You’re digging into MBA application requirements and starting to think about exactly who to enlist for support in the form of letters of recommendation to be submitted with your bschool apps. Most schools require two recommendations; a tiny few including Michigan Ross want only one; a handful of specific programs want three (as of this…
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, then definitely get some time on the calendar with your friendly admissions person and see what they say. No matter what, it 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.
Also, there are some schools that offer such conversations at the beginning of the process, before you even put together your application to submit. Schools like HEC Paris and certain tracks at Duke (e.g. the Cross-Continent MBA) and also many EMBA programs invite candidates to reach out and connect with their admissions teams for a detailed discussion in advance of applying. 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. This is more common for some of the European full-time programs; 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. 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.
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We last blahgged about bschool deans and changes of leadership back in January 2015 when we talked about Geoffrey Garrett taking over at Wharton in July 2014, Matthew Slaughter taking over at Tuck in July 2015, and Scott Beardsley taking over at Darden in August 2015.
Since then, there has been another round of transitions in the top position at these schools:re
- Stanford’s embattled and scandal-weary Garth Saloner stepped aside and insider Jonathan Levin took over September 2016 (dang was it really that long ago?!)
- Michigan Ross’s dean Alison Davis-Blake resigned and they promoted from within by appointing professor Scott DeRue into the post in June 2016 (ditto the long-ago exclamation!)
- NYU’s well-regarded Peter Henry handed the reins over to Raghu Sundaram in January
- Berkeley-Haas’s beloved Rich Lyons will be stepping down in June and as far as we know, no replacement has been announced.
- Kellogg’s Dean Sally Blount has also announced she’s stepping down at the end of this academic year.
- Cornell Johnson is experiencing some turmoil. They underwent some radical transformation (for an academic institution) in 2016 where they merged three of their graduate schools under the umbrella of one. The Johnson School, where you would go if you were getting an MBA, joined with their world-renowned hospitality school and the Dyson School (economics) under a newly-named College of Business. Their Johnson School dean Soumitra Dutta took over as dean for this merged College of Business entity. But then Dean Dutta suddenly resigned at the end of January. They appointed an interim dean (Joe Thomas), but now it looks like they have promoted the Johnson School (MBA) dean (Mark Nelson) to permanently lead the merged College of Business… but we’ve honestly lost track of the plot.
So to discuss the question posed at the top of this post:
Does the dean matter?
In light of that convoluted web of Cornell confusion we just tried to summarize for you, we’ll have to say, yes it does.
But only to an extent.
We have yet to learn the circumstances around Dean Dutta’s sudden departure from the dean position at Cornell (supposedly he’s still on the faculty, but he’s never taught a class, so it sounds like a case of a golden parachute to us). We do know that the merger into the College of Business was not sold well to internal stakeholders and there were many protests and lots of dissension when it happened. We heard that the hospitality folks especially were unhappy. So as outsiders going on these two datapoints alone, all we can say is that there were issues with the way leadership has been done there. Is that enough to stop you from applying to Cornell? No, it shouldn’t be — but you DEFINITELY should travel to Ithaca and learn what you can from current students and ask direct questions of admissions folks to discover what type of impact there might be. There will still be professors showing up to teach classes and you still will be able to earn an MBA there. But innovate? No, that’s not going to happen. This place is going to be stalled out for the foreseeable future until they get their house in order…. and obviously when a school that’s supposed to be teaching you leadership demonstrates such an epic #leadershipfail then it does call some basic assumptions into question.
So that’s a cautionary tale, and we acknowledge that we don’t have all of the data, mostly because the school itself is playing very hush-hush. If we hear back from our on-the-ground sources we will update this post (or if any of you have actual knowledge of the situation — not more rumors and gossip but concrete facts — then we’d love to hear them!).
