Northwestern Kellogg has an MBA entire essay question asking about values this year, and Stanford has asked “What matters most” for years and years and years. Values-driven companies are more attractive to employees, and it’s becoming a prominent feature at many top MBA programs that values are examined and explicitly expressed as part of their…
Fuqua? McDonough? Kenan-Flagler? INSEAD? Haas? Ever wondered how in heck to say these words? You might want to figure it out before you talk to anybody about them. Like, in an interview perhaps? These are not official phonetic spellings (we’re not sure the rules of all that), they’re just our attempt to help you not…
Today is technically a holiday here in the U.S. – but we’re around reading essays just as fast as you are writing them! For those trying for schools like Stanford especially, we have a post today on a common practice used in MBA essays that doesn’t usually work. We see many essays that start…
Today we’ll tell you a story.
This one time, EssaySnark was coming home from a business trip, and we were on that little bus that takes you to the airport after you drop off your rental car. Right when the bus driver was about to close the door, a woman came running up behind. EssaySnark said to the driver, “Hold up, here’s someone else.”
The driver closed the door. We said louder, “Hey, wait a sec, someone’s coming.”
Some of the woman’s friends were already on the bus. “Please wait,” they said. “Our friend.”
The driver started to pull away from the curb. EssaySnark stood up in the aisle – surely he must’ve heard us? – and yelled over the engine noise, “HEY! WAIT!”
He looked back in the rear view mirror. Eye contact. Looked away. Kept driving.
EssaySnark went up to the front of the bus. “Didn’t you see her? That lady was trying to catch the bus.”
“Please take your seat while the bus is in motion.”
Couldn’t believe it.
When we got to the terminal, we called the car rental company, and we narked off the bus driver. We asked for a manager to come talk to us. The bus waited too. The airport was not that busy.
A second shuttle bus arrived with the supervisor, and also the woman who’d been left behind, who was reunited with her friends.
You know what the supervisor said? That he’d done it before. That it was against training.
We were like, “Yeah, you used to have that little recorded message saying something about customer service is important but when you don’t play that anymore then we were wondering if new management took over or something.”
She was all, “We do have a recorded message that plays on the bus.”
We were like, “No, there was no recorded message that played.”
The bus driver had disconnected it. Why? Maybe because the little “Welcome to the airport” recording had an invitation to fill out a customer satisfaction survey at the end of it.
Pretty sure that driver was separated from his job that day.
This is a VERY small and VERY insignificant story — not at all comparable to protesting Nazis — but it’s an incident we remember vividly. Somebody was being mistreated, and we stood up and said something. We had planned to share this with you in the context of essays this week. We expanded this post considerably after what happened this weekend.
You don’t have to be out in the streets protesting. Yet we’re sure you have similar stories.
These are how you can reveal your character.
If you want to be very task-focused: These are the types of stories that, sometimes, when heartfelt and told with conviction*, can move an adcom reader in an essay.
When we talk about values, we’re talking about stuff like this. It’s the small moments that make up your life. Our values let us know when we’re being true to ourselves. They help us make decisions.
Now before you get all indignant: “OMG EssaySnark, you got that guy fired!!” We’ll counter with some advice that we heard from a career coach a long time ago: When you get fired, it’s a gift. Your company is freeing you to go find something you’re happier in. Because clearly, it was not working out, and you weren’t listening to the evidence that was trying to tell you so. If your job is to pick people up and take them to the airport, then that’s what you do, to the best of your ability. You don’t leave them at the curb.
If in your job, you find yourself leaving people at the curb, then hey, that’s a pretty big sign that you’re not happy!! Either change yourself, or change your job!
We’re telling you this today not just because maybe it’ll help you think of new topics for your essays.
We’re telling you because WHEN YOU SEE SOMETHING THAT’S F*CKED UP, YOU MUST SAY SOMETHING.
We’re living in a world where a lot of f*cked up things are happening.
Did that Google engineer deserve to get fired for what he wrote?
