Some of you may have guessed what we were alluding to in yesterday’s “What’s wrong with this picture?” post, but if not, here you go.
That person sounded like they were definitely headed to Booth, right? Based on how they related the results? Did you examine where else they applied and what their outcomes were?
You may have noticed the admit to the Columbia J-Term, and wondered if we were going to comment on that. Nope, that’s not the issue. The J-Term is not binding. The potential wrinkle is that this person also applied to Duke.
The results didn’t say, but Duke has a Round 1, and an Early Action. Early Action at Duke is like Early Decision at Columbia: They are both binding.
It’s totally possible that this applicant applied in Duke Round 1 with no strings attached. But just in case there are some people considering Duke EA along with their other schools in Round 1, or Columbia ED, we’d like to talk through the options you’re looking at.
We already posted about Columbia Early Decision at the end of June, so none of this is news. We spoke there about how it’s a binding process — but we know that this seemingly obvious stance on how to navigate decisions in life is not universally shared. There are many MBA admissions consultants out there who apparently have no qualms about advising their clients to act unethically. It’s not something we will ever be able to understand. 😕
From a purely practical level though, the advice is flawed from its foundation. The idea is this: Try for Columbia Early Decision. If you get in, then that means you have a chance at a better school, because clearly you did something right!
But actually, no.
Columbia Early Decision tends to be easier to get in through – marginally so, at least, and dependent upon many factors.
So the logic being proposed is: “I’m going to try clearing an easier bar, and that means I’ll have success at the harder one!”
It’s like saying you are going to send your resume out for jobs at the Manager level, and if you get a job offer, then you’ll accept that offer, and then immediately send your resume out for jobs at the Director level, to see what happens.
These are different playing fields entirely.
Maybe the issue is, you’re thinking about it a little bit off. Maybe you’re thinking of it like running.
You run a 5K as preparation for the marathon.
Does that analogy hold?
Well, kinda. If your goal with trying for Columbia first is to learn what’s required to put a good application together, then sure. Applying to Columbia and getting accepted means you did a good job on that.
But these two separate goals — getting into Columbia, versus getting into Harvard or Stanford — they require optimization on different dimensions.
What Columbia cares about in its applicants is really not the same as what Harvard or Stanford care about.
Sure, there are overlaps.
But making it to the end of a 5k isn’t that big of a deal. Heck, OutOfShapeSnark can do it.
Making it to the end of a marathon is a whole ‘nother beast.
They’d be scooping this ‘Snark up off the course at sundown if it were us that were trying it.
The execution of a 5k and a marathon are really quite different.
If you want to get into Harvard or Stanford or wherever, then apply to Harvard or Stanford. Getting into Columbia first does not say anything about whether those other schools will work out. It just says you got into Columbia.
While we understand the thinking with this strategy, to try for Columbia ED and then use that to determine trying for other schools, and while yes, we know people do it all the time, that does not make it right.
Just because other people do it does not mean it’s okay. Do you want to be like other people?
Here’s the real problem with the Columbia/Duke “early” app as a planned first step and a H/S/W/whomever later app in the works (in case our point has escaped you):
Columbia Early Decision is binding.
You would be giving your COMMITMENT to Columbia by applying through their Early Decision process.
Your commitment is your word. It’s about honor. It’s not about the money that you would forfeit by paying a deposit and walking away from it if another school lets you in. It’s about following through on a promise that you make. You can examine the text in the Columbia application and reflect on what you would be promising to them. It may feel trivial, but in our perspective, decisions on every level matter in life.
We have many posts about this:
- “I’ll just apply to Columbia Early Decision as an insurance policy” (because obviously you’re not the first person to be thinking this way)
- Renegging on an Early Decision offer
There are actually more posts than that, in case you’re really into hearing us lecture, but those capture the gist of it.
Ethics are what let us live a noble life, one of honor and character. That’s what EssaySnark stands for, and we are always so inspired to work with others who share those values.
Oh hey wait.
Where have we heard that word before???
Oh that’s right. It’s what so many schools are saying they care about now.
And, the best part is: You don’t need to cheat in order to get in to Columbia!
If you have a solid profile, you’re going to have just as much shot at getting in through Regular Decision, if you apply at the right time and you present yourself effectively. Early Decision has been an advantage more so in highly competitive seasons. Which this season is unlikely to be (at least, not at that level). There is strategy involved, yes. There is execution required, yes. (Shameless plug: We go into all of this in our Columbia Essay Guide!!)
What could be a “weakness” for Harvard or Stanford is not even going to be noticed at Columbia — provided your essays are really strong, of course! Columbia cares a lot about the essays; the essays are very important there, regardless of which round.
This means that there isn’t much logic to the plan of trying for Columbia before trying for the others. That’s a common fallacy of a “trade-up strategy” and we just don’t see it work out that often. Admissions to each school is an independent event; the only reason that there is correlation between admits to multiple schools is based on underlying attributes in a profile, but the execution of each of those apps needs to be quite different in almost every case – and that’s ESPECIALLY true for the presentation of material for Harvard and Stanford compared to Columbia.
Someone who’s admitted to Harvard or Stanford, also being admitted to Columbia and MIT? Yes, absolutely, that’s going to happen all the time.
Someone admitted to Columbia or MIT also having a solid chance at Harvard and Stanford? No, sorry. Doesn’t work that way. Correlations fall apart when you move that direction.
Oh hey look! We cover this in multiple posts, too!
- The typical futility of aiming higher
- You got in somewhere good. Should you now try for somewhere better?
- Round 1 and your favorite school
There have been several years in a row now where admissions was all whack. The adcoms didn’t know what to expect in terms of numbers of applications, and how many would matriculate. This year is likely to have some uncertainty associated with it, but unless there’s a major shock to the economy, we do not expect it to be anything like what’s been seen previously. In other words: It looks like things are more stable. Predictable. If you want to play a risky strategy and try “trading up” then there’s no harm in trying — but having a sound Round 1 strategy in place first is really important. That’s the conservative way to do it.
Try for your most important schools early. Then if they don’t pan out, figure out why, and go at it again in Round 2 with that learning under your belt.
If you’d truly be thrilled with an admit to Columbia and wouldn’t be tempted by other schools later, then go for Columbia Early Decision. If you cannot commit to them upfront, then don’t.
It’s not necessary, and every time we compromise our values, a little shadow darkens our souls.
The other takeaway message from that results post from yesterday: This is a GREAT TIME to be reapplying to bschool! With a forecast of a softer season ahead — especially if you’re trying in Round 1 — it could totally turn into a set of happy results like this other BSer racked up. Congrats to him from last year! Maybe you’ll be in a similar wonderful (difficult!) position of having to choose between great programs in a few months.