This is gunna come too late for many of you — or maybe not.
Today we’re gunna talk about Stanford and every other “reach” school — but especially Stanford. And oh yeah, every other reach school. And probably every school you apply to that is competitive.
So we’re talking about everything.
The not-helpful advice for today is, You have to show up for this.
Phoning it in on your apps will not work.
That’s especially true for Stanford because of what they need to see.
You know how you were planning on talking about Touchy-Feely in Stanford Essay B?
Yeah, you and the other 8,171 people applying.
The very basic techniques that you’ve heard about telling the adcom stuff that you like about their school simply aren’t enough for a school like Stanford.
If you use that standard technique to mention Touchy-Feely for Stanford Essay B, then you a) need to know what Touchy-Feely is really about, and b) your Stanford Essay A better be showing some touchyfeelz*.
And the only way to do THAT is to a) take the time and b) be willing to dig deep.
Superficial answers are not going to cut it at Stanford.
If you’re sitting here now wondering, “Well shoot. EssaySnark just last week said I have to do the work or I’m not gunna have a chance. I know I haven’t done the work. I also know that Round 1 is an advantage for a school like Stanford. But if I haven’t done the work, I should just put it off till Round 2. Right?”
Sitting here today, when the clock is counting down to a deadline in a few days, then you’ve probably already made the decision for your Hail Mary or not. But if you haven’t, and had decided to go for Round 2 instead, then we hafta warn you:
Every year we work with at least a small handful of BSers in your shoes who recognize that they were phoning it in up to this point, that they hadn’t buckled down to actually focus on the hard work of figuring out this essay stuff. So they decide to punt. Round 2 it is.
And then what happens is, come middle of December, they suddenly wake up like a bear being roused from its winter’s nap too early, and they look around with blinking eyes and they’re all, “How did that happen? How did we get to December already?”
And then they futz around for another week, with even more easily-justifiable excuses like holiday parties and Christmas shopping, and then it’s time for eggnog and Rudolph and they still haven’t managed to write any essays.
So if in your heart of hearts, you know that that’s you…. Please do not punt till Round 2. Please just revert to your college days and do an all-nighter tonight.
Because if you’re gonna end up cutting corners and doing a mad dash at last minute craziness full of adrenaline and panic, you’d be in a better position to do it NOW when you do in fact have Round 1 shining its smile on you. It’s way better to do a half-a$$ed application in the earliest round when you’re competing against far fewer other half-a$$ed-ers. You’ll be just one of many half-a$$ed-ers in Round 2, whereas now, you’ll be more in the minority. Way better to stand out against a smaller pool of half-a$$ed-ers than to drown in the midst of them and not even get noticed at all in Round 2.
Or, maybe today’s post is not for you at all. Maybe you’re one who realized in August that “OMG IT’S AUGUST! ROUND 1 IS COMING!” and while it would’ve been better to have that realization in June, it’s still a valuable realization to have had then. And you got cranking on some essays, and maybe you sent them in to EssaySnark who said, “Nope, this ain’t it,” and you cried, and pouted, and cursed at us for awhile. And then you got to work. And when we saw your next drafts and said, “Huzzah! Yes! You’ve done it!” then you wrote back something like this that a real-life Brave Supplicant shared recently:
I am glad you like Essay A. After reading your initial comments, I realized [something specific to their Stanford essay topic]. Your advice allowed me to be authentic. Now I understood what it means to be authentic. It was a valuable lesson if it were not for Stanford application.
This process of introspection and digging deep really is not that much fun when you start. But when you get into it, and you keep digging, then often it becomes…. almost exciting. There’s something magical that happens when the pieces click together and you start to understand. When that magic happens, it’s vivid and visceral and very much detectable on the page of your essay.
Maybe you can get there in a furious mad-dash of writing tonight.
Or maybe this post inspires you to step back and decide that yes, you can do this introspection thing, and you’re willing to roll up your sleeves and put in the time, and you know that Round 1 is useful but a stronger app in Round 2 is way better. And you start to work on that Round 2 application NOW and you keep working on it every day from today until it’s finished. And maybe that’s in two or three weeks, and you’ll have that app ready to roll in October. Or maybe it’s still not ready until almost the actual deadline in January. But you work it constantly, refining and thinking and being willing to throw it all away again and start over if necessary.
You decide to show up.
That can happen now, or next week, or not at all. But if you’re serious about schools like the Stanford GSB, it’s almost a 100% rule that it’ll have to happen at some point, if you’re gunna develop the quality of materials that the adcom will say yes to.
*Like, not literally. Your Stanford Essay A need not be about some kind of fraught emotional or distressing topic. But it needs to RESONATE. It needs to be real. Maybe we shoulda said that it has to be showing some touchyrealz.