DISCLAIMER: This post is not trying to tell you that you can reuse your essays from one school to another! Because really, you can’t. Even if the essay prompt is nearly exactly the same — which, this year, there’s at least one pair of schools where this is true — even when the questions are…
When Tuck’s MBA essay questions came out last year, at the beginning of the admissions cycle, we thought they were kinda awesome. They were novel. They were focused on Tuck’s culture. And then we started trying to support BSers in writing their apps for Tuck. And that’s what inspired this: https://twitter.com/EssaySnark/status/1080921731664044032 By the end of…
Dang. You didn’t make it in. 🙁 BUT WHY???
Most schools are explicit with a no-feedback policy. All decisions are final, and they’re unable to talk to you about it because they don’t have the bandwidth to field all of those calls.
But some schools are much more generous with their time and attention and encouragement.
For example, if you didn’t make it in to Darden, they’ve often offered the chance to get feedback in case you want to reapply. Usually they make this available in June (mark your calendar now!).
Only a few schools do this. In the past, HBS would do it if they interviewed you and/or put you on the waitlist before rejecting you, though they don’t advertise this policy very loudly and we’re not clear if it’s a one-off thing or a standing offer that they’ll continue to make available if you ask. Tuck will do it too. Yale does it. We understand that Berkeley-Haas is no longer doing it, which is a bummer.
If you go for one of these feedback sessions, just manage expectations. The stuff they say tends to be pretty standard. Unless you’re one of those super qualified candidates who just couldn’t break into bschool this year because there were too many others in your pool, then the adcom is more likely than not going to tell you stuff that you should already know. By the time you go for a feedback session, then hopefully will be able to predict what the admissions person is going to tell you. You should have a sense based on profile self-assessment (or a simple comparison to the school’s class profile) what the issues are. If your college academics are not that strong, or if your GMAT is a little low, then that’s what your adcom person will say. Predictable.
They may also tell you if your essays weren’t up to snuff. Maybe.
Generally speaking, the reports we hear back from BSers who ask for one of these feedback sessions are largely the same. The value of such calls is usually a bit limited. The adcoms aren’t going to tell you REALLY why you were rejected (especially not if the reason was the you came across like a jerk in your app in some way, or if your recommenders did not say nice things about you – it’s unusual but it happens, and these reasons will definitely not be directly disclosed). The adcom peeps are more likely than not going to give you some vague comments about how you’re qualified but it’s competitive, yada yada yada.
It can still be useful to go through the experience but honestly, you hopefully by this stage of the game have done enough self-reflecting and gone back over your candidacy in a more objective light, that you are aware of the deficiencies that may have been in evidence. And, even more hopefully, you’re already taking steps to fix them, in preparation for the coming Round 1 season.
We’re of course always up for taking a look at rejected apps – we have the formal Post-Mortem (aka “Oh noz!!”) review where we go into great detail on every aspect of your application. Or you can just get the Comprehensive Profile Review which lets you understand how things may be perceived by the adcoms in the upcoming cycle.
We do still appreciate the schools that do this. It’s certainly an attempt to be more transparent, and it’s an applicant-friendly policy. But it’s kind of like when someone is breaking up with you; it’s possible you’re going to get some variation of, “It’s not you, it’s me” – or maybe, “It’s not you, it’s your test score.” Sometimes people need to hear that directly from A Person In Power before they’ll decide to actually do something about it, so if you’re skeptical of the assessments you’ve heard elsewhere (ahem), then definitely get some time on the calendar with your friendly admissions person and see what they say. No matter what, taking advantage of the opportunity shows that you are motivated, and if you reapply then they will see that you took advantage of this opportunity, which can only be a positive.
It also gives you something to do. Since you’re probably pretty darned bummed out. 🙁
Channeling those disappointed energies into next steps and coming up with a go-forward plan is the best way to deal with dejection.
If we can help? Please reach out! There are lots of opportunities to begin working with us. We’d be honored to be part of your reapplicant journey!
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Our annual Radcom Award goes to…. Harvard Business School?!?
This is wholly unexpected! Harvard has not exactly been tops for applicant friendliness.
