In education there’s this thing called Bloom’s Taxonomy:
This reflects the domains of educational design, consisting of the domain of knowledge and how do you scaffold a learner through the process of acquiring new cognitive skills and understanding.
Why are we talking about this in a post about your friends?
Well, we often hear of well-intentioned business school students who want to give advice to the next crop of applicants coming along into the process of constructing their applications for admission.
And we often get scared.
Getting into bschool is a massive accomplishment. Nobody who manages to do that did it by accident. It requires work, often tremendous effort. There is a lot of learning that goes into it.
But learning enough to pull off a solid set of essays to get yourself accepted does not mean that there’s been learning of any type of universal rules or heuristics that will work for another applicant. It just means that you did good work yourself of presenting who you are in answer to the questions. Or, often, applicants get in despite the essays — meaning, the essays were not great but something else in the profile carried the person in.
Here’s the deal, Brave Supplicant: You need to be careful who you rely on for actual essay advice. Be a sponge, but have a filter.
Ask for opinions. Seek out others’ experiences. Learn from their mistakes. Definitely ask anyone you possibly can about their experience in their MBA program. Take notes. Listen carefully. Pay attention. But don’t make someone else’s experience into gospel. What’s true for them may or may not be true for you — or, it might have been true in the past, but maybe their complaint about how their school did such-and-such is no longer a problem, because the school changed.
This is especially important when it comes to the essays. Writing solid MBA essays for an application to business school is not a skill most people naturally have. Editing essays for someone else is really not a skill that comes natural — and it’s so easy to let a decent draft deteriorate into an actual crappile of useless detritus with too many inputs into your process. We see it happen all the time!
One reason is captured quite simply in that diagram of Bloom’s Taxonomy: It’s very possible to be proficient when learning a new skill, at the level of application. You can get into bschool by acquiring that third level of knowledge for writing your essays and presenting yourself in the apps. But you’d need to progress much higher on that schematic in order to give useful, accurate, and reliable advice to someone else in their own process. You’d need to at minimum be at the analyze level, and honestly to be of most value to another, you’d need to squarely be in the evaluate tier.
Bottom line is, be careful who you listen to. Everyone may be well meaning with good intentions, but that won’t save you from someone who is overestimating their level of proficiency to the task.
Proceed with caution, Brave Supplicant, and please remember this: Friends don’t let friends read their MBA essays.