Not sure. That’s a hugely complicated situation. His argument about women engineers has some sound science at the beginning (there are indeed biological differences between men and women) but then the reasoning he used to get to his conclusions is twisted (it is not true that those differences are why there are fewer women in tech). The argument is fatally flawed; it is not logical. Is he entitled to his opinion? Sure. Did he make other valid points about the current environment in Silicon Valley tech companies? Yes. Is a company in California allowed to fire at will? Indeed they are.
Should anyone be resorting to threats or acts of violence to defend their point of view? NO — yet the firing of the engineer provoked many on the alt-right to do just that, and now some Google execs are afraid.
That’s the world we’re living in now.
So what’s the connection to that and the shuttle bus driver and your essays?
It’s that some things are black and white. Some issues are easy to see. Some problems do not require debate or “further study” which is what the President said about the Charlottesville violence on Saturday. WTF?
When you see something that is not right, say something.
Let’s all look at how we respond to everyday life.
“Hate never yet dispelled hate.
Only love dispels hate.
That is the Law,
ancient and inexhaustible.”– The Buddha
The airporter bus driver was not spewing hate.
But what he did was not right.
The Google engineer was expressing his opinion. However that view of the world would not exactly create a welcoming environment for women who had to work with him. What’s more, that kind of faulty reasoning is the basis for much of the alt-right’s indignation about being victimized by others (you certainly see massively bad logic and effed-up reasoning on the left, too; this post is not about right or left, it’s about right or wrong).
It’s not your job to change people’s minds. We’re not saying to proselytize or preach.
But what you do owe yourself, and to all of us as a society, is to speak up when you see something going down.
What moments do you remember, however small, where you know what you did was right?
Some schools invite you to talk about that in your essay.
EssaySnark invites you to live that in your life.
The story we shared today is admittedly very “small”; we also used a lot of words to tell it. But it (we hope) reveals a small slice of character. That’s what stories do. That’s why they’re so powerful to use in your essays.
We also hope that you’ll consider the power of words. If you currently are in the habit of posting inflammatory comments on anonymous forums or you like to rile up others by being intentionally combative in how you respond on social media, we ask that you pause. Look at yourself. Ask why do you do it. Strong views are fine, and commendable; it’s good to believe in something. It is not necessary to hurt other people through verbal attacks, no matter how much “fun” you think it is. Getting a rise out of someone by saying something shocking and rude is a very low form of entertainment. That buzz of adrenaline can become addicting, but is that who you want to be? If you’re doing it online, you’re doing it. Doesn’t matter if you think nobody knows. You are as bad as your worst online habits. What you do on the internet is who you are. All of it. If you currently do anything out there on the web that you don’t want someone to know about, we invite you to face up to that, and ask yourself why. And please, NEVER PARTICIPATE IN DOXING. Or revenge-posting of photos. None of it. Seriously harmful. Seriously not cool.
You could be spending your energy on something so much more valuable.
Like working to get into bschool.
Finally: We debated whether to post this. There’s been plenty of posts about values here lately and a charge against us of virtue signaling could have merit. We also like to believe that most BSers reading the blahg don’t need to be preached to about lying or cheating or ramming cars into crowds or taking a gun to an early-morning practice at a softball field. We welcome all belief systems and political views here. Deadlines are coming, and we’ve got plenty to say about apps!
Yet, damn, we just can’t help it. This is a BIG MOMENT in our country’s history. We refuse to say nothing.
Our “new normal” is not normal.
This country has problems, yes. We are also lacking any real leadership that might solve them. Each person individually must stand for their values; after all, you’re interested in the MBA to change the world. Well, this is EssaySnark’s small platform to do that. We hope that someday soon, we’ll be able to go back to talking only about MBA essays.
That UVA Darden essay question sure takes on new significance today:
“When preparing for class at Darden, students formulate an opinion on each case before meeting with their learning teams and class sections. When encountering different views and perspectives from their own, opinions frequently shift. Tell us about a time when your opinion evolved through discussions with others.”