On the opposite end of the examples-of-leadership spectrum, we have a separate case:
We just learned yesterday that rockstar dean Ted Snyder will be stepping down from his leadership of Yale SOM next year. Our understanding is that he’s on sabbatical this year, so is already not on campus, and he’ll return to the deanship next year but thereafter will move back to teaching, which is what many deans do when they leave their deanship. Traditionally, deans were academics who started off as PhDs doing research and teaching classes, and eventually took on more and more administrative responsibilities in running their school before getting the top spot. Those people often are academics at heart and they may long to go back to their roots. Stepping down from the leadership position often means staying at the same institution and just moving out of the spotlight to resume a faculty role. Sometimes a dean “stepping down” means that they are resigning from the workforce entirely, or that they’re going to leave that school completely and go somewhere else, but often it means that they’re sticking around and just will no longer be the dean at their campus.
We’re going to make a wild prediction: Dean Snyder may initially take up a faculty role at the SOM but there’s a school that REALLY is overdue for some new blood in the high office and we’re going to place a bet that Ted Snyder eventually ends up at Columbia. This is total guesswork in looking at the graduate school landscape from a complete outsider’s perspective. If there were a school that could benefit from a makeover right now then Columbia is it, and if there were a dean who could do it then Ted Snyder is your man. Columbia’s Glenn Hubbard has been serving as dean since 2004 which by our count makes him the longest-serving dean at any top school. If it ain’t broke, then why fix it, but…….
So does the dean matter?
If you’re Chicago Booth in the first decade of the 21st Century, or Yale SOM in the second, the answer to that is h3ll yeah.
Ted Snyder made Booth into the school that it is (we keep waiting for current leadership to do more) and then after that, Ted Snyder worked his brand of magic again at Yale. Chicago and Yale were both excellent schools before he arrived but his tenure at each respectively made them more than excellent.
MIT and HBS are the other schools with a long-running dean. At MIT, Dean Schmittlein has been quietly creating a success story since 2008. Across the river, Nitin Nohria has been running the show since 2010. Duke’s Dean Boulding has been there since 2013 and was just reappointed to another five-year term. All of those schools seem to be doing fine (not necessarily seeing bold innovations of late from the latter two, but they’re both in good shape — no scandals!! — and no threats to their relative positions in the rankings, and MIT is doing just fine, thank you). We don’t expect big changes at any one but who knows. If Ted Snyder isn’t ready to retire yet (he’s only like 65 right now) then perhaps Harvard might try to lure him. But we doubt it. If he lands at another top bschool then we’re just wildly flapping our gums and crystal-balling that it would be at Columbia.
This has grown long. We have more to say. We will pick up with it again on the morrow (which is now posted HERE).
One of the many ways things can get messed up with your MBA applications is rushing through the data entry task on your application. The app dataset is an important part of your pitch — not just a chore you need to get through as quickly as possible. We’ve offered a range of strategic comments…
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.
We had a BSer ask us about being vegetarian last year during our work in their Complete Essay Package — it’s something that means a lot to this person and they were wondering if it would serve as an accomplishment? They were also worried if it would be a turn-off to the adcom. They were…
It pains us to do this – dissect a BSer’s essay after the deadline has passed – but as we mentioned in a recent essay critique, people often submit their essays for freebie review too late in the game for us to do anything with it. Sometimes it works fine, as with a Yale essay…
Ah those well-meaning BSers. They’re always trying to say the right thing in their essays. Here’s a snippet of an essay that we get all the time: When I started being a better listener, and not being so assertive with my opinions, I started realizing that my teammates were guided by different values and experiences….
We have this thing where we sometimes review BSers’ essays for free, out in the open, here on the blahg. It’s definitely not the same level of feedback that you’ll get with a formal Essay Decimator but for you cheapskates desperate types eager and willing stalkers of the blahg, it’s something we do. This essay…
In our “Start Your Engines!” kick-off post recently we promised to talk a bit about the TOEFL, since it tends to not get much love here on the blahg. Today we’re going to do just that. First of all: Most international candidates who did not attend an English-speaking college need to take the TOEFL (or,…