Man, sometimes we are EssaySLACKER — this most generous contribution was sent in by a former BSer back in April, and what did we do with it? We sat on it! For months! Well, here we are in crunch mode and we can’t figure out what to say to all of youz here on a Friday to inspire and motivate as you’re getting into white-knuckle mode on your apps…. and we were like, OMG WHY NOT LOOK AT WHAT VERY KIND DUDE FROM LAST YEAR HAD SENT IN?? So here it is. Thank you so much, Former BSer Sender Inner!!! Greatly appreciated indeed.
As an EssaySnark “Power User” whose journey from step zero to admit took nearly 2.5 years, I thought I’d provide some details on how EssaySnark can help with applications to the top-tier business schools.
When I first considered applying to business school, I knew the GMAT had to be the first step. Like the Snark says, you can’t begin to seriously examine target schools and build your application strategy until you have a score in hand. Practice tests don’t count; we’re talking official scores from a no-kidding GMAT exam. There are ample resources to get you to a competitive GMAT score, but for most people, myself definitely included, it’ll take some diligent study to get to that point. From cracking my first book to the point where I felt ready to take the GMAT, I studied for nearly 5 months, to include taking 5 full-length practice exams. Key takeaway: start studying for the GMAT a full year before the point you intend to apply to business school. Doing it this far out will give you ample study time, the opportunity for retakes if needed, and still leave you with time for all-important school visits prior to Round 1 kicking off.
I was pleased with my first GMAT score (710) but not blown away. As a transitioning military officer who’s quite a bit older than the average MBA student, I knew that I effectively had one shot at getting into b-school as I made the move to civilian life. For this reason, I wanted to make sure that every single asset in my application was as perfect as I could make it. It was in this spirit that I first approached EssaySnark, obtaining my Comprehensive Profile Review to get an objective assessment of what schools might be in range for me.
The CPR, as many on this site will attest, was invaluable. The Snark scrutinized every detail of my background. Using what I can only assume are reams worth of data, ES let me know what in my profile stood out from the pack and what was less impressive. The CPR also gave me a chance to ask whether retaking the GMAT would be a good decision in my specific case (it was, even though I didn’t manage to improve!) In all of its offerings, EssaySnark is generous and responsive in clarifying any ambiguities within the feedback it provides. In fact, some of the best advice I received was in the “comments” threads of the products I purchased.
Key takeaway for the CPR: take some time to thoughtfully fill out the questionnaire! ES gave me some really solid advice, but it took me several hours to put together a resume, select some preliminary school targets, and think about the career goals I might like to pursue.
With a full year between my 2nd GMAT exam and Round 1 of application season, I took advantage of the time to clarify my career goals. No prior business experience meant I really had no idea what I might like to do with my hoped-for MBA. Using EssaySnark’s Foundations package, I re-worked the resume I submitted for the CPR. For someone who’d never before had to write a resume, I found the Snark’s feedback very instructive in the crafting of “impactful” accomplishments, not to mention all the helpful formatting tips. Foundations also included the opportunity to submit my preliminary career goals for two rounds of review. I received valuable back-and-forth regarding the realism and achievability of what I envisioned myself doing post-MBA. It would take another year of research for my goals to finally solidify, but the exercise of thinking critically about my career was really useful even in the early stages. Those tenuous beginnings encouraged me to think more about options I hadn’t even considered – and taught me just how powerful a polite email can be in helping to learn about potential career paths. Without the counsel of EssaySnark, I would have put forth vague, unrealistic, uninformed career goals in my b-school applications. Definitely not where you want to be! Key takeaway: start thinking early about how your work experience and background will help you bridge the
gap to your desired future career, and how you might “connect those dots” in your application assets.
As ES advises, I also made time to visit some of the schools that interested me. I took a week of leave and hit a total of five schools on both coasts. It was a fun little vacation and I enjoyed the chance to participate in a “day in the life” at a real b-school. I took advantage of everything on offer: class visits, admissions presentations, student Q+A sessions, and guided tours. From what I’ve read, some people find these experiences very helpful in determining
whether a school is a cultural “fit”. I didn’t leave my visits with any strong feelings one way or the other on fit, but I did leave with a much better understanding of each school’s curriculum structure, academic offerings, surrounding community, and student life. These little tidbits proved invaluable come essay time; referencing a class I’d attended and tying it to my career goals helped make for a more authentic essay that showed genuine enthusiasm for the program. Key takeaway: take good notes during your visit! Even little things like the name of a particular case discussed in class have the potential to make your essays shine. I neglected to do this, and having to reconstruct these details made for more work when essay writing time rolled around. Though it was tempting to “work ahead” based on prior year essay prompts, heed the Snark’s advice and wait for the prompts to be released in the May-June timeframe. And then, once they’re out…get to work! DON’T PASS UP THE CHANCE TO SUBMIT A ROUND 1 APP! It’s a nice bennie that it’s a *slightly* less competitive round, but there’s another advantage: You’ll have decisions prior to the holiday season. From here, you can simply kick back and celebrate (the preferred course of action), or knuckle down and finish out a set of Round 2 submissions if your first applications don’t turn out how you’d hoped. Key takeaway: if going to business school in the fall is critical to your life’s plan, you owe it to yourself to maximize your chances by starting your applications in Round 1!
