Yesterday we offered a rule of thumb for recency in your MBA applications. We explained why keeping your content and the stories that you tell in your essays within a range of, say, something like the past two or three years is ideal. Of course, there are always exceptions. The big one is when you’re…
In Spring 2016 we got this very happy note from a BSer we’d been working with the prior December for Round 2 and, well, we’ll just let them tell you about it themselves.
I am writing to share great news!
I was accepted into HBS, Stanford, and Wharton this week and I am still letting it sink in…Never in my wildest imagination that I’d imagine I’d get this far, especially given I was dinged at HBS and Stanford last year.
I wanted to thank you for your no-bs feedback on my GSB and HBS apps. For GSB, based on your feedback, I did toss away that whole original essay – it’s a monumental story for me personally, but you were spot on, why would the GSB care and invest in me as a person?? I recreated a whole new positioning and a theme that worked much better and tied my background together nicely. And it worked! You told me I never answered the question on what matters most to me, and again, I made it clear in my new essay in the new version and I was so glad that Derrick resonated with the piece since he actually wrote down in the offer letter on my deep sense of emotional solidarity (i.e. what matters most to me) will allow me to contribute, learn, and grow at the GSB. In short, I’m so glad I took your advice!
As for HBS, we already chatted briefly, I went with many more rounds of edits for the essay and my interviewer actually told me before I started the interview that she was really impressed by my story and can’t wait to ask more questions. I walked out of that room feeling I had a fabulous conversation with the interview board and am so excited when she called to congratulate me on the acceptance on Wednesday! Again, I couldn’t have made it without your feedback on my essays – I was trying too hard to make myself look impressive, when in the end it’s the non-professional stories that I truly enjoyed writing and sharing about.
Also, your Wharton guidebook was very helpful and I definitely leveraged it for my career goal essay.
All in all, I cannot express how thankful I am in getting to where I am today, and I am so glad that I was able to take your advice (very harsh for sure. 🙂 ) and just restart from scratch when I had 2 weeks left before deadline. Hell of a ride for sure, but I made it!
So THANK YOU ES!!
Obviously we LOVE getting reports like that! This was a Round 2 candidate who was reapplying to these schools. If you’re reapplying, please don’t wait till Round 2! There are only a very few reasons why that would be more strategic – and if you do decide that Round 2 is better for some reason, please don’t wait till December to start working on things. Obviously this person pulled it off but it was a crazy time as they scrambled to get it all done in extreme pressure, and it’s unlikely you’ll be producing your best work under such circumstances.
So we’re posting this today to say yes, schools like Harvard and Stanford do accept reapplicants – and yes, you can expect to have to throw out your first ideas and start all over again as you wrestle with what to present!
If you’re thinking of getting started, then hopefully this is enough encouragement. We’re prepared and ready to support you!
One of the hardest things about developing a strong application to business school is figuring out what to write in your essays. Good essays take time to develop, not just in deciding on a topic but in executing a full argument around that topic once you have it. Hardest of all is Stanford’s essay on “what matters most.” One of the best ways to facilitate the entire creative process is journaling.
Keeping a journal as part of your bschool application process helps in more ways than one. If the term “journal” is a turn-off to you and feels too intimate (too much like “diary”) then you can switch this suggestion to just “keeping notes.”
You’ll want to capture the facts and details that you pick up on each one of the schools that you’re learning about. The risk of course is that they start to blur together, and you forget which detail is from which. What school has the GIX1 thing again? Which one does MAP2? Keeping notes on the different programs will help you keep them apart. A journal (or just a notebook where you’re jotting down what you learn) will let you do that.
The harder part about essays, though, is presenting stuff about YOU. Most applicants stay at a surface level in what they write on their topics, even on essay questions that invite you to go deep. Brainstorming and recollecting significant events from your past is one of the best ways to identify meaningful topics for certain essays. Getting in the habit of writing about the events of your day-to-day life — even the mundane and the routine — is a smart thing to do since it’s so effective in helping you to generate ideas without having to try so hard to do it.