But this past season, they did two major things that we believe were significant:
2. They moved out their Round 2 date, albeit only by a couple days, but still. Any admissions team that acknowledges the stress of applicants in trying to hit those ridiculous first-of-January dates can be commended (even though our bet is that HBS only did it to make THEIR OWN jobs easier, since it’s probably loads of no-fun to come back into the office after a long holiday break and be faced with the stressbucket monsters that panicking applicants turn into when their apps are due that day and they’ve been waiting for ages to get an answer to their questions about how to answer some question in the app dataset).
They also gave very helpful admissions tips on their site — which is not exactly an earth-shaking innovation, since schools like MIT and Yale and Tuck have done so for years. But hey, for Harvard? It was a big deal.
About halfway through the season, we really wanted to give Harvard our award.
But…. we’re just having trouble following through now.
Because if you think about it, are these two things REALLY all that significant?
Probably we’d been enamored with the mere reality that HBS implemented ANY changes. They’d been toeing the status quo line for awhile now. Many years back, it was Harvard who could be counted on to mix things up in the realm of MBA admissions. They were the school that first started with changes to essays (did you know that Harvard used to require four essays of 500 words each??!?) and they were the ones to implement the mid-cycle release, where let rejected candidates know super early. That is indeed an advantage and it helps significantly if you’re one of the ones to be cut free, at least if you applied in Round 1, since it gives you notice early enough that you can start in on a Round 2 strategy quite soon. Many other schools including Booth and Wharton have since followed suit, so that the mid-cycle release is now common among other programs too. So those were all good innovations that helped candidates (mostly) but perhaps those were the low-hanging fruit, since we haven’t really seen many more applicant-friendly modifications to the process happening from Harvard more recently.
And, we’re also currently working on some analysis that will hopefully be ready to share with all of you soon, which makes us miffed at HBS to such an extent that we’re not really inclined to give them any sort of applause.
So what other school might deserve an honor from the ‘Snark for changes this season?
Well, if we were looking only at changes then Tuck seems like one to be looking at. They implemented all sorts of changes to their app process this year, including standardizing their admissions rounds to match other schools’ and making very big changes to their essay questions. But the round-name change really only was a cosmetic thing, which was rather overdue as it created confusion for applicants. And the essay questions? Well, that prompted this:
Wish we didn't have to say this but…. The @TuckSchool essays this year kinda suck. ☹️They are REALLY hard for applicants to execute on well. Tuck has always been a school that gave applicants a chance to share themselves. That doesn't feel like it's happening much this year.
— Essay Snark (@EssaySnark) January 3, 2019
So yes to making changes and we appreciate that Tuck wants to put its branding into its app. But meh (or even ) to the changes themselves in terms of actual value to the MBA applicant.
Darden too made significant changes, including kind of the reverse of what Tuck did: Now Darden has an Early Action round (not terribly surprising, given that Darden’s new Admissions Director was running Tuck’s MBA admissions for years). Darden also made changes to its essays, though the changes weren’t actually that radical. It’s appreciated that their process became more transparent, because they pulled out questions that they used to bury in the app and made applicants more aware of the requirements on their website itself. So that’s a positive, but as with the Tuck changes, we don’t feel that they deserve kudos just for making things standard. The short-round Early Action option at Darden is definitely worthwhile, because it’s a) non-binding and b) really short! They definitely tell you quickly if they’re going to admit you. So Darden is doing interesting things, both in admissions and also across the whole school — even all the way to DC with a new facility! And they have a new scholarship fund that pays for a global experience for every student . That’s pretty darned impressive. There’s a lot of energy at UVA and evidence of positive changes going on.
But, as much as we appreciate schools that aren’t afraid to mix things up, we cannot give the most coveted and desirable EssaySnark Radcom Award for 2018 to either Harvard, or to Tuck, or even to Darden.
We dithered and debated back and forth on this internally and have come to the conclusion that yet again, the Radcom of the Year goes to….
And why is that? What has MIT done THIS YEAR that so impressed us, that it knocked out the other schools that were finally starting to give them a run for their money?
