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…
We’re reblahgging this from the ‘snarchives since it’s an important topic!! You can see some comments below from BSers who’ve gone before, asking about their own strategies — feel free to post your own such questions too if you have them! Should you apply Early Action? (Note: Not to be confused with MIT Sloan’s…
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…
What we’re discussing today is not available for a standard two-year full-time competitive MBA program. However, if you’re interested in an Executive MBA, or potentially certain online or hybrid part-time MBAs — or practically any other graduate educational program in existence — then you typically have an opportunity to connect with an admissions person directly about your profile, your interests, your reasons for considering their program, and your suitability or fit to what they offer.
Again, not available with any big-name MBAs associated with all the brands that come to mind (Harvard Stanford Wharton -> Ross UCLA Duke).
BUT, surprisingly available most anywhere else.
Typically how it works is you submit your resume to them and then schedule a call where they talk about that specific program and how you might be a fit. Sometimes they’ll steer you to another of the degree programs that that school offers, but often it’ll be a way to encourage you to apply to that program specifically. It’s a high-touch approach that they find valuable, since it lets them start to build the relationship and gain exposure to what they offer, and it can be great for you as a potential applicant since they even sometimes coach candidates or steer them in a better direction on issues like which test (GRE or GMAT or for EMBA, Executive Assessment) and what type of score would be needed.
Case in point:
If you’re browsing the Yale SOM website for their MBA for Executives program, you will find this:
There’s a few other schools that offer this too, like Duke with their Global Executive MBA program:
This is merely a reflection of the different market dynamics in effect for these programs. It’s not that they’re not good programs, or they’re not in demand, or they don’t attract a high-caliber candidate. It’s just that they get far less interest from potential students for these tracks compared to the ever-popular full-time MBA, and also because with an executive program, they’re catering to (usually) an older person who is at a different stage of life and many times expects a bit more of the white-gloved treatment given their station in life. More hand-holding of the candidate is common, and this even extends into the actual student experience at many executive MBA programs — to the extent that the school offers catered meals throughout the residency portion of programming, and some schools will have any required textbooks pre-ordered and shipped out to students directly without the student having to deal with the hassle of getting them. That sort of thing.
These programs often will also waive standardized testing requirements depending on the nature of work experience or past educational background — again, a reflection of the different clientele and the separate market segment that the EMBA resides in (in most places) compared to the oversubscribed F/T MBA tracks.
Even Wharton has this opportunity with their EMBA:
(We say “even” in the case of Wharton because this is probably the most competitive EMBA program around — it’s nearly as hard to get into Wharton for Executives, particularly the SF location, as it is their full-time tracks! and they’re not going to waive the testing requirements.)
As we said, almost any other non-MBA graduate program offers these opportunities, too, so if you’re wondering if maybe you should ditch all this business-y stuff and follow your heart into an MFA, or you are in love with public policy and you want to try for a program in international development, or practically anything else, these opportunities to speak with an actual admissions person directly are common. This is also something you’ll find at a few of the European full-time programs like ESADE ; it’s not something that most of the top U.S. schools offer since they don’t have the ability to meet all the demand that they would have for it, nor do they really need to worry about convincing anyone to apply or trying to sell their program to any particular candidate.
But if you’re kicking the tires on MBA programs, and wondering if you’re “too old” for a standard full-time MBA (spoiler alert: you’re probably not! not if you can make the case for it, at least), then you might consider scheduling one or two of these pre-assessment phone chat executive MBA interview thingies. It can help you get a feel for the different programs and you can use it as a sounding board for your graduate education plans.
Just be aware of this reality: Most admissions people will be very encouraging of you to apply, almost regardless of whether you do in fact have a chance (read: Wharton). We’ve mentioned this phenomenon about cagey adcom types before; it’s always in their best interest to get you to apply (or reapply, in the case of those admissions teams on the rare full-time programs that offer feedback). They’ll be doing a sell job on you. But in some cases, they may also be candid. If you’re talking to an admissions person at an EMBA program that does not waive the GMAT, and you have a 550, they might directly say if they feel it’s too low for them to make an offer of admission. (We’re not telling you that a 550 is definitely too low at any particular program; we’re saying that certain admissions folks will be forthcoming if they sense a true obstacle to you getting an admit into that track. Or at least they may hint broadly that the test score is a risk, or be particularly encouraging of the suggestion that you try taking the test again. If they do that, take the hint, and take action, before you apply, if you’re really serious about getting in to their school.)
Those calls tend to be fun, since it’s a chance for you to interact directly with an insider who is knowledgeable about what their program can provide as an accelerant to your career. Don’t go into it cold; do your research on your own first! Study their website, talk to your friends who’ve done an EMBA, either at that school or elsewhere, come up with lots of questions that pertain specifically to you and your motivation surrounding graduate education. Use it to your advantage.
You can try the “What are my chances??” question in such a context and it’ll likely be received better than if you lob that at an adcom person work works in the full-time MBA admissions office.
Be sure to dig through all the pages of your school’s website to see about such opportunities, and if an admissions team offers it, then jump on the chance.
