We mean that it’s likely the hardest thing you’ve ever tried to pull off.
We mean that you can’t treat it casually, if you’re serious about making it a success.
We mean that what you think is going to be the hard part, almost definitely won’t be. Other parts will be harder. (Way harder.)
We mean that just being “good enough” — which you almost undoubtedly have been already all through your life, based on where you’ve managed to get so far — is unlikely to be TRULY enough.
Most people who even start to consider themselves worthy for admission to one of the best U.S. business schools are already successful in life. That means, that they may be under an illusion about how easy life really is. Or maybe not – maybe you’ve had to work super hard for your successes, and you’ve experienced lots of setbacks, and you’ve had to rebuild yourself from the ground up over and over and keep going.
Lots of BSers, though, come from reasonably privileged backgrounds. This is a basic fact. If you’re in a position to be trying for bschool, then that means you have a college education and usually a job. You have the $250 to take the GMAT and the additional $1,000 or whatever that you’ll be doling out in app fees to the schools. (Oh, hadn’t budgeted for that yet? Yeah, this MBA thing is expensive! And that’s before you’ve even gotten accepted!)
If you’ve lived a life of privilege — admit it, you have — then it’s easy to forget how hard life can be.
We’re not about to make the false equivalency of claiming that applying to bschool is a situation of survival.
What we are saying is that opportunities have been made available to you already in life, and with a certain amount of success often comes a certain amount of entitlement. Or just forgetfulness. We EXPECT to win in life, because winning is what has happened in the past.
If you’ve already gone through the competitive admissions game* to get into a top American university like Harvard or Stanford or Princeton or Yale, then you definitely have an appreciation for this. The admit rate to Stanford University (undergrad) in 2016 for their Class of 2021 was 4.8%. That’s even harder than Stanford GSB, which has been hovering at 6.7-7.0% for ages. But that admit you scored to Stanford U. or comparable was at minimum four years ago, and probably closer to ten, and could you still make it in today? The admit rate for Stanford undergrad in 2010 was 7.3% which is radically different. In just the same way, admission to these MBA programs has gotten harder and harder.
Plus, the MBA adcoms will not be amused by cuteness. What you could get away with as a high schooler writing your essays is not going to fly here. This is an application from a PROFESSIONAL (that’s you) to a PROFESSIONAL PROGRAM (that’s the school). Sometimes they call the MBA a “vocational” program because it’s much more focused on practical skills and career paths than many other types of higher education. You don’t go to bschool to learn philosophy or theory (though you will learn theory); you go there to learn how to get stuff done.
The schools don’t want to be bullshitted in their applications. And we know how hard that’s gonna be for some of you! You’re used to bullshit. It’s practically a way of life! It’s served you well so far. There’s no problem with bullshit, it’s just not the currency you’re going to need to be dealing with when it comes to writing your apps.
Have you ever been involved in an elite-level performance? Like, a symphony-quality musician, a top swimmer, or played on a champion sports team? Are you a Ranger, or a Navy Seal? Then you know what it means to train.
That’s similar to the type of effort that’s required for most successful applicants to a top MBA program, albeit in a totally different context. No, you’re not going to get shot at while you’re drafting up essays, but yes, you’re going to need to carve out significant time, and be prepared for some stumbles and difficulties, as you gear up for this exercise.
The first time out, you may not make it. Lots of very well-qualified people don’t. Often that’s because they lack an appreciation for the challenges, and they exert the same level of effort that’s worked for them to make it where they are now. That level of effort is unlikely to be sufficient in this endeavor.
That’s why we’re so pleased to see you here now, early enough in the season to make the most of your opportunities.
If you’re in a position to be considering an app to a top school, that means that you’ve already achieved a certain level of success in life. Don’t take that success for granted. If you’re serious about getting into a place like Harvard Business School, then this is going to take some work.
*Admissions isn’t really a “game” but that was the best word that fit there; please excuse our sometimes preference for rhythm and flow over precision in our writing on these here blahgs.