Because every year, we award this based on current-season policies and changes that a school makes. (In the long-ago ancient past, we did it on essay questions alone, and that’s when Best MBA Questions contestDuke cleaned up first place over and over.) But none of our assessment for the current award factors in any prior moves by the admissions team in past seasons. We’re looking only on what schools did this time.
Alrighty then, what amazing new policy or practice did MIT implement in 2018?
It is this new feature:
and you’re accepted…
and you pay your deposit, intending to matriculate…
and something happens where you have to cancel your plans and withdraw from the entering class…
MIT WILL REFUND YOU PART OF YOUR DEPOSIT.
We don’t know of any other school that will do this.
At most schools, the deposit is non-refundable, regardless of the reason why you need to cancel.
At MIT, as of this season, they say that if you have to cancel your enrollment, you can do so by August 1 and they’ll refund you $1,500 of the deposit paid. The first deposit to hold your spot is $3,500, so it’s not even half back (assuming you paid only the first one), but still, that’s a pretty square deal.
What that means is, they know they can fill your spot! They are confident that they’ll have a full waitlist, even potentially as far out as right before the program begins. The other schools could always fill seats late like that too, but we’ve not before seen one who will give you even a penny back if you change your mind.
The reason for that is legit: If they gave refunds on deposits, then applicants would be canceling right and left, doing the wait-and-see game where you deposit at one school while hanging onto the waitlist at another. It makes sense these are non-refundable, or it would throw the whole system into chaos.
The deposit is how a school gets you to put skin in the game. It’s unheard of that they would give you any of that back if you decide you won’t be attending.
There’s another bonus point too that MIT gets credit for, which they already got credit for last year and just this year, they outdid themselves even further:
MIT’s Round 2 deadline this season was not until the third week of January!! Now that was a kindness!!
The only aspect of the MIT process that semi-swayed us from granting them this high honor:
The special-purpose resume they made you submit (with redacted name/address – nonsense). That is a ridiculous component of their app which adds more work.
The org chart was also an oddity. We’re not convinced it’s that useful. If app volumes softened to the degree that we believe they may have this season, then MIT may end up ditching that for the Class of 2022. It’s certainly not an application innovation that other schools will adopt. Those two things were nuisances for candidates. There’s a slight chance that the org chart requirement prevented a few applicants from moving forward with an app to MIT — though the Round 2 applicants had no excuse, given how staggered the MIT deadline was compared to other schools. It’s not like Sloan didn’t give you plenty of time to put together all of the pieces!
“But hey EssaySnark,” you may be saying. “Didn’t you just say that Darden is paying for students to travel around the world now? Doesn’t that count for something?”
Why yes, in fact it does! But this is the Radcom Award — it’s for the admissions team who has promoted the most applicant-friendly policies. The new Darden scholarship, impressive as it is, is only a benefit to actual students. So we could not give this coveted award to Darden based on that funness alone.
So there you have it. A three-peat from MIT Sloan. Congratulations to an awesome admissions team and thank you for being on the Brave Supplicants’ side!! Congratulations!
Several months back we called out some top bschools with their not-so-great resume templates. But not all of them are bad. There’s one school especially that has a good resume template: Yale SOM Now, it may not look like much to you in that preview. It is pretty basic. But basic is also totally appropriate…
Well that should be obvious. But apparently it’s not! And, we actually mean it in two ways: 1. There is only one YOU – so if you share who you are with the adcoms, they will see your individuality. This is the essence of the Strategy of Authenticity — which really shouldn’t be called a…
Sometimes people want to apply to bschool without taking the GMAT — and a few programs will definitely consider you. Those are mostly the Executive MBA tracks.
But applying for an MBA without a bachelor’s degree?
That seems like a non-starter. After all, the MBA is a graduate degree. The way you get into graduate school is to first complete undergraduate.
Like, one is a pre-requisite to the other.
Turns out, maybe not, at least not if Tuck’s latest move signals a possible trend.