And oh yeah, to mention before someone brings it up in the comments: A handful of full-time MBA programs do indeed do applicant-initiated interviews, where everyone applying has the opportunity to be interviewed as part of their app process. This short list is primarily Tuck — if you can get your butt up to Hanover — and Kellogg — who may or may not waive the interview if they cannot match you up with an alumni to conduct it. Duke also offers this in a limited window at the very start of the admissions season in September.
This applicant-initiated interview opportunity is not the same as what we’re discussing here, which is a chance to meet with AN ADMISSIONS PERSON to discuss the program and your individual profile BEFORE YOU SUBMIT AN APPLICATION. These interviews with Kellogg and Tuck are where the school is actively evaluating you as a candidate to their program. While you shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that ANY interaction with anyone at any school is still part of your evaluation process (meaning, anybody can write a note to place in your file that captures anything exceptionally positive or negative that they experience when they talk to you), these pre-evaluation assessment things are somewhat more casual, and they’re definitely about the school trying to sell to you, instead of the other way around.
Well that’s a provocative headline ain’t it.
As industry-watchers, we, you know, watch the industry. We try to keep our fingers on the pulse of what these MBA programs are doing, how they’re responding to changes in the marketplace of interested prospective students, in some cases, how they’re responding to each other, what they’re doing to anticipate the future needs of employers in the world and how they are (hopefully) innovating and strengthening their offerings to better prepare the workforce of tomorrow.
It’s really hard to know for sure what’s going on at a school from the outside. This of course is why we constantly emphasize the importance of a campus visit in order for you to know if a school is even right for you. After all, you’re the one who’s saying she wants to spend two years of your life there. What if it’s not even a place that you really like? What if they don’t have the focus on the niche sector you’re most interested in? What if the students don’t seem to prioritize quite the same things?
When you’re going on name and reputation alone or have outsourced your decision on where to apply based on what some business publication has decried as “the best” then you’re flying blind. You don’t really know what a school is about. You certainly aren’t in a position to discuss its culture and community if you’ve not experienced it firsthand.
And so EssaySnark is indeed going out on a limb with the questions we’re posing today. Because we’re outsiders; we don’t know what’s going on in the halls of Fuqua. We can’t say for sure what’s behind the things that we’re observing today.
All we can do is evaluate the adcom’s actions, meaning three specific components that we use as tea leaves:
1. What is the school’s strategy? What are they doing to attract candidates? How “out there” are they in drumming up interest? How engaged on social media, how visible in the marketplace where applicants congregate (be that virtual or IRL)?
2. How does the school construct its application? What means do they have to solicit useful and insightful information from candidates that allow them to shine as individuals?
3. Who are they accepting? What do they value most in a candidate? Where are they overlooking flaws like lower GMAT in favor of interest and diversity? Where are they sticklers for stats?
These three dimensions give us quite a bit of information, as esoteric as they may seem, upon which we can draw conclusions about trends that are in play at a school and where that school is going.
For example, over just five or so years, Ross has fully impressed us with their focus on culture and new initiatives, and they’ve gone from an almost second-tier school that many applicants used only as a safety, to a school that many BSers now choose as a top pick. They have made their value prop visible, and you likely have at least a reasonably positive impression of them even if you have not got them on your short list. You probably have been exposed to enough buzz about Ross that it’s rubbed off on you and your overall sense is that it’s a good school, regardless of how well, or not, you personally have researched them before.
This phenomenon is something called “brand equity” and it’s the intangible value that you associate with a firm or a product, like the generally positive associations with Apple, or the leaning-negative feelings about Facebook. Brand equity is the reason why HBS is in constant demand and is seen as the pinnacle school — even when you don’t really know why.
If you’ve become enamored of Ross and decided you really want to go there, it’s likely you can rattle off at least three reasons unprompted.
Most people who apply to HBS cannot come up with even one. Or they say “case method” but that’s not a reason to go to Harvard Business School. That’s not something to be excited about; it’s just how it’s done there. Every other bschool in the world also uses cases as part of its pedagogy, but yet when you wrote your essays to them you didn’t gush about the case student method in your “why MBA” essay.
Nobody on the planet wants to go to Harvard because of the case method.
You want to go to Harvard because it’s Harvard.
Okay, back to Duke.
Duke is a good school. We saw Fuqua embrace culture as a critical component of the bschool experience before many of its peers did. Duke University is of course world renowned, a very good school, just like Northwestern or Dartmouth or University of Chicago or all these other places.
Fuqua was practically a renegade when they created their “25 Random Things” non-essay essay, way back in 2012. That was pretty revolutionary at the time. The only other schools that gave applicants such a blank-slate approach to an app requirement then were NYU and Booth.
But 2012? Dang, that’s a long time ago now.
Sure, the 25 Random Things has proven the test of time. It’s probably the most FUN assignment of any business school’s app. Apparently the Fuqua admissions people have a “it ain’t broke” philosophy in place. Their app requirements have been almost entirely unchanged in all of that time (excepting some tweaks to the phrasing of the long-essay prompt).