* Please just make sure that the story you’re telling is a fit to the essay prompt.
In our series on authenticity we posted a great video with co-speakers David Aaker and Jennifer Aaker which we hope you watched. No? Didn’t get a chance to? Here it is again: https://youtu.be/eq0SCz2Vncw The whole thing is absolutely worth viewing in its entirety — especially now that Haas has released its essay questions which focus…
Ah, joy. The process of writing your essays for your MBA apps. There are simply so many ways for it to go sideways. Many times, an earnest BSer will go through all this effort in introspection and self-reflection — which, by the way, are critical if you want to have any chance at all of…
Kellogg has an essay question this year asking you to discuss “growth”. They’re not alone. Berkeley has three such questions asking for personal experiences: The instructions for Haas Essay 2 offer separate choices for you to hang yourself by select from. The specific keywords to note in those Haas questions that tip you off that…
A Brave Supplicant recently wrestled through the planning stage with us on his Berkeley essays, and we really appreciate the approach that he took – but unfortunately, over and over again, the ideas just fell flat. It was a bit of a “forest for the trees” kind of problem. This BSer had absolutely the right…
If you’ve been talking to certain Executive MBA admissions people just recently and you’re early in the process of applying, then it’s possible that they may have suggested that you take the new Executive Assessment instead of the GMAT or the GRE.
Oooh how appealing! You don’t have to take the GMAT?!?? That sounds GREAT!
And it might be – provided you’re interested in a specific (very specific) type of MBA.
What is the Executive Assessment and how is it different?
The Executive Assessment is just as it sounds: It’s a standardized test that’s very similar to the GMAT but – just like an executive summary is a condensed version of an entire lengthy report that captures only the essence of a topic, the Executive Assessment is a much shorter version. Here’s the introduction to the Executive Assessment on mba.com . This is the breakdown of the Executive Assessment compared to the GMAT that you all know and (ahem) love.
|Integrated Reasoning||12 questions
|Analytical Writing Assessment||1 topic
Whoo-wee, only like a third of the quant questions? SIGN ME UP!
The Executive Assessment is 90 minutes long, compared to the 3-hour GMAT.
Before you get too excited there’s two very significant limitations (besides the fact that the Executive Assessment is also a bit more expensive than the GMAT, but we assume that’s not a dealbreaker for anyone):
- The Executive Assessment is only accepted by Executive MBA programs. For most of you, this will never serve as substitute for the GMAT. We’ve not heard of any “regular” MBA, whether full-time or accelerated, that has even expressed interest in accepting it, and we doubt we ever will. You’ll need to make friends with the GMAT (or GRE) if you’re interested in any of these standard (read: competitive) MBA tracks.
- As of this writing (October 2016) the Executive Assessment is only accepted by a small number of schools. It’s in limited deployment to a short list that includes Columbia EMBA, Booth EMBA, Darden EMBA, and some international programs like INSEAD and LBS – but not every EMBA adcom is taking it yet. That will undoubtedly change, however if you’re applying for an EMBA this year, then you need to be very very thoughtful before going the Exec Assmt route. (UPDATE JUNE 2017: In the US, UCLA Anderson, Berkeley-Haas and Vanderbilt now also take the EA for their EMBA programs. UPDATE AUGUST 2071: MIT Sloan Fellows now also accepts it.)
Why? Because you’re by definition limiting your options. If you take it for School X but later decide to apply to School B, then you would need to start over with the GMAT.
Say you currently live in the New York area. You’re looking around for an MBA program that allows you to stay at your job while you go to school. There are only a small handful of choices in the region.
|F/T MBA||P/T MBA||EMBA|
Admission to each of those programs entails varying degrees of difficulty based on their respective competitiveness factors. It may be very tempting to just say that Columbia is your first choice and do the Executive Assessment – and Columbia has some excellent EMBA options, including various formats which can accommodate different schedules based on how much flexibility your employer is granting you.