We’ve heard before that London Business School would accept candidates into their full-time MBA program who have sufficient work experience to truly impress them, even if they didn’t have a bachelor’s degree — or at least, they’d take your application and consider it. We’ve not had firsthand experience working with candidates who applied through this route. Presumably LBS has indeed accepted some along the way.
For all top U.S. business schools, a four-year bachelor’s degree was a requirement to apply, or an equivalent education since in some countries a three-year bachelor’s is the standard. Schools like UC-Berkeley Haas would say they’d consider your app with a three-year bachelor’s but they made it clear you’d be at a disadvantage. They prefer to see a prior master’s on top of the three-year bachelor’s in order to be properly qualified for their MBA program.
But starting this season, Tuck has apparently lifted even the three-year bachelor’s requirement. Their new website says that they’ll consider a candidate with the appropriate leadership and presumably business experience that shows they are qualified, even if that candidate does not hold an undergraduate already.
We’re guessing that this may have been sparked by their new-ish certificate program called Next Step which is designed for transitioning military and retiring elite athletes who are looking for a way to move into business. Many people in those cohorts don’t have the traditional undergrad experience. So in order to make the MBA accessible to those on the fringes who may still be super impressive in their own realms, then this new more lenient no-bachelor’s-required policy has been adopted.
Depending on how someone ends up applying there, we can even see that perhaps a high percentage of candidates in this category could potentially make it in. After all, if you’re motivated enough in your life to date to have come across the need for an MBA from such a seriously non-traditional path, then that sort of right there says that maybe you’d be qualified and capable of success in most any endeavor you try. After all, training for the Olympics requires a certain level of commitment and drive — right? If you were at the top of your category in such an incredibly demanding and competitive field such as that, then we can see why Tuck would be interested in considering you for more.
We’ve previously spoken of applying for an MBA along with another graduate degree and today we’ll offer additional points to consider as you’re thinking about dual-degree application strategy, including the perennial question of “Is it easier to get in?????” New programs typically do not get that much interest, so app volumes are usually lower, which…
The estimated first-year costs for a Columbia MBA have risen by over $40,000 in under ten years.
That’s just for the first year of your MBA, which for this year’s entering class, is expected to set them back a cool $111,000 . JUST FOR THE FIRST YEAR. That’s a 50% increase from 2007, where the first-year fully loaded cost was estimated at $73,464.
That’s absolutely nuts.
A fifty percent increase?!???
We used to scoff at questions from BSers about ROI and the MBA. The MBA has long been an excellent investment, in terms of the increase of earnings you’ll get from it. But seeing this change in the published 2018-2019 estimates really gave us pause.
What business can get away with annual increases like this without customers balking?
Well, apparently businesses which have seemingly limitless demand, like business schools have seen in recent years.
Contrast that to law schools where they’re practically begging for students to attend.
Now, before we get too far into this rant, we do have to mention that it’s in your favor for a school’s cost of attendance estimates to be higher at least from one perspective: These are the figures that are used for all financial aid calculations. If you’ll be applying for a student loan, the lender will use the school’s published estimates in order to determine the highest amount that they might fund you.
If the school underestimates the actual costs you’ll incur, not just for standard school stuff like the books and fees and all that nonsense they’ll be hitting you up for, but for the price of just living in that town, then you’ll be stuck and living a much more frugal life than perhaps you expected to be.
Pro Tip: All of this is why it’s so important to be looking at these numbers NOW and evaluating your finances NOW and understanding what it will feel like to live for nine months at a time with NO INCOME.
You need to be saving today for this expense, and you need to recall what it felt like to be a student.
Double caramel macchiato with an extra shot?
Not every day, you won’t.
But coming back to this issue of inflation:
The U.S. economy has been in a period of incredibly moderate inflation — so much so, that some economists are worried. It’s not a state of the environment that we’ve seen many times before and there are all sorts of theories about what’s happening, how long it may last, and what might happen as we start to move out of it.
Moderate inflation is quite nice as a consumer. Starbucks prices stay consistently the same. You’re not surprised by the increasing bill each time you go grocery shopping.
It’s not nice for the worker, as it also means that wages have been suppressed, which is a main concern of many of those economists.
