Say you fudged a number here or there.
Like, maybe you earned a $50,000 bonus one year, but someone told you that it’s possible to look like you make too much money to get into bschool, so you reported it on your app as a $20,000 bonus instead.
Or maybe you heard that the schools want to get a recommendation from a direct supervisor, so when you set up your recommender in the app, you identified that as the relationship you had. But you never technically reported to him. He wasn’t actually your manager or boss. You just know he’ll write a good rec for you because you were buddies. So you fudged the nature of the relationship you had. Figured it is one of those small issues that doesn’t much matter.
Say you are in the practice of blurring the lines in these small ways.
We ask you: Where does it stop?
At what point do you decide that something is too big to lie about, or that the lie is too bold? Or by what other measure do you use?
Is it only for lies where you think you’ll be found out? Where someone will be checking the facts?
Or are you willing to be flexible with your ethics on things like forgoing a commitment, such as applying through a binding admissions process and then ditching out after you’re accepted?
Nobody sets out to be a bad person. (At least, in our ever-the-optimist worldview, they don’t.) In the face of seemingly unbeatable odds for getting in to a top school, it may seem like you’re “forced” to cut corners or get creative with your approach. Maybe your boss said sure she’d do a letter of recommendation for you but you need to write it. Maybe it would be simpler to omit one of your jobs from the app history because you were only there for a month and were let go, and the situation is complicated, and it doesn’t actually matter in the grand scheme of things. But you really truly don’t need to lie to get in.
The world is going through changes, and what had been social and business and political norms for generations have crumbled in the face of the assault on institutions and standards of self-focused politicians. Many of those norms probably needed to be challenged anyway, but we’ve also lost decorum and civility and respect for one another along the way, and these things decay when the individual takes liberties and scoffs at standards. Challenging the status quo is a good thing, but treating others with respect, and honoring the moral system of the community are even better.
Do the actions you take on your app or in your life look like victimless crimes to you? Maybe so, and so be it, but the integrity within which we live our lives of resonance and enjoy the pride of accomplishment from honest effort all comes from how you approached the task and the way you conducted yourself in achieving it.
Take your time to do stuff right — and don’t let yourself justify cheating. In the heat of the moment it may seem warranted or acceptable but is it something you can tell your mom about with a straight face? There used to be a saying, “If you wouldn’t want to read about it on the front page of the New York Times, then don’t do it” put that seems not to be the best test anymore. Maybe ask, would you want your future fellow classmates at business school to know that you fudged the data on your app to get in? If not, then second thoughts may be advised.
UPDATE: WOW, our post is fully backed up by Michigan Ross in this pre-Round 2 blog post only 1 week later! Notably she calls these “tips” for your application but 2 of the 3 are warnings not to lie on your app! Don’t use other people’s essays because their plagiarism software will catch you; don’t “enhance” your credentials because they’ll spot it. Apparently these things are happening more and more, or the admissions director of a major business school would not be warning you about it!! No lying in your MBA apps, people – just don’t do it! (Please also not if you’re a politician but that ship of the last four years is hopefully now sailing….)