Happy June! Let’s celebrate by hearing about a former Brave Supplicant who was very diligent, and very successful, this past season!!
Trust the Process
Trust the process. It’s mainly a sports mantra, but one that pertains to any arduous task. It means, have faith that each step, from beginning to end, is important to achieving your goal. Applying to business school is a well-traveled path; if you seek and embrace good advice you will move from a treacherous trail to a suitable sidewalk. By sharing my process, I hope that you can improve yours.
With the goal of attending a top business school in 2-3 years, my process began in 2015 with the GMAT. After two months of studying, I decided that I was ready to sit in a fluorescent room for four hours. I finished the test, scanned my palm for the fifth time (while fighting the urge to say, “ma’am there’s only three people in this room and I can’t walk through walls”), and walked away with a 680. I compared this score to those at the top schools and concluded that I would need to retake. My plan for a brief study hiatus turned into a year-long break. If you are thinking of retaking, I would advise doing it soon after your first test. If you wait a year, as I did, you will spend a lot of time refreshing material that would otherwise be top-of-mind. Regrets aside, I retook in 2016 and scored a 710. After another two months of studying, I believed that was a satisfactory score. I now know people who spend much longer than two months studying and if I could go back I would take more time to maximize my score. I wouldn’t suggest delaying the test indefinitely while extracting every morsel of your ability, but there’s no reason to rush.
Post-GMAT, my attention turned to school search. My main criteria were T15 and northeast-ish, but not NYC. I went to undergrad at a small public liberal-arts school, so I wanted to attend a well-known program for grad school. I knew that I’d rather pay full tuition at a top school than received a scholarship to a lower ranked school. As for the northeast, it’s where I grew up and want to return. Why not NYC? One of my oddities is that I enjoy seeing more than a thin rectangle of the sky. In reality, I interned there for a summer – great experience, but never again. Your reasons don’t need to be complex. I found it useful to set filters like this, as it narrowed down my choices considerably.
With my curated list of schools, I set off to learn about them. I traveled to a different city to attend prospective student events, as my city was not a target. “You came from City X?!?”, other prospective students would ask, shocked at my herculean feat. “Yes, it’s about an hour train ride”, I would respond. While these events are a nice way to hear straight from the admissions teams, I don’t remember them being particularly important to my process. I would advise attending just a few; after that they get repetitive.
I planned to apply Round 1 in 2017, so I began visiting schools early that year. One tip here, which also applies to interviews, consider choosing Monday as your visit day. Thursdays and Fridays are often busy or fully booked but Mondays are not. The perk with Monday is you can travel to the school on Sunday, or even make a weekend of it beforehand. I enjoyed my campus visits; some of the more memorable parts were: watching the Penn State men’s lacrosse team explore Harvard Square like it was Diagon Alley, waiting out a snowstorm in the Wharton admissions office while the campus was shut down, going to a club the night before my UChicago visit and running into 100+ Booth students in Hawaiian shirts, warming up on a frigid New Haven morning with crepes at Choupette’s (the owner, Adil, is quite nice), and visiting Dartmouth with my dad (despite getting stuck in another snowstorm). My memories are of the environments and not of the schools themselves, which I think is just as well. Visiting schools is the most fun part of the application process and gives you a multitude of things to compare; don’t neglect this step.
After campus visits, I focused on the application itself. I met with an admissions consultant for a general overview. While nice and generally knowledgeable, the consultant was a “yes”-person. When I talked about applying to Harvard, they encouraged me without caveat. When I proposed a long-term goal of starting my own fund, they didn’t question whether it was realistic in the time that schools consider long term. I found their lack of critique unhelpful and searched elsewhere. I found EssaySnark (shoutout) and found them to be pragmatic. I learned a lot from their guides and essay reviews, and liked their systematic approach to the application. Their snarkiness is also a good reminder to keep things in perspective. When you seek admissions guidance, find someone with the following three attributes: an intimate knowledge of the current admissions landscape, a willingness to critique frankly, and a genuine interest in the admissions process.
With my application plan set, I spent the summer honing my stories, writing essays, and coordinating letters of recommendation (be sure to thank your recommenders! I gave mine a handwritten note and gift card to a local restaurant). I’m glad that I chose to focus on a small number of schools, as I was able to produce strong applications while keeping my sanity (for the most part). By September, however, I was burnt. My head hurt from proofreading data sets for the tenth time, so it felt good to be nearing the end. Over the next two weeks, I hit the submit button three times.
When December rolled around, I received two rejections (actually, one earlier than that since I wasn’t invited to interview) but one admission! Jackpot! Was I bummed that I didn’t get into the other two schools? Sure, but in the grand scheme of things, it’s irrelevant. I had achieved my goal of getting into a top business school. [A **very** top one, we might add! -ES] Schools have reputations, fair or not, that cause applicants to think, “I have to go there” or “I can’t go there, that’s not me”. In reality, every top school has a similar variety of personalities and talents. Where you go is less important than what you do once you get there. In order to get there, trust the process.
There are so many awesome comments, tips and perspectives in this story!! And the memories shared from the school visits were great. Hopefully all of you will be scouring through this multiple times to pick up on some of those excellent ideas. —- oh HEY! we have a little tip for blahg members that shows up here — if you’ve got an active membership, please log in to see it! —-
What impressed us most about this particular BSer through working with him in Round 1 last year was how willing he was to accept feedback, and willing to WORK! This essay writing thing is not easy for most people and that was also true for him. Yet he never had a bad attitude about any of it, he always just greeted the news of another revision with, “Okay, let me work on it and I’ll be in touch.” That attitude is all you need if you want to succeed! And he ended up in an excellent place indeed. Once again, CONGRATS to this particular Success Story and THANK YOU to him for sharing it — and EssaySnark hopes that all of you gearing up for Round 1 will be in a similar happy place yourselves at the end of this season!!!