Want to know the real secret about keeping a journal, though?
Finally, writing a daily journal (or just keeping notes on your bschool research activities) is an excellent way to counteract the tendencies of BSers towards procrastination. If you commit to something simple like writing a little every day in a journal, then you’ll be setting a stake in the ground in this daunting MBA application project. You’ll be actually GETTING STARTED. One of the biggest risks to your apps this year is putting off the essays. Procrastination is your worst enemy. By beginning a journal then you’re starting with baby steps; painless ones. You’ll be sneaking up on yourself, doing something productive and tangible in the overall process of applying, yet without hardly noticing it. Keeping notes and maintaining a journal – or just capturing ideas that come up for you in an informal way – will let you sneak up on yourself and get started with something that is often intimidating. Many people don’t start their work on their essays until really late because they just don’t know where to start. They put it off and they put it off, until finally it’s August and they’re up against a wall and they panic and start to scramble. Talk about stressful.
It’s still early – but not so early that you can’t begin. Keeping a journal – or if you don’t like that term, then just starting a systematic process of note-taking, where you capture info on schools and your thoughts and experiences on a regular basis in one place – can be an excellent entry point into the overall project of starting your essays. It’s a great way to sneak up on yourself and make yourself begin something that’s otherwise daunting and tough to tackle, and it will let your subconscious start to ruminate and marinate on ideas about what you’re going to write in those essays.
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It definitely means going beyond the obvious. Nowhere is “don’t tell us what you think we want to hear” more applicable than in your MBA essays for the Stanford GSB. If we read one more Stanford essay about “what matters most is helping people” then we’re gonna scream (j/k. if that’s what you wrote we’re…
Essay A: “What matters most and why?”
Essay B: “Why Stanford?”
Yup, those are again the questions that Stanford is asking you to write about in your MBA app this year.
A few weeks ago, Stanford admissions very quietly announced that there would be no significant changes to their application this year. Those same two questions are what they asked last season, and have been asking with only slight variations for practically eons. We’ve got a whole collection of commentary on how to deal with them on our Stanford Essay Questions page. You’ll find many many posts there on these two deceptively simple questions, including a bunch of essay critiques like this one on “what matters most”, which will help you understand what not to do.
We didn’t make a big announcement here on the front page of the blahg when we heard that this year’s Stanford essay questions would be the same because, well, we know that nobody is really working on essays yet. It’s too early. You should be focusing on things like GMAT (or maybe GRE if you have a good reason for that test instead) and researching your schools. Stanford also released their deadlines and their Round 1 of September 21 isn’t even the earliest. You can expect HBS to take that slot. Or, if you’re trying for Columbia Early Decision or J-Term, then you’ll want to hustle an app in well ahead of September if you can manage it. But none of these other schools have yet hinted at what their app requirements will be. So, too early to start on those, either.
Anyway, you won’t want to start with Stanford as your first app. Too hard. Like, way way way too hard. You don’t want to deal with the difficult learning curve of learning to write MBA essays at the same time as you’re tackling the hardest essays around (not to mention, the essays for the hardest school on the planet to get into). The stakes are too high. The first application you write will not be your best. Struggle through another school’s essays first — ideally, a school with more straightforward questions. Columbia, conveniently, tends to offer those. Again, we don’t know what they’ll be doing this coming season, but it’s likely that theirs will be easier to deal with than Stanford’s.
So what should you be working on right now?
As we stated above:
- GMAT (or GRE). If you’re serious about making a good impression at Stanford or any other top school, then make sure you’re bringing your best self. You’re reading this early, in the Spring. You have plenty o’ time to deal with any weaknesses in your profile. Take advantage of that now, BSer.
Read more in the ‘Snarchive of posts on GMAT & GRE
- School research. If Stanford is asking you, “Why Stanford?”, then that means you need to know why you’re applying there. It’s not just because it’s the “best” bschool (whatever that means). Stanford is a special place — but then so is every other school. It’s up to you to articulate to the adcom, at Stanford and every other program you’re applying to, why you’re choosing them. If you’re going on rankings alone, then by definition, you’re taking someone else’s opinion on what school is “best” — and we can guarantee that you will have trouble articulating why that school is “best” for YOU. This can come about only through your own effort of learning about each place and what they offer, which comes from talking to people, and hopefully visiting if you can.
