We’ve got a tradition here of keeping data on stuff, and sharing it with you Brave Supplicants, to try and make this whole process a little less opaque, and also help you to prepare (and encourage you to get started early!!) One of our annual posts is this one: When will the darned schools release…
Short answer: No. Except in perhaps one very limited case.
Long answer: Keep reading.
There are lots of admissions consultants out there who advertise themselves as former admissions officers, as if this is some massive advantage to you as their potential client.
We actually believe that in some cases – like when the admissions consultant is in their first or second year serving clients – that this could actually be a liability. After all, just because they know how admissions works at ONE school does not give them any special expertise on any other. That comes only from years of working with applicants to those specific schools. Bschool admissions policies are all specific to their school.
And, even if it might be an advantage to work with someone who last year served on the admissions committee at your target school, that advantage will fade quite dramatically the more time goes by. Things change at all the schools. Policies adapt, preferences shift, the trends in incoming applicants morph, and the priorities of a new dean at the school or in admissions take precedent over old ways. There’s one key situation where it would be helpful, and that’s if you have a specific one-off question (like what we describe here with GRE vs GMAT scores) about how things work in the depths of the admissions process at the one school they worked at. Of course, you could also pick up the phone and ask your question directly to the current admissions staff at that school, and see what they tell you. Most admissions offices are trying to be more transparent.
Another important consideration if you’re teasing apart these marketing claims: When someone says they “worked in” admissions, what exactly does that mean?
Were they a student who conducted interviews?
Were they an outside consultant who was brought in for helping with app reviews? (Many of the schools that get larger volumes of applications have seasonal help who work on a consulting basis and are first-line reviewers but not final decision-makers.)
Were they actually on the committee that makes the decisions on who to admit?
Was it for a couple months? A season? Many years?
There’s lots of variation and levels of takeaway knowledge and insights you can expect from each of these.
The biggest issue we have with former admissions people touting some specialized advantage to the marketplace of Brave Supplicants is that reading an application and knowing that it’s good and that you want to accept someone, or that it’s bad and you will reject them, is not the same as helping someone to strategize and develop how to create an application that’s good, that some admissions person will want to accept.
It’s like reading a novel and writing one.
You’ve probably done the former.
Have you ever attempted the latter?
What about helping some other writer figure out what’s good and bad, what should be kept and what should be tossed, in the novel that they’re writing?
These are all very separate skills.
We’re not trying to toot our own horn here (well maybe a little) but we do have years and years of experience working with BSers of all flavors and stripes, to bschools of every sort you can name. We’ve seen how different schools respond to different profiles. We’ve seen the mistakes that people make – and we can help you not to make them.
The only thing that will give someone any advantage in helping you with your apps is if they’ve done exactly that before. If they’ve helped OTHER PEOPLE – not just one, but multitudes – with successful apps TO THE SCHOOLS YOU’RE TRYING TO CRACK.
You can get good at a skill only by doing it.
A coach usually needs to have played the sport in order to be any good at coaching it.
The “sport” of MBA admissions and training to be good at applying comes not from judging the apps from on high but from writing MBA essays – or helping others to write them in a way that showcases their talents and helps them stand out from the pack of the other gazillion strivers.
Not something you learn by watching. This is a contact sport. Has the MBA admissions consultant you’ve talked to been out on the field and getting muddy? Or have they just been watching from the air conditioned luxury box with the open bar and a chauffeur waiting at the end of the night?
(Any admissions directors reading this now are laughing. Yes, EssaySnark knows there are no chauffeurs waiting at the curb for you. Not for us either. Let us indulge in our elaborate little metaphor. We are not actually criticizing the admissions directors; we know plenty of them who are miffed when a colleague leaves for the dark side of admissions consulting! Hope no offense was taken here.)
We even know of at least one case of an admissions director who transitioned into admissions consulting — and only lasted one season before bailing and going back to the sanity of the school admissions’ office again. Coaching candidates on making their message work is so totally different than bestowing a yes or a no on them after that work is done.
This post is merely to say, evaluate any potential consultant with clear thinking and logic — EssaySnark included. What are their qualifications? What are they claiming to be the advantage they will offer you? Think through any such assertions and consider the way they’re marketing themselves, just like you (hopefully) would with any other purchase. There’s a lot on the line.