Columbia EMBA is not the most competitive program around but we have seen people apply there (before meeting us) and get turned away. So it’s not like you can just waltz in and expect to be accepted. That’s even more so the case for Wharton EMBA. It’s nearly as difficult to get into that program as it is for Wharton full-time. (Well, not quite, but it’s nothing like admissions to some other top schools’ EMBA tracks.)
Presumably NYU Stern will begin accepting the Executive Assessment in the future but for the current admissions season, EssaySnark’s understanding is that that’s not going to happen. If you’re applying now – in 2016 or early 2017 – then it’s a short list of EMBAs where the Executive Assessment will play .
If you’re at the start of the process of applying for an MBA and you are a fit to an executive format MBA in other ways – mostly based on your seniority and level of work experience – then double-check the schools that you’re interested in. If it’s only one school, and one program, and they’ve been pushing the Executive Assessment on you, then sure, it may be a good choice.
But if you’re just looking at Columbia EMBA because a) it’s Columbia (yeah, we know, that whole Ivy League allure) and b) it’s a part-time format that lets you keep your job and c) you’ve heard it’s easier to get in… Those are all legit reasons, but we have met more than one BSer for whom we were convinced a full-time MBA was actually a much better opportunity. If that type of BSer dives head first into the Executive Assessment without doing proper research and understanding the landscape then they will be limiting themselves to a very narrow set of options.
We’ve seen this happen before. Sometimes people start their school research by focusing on the EMBA based on doubts about their profile or because they only want to go part time, and then later realize that no, they actually are more interested in the full-time MBA. And boy that would suck if you already went through the trouble and cost of doing the Executive Assessment and can’t use it on your apps.
The EMBA admissions people at the schools that take the Executive Assessment are actively promoting this option, because it’s truly a positive for many. The GMAT is a significant hurdle for lots of candidates who are thinking about trying for an MBA, and it deters plenty of the more senior applicants especially from ever applying. Kellogg does not even require the GMAT for their EMBA applicants which is a fairly extreme position to take (basically if you have a pulse and you do a decent job on your essays you’ll be able to find a home in the Kellogg EMBA family – yes we’re exaggerating but not by much).
If you’re in the Midwest and looking at an EMBA, then you may have a bit more wriggle room in going for the Executive Assessment as your test strategy. That’s because of what we just stated:
- Kellogg EMBA does not even require the GMAT (usually)
- Neither does Michigan Ross (again, usually; sometimes they ask for it)
- Chicago Booth EMBA accepts the Executive Assessment (along with the GMAT and GRE)
So, if you take the Executive Assessment for Booth, and you’re also applying to an EMBA program that does not require the GMAT of all applicants, you may be able to use the Exec Assmt to your benefit. This is an untested theory but we are guessing that you might be able to get away with submitting your unofficial Executive Assessment report to the adcom in support of your candidacy to Kellogg or Ross EMBA, even though they’re not technically partners with the GMAC on this pilot.
Mostly what all of this boils down to is: Test your theories.
If you’re interested in the EMBA, then ask yourself: WHY? Is it based only on the flexible format? Is it because you’ve heard that it’s easier to get in? Or is it because you are truly a fit, given that you’re, uh, an executive?
Don’t choose an MBA program based only on its test requirements (or lack thereof). Do your due diligence. School fit is important – not just “can I get in?”
In the future, we’re certain that the Executive Assessment will be a better option for more people, but this year, choose wisely before committing.
As with all things in life, just because it’s easier does not mean it’s better.
We’ve got a long history of lovin’ on Haas around here yet in the past two seasons they’ve pulled some lame anti-applicant maneuvers.
In both cases, their ridiculously strict policies resulted in very fine applicants being moved to the next round.
In other words: These applicants submitted in Round X and because of a technicality, their apps were moved to Round Y.
The first time it happened, we brushed it off since it was really the BSer’s fault. But it was lame. This person was moved from Round 2 to Round 3 simply because they submitted the app a few minutes late. We were shocked that Haas was so inflexible but we also tsk-tsked because the BSer should’ve known better.
