all of these schools. (Well, yes, we do: A lot of them are international applicants.)
The main takeaway from the fact that already five schools are maintaining status quo this year is that you can rely on past posts here on the EssaySnark blahg to study up on their requirements and preferences and learn proper strategies for positioning yourself in your essays. If you’re feeling overwhelmed and don’t know where to begin, the Complete Essay Package is an excellent way to get started – and now is absolutely the right time to be doing so.