Smart school administrators keep their mouths shut about their competition. Because like really, how could you know??
EssaySnark has trouble enough keeping track of all the changes and trends going on across the MBA landscape, and it’s OUR JOB to keep track of them.
How can you expect a school admissions person to know what all the other schools are doing with their curricula, research, and programs every year?
If you hear an admissions person or a school dean say that theirs is “the only” school that has such-and-such, well, they’re almost undoubtedly wrong.
The utter ridiculousestness part of this is: Many rankings systems rely on deans to rank their peers.
YES!! Some deans apparently have a hard enough time keeping track of what's going on in their own schools! How in heck do they have a clue what any other school is doing? TYFT https://t.co/9jwu55eLRZ
— Essay Snark (@EssaySnark) June 13, 2019
EssaySnark is not going to change that system — though we do think you should be aware of it! It’s just one of the many reasons we think rankings are stupid.
We are much more concerned, though, about the influence that we hope to have in the context it matters: What you say in your essays.
If you feel tempted to write in your essays that you want to go to some school because it’s “the only” school that has such-and-such — based on what you heard a dean or an admissions person say — then you’re probably only repeating a fallacy. And that seems kinda lame. Like, in this era, we should all be vigilant about not perpetuating fake news, right?
If you don’t see the problem with that, fine. You’re right. Repeating to the school what the school themselves said cannot be that much of a crime. But much more important to consider is the actual utility of such a statement on your chances of admission. Will it help you? That’s the lens through which to evaluate everything you say in your MBA app.
Even though the school themselves said that they’re “the only” school for blahbaddyblah1, for you to say it is not helping you to make your case for why you want to go to that school. It may seem like it’s making the case, but it’s not.
Because presumably, the thing-you’re-citing as so important is, sure, cool and maybe groovy and perhaps Top-100 level awesome. But if you don’t make it into the school you’re slathering all this praise on, you’ll go somewhere else, and that school will serve your professional development needs just dandy. Which kind of refutes the whole idea of pitching one school on being “the only one” for you. If schools are essentially interchangeable, then talking up one feature in an essay as being soooooo important can sort of come across as butt-kissing. Just a bit. You know?
We know where this comes from though, and it’s not an intentional evil. It’s just how stuff happens. Like a game of telephone.
(We won’t name names or anything but) we’ve heard bschool deans utter absolute nonsense in media interviews, probably in full innocence and not meaning to actually lie, but they end up totally misrepresenting what’s available in other schools when they do it. And you, innocent BSer, hear this dean say something, and you latch onto it as a Good Reason, and don’t investigate further. You take it at face value, but it turns out maybe not actually in the real world to be true.
It’s kinda like the thing about an MBA admissions consultant who advertises that they used to work as Admissions Director at Business School X, implying what an advantage that must be. That may sound very, very alluring — wouldn’t you want to get the help of someone who used to evaluate applicants? They must be the insider of all insiders! They will bring all of the secrets!
But there are some serious issues in moving from one side of the admissions table to the other, the biggest being that evaluating an end product to decide if it’s someone to accept is a totally different task than coaching a candidate on how to work through their raw material to construct that end product, that will then be accepted by the admissions person. Sure, they’re both about looking at you with a critical eye to see if you have those traits that the business schools want in their classes. But it’s a very different set of skills to help someone build a great application, versus saying, “Yes, no, waitlist” on the other end of that process.
It’s the same type of thing with a school bragging about its awesome initiatives, programs and opportunities. When an admissions person does their song and dance at an information session, they’re in sell-mode: They’re telling you all the great things about their school. It’s only natural to want to do some compare-and-contrast in how differentiated they are against their peers.
Because you know what? All the schools really start to sound the same if you’ve been listening to a few of these pitches.
The rep from the school isn’t intending to lie. They are just phrasing things that way to showcase their advantages and their benefits. Or, maybe, someone who did some competitive analysis of their new offering against the marketplace of their competitor schools came up with the conclusion that theirs is a new program, that no other school has it, and they’ve tagged that into their marketing ever since, believing it to be true.
It almost definitely isn’t.
If you hear something at School X and get all excited about it, then definitely take notes on that — it could be something that’s really powerful to talk about in your essays, when you can articulate the reason you get excited about it.
But if someone tells you their school is “the only” to do blah blah blah, then skip that part if you reference it in your apps, and also, don’t be deterred from researching the MBA marketplace for yourself, to see if that same feature exists at some other school, too. Ask around. See what your contacts say. It can be a little awkward to stumble into this for yourself. You hear that School X is “the only” school that has such-and-such, and then the next day you’re talking to a student at School Y who asks which other schools you’re considering, and you say, “School X, because they’re the only ones that have such-and-such” and she’s all, “We have such-and-such. We’ve had that for years.” And you’re like, “Oh.”
Of course, there’s exceptions to this statement, but on the whole, there aren’t that many new things out there in bschool-land. Schools tend to copy each other. Maybe School Y doesn’t have exactly the same thing but they have something really similar, or they’re calling it something different. One example is the major (or concentration, or whatever your school calls it) of Organizational Behavior. That’s an old standby that every school offers; most schools have a required course in the core curriculum, that all students take, in Organizational Behavior. Well guess what? Booth just renamed their version to “Behavioral Science” which ya gotta admit, sounds way sexier.
Most schools do have what the other schools offer.
Perhaps School Y school isn’t broadcasting its presence on campus so loudly, maybe because they’ve had it around a long time and it’s not the latest shiny object that’s being featured in their own PowerPoint, or they have so many other fabulous things that they aren’t making that a #1 priority in their marketing. This is another reason why your own school research can be so fruitful, since you can uncover those hidden gems — and if you are able to feature those in your essays and talk about why they’re important to you, it can go a long way to making a convincing argument.
Saying in an essay that they’re the only school to offer some certain program isn’t that compelling. It just says they have the program. Tying your statements into your own personal reasons is always a more powerful way to pitch your reader.
And basically: Critical thinking. Critical thinking is how to live in this world. Not being critical, but being a careful consumer of information you’re being told.
Including by us!
Think stuff through. Vet it for yourself. Make sure it makes sense before you adopt it for your worldview.
Or your essays. 😀
ETA 2 weeks later: Refreshingly, we just saw MIT Sloan admissions respond to a question in a chat with “I don’t know how we compare to other schools.” Yay Sloan!
1 Does anyone know how this should be spelled? Doesn’t look right. Suggestions? Leave ’em in the comments please!