EssaySnark has now established a tradition where, after Round 2 applications are in and the admissions teams are all busily evaluating you BSers, we look back over how those admissions folks managed their processes this season, to identify one school that we feel are doing right by you applicants.
We formalized this Radcom of the Year Award starting four years ago and gave MIT Sloan the honor that first year. They’re a school that puts innovation at the forefront of all that they do, and their admissions process reflects this school priority in spades. They are always mixing things up in terms of requirements and processes, and they’re also a very applicant-accessible admissions team.
The second year, for the 2017 admissions cycle, we went back through our deliberation and debate process and in January we unveiled the Radcom of the Year Award and… it was MIT Sloan again!
They had implemented even more applicant-friendly processes and made more of an effort to be available to candidates, and it was a slamdunk deliberation and very easy to award it to them for a second year in a row. (If you want to know the specific reasons and the exact changes that Sloan made that earned them the honor, go clicky-clicky on that little linky-linky up above.)
The third year of our awards process, we almost gave the title to HBS! They actually did some stuff that impressed us that year. But even though we really truly resisted this and fought long and hard amongst ourselves before finally admitting the truth… Yeah. We gave MIT Sloan the Radcom Award again for the 2018 season.
Three years in a row!?!! Could a school really be so awesome as to earn this over all its peers for that many years running?
The answer we struggled with and eventually accepted last year was a resounding YES!
And what about this year? For the 2019 Round 1-Round 2 season where the top schools did their best to market to all of you eager-beaver Brave Supplicants. Where the admissions teams traveled the world and held webinars and spoke on panels where they were challenged to answer questions about how admissions is done without using the word “holistic”… Where many schools introduced new requirements and essay questions… and some schools (cough Duke cough) still haven’t changed the core of their requirements for ages and ages…
How do we feel these schools treated you folks this season?
Which school is noteworthy in its kindness? Did any schools make changes that reflect a new era of applicant-friendliness? Any overtures towards candidates that show the school is aware of the pressure and stress that applying to bschool entails, where they want to create a better experience? Any admissions team stand out for really being transparent in the process?
Well let’s see.
If we’re considering transparency, then some schools can easily be ruled out. Stanford is the least transparent of all, to this day. Talk about a black box admissions process. And, some schools still seem to be content to maintain status quo and do things as they have always been doing them. We’d mostly put schools like Columbia and Booth in this category. Kellogg and Yale and Duke also, not because there’s necessarily anything wrong with how these schools manage admissions. It’s just that they’re not innovating or implementing changes that improve the experience of applying.
Sure, Yale has no TOEFL requirement, and applicants can allow a recommender to submit recommendations written in certain non-English languages, and they will waive an app fee entirely for low-income candidates. These don’t hit the applicant population as a whole, though, and they’re mostly self-serving policies for the school to signal its virtues in the world. It’s like Stanford saying “We allow undocumented DREAMERS to apply.” That’s certainly a positive sentiment but how many candidates does that policy actually touch?
So it’s time to look at MIT Sloan. Are they going to qualify for a four-peat?? Is EssaySnark going to become such fanbois of MIT that we bow down to their greatness and bestow them the Radcom Award in perpetuity?
Sorry Charlie, but the answer is nope.
MIT actually implemented some not-so-nice policies this year. 🙁
Last year they started with the org chart requirement which perhaps should’ve factored more into our decision-making process around the Radcom Award. But it didn’t. The BSers we worked with last season didn’t seem terribly fazed by the org chart and most people didn’t have that much trouble putting one together for their MIT application.
However, it’s a total one-off that’s not at all standard for other applications. We have since seen some other schools request an org chart, so perhaps it’ll start being adopted by more programs as a standard part of app requirements. For now, it’s an assignment that doesn’t induce that much anxiety to produce, but it’s also something different and it adds to the workload for the MIT app. That alone would never be a reason to eliminate a school from the running for this award. It’s something we were more conscious of this year, however — especially when considered in conjunction with other changes.
Specifically, MIT modified its strategy for asking for recommendations. They went down to just one formal recommendation as part of the app, and they also asked for two so-called ‘references’ who they said could be contacted at any time throughout the process of evaluating your app.
This most definitely has introduced stress into the process.
If a sure way to decrease anxiety in a person is to give them more autonomy and control over the lives, a sure way to increase it is to increase the ambiguity, especially in a high-stakes situation like this.
We get it. We know 100% why MIT introduced this change. But is it applicant-friendly? Not so much.
The other reason we’re denying MIT this recognition this year is because they eliminated the optional essay from their application. This seems short-sighted indeed. The optional essay is abused by many applicants, but that doesn’t mean that the school should remove it entirely. We worked with a number of clients this season who had legitimate need to use the optional essay to explain extenuating circumstances about their life and profile, and there was no place to do it. This also adds to the stress. If you have something important that you want the adcom to know about, then how do you get it to their attention if there’s no place in the app to cleanly communicate it? Real bummer that this opportunity had been taken away.
So for these reasons, MIT Sloan must be satisfied with running home with the Radcom Award for three years in a row, and they’ll need to step aside and let another school enjoy the limelight this year.
So which school will that be?
Ah. This post has run long. You’ll need to stop by again to find out.