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We know how this one looks. The optics for the ‘Snark aren’t so great. “Oh be careful, you vulnerable MBA applicant person! You might get influenced by the wrong type of no-good baddies out there who are going to steer you wrong!” We admit, we have a vested interest here. After all, EssaySnark is, ourselves,…
It’s only natural that you’d want to know how many of the MBA admissions consultant’s clients have gotten in. After all, picking the right consultant is a fraught decision: You are putting YOUR DESTINY into their hands. And it’s not a transparent marketplace any way you look at it. We understand why you’d want to…
[WARNING: This is a looooong post! May want to jump to the bottom and hit that little Favorite button to save it for later! (Favorite feature available to blahg members)]
We originally wrote this in 2018 and we’re republishing here in 2019 to help you eager-beaver BSers who want a leg up on the quintessential of the quintessential-est schools.
Because anybody who first starts thinking they want to get an MBA is immediately going to be thinking about Harvard.
And why not?
Harvard is a world renowned brand.
EVERYBODY has heard of Harvard.
Even if you have only a vague notion of what an MBA is or why you might want one, you have still heard of Harvard Business School, and you probably wouldn’t mind going there.
An application to the MBA program at Harvard in many ways is going to look like an application to an MBA program anywhere.
They want a GMAT score, or a GRE is fine.
You’ll upload your resume and enter your work history.
They need an essay, and some letters of recommendation.
Pretty standard stuff.
However, that’s where the similarities end.
The approach that you take with your Harvard application should not necessarily be the same as what you might take with, say, Columbia.
Both these schools offer the MBA degree. Both have semi-similar profiles that show average GMAT and grades and they’re not terribly different from one to the next. You can expect that a high GMAT score will be beneficial to you in getting into Harvard, as it would be for Columbia, or Kellogg, or anywhere else.
If you want to get into Harvard, though, you can’t be just another cookie-cutter candidate.
The secret to getting into Harvard is to show how you’re different.
BUT!! There is risk here!!!
Being “different” for the sake of being different is not going to help you.
Wearing different-colored socks to your interview will not demonstrate that you’re unique.
All that will do is demonstrate that you want to stand out and attract attention. That might get people talking, but it’s not necessarily going to land you an offer at this school.
The most important thing to keep in mind with Harvard is that they are trying to construct a class.
That’s true at any school in the world, but Harvard gets first pick.
They’re like the Cleveland Browns but for opposite reasons.
(For any non-US-football-fans out there: The Cleveland Browns were the football team with the worst record in 2017, so they earn the privilege of picking their players from the college draft first in 2018.)
In the bschool market economy, since EV-ER-Y-BO-DY wants to go to Harvard, then Harvard has an abundance of riches. They can cherrypick the ones that they like most. They get first dibs. The best of the best.
Or, in this case, the most unique and differentiated who will fill out their class.
What this means is, if your profile is stereotypical — the Princeton grad who went to McKinsey and now wants to go for an MBA — then HBS will need to see superlative grades and an exceptional GMAT and particularly wonderful recs.
You need to be the best out of a crowded category of very good players.
What if you…
Work at Deloitte (not the most prestigious firm) and went to BC (Boston College; good but also not considered “the best”). You have a 3.6 GPA and a 730 GMAT.
When faced with the profile of the Princeton-McKinsey person, you may assume you have no chance at all. You’re obviously qualified but being qualified and being accepted are two different things.
Or, what if you…
Are an international applicant, like the Indian engineer, or you are coming from finance? Or applying from Singapore or Hong Kong or China?
For all of you, finding ways to stand out will be crucial. It’s not going to be only the basics of your profile. The adcom will need to know who you are — best revealed by what you have done — for you to have a true chance. This is where the advantages of an MBA admissions consultant can pay off. (A very good one, that is. A merely competent consultant is not necessarily going to add much value for Harvard.)
We saw some stat somewhere once that something like 90% of applicants to Harvard are qualified — meaning, they fit within the parameters of acceptance that the school has mapped out. Not sure if that’s saying that 80% of applicants fit within the class profile (the range of GMAT or GRE scores and college academics) or if it was against some internal measure of acceptability that the Admissions Board has.