Once the prompts were out, the Snark quickly updated the school-specific strategy guides. The essay-writing advice in these is second-to-none, and each offers a great discussion of what the school historically values from its admits. I read these over and over while writing my essays as I tried to maximize my limited word counts to effectively answer the questions.
Though the guides are great, there is truly no substitute for EssaySnark’s signature product. If you’ve read this far, odds are you already know what that is: the Essay Decimator service. I applied to 3 schools in Round 1, and I used the Essay Decimator for each school’s submissions. Some may get the hang of essay-writing after their first tangle with Decimation, but I wanted to make my essays as polished as possible to counter a lower-than-average GMAT score for my target schools.
The Essay Decimator definitely helped make my essays shine. Within 3 days of sending my essays out for review, ES responded with fully marked-up drafts of each essay, pointing out incoherent phrasing, unconvincing logic, purple prose, time shifting, and every other essay writing misstep I may or may not have perpetrated. I appreciated that they offered a rebate for essays that are submitted in good shape, i.e. free of obvious typos and grammar/usage errors. Not only does it incentivize you to do your best work, it results in more effective feedback for you since ES doesn’t have to spend so much time correcting basic mistakes that can be caught with a good proofread. Separate from the revised drafts, EssaySnark also offered a summary analysis of the essays as a whole, thoroughly commenting on the effectiveness of my messaging and whether I answered the prompts in a convincing and authentic manner. ES pulls no punches in its feedback, but that’s not to say they aren’t professionals through and through. In every draft I sent their way, it was obvious that EssaySnark put in significant time to construct advice that made me better. Aside from the GMAT score and undergraduate performance, the essays are the most important part of your application – and you have ample time to get them into fighting shape! Key takeaway: enlist EssaySnark’s help on at least one set of your essay drafts.
Though I took what some might call a more leisurely pace writing my essays, I still worked on them in some form nearly every day from June through Round 1 deadlines in September. Like any creative endeavor, writing essays will take some time. Don’t try to force them out in one draft over a long weekend. The results will be lackluster, and in a landscape as pathologically competitive as b-school admissions in 2017, the odds are stacked heavily against any application with superficial or poorly-executed essays. Your draft may turn on a single phrase that comes to you at 2AM a week after you’ve hit an impenetrable writer’s block.
Key takeaway: give your brain the time it needs to mull over your essays and bring them from good to great– start early! As everyone says, the transition from essay obsession mode to deadline fretting mode is a rough one. Luckily, the Snark’s timely blog entry helped pass my days, until lo and behold, the interview invites started rolling in. With these interviews being the first I’d done in over 15 years – the last were for my undergraduate school – I didn’t want to leave anything to chance. I used EssaySnark’s custom interview prep service for one of my schools, and took advantage of the automated prep system for another. Both were great; one of the custom interview questions actually came up during my real interview, and the automated system helped me distill my rambling answers to succinct, well-structured responses. Key takeaway: practice your interviewing skills by going over likely questions beforehand, even if it’s just with a friend or family member.
With all my interviews complete prior to Thanksgiving, I waited anxiously through the first couple of weeks of December. I think the best way to recap the events of December 14th, 2016 is simply to share the message I sent to EssaySnark that evening:
Apologies for the late word as it’s been a busy, eventful day.
At 9AM (PST) this morning, I logged on to the HBS applicant website and learned I had been admitted to the MBA Class of 2019! W00t!
Though I was stuck in class all day, I was busy checking my phone during the breaks. In the midst of one of my afternoon lectures, I received a call from an “Unknown” number that kindly left a voicemail. When I checked the message, I learned I had been admitted to the Stanford GSB MBA Class of 2019! Double w00t!!
As I drove home from class, my phone buzzed again from a number with a 510 area code. It was the Haas admissions office, informing me that I had been accepted to the MBA Class of 2019!
I wanted to say, from the bottom of my heart, thank you for everything you’ve done. By my count, it’s been 2.5 years since I first cracked a book for the GMAT, and nearly 2 years since I first enlisted the services of the EssaySnark Team on this journey.
It goes without saying that I could not have realized these successes without the dedicated help of the EssaySnark team. You never shied away from the truth, and constantly pushed me to make my essays better in every way. The highest praise I can give? Besides my husband and my parents, I can’t think of anyone to
whom I was more excited to relay this news. And that’s no BS.
For someone like me with his heart set on business school, having a trusted adviser like EssaySnark was worth every penny. As I prepare to join the Class of 2019 this fall in the Bay Area, I am fully convinced I would not have earned the opportunities I did without the Snark’s guidance. ES is equal parts coach and friend, always ready with encouragement and laserfocused advice to keep you on the right path. I cannot recommend their services highly enough, especially for military candidates who don’t have the first idea about where to begin in this daunting process. Thank you, Team Snark – I couldn’t have done it without you!
This incredible write-up of this BSer’s journey was produced completely by them, with no input from us – they did it solely out of the goodness of their heart! Can’t believe we let it lounge in the inbox for four months before getting off our duff to share it with you. THANK YOU, KIND HEARTED FORMER BSER!! You’re probably off doing MBA things now. HAVE FUN IN BSCHOOL!! You worked hard for this big win – you deserve all this success that you’ve gotten.
To all of you current BSers: EssaySnark will be around this weekend, if you’re feeling like you could use some help right about now!