We’ve offered lots of past warnings about tone and messaging in the context of “contribution” essays for your MBA app, and today is another that’s worth studying if you’re tackling one of these beasts. The essay prompt may ask, explicitly or implicitly, “What will you contribute?” It comes up in the MIT “mission” essay that…
OK, picking up the discussion of reapplicant strategy from yesterday (which was mostly focused on HBS/Stanford reapplicants): For a school like Yale, they typically review the prior-year app in tandem with this year. Same with MIT, and Columbia, and many others. In that case, then an obvious improvement in a metric like GMAT score is…
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!
But they do happen to be schools with Round 2 deadlines in the future. Does that mean you should apply? It would be in our self-interest to say YES! APPLY! Because then we could try and sell you the need for some consulting services to increase your chances of success. But that’s pretty distasteful don’t…
God bless the adcoms for trying to help you BSers.
Recently London Business School posted a sample CV (aka resume) to their blog and we do appreciate that the schools are trying to offer more guidance!
But guess what?
Here’s the sample resume from LBS (in part – full version available here) :
This is the LBS format — meaning, the format that students use when recruiting at this school. It’s not too dissimilar to the format that MBA students at other schools also use for recruiting. The schools have students standardize to make it easier for recruiters; it allows more of an apples-to-apples comparison. This is a common practice.
The LBS admissions team’s accompanying blog post had lots of great tips in it and sadly, not all of those are actually being reflected on this sample.
Mostly the question you have to ask yourself before adopting their suggested format though: Is it optimized for the MBA admissions process? We have to say no. 🙁
Well for starters, look at all that white space at the top. White space is good in terms of making the content on the page balanced and easy to deal with. A poor resume layout, though, will screw up this balance and it’ll cheat you of the optimal amount of room to include actual content. That stacked header is not great, and the Education section is radically sparse. (In a not-good way.)
We also disagree with the adcoms’ recommendation / requirement (from MIT Sloan) that Education goes at the top. If a school (aka MIT Sloan) mandates that you put your stuff in that order, then fine, you’ll obviously need to do so — but most of the MBA admissions teams care about your PROFESSIONAL READINESS more than anything. Yes they care about where you went to school and what your grades are. But highlighting your current professional background front and center, by putting that first on the page, is the right way to go.
After all, unless you’re applying to bschool straight from another academic program, then the rule of presenting yourself in reverse-chronological order is violated by having the Education section at the top. The reason that MBA students build their resumes for the recruiting process by putting the Education section on top is because the students are still in school. In the Real World, you want your Most Recent stuff At The Top (sorry for the weird capitals but we feel like those words deserve to be capitalized in this sentence!). So for MIT and LBS to be telling you to put your COLLEGE at the top is by definition non-standard and not what recruiters would want you to do. At least, not what your resume should look like today — again, unless you’re currently in school. And then yeah, school goes first.
But that’s a trivial thing. If the Education section is at the top, even if it’s not the most recent part of your life, so be it. As a resume reader, we can just skip down to the professional content.
Mostly we’re not crazy about these schools insisting that you (or implying you should) do the resume a particular way — when the way they’re promoting is not necessarily ideal.
Why, MIT?!? Why are you requiring applicants do this? You know they’re applying to other schools, too! The resume was the one thing that applicants did not have to do custom to each application! And now this!
Yes, The ‘Snark is frustrated on the behalf of all BSers. And we love MIT for so many other things, too!
After years of schools reducing requirements and removing barriers and trying to make it simpler for applicants to apply, it seems that maybe a few schools are starting to assert their individuality again and asking applicants to go ahead and do things just for them. This MIT resume is certainly an extreme case. The org chart that MIT is requiring is also unique but we’re not that bent out of shape on that one, mostly because it seems so darned practical from the adcom’s side. We can see the utility. This MIT-format resume? Not so much.
What we suggest if you’re applying to one of these schools?
Pay attention to their instructions.
That may seem so obvious but really, it’s so important.
If, like Sloan, they INSIST you submit using their specific layout, then you’d best submit a resume in that layout! You are risking way too much to disregard their requirement. (MIT used to suggest a template rather than insist on one.) We don’t currently know of any other school that is insisting on a resume layout so hopefully you’re not constructing multiple different versions of your resume for all these schools.
But if you are?
Shame on these adcoms!
It’s just counter to the whole applicant-friendly thing that we’ve often appreciated with the Sloan adcom peeps.
Here’s the instructions from MIT — and no, they’re not too onerous — but as you can see, they will require you to create a version just for them:
Please submit a one-page resume (Times New Roman 10 point font preferred) that includes your employment history and academic record in reverse chronological order. Other information appropriate to a business resume is welcomed and encouraged, including extracurricular activities, awards, and achievements. Please REDACT your name, address, and contact information.