Read more in the ‘Snarchive of posts on Selecting Schools
If you’re feeling especially eager, then sure, you can pick up our Stanford MBA Application Guide which does have some long-term planning advice that is super helpful for those who are motivated and who are starting early. It currently covers last year’s app but as you can see from this post, the questions are going to be the same. And, even though it’s still valid and accurate, we plan to update that guide sometime this summer, once we have seen the new GSB application and all app requirements have been confirmed by admissions. When we do, we’ll also be able to integrate the most up-to-date advice and learnings gleaned from coaching a bunch of Brave Supplicants last year who are now headed to Stanford this Fall. That’s what makes EssaySnark’s MBA application guides so useful, BTW: We bring in real-world examples and nuggets of experience from the trenches, based on the work we’ve done with the prior crop of candidates. We frequently hear from BSers that our guides are the best available, and that’s why. Anyway, if you subscribe to the guide today, you’ll get instant access to any update that’s published during your 90-day subscription term, or you’ll be able to re-up for another 90-day subscription later on to get the 2017 version for $4.95. (Sorry that we can’t be definitive on when this 2017 update will go out; suffice to say, one is planned, but the timing is unknown.) Or you can hold off and plunk down your pennies for the updated version when it’s released at whatever price it’ll be published at.
Sorry folks, didn’t mean to turn this post into an infomercial.
If you’re starting to think about these very challenging Stanford MBA questions, like “what matters most” and how in heck do you write an essay on that, please stay tuned over the coming weeks, as we have a new series planned for a novel approach to applying to bschool.
It’s called, Tell the Truth.
And we don’t just mean that MBA apps are no place for alternative facts.
The best way to get into bschool — especially Stanford GSB — is to be yourself. Tell the truth about who you are, what you’ve done, why you need an MBA.
It’s not that most people intentionally make stuff up. It’s that it’s really hard to answer questions like the ones that Stanford asks unless you figure yourself out first.
Maybe what we’ll title our coming series: How to be authentic in your MBA applications
If you’re serious about Stanford then that’s the very best advice we can offer.
More to come on that important topic! Y’all come back now, ya hear.
And enjoy your weekends in this wondrous springtime pre-app-season lull. There will come a time in the not-too-distant future where you will have no life. Enjoy your freedom while it lasts.
Perhaps the ultimate of the “sexy” post-MBA career goals is the desire to go into the sports business. We’ve supported quite a few Brave Supplicants with their MBA apps over the years where they pitched this idea to the adcom, and while we can say that in recent years, it’s become a bit more feasible,…
We love it when Brave Supplicants do their homework.
We got this question from a military candidate recently:
I noticed Stanford has a comparatively lower percentage of Veterans in its class than many of the other top schools (3% or so versus 5%). Any theories on why that is?
Well yes! In fact, we do have theories!
Today we’re going to share them with you – if you’re in that contingent of military MBA candidates.
If you have access privileges on your account to view our Military MBA content then you’ll see this material. If not: Happy Inauguration! Merry Weekend! Best wishes for 2017! Or whatever other type of good-will generating we can do for you. We’ll see you back here on Monday for a standard installment of snarkness.
Military MBA types interested in Stanford, read on.
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[end meandering and probably super boring EssaySnark blabbering about Military MBA peeps and Stanford – don’t worry, you didn’t miss anything]
As a wrap-up comment:
Trying to interpret or extrapolate anything from the Stanford dataset and class profile is not usually a very fruitful effort. Stanford admits PEOPLE not numbers. The numbers can help point you in the direction of the standards of excellence that they tend to select on – but they don’t tell the whole story.
Good luck to all who are trying for Stanford this year! From the military or any other background.
If you’re a military MBA, check out our resources and hit us up if we can help!