Regardless, almost anyone applying shows evidence that they could succeed in the curriculum, and that they are capable of completing the program.
That is hardly enough to guarantee admission. It’s kind of like going with a competent admissions consultant. If you’re going for the gold and you’re going to pony up the dollars for help, then make sure you’re going with one that actually can add value in the game that you’re in.
If being qualified is not enough to get in to Harvard, what then does matter? What will tip the scales and convince the HBS adcom to want you?
There is not a specific profile or a specific collection of app stats that will ensure you get in. However, over the years, we have identified what we now call the “Harvard type.” It’s someone who is obviously a go-getter, an overachiever who’s done something interesting in life.
We cover it in many posts here on the blahg:
What is “the Harvard type”? is a good place to start.
We also discuss it at length in our MBA essay and application guide to Harvard Business School.
Heck, we have a whole category of posts here on the blahg on HBS and what they are looking for.
What we would boil all of this down to is one simple word:
The secret of getting into Harvard is that you have to show evidence of drive.
This fact is the main reason we’re able to with complete confidence predict people’s chances of interest from Harvard in our Comprehensive Profile Review. Through that service, you lay out the details of your background, your career, your school targets and core stats, and we go through it all and assess your chances to see if you are presenting enough evidence that will give Harvard reason to say yes. We are very very rarely off base with these and when we are it is only marginal misses. Usually we have BSers come back to us at the end of the season saying some variation of, “Wow, you were right! You said I wouldn’t get into X but that Y would admit me, and they did! That’s exactly how it went with my apps!”
For almost every single business school in the world, we are firmly convinced that getting help on the app is beneficial.
For Harvard? Yes also beneficial, very much so — but only to one certain extent.
The people that Harvard is likely to admit are very likely to get into Harvard anyway. Even without outside help.
Will outside help be useful? Sure, in giving an assist to the process. In making sure that you don’t step in it, and mess things up in an avoidable way. (See also: A Stanford applicant case study: Avoidable Mistakes)
But very often we see Harvard give interviews even for applicants whose essays truly sucked. Where they did not take advantage of what the essay could do.
But based on the other aspects of their profile — or more often, based on how they are coming from a less-crowded pool and so it was easier to stand out against the crowd — this person earned an invite to interview even in the face of a pisspoor job on the essay.
For whom then is getting help on the app the most helpful? In what situation would an MBA admissions consultant (an exceptional one, if you are serious about Harvard) add the most value?
Either for the applicant who is overwhelmed by the steps of applying, or who does not know where to start, or who lacks confidence in her own writing ability, and especially for someone who finds value in the ability to bounce ideas off of someone. Or all of the above. A very good admissions consultant can help that person create a very good essay for Harvard.
You do not “need” an admissions consultant to get in though.
We remain unmoved by any admissions consultant who brags about how many applicants they got into Harvard. It’s like a coach at the Olympics. The coach cannot take credit for the athlete’s success. Yes, a coach can be supremely helpful. But it’s not the coach who earned the medal. It’s the hard work and dedication and the willingness to persevere and the sacrifices made by the athlete that earned that person the spot on the podium.
When Harvard admits people, many times they would admit that person whether or not the essays were incredible. It’s because they are admitting the whole package; the entire set of facts. Not just granting a Best Essay award. That’s not always how it works elsewhere. Sometimes, an exceptionally mediocre applicant can put together an amazing set of essays that totally wins him or her the admit at another school. An incredible essay alone won’t do it for Harvard.
Of course, an MBA essay can keep you out of Harvard, too.
Very often, BSers make foolish mistakes in their essays. They say silly things. They focus on the wrong elements. They don’t maximize the opportunity at hand. For these people, a (highly qualified) admissions consultant can do wonders.
But the secret of getting into Harvard Business School does not come down to the essay. It’s the entirety of who you are and what you are presenting, and it’s at least as much about Harvard as it is about you.
That’s why when you’re rejected from Harvard, it’s not actually that big of a deal. So many incredible people are rejected each year that you cannot read anything into it.
Harvard is the one school that’s least served by the admissions consulting industry.