For formatting purposes, please list the information in the following order:
- Education – please feel free to include relevant awards, scholarships, professional societies
- Work Experience – please list in reverse chronological order and include: company name, title, results-oriented bullets that demonstrate your skill set, and dates.
- Additional information – languages, extracurricular activities/community service, technical skills/certifications, special skills/interests (if appropriate)
Bonus content for Blahg Members: How to Redact Your Info for the MIT Sloan MBA Resume
Maybe you missed that part where they say to “REDACT your name, address, and contact information” or maybe you don’t even know what “redact” means! EssaySnark is here to help!
Hope that was helpful!
So, in conclusion:
What we will promise you: If you submit a resume like that LBS one to Harvard, you’re not going to have even a sliver of a chance. It’s just nowhere near competitive enough. And the layout! The layout is just so blah. Nobody is rejected for a crappy layout but you really want to be doing more to try and impress. Right?
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And…. it’s a wrap!
With the MIT Sloan deadline today, Round 2 has finished up, and it’s a very appropriate time for us to announce our 2017-2018 Radcom of the Year!
This is a tradition we just started in 2016 when we recognized which MBA admissions team at a top school is the most applicant-friendly in its processes, policies and procedures.
We cited at the time things like their latest Round 2 deadline, which we’re celebrating again today, and also the fact that they do not require a TOEFL for any applicants.
Well guess what?
This year, MIT Sloan wins it again!
We were determined to wipe the slate clean and evaluate all schools from a fresh perspective this year, looking for evidence of applicant-friendliness coming in hopefully new ways. While we are seeing an assortment of positives and some new(ish) developments from other schools, we have to again tout the late Round 2 deadline from Sloan that was truly a godsend for many stressed-out BSers who were cramming to get multiple apps done over the past few weeks. In addition, MIT fixed one of the biggest problems with its app requirements by going to the standardized letter of recommendation this season.
Which school gets close runner-up?
NYU also has maintained a later Round 2 deadline for practically ever, which most definitely has endeared them to the ‘Snark’s heart.
In addition, this year NYU innovated with program offerings through the introduction of accelerated specialty MBAs in tech and fashion, and a very cool option of allowing concurrent apps to two or more through one set of essays. We also dig their new EQ Endorsement requirement, though it did create some stress for some BSers and some confusion at first when some people asked a recommender to also submit the EQ endorsement (the adcom wants it from a new person). Since NYU also has a later deadline, for both Round 2 and for Round 1, we did consider giving them the big Radcom Award trophy this year instead of MIT. However, we couldn’t do it since their second essay question proved REALLY challenging for applicants who are only applying to the full-time program. Hopefully they’ll change it for the next-season app.
We also saw another small thing at MIT that bumped them solidly into the lead:
Most schls will prob do the same, but @MITSloanAdcom is only one we've seen to inform hurricane-affected applcnts they will extend deadline
— Essay Snark (@EssaySnark) September 19, 2017
That was when the 140-char limit was in effect at Twitter! Funny how we had 2 abbrev8 stuff B4
In case that wasn’t self-explanatory: The hurricanes that went through Texas and Florida last year hit right during Round 1 deadlines. MIT Sloan was the only school we saw actively communicating through social media that they would extend deadlines for anyone directly impacted. Other schools certainly were flexible with applicants too but it was MIT that seemed most visibly proactive on it, just from what we observed.
In addition, MIT continues to host monthly chats — the most frequent of any other school that we know of. They’ve also done video info sessions and lots of online sessions with students; again, other schools do these, but we don’t see they happening as often elsewhere. MIT has a new mandatory video essay in their app this year, which may seem like an onerous requirement for the applicant but it’s honestly the BEST way for you BSers to share who you are with them — way better than the real-time video questions that get recorded as part of the Kellogg and Yale apps (and counting; we expect the number of schools using that option to surely grow in the coming seasons). The real time questions are also a positive innovation, but giving BSers the opportunity to record a full uninterrupted minute on whatever they like, the way that MIT does — and re-record a couple times to make sure that they’re coming across as intended (!) — this is a kinder, gentler option that can let BSers feel more confident overall in what they have captured.
To all of you BSers who’ve just in the past 24 hours completed this process: GOOD LUCK! We’re sure you did a great job!!
To the adcom at MIT Sloan: Thanks for continuing to be The Radcom again for another year!!
From MIT Sloan:
When an adcom issues interviews to lots of their candidates in Round 1, that means:
1. They’re being nice
2. They have a lot of uncertainty in how the season will play out
3. Lots of applicants were disappointed on decision day