A long time ago we ranted about what we called “the adcon” and a question from a BSer on a ‘snarchived thread recently reminded us of that. So today we’re gonna take the opportunity to issue a reminder to all-y’alls.
Admit decisions are:
1. Made by the school.
While an admissions consultant can be instrumental in helping you decide which schools to try for, if you’re gung-ho for a school you need to apply there no matter what. Just be sure to do so with eyes wide open.
Going for HBS even if we say you're not really qualified? Do it if you're "Fearing regret more than failure"
— Essay Snark (@EssaySnark) August 4, 2018
Moral: DO NOT LET AN ADMISSIONS CONSULTANT DICTATE YOUR STRATEGY.
It’s the admissions team who gets to decide if you’re going to go there. Not an admissions consultant. Especially not an admissions consultant who’s only looking at some bare-minimum core facts about your profile like a GMAT score or a GPA. That’s not enough to say you should or should not try for a school that you’re in love with — and even if the consultant has seen the entirety of your profile, they still shouldn’t get the final say on whether you try for a school or not. Don’t outsource your life to other people. It’s your life. Live it. Make your own decisions, commit to them, and go all out in getting as close as you possibly can to your dreams.
OK, inspirational talk is over. What else?
Admit decisions also are:
2. Impossible to fully predict.
A qualified admissions consultant is a valuable resource and can tell you if you’re aiming appropriately or if your pitch is shaping up to be competitive, but we are limited in what we can do.
EssaySnark has been doing this a long time and we pride ourselves on being able to evaluate chances based on essay review and profile, and even so we call things incorrectly at times. Every season it seems like there’s one BSer who we are adamant about how decent-to-strong their chances are at some particular school, and they fail to even land the interview. Partly this could be due to something that goes sideways that we don’t have access to, the key example being recommendations which EssaySnark never sees, or maybe they screwed something up royally in how they entered the data in the application, which we also don’t review in advance (these application assets are examined, when available, for the Sanity Check Pre-Submit App Review, or after the fact for the Post-Mortem Rejection Analysis; we know, many applicants have the recommendation letters even when they’re not supposed to, and those services also include a channel by which you can ask your recommender to submit the recommendation letter to us directly without it coming through you).
Partly our cloudy crystal ball is due to the fact of how dynamic admissions is, how quickly things are changing, how different the candidate pool has become in a few short years, and of course
despite how we’ve got sensors implanted in Chad’s and Kirstin’s and Dawna’s and Soojin’s heads the inability for us to read the adcoms’ minds.
For Harvard and Stanford, the best we can typically say, “Yes, you have a real chance!” There will be maybe two or three BSers we work with in any given season where we feel strongly they will get invited to interview at HBS or the GSB — and when we have felt that level of confidence, we can’t recall ever being wrong. When it’s obvious that someone’s hitting the “this is HBS material” mark then it’s obvious. For most others, all we can do is give them a resounding “Yeah, maybe….” Or, we can point-blank say, “Sorry, we really don’t think this will result in an interview, but obviously you should go ahead and submit anyway!” (Sometimes that motivates them to go into another round of furious rethinking and revision, which every now and then results in a different approach that gives us marginally more hope, but this is rather rare. We unfortunately can not remember ever saying “Sorry we don’t think so” where the BSer went on to an admit at that school. We hate to say it but when we’re confident it’ll be a “no” by the school, we tend to be right. 🙁 )
So what this means is, if we predict it’ll be a “pass” for these two schools, we have a high degree of confidence; or very very rarely, we can be confident it’ll be a “yes” for these schools, and in those cases, we’re right. But much more often it’s a “yeah you’ve got a shot but it all depends…” which is unfortunately the best we often can do when it’s Harvard or Stanford. For any other school we can be more definitive — usually. But it all comes down to the actual applicant pool and individual round makeup at a specific school, and while we have a finger on the pulse of the overall market, it’s impossible to say how things are trending specifically at this moment in time.
There is never ONE item that makes or breaks an application. This is what the adcoms mean when they say that the review is holistic. It’s also why this process is so stressful for you! Because you work-work-work on one thing (GMAT/GRE), and think it’s got to be in range of strong enough, then you have to work-work-work on this other thing
(essays, and then more essays, and then even more essays) and in this category because it’s so darned subjective, it can be really tough to assess for yourself if you’re on track or not. Even when you start to feel that your essays are GOOD, you’ll still be saddled with tremendous doubt and a lack of real confidence on whether they’ll be good ENOUGH. Until you get the interview invitation, and then at least you’ll know you passed that first big hurdle and convinced someone through your writing that you are worthy of further consideration.
But this is why we spend so much time emphasizing what seems like maybe nitpicky or inconsequential things, or concepts like “tone” or “messaging.” It’s because the details are what add up to the whole. Sweating the small stuff is what helps you make sure that:
a) you’ve done EVERYTHING YOU POSSIBLY CAN in helping your chances towards the outcome you seek
b) the adcom experiences your application THE WAY YOU INTEND THEM TO — with no wriggle room or margin of error
You don’t want the adcom to be interpreting the things you say, or having to fill in the gaps of what you’ve presented, because you’ve only included part of a story, or a generic reference to something important in your life.
Some say “The D3vil is in the details.”
EssaySnark says no, “The DECISION is in the details.”
And that part is fully in your control.
Wanna find out if we can say with confidence you’ll be getting an interview at Harvard or Stanford? Or – GULP! – that we have confidence you WON’T be? The Sanity Check is available! We can review your app to any school and let you know if it’s shaping up for success.