We’re not saying not to get help on your HBS MBA application. We do believe we can help you! We have dedicated services exactly for that.
But someone who is the Harvard Type is likely to get into Harvard anyway. Not because they paid the big bucks to a consultant to assist them.
It’s one reason we strongly recommend against reading other people’s essays in your quest for the HBS admit. Seeing what someone else said is not going to let your best essay come through — and frequently, an essay did NOTHING for an applicant’s chance of success. All you can extrapolate from reading a Harvard student’s essay is that the essay did not PREVENT them from getting in. You cannot know that the essay itself helped them at all.
ESPECIALLY not when the essay was written in a different admissions cycle for a different entering class in a different era of MBA admissions, such as we’re entering now.
Someone who got into the Harvard Class of 2009 was operating on a totally different playing field as an applicant, compared to someone who got in for the Class of 2019, and most definitely there are major differences from what the ’19 applicant faced compared to what the Class of 2021 will be facing this year. It’s a different school. It’s a different admissions landscape. Almost definitely it will be a different application for Harvard this year. You cannot make inferences from one person’s essay to your own.
The only constant that remains?
The Harvard Type.
It’s something that we recognize when we see it (the Comprehensive Profile Review being the best way for us to assess this). It does not come down to any static descriptor or a set of stats on a profile. It’s the sum total of who you are based on how you present yourself — in the resume, in the college experience, in your profession today. Yes, in the essay itself too, but that’s rarely the differentiator that it can be at other schools.
There are many ways to get your message across in your HBS MBA essay, and we’re not saying that the essay is inconsequential. The essay matters — for some candidates even more than others. But the adcom is going to overlook a subpar essay if the profile itself shows as differentiated against the pool of others with whom you’re competing.
If you’re wondering right now whether or not you’re the “Harvard type” then that’s a fair question. We can help you with some objective advice on whether you might be perceived that way today.
And what else you can do is work on being that even more in your day-to-day efforts at work.
Nobody can predict with certainty if you’re going to be accepted into Harvard. But stepping it up and doing all that you can to be a better person every single day is the best way to find out.
We wrote a whole book on how to get into Harvard Business School!!
You may also be interested in:
- More examples of the “Harvard type”
- How to add greater value at work (plus, Harvard secret)
- The Harvard secret we didn’t get to yesterday
- Which came first, the ambition or the advantage?
- Once more with feeling: SOME ADMISSIONS CONSULTANTS MAY HURT, NOT HELP
Are you (re)taking the GMAT? What’s your score cancel strategy? A key driver of GMAT score inflation among MBA applicants is the relatively new development that allows you to cancel your test score. Years ago, you took the GMAT and that was that. Bad score? Oh well, tough luck, it’s part of your permanent record….
There’s nothing worse than some admissions consultant telling you you have a shot at a top school and then not even getting the interview. It can REALLY tick you off.
And understandably so!
After all, that’s what you PAID THEM for!
MBA admissions lacks so much transparency and having a so-called expert help you focus your efforts can be a massive benefit.
Unless of course, they’re wrong.
If you’re working with someone who does not have a depth of experience to truly assess YOUR profile against the schools you’re in love with, then they can be doing more damage than good.
We’ve made our share of bad calls before, notably this one that we posted about publicly. We’ve never gotten it that wrong before or since. That was a learning experience for sure.
This is one reason why our Comprehensive Profile Review will tell you which schools are in range for you — but with a gazillion caveats, reminding you that it’s the execution that will be the determining factor. If your core stats and the essential background you are presenting shows you as QUALIFIED for a top MBA program, it’s still up to you to put the application together in a way that makes the admissions reviewer say “Yes!”
You may remember from some long-ago science class that a false negative is when a test comes back as a “no” when it’s actually a “yes” — and when you’re testing for life-threatening diseases, then this is a problem! If a test says “No, you do not have cancer” but really you do, then that’s bad.
A false positive is when the test says “Uh-oh you do have it!” but you actually don’t.
In medicine, that’s not necessarily so bad — the main issue being of course that you’re subject to treatment that you don’t actually need, and sometimes the treatment is damaging.
