The exercise we’re proposing today may strike fear into your heart.
And that’s OK.
Fear can be a valuable motivator! Fear is a big part of life. Fear is probably the only reason you floss your teeth; fear of the dentist, fear of your teeth falling out, fear of being a bad boy (or girl) or whatever worked as motivation to get you to start. (oh, you don’t floss? Well you SHOULD! don’t you know that your teeth might fall out??)
Applying to business school is like that.
Well, sort of.
You’re applying to bschool because you want to change your life. Because you think it’s expected of you. Because you feel stuck in your job. Because you want to pivot. Because you want to have an impact on the world. Because of a myriad of other reasons that have motivated you to go through all this time and hassle and trouble. And essays!! If you’d known about the essays you would never have started. But now you’re in the thick of things and you’ve told everyone you’re doing it, and you’ve got recommenders lined up and your family is expecting you to get in. So you’re sucking it up, and you’re writing those essays, and you’re praying more than you’ve ever prayed in your life.
Or maybe you’re not. Maybe you’ve had this idea for ages that you’ll be applying in Round 1 of 2018, and you’re ready with GMAT and your recs have been chosen and yes, you’re writing those essays, but you’re assuming all of this is going to work out. After all, you made it into college reasonably easily. Your GMAT is in range. You’re doing everything right.
The practice that this article suggests, of doing a “premortem” where you cast your mind out to the future — say, December 15th or so of this year — and you imagine that you failed. Close your eyes and sit with it.
You submitted to all of these schools in Round 1.
Now it’s December, and the decisions have come in.
You’re sitting there empty-handed. All of that work, and all you have to show for it is a bunch of admissions letters saying, “We regret to inform you….”
From the article:
Going through this exercise not only helps to ensure that your optimism is at least somewhat grounded in reality, but it also helps you to uncover potential pitfalls on the path to your goal that might otherwise be overlooked. This way, you can prepare for them in advance.
The two most common causes of MBA application failure that we tend to see over and over are:
1. Aiming too high. The profile is not a match to the schools they were targeting. Read more
2. Craptastic essays. The schools chosen are in range for the profile but the execution is simply not there. Read more
However, those two causes of failure are actually results of something else.
1. Aiming too high is a result of not understanding how very, very competitive this process is. It’s a result of assuming that a certain GMAT score is “good enough.” It’s a result of fooling yourself about how good your own stats are or how differentiated you think your background is, or thinking that getting an alum from Harvard to put in a word will be enough to land a spot. Aiming too high is usually about a lack of education about the realities of this process, or a willful blindness to issues in your package. Aiming too high is usually a result of naivety or ignorance, or it could be caused by misinformation, like when some admissions consultant gushes about how strong your profile is and you’re sure to get into School X, but you asked the wrong person for their opinion and really that person was just trying to sell you something. Like an expensive admissions consulting package.
2. Craptastic essays is a result of thinking that you write well, so how hard can it be? It’s the result of not putting in enough time, or thinking that the essays aren’t the most important part, especially when you’re presenting a 750 GMAT and a 3.5 GPA. Craptastic essays stems from the reality that writing essays is really hard, and most people absolutely suck at it, and it’s a skill that needs to be learned, and you need to give yourself time to figure out how to do it. Craptastic essays are caused by the issue that many people apparently aren’t so good at analyzing the essay prompts — especially the really simple ones — and they end up writing about stuff that doesn’t fit the question.
This is just a starting point.
We could go on for days.
The value of doing this premortem exercise is you sit down with yourself and identify the things that YOU could do poorly, and where things might go sideways in YOUR applications.
You know your tendencies.
You know your patterns.
You know the habits of laziness, or overthinking, or how much you hate writing.
You can debug what might go wrong with your application process, before you’ve set it in stone.
So we invite you to spend some time with this, BSer.
If you started a journal like we’ve suggested before, go dig it out from that pile of magazines collecting on top of it on your nightstand and use it for this.
There could be plenty of other causes of the end result of you sitting there in December with no admit in hand.
Maybe you blow everything off and don’t even manage to submit.
Maybe you screw up with a recommender or you miss a deadline completely — even when you thought you had made it.
Maybe you don’t study the requirements and you don’t have a TOEFL when you need one.
Maybe your transcripts are not in English and you don’t have the right translation done on them.
All of those issues can be prevented if you plan for them now.
None of them can be fixed if you slouch off and don’t do the research and planning.
Do a premortem now. Then you will be (hopefully!) taking yourself out of the market for the EssaySnark Post-Mortem later on.
It’s much easier for our prayers to be answered when we’ve laid the groundwork effectively.