The second time it happened, on a different issue entirely, it was NOT the BSer’s fault. In this case, the BSer was only moved from Round 1 to Round 2, which is not the end of the world – but it’s also a MAJOR wrench in the works of a well thought-out strategy.
We didn’t name Haas in the original post where we warned BSers not to submit late because again it wasn’t really Haas’s fault. You submit late, there are penalties. That’s true for anything in life. We remain surprised that being a few minutes late on getting an MBA app in has such dire consequences but if that’s how they want to run things, they’re entitled to. When they’re so strict like that, they don’t exactly get a reputation for being customer friendly, though. By contrast, Harvard leaves their application open for several hours after their stated deadline time, to allow stragglers who are still working in panic mode to get everything in, and they’ll even give your recommenders a day or two extra to get recommendations in too.
Berkeley-Haas ESPECIALLY does not get a friendly reputation when you consider this second case: Haas has much more strict policies on the TOEFL for international applicants than most other schools do. No problem, we aren’t complaining about that, and it’s not customer-unfriendly for them to require the test in more cases than their peer programs do. That part is fine.
That being said: We will interrupt this post for a moment with the comment that some schools have done away with the TOEFL entirely. MIT has not ever required it for as long as EssaySnark has been in this business (which is a pretty darned long time now), and Yale ditched it after they rolled out their in-app video essay. The GMAT gives adcoms a pretty strong sense of verbal skills and the interview gives plenty of feedback on language abilities too so we don’t really see how the TOEFL is adding so much value – especially since most people do just fine on it. It’s really an outlier candidate who bombs the TOEFL and that person would also bomb the GMAT verbal sections. The TOEFL is sort of a legacy requirement, if you ask us. It’s kinda like the little toe; we’re told that as a species, we don’t actually need it, but we’re still hanging onto it. Little toe / little TOEFL. Hahahahaha.
Anyway, Berkeley is hanging onto their TOEFL something fierce. It’s actually a UC requirement, and now UCLA has the same rule too. These schools require a lot more applicants to submit a TOEFL than any other MBA program does, and we know that it deters people from applying. Berkeley does have rules by which, if you’ve done at least a year full time study in a degree-granting program in the U.S., Canada, or the UK or some other country where English is the official country language, then they’ll waive it.
This is where one of our peeps last season got hung up.
This BSer was educated in a non-English speaking country for college but then earned a Master’s in a country that qualifies for the exception. This person did what Haas instructs on their website: They called the Berkeley admissions office to confirm that they did in fact qualify for this waiver to the TOEFL. They were told by the person answering the phone that yes, the waiver applied in this case.
Great! So this BSer merrily submitted their app in Round 1 – excitedly submitted, even, since Haas had become their first choice school.
So then what happened?
Well, several weeks after the deadline, they were informed that they needed to take the TOEFL. There was a technicality based on the type of Master’s program that they attended, that DIS-qualified them from the waiver. The waiver did not apply – despite the fact that the Haas admissions person TOLD THEM THAT IT DID.
This BSer jumped through all the hoops, and were still caught in the net.
Lame Lame Lame.
EssaySnark is belaboring all of this to make a point (and no it’s not entirely about Berkeley-Haas):
You need to READ THE POLICIES in each of your target schools’ application carefully.
If you’re an international student especially, you need to research every rule that applies – not just about the TOEFL but also about transcripts and getting certified translations if they’re not issued in English.
If you took the GMAT awhile ago, make sure your score is still valid; the policies vary radically between schools.
You don’t want to be surprised on your first app – or your fifth. Check out ALL the apps and understand that policies may vary.
And in the end, remember that you can’t judge a school by its adcom. We still love Berkeley Haas and maybe with their new leadership in admissions, there may be opportunity for change.
Thinking about applying to Berkeley? The EssaySnark Berkeley Haas MBA Application Guide lays out all the details for answering those essays with aplomb!