Okay, but what about category #3 that we can observe: Who gets in?
What seems to be happening in the most recent admissions cycles is, candidates who are accepted to a set of two or more schools, where Duke is among that set, are often choosing the non-Duke school to matriculate.
Candidates who are accepted only to Duke are going to Duke.
Obviously this is a gross generalization, and we don’t have access to the entire results of all applicants everywhere.
But from our slice of the admissions landscape, it’s a trend that we seem to have spotted, which has generated this working hypothesis.
Other schools like Ross are really kicking it into high gear. Same with Darden, which used to be seen as a next-tier school, but which has gotten a somewhat higher visibility sheen in the past few years. But Duke? They’re not really on our radar as much. It’s not like they’re a safety school; oh no. They’re still quite selective and it’s by no means easy to get in.
But from what we can tell, they’re just not impressing the BSers out there enough to get them to say “yes” when there are multiple options on the table.
We’re going to keep watching and see if this theory is wrong.
About six years ago, Duke was so popular that they became quite difficult to break into.
But just this past season, we’re not sure that still holds as true as it was.
Anyone get into Duke + other schools who wants to share your experiences and impressions? Where are you leaning? What school will you choose, and why? Is Duke a first choice for lots of you? Why or why not?
We want to learn. Comments are open if you want to share your opinions!
Thinking about seeing if your school will let you push out the start to your MBA?
Most schools will say, no problem! All you need to do is reapply next year and we’ll see about letting you in again.
They want you to apply for the year that you want to start. They’re not interested in managing their admits to future classes. Plus, most who ask for a deferral are only doing it to see if they can get accepted at some other school, and they want to keep their admit to this school in their back pocket as a backup. The stats show that a high percentage of deferrals that are granted never show up on campus. The schools often just issue a no-deferrals policy to nip all that nonsense in the bud.
It’s a case where YMMV, both in terms of how your specific school (and program) handles deferral requests, and whether you might be one that they’ll grant an exception to. Let’s look today at some policies we’ve seen schools post in the past – and please recognize that this data was gathered over a period of many years and some of it may have changed since then.
If you’re actively considering seeking a deferral for your current MBA admit, you’ll want to research the specifics carefully before proceeding with your approach to the adcom.
DEFERRED MBA ADMISSION – A FEW CASES
Duke is unusual in spelling out the full policy publicly — this is part of their FAQ as of 2/15/18:
What is your policy on deferred admission?
We encourage applicants to apply for admission in the year in which they wish to matriculate. If circumstances prevent you from enrolling in that year, you may request a deferral by writing to the Associate Dean of Admissions outlining all details surrounding the request. Requests for deferral will only be considered after May 1 for students who have already submitted their tuition deposit.
They then go on to specify that “Deferrals are granted only in the case of significant, unanticipated, and unavoidable personal emergency” and they give some examples.
If a deferral is granted, you are required to pay a non-refundable deferral fee of 3,000 USD. This fee will be credited toward tuition upon matriculation. If a scholarship is awarded in the year the applicant applies, this award is not guaranteed for matriculation the following year. Scholarship awards will be re-evaluated during the admissions cycle prior to matriculation.
So that means you need to first pay the deposit, and then pay an additional deferral fee. We’ve not seen a deferral fee before but it makes so much sense, and we wouldn’t be surprised if other schools adopt this practice, too.
Some other programs at Duke including their master’s in analytics don’t allow any deferrals . So it’s not only case by case (they’ll consider your circumstances individually) but it’s also program by program, not just one blanket policy for an entire school.
As of a few years back, Stanford built logic directly into their app form that will tell you whether or not you’re eligible for deferred admission, and they ask you what you want to do with the time between (only current students are eligible). They specifically say that you are NOT eligible if you simply fail to secure a visa as an international student.
Most people don’t apply to bschool with the intention of asking for a deferral later, though, so that’s unlikely going to help you much now. Also, if you were accepted to Stanford and now you’re thinking that you don’t want to go, well there’d better be a pretty good reason for it!!! Don’t assume anything. Yes they like you enough to admit you, but we’d be careful about pushing the limits of that. Stanford is very clear that they’ve admitted candidates into a specific class, and there are no guarantees that they’d find a spot for you in next year’s class just because you made it into the mix this time. We’d be pretty nervous about testing fate by taking a pass on a Stanford admit under the assumption it would work out again the same next year.
Other schools just say “no deferrals” and you can of course still ask, but like with a post-admit request for
free money a fellowship grant, be careful how you do so.
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We asked you to exercise some critical thinking skills recently.
Why not turn those same skills to evaluating the MBA rankings?
Here’s the 2016 BusinessWeek list. Duke #3. Why?
The simplistic answer is that they scored at 90.5 which is higher than Booth and lower than Stanford.
Is that the position you’d expect Duke to be at?
We’re not knocking Duke. That’s an honest question.
What about the Jones school, at Rice University? They’re at #8. Why?
Comments? Reaction? Discussion?
Please base this on the actual data on the BusinessWeek chart. Here’s a link to the BusinessWeek rankings page where you can sort to your heart’s content.
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