But in an era of moderate inflation, we still have seen these universities jacking up their prices every year.
Every damn year.
There’s nobody telling them they can’t. So they do.
This holds true at public and private universities alike.
At least for public universities, there’s additional pressures on the school administration in trying to rein in spending.
Here’s a quick comparison of some figures from just two schools, Tuck and Columbia, over the past four years:
Whenever we log these values in our own tracking systems, we always capture the actual tuition figure, plus any fees that the school is reporting as mandatory for all, so that’s what those first columns are reporting. Often schools have other fees that end up being mandatory for many students, such as health insurance fees, but we don’t count those since they’re not technically mandatory for each and every person. However, don’t overlook it in your own budgeting: at most schools, if you don’t prove you already have sufficient medical insurance coverage, they force you to buy into their plan.
We don’t have complete records on all schools but just for comparison purposes, UCLA Anderson — a state school — for the Class of 2020 entering this fall has an estimated first-year tuition and loan fees of only $61,302 and a total first-year cost including living expenses of $98,699. Los Angeles is a pricey city so you can expect to pay nearly as much in rent as you might in Manhattan. The difference in full-year cost is from the lower tuition charges from the school. We don’t really advocate using tuition prices as a determining factor in choosing your schools, as we do believe there still is a good ROI on the MBA even from what some would call a “lower ranked” school like UCLA (we don’t see them as “lower ranked” but we know many shrug off our recommendations to try for a place like that as below them). We do recommend looking at these important considerations now, though, and we also really want to call the schools out for this ridiculous racket of forever increasing the charges.
Another problem when you’re digging in try and make sense of these estimates is that these schools aren’t reporting their data on an apples-to-apples basis. You’ll soon notice this when, for example, you see a fairly wide variation in estimates for books at different schools. We’ve seen this range from around $900/year to more like $1,500/year. Wouldn’t you think that books would cost nearly the same at any top-tier school? It’s even worse when you see the variance in actual categories being reported.
We look at those Tuck totals, and from what they’re saying, it’s only going to cost a first-year less than $4,000 more a year to go to school in Manhattan as it will in Hanover.
That just doesn’t make any sense.
You look closer and you’re like, “What is a $15k ‘miscellaneous and health’ charge?” Like, you know the U.S. healthcare system is a mess, but it’s not gonna cost you $15k a year!!
It’s confusing. And the way the numbers are broken out is just not standardized.
Either Columbia is unfortunately keeping numbers like room and board artificially low — which is likely — or Tuck is playing sneaky with how they’re allocating things out to those categories.
But the issue is that the way they’re breaking their figures down just doesn’t let us do a natural comparison.
Another thing to keep in mind when you’re looking at these estimates: The figures for living expenses (housing, or room and board; they’re listed in different ways by different schools) are almost always only for the school year. These are not full-year estimates. Most people are off somewhere else during the summer in their internship where they’re actually earning money, so that certainly helps, but you’ll need to pay rent in whatever city you’re interning in, and those costs are not estimated in these charts. When you’re planning out your own budgets, you’ll need to keep these things in mind.
And if you like 99.9%* of other BSers want to intern in Silicon Valley then remember it’s one of the most expensive housing markets in America right now. You’ll likely end up in a roommate situation both for convenience but also because of the price. Be prepared for some sticker shock. Even those coming from Manhattan may be dismayed.
And in the Valley you’ll need a car… or maybe not “need” but it sure is convenient. If you target SF then no.
All these things will need to be considered. And of course you need to look seriously at what your earning potential will be in your planned future profession. For many people it’s still a no-brainer, and the MBA is well worth it (and the EXPERIENCES you’ll gain in bschool cannot be discounted even if you cannot put a price on them) — but we can no longer issue a blanket recommendation that the MBA will pay off financially for everyone.
*OK maybe it’s only 97.3% who want to work in tech.
About a month ago, this essay was submitted for consideration for a freebie blahg review by an Indian BSer who’s applying to Tuck (or possibly he already submitted in their November round? Not sure; if so, we got it much too late to turn it around that quickly 🙁 ). This BSer is in investment…