But in this case, a false positive would be, “Oh yes, you definitely have a shot at Harvard!!” when actually, you don’t.
Man, that one hurts, when October comes around.
In medicine, a false negative is a major problem, particularly if it’s an infectious disease. A false negative says “You’re healthy!” when actually you might be walking around spreading it to others.
In MBA apps, a false negative is something you will never, ever know about because if you believe your consultant and trust in him, and he says “Nope, not a chance, don’t even bother” and so you never apply…. and if they were WRONG….. nobody ever will know. If your consultant says “Sorry, I don’t see Harvard as being a fit” and you don’t try for Harvard, then dang. Apparently he was right! BEcause now you have not applied to Harvard, and so the consultant has made Harvard’s decision for them. The consultant decided you weren’t gonna get in, and you never tried, and so of course, you didn’t. (And yes, we frequently have the deep-seated opinion that a BSer won’t get into Harvard, and we do advise them of such, but we try to do so in a way to make them feel empowered to still apply if they are motivated to do so. Because it’s their life, not ours, to be living.)
More often, we see consultants being unrealistically optimistic, sometimes this may be intentional, but probably in most cases it’s because they have an unconscious bias: If they’re talking to you FOR FREE during a pitch for their services, then a) they’re usually looking at very limited information, often only GMAT and GPA and maybe the resume; and b) they’re trying to get you to sign up with them. Even if they are authentically wanting to only provide value to you as a person and are not fixated on making a sale, it is only human nature that they are trying to make a sale. It’s really hard (impossible?) to set that aside. And it’s also really hard to be speaking to someone on the phone and telling them, “Nope, you’re crap, nobody is going to want to admit you.”
This is why EssaySnark does not do free consults as part of a pre-sales process, and it’s why we do everything in writing.
It is much much easier to be honest and forthcoming when we can type it out on a screen and deliver the news. It’s just hard to shatter someone’s hopes in Real Life one-on-one conversation. Yes, good consultants find a way to say this but sometimes it’s couched in so many platitudes that the message is not heard.
And very often, a consultant who is working closely with a candidate over many weeks or months gets to the end of the process with them and is looking at the final product of the essays that they have created together with the applicant (because many consultants get their fingers very deep into the pie) and they have lost objectivity. They see how far the client progressed from the beginning and yes, the final drafts are better, but maybe they’re still not good enough? And they’ve been subject to how many rounds of review? The consultant is tired. They just want the project to be done with. They sign off on the essays with a note of confidence, and the client submits an app that still has no chance at all. But whether the consultant consciously knows this or not, they have tacitly given their approval and rubber-stamped it, so the client/applicant thinks they have a real shot. After all, there was a tremendous amount of WORK involved – they MUST be good essays by now!!
Or so the thinking goes.
And yes, this is a self-serving post, and here is where we plug our Sanity Check review that gives you our unbiased opinion of whether your application has come together in a way that this school will respond to.
Your consultant needs to have experience with the tier of school that you’re targeting — with the understanding that someone who is truly HBS material is likely going to make it into HBS with or without a consultant!! There are absolutely cases where the consultant helped someone who is borderline get tipped over into the HBS pool, but there are many consultants who managed to only not hurt the applicant’s chances. The applicant was going to get in, regardless, and the consultant perhaps helped them with polish and presentation.
Your consultant also needs to have extensive experience with the type of applicant you are. If your consultant has never worked with military candidates, or has only done so here or there, then honestly, how much help can they offer? Particularly when this segment of the applicant population has been booming and the competition has ratcheted up.
If your consultant has never helped someone with a really low GPA make it into a school like Columbia or Duke or Kellogg, how much help can they be if that’s the challenge you’re facing?
These are the questions you need to ask.
And yes, obviously we’ve helped people in your shoes before — regardless of what shoes you’re wearing! We’ve been doing this practically for-ev-er and we have high confidence that we’ve seen a profile EXACTLY like yours before. Whatever uniqueness you bring or challenges you offer. You can find out in our Comprehensive Profile Review, or if you just want a confirmation before you dive in with even the most basic service, hit us up with a question about your profile and how you’re so special and we will let you know yay or nay if we’ve never seen one like you before (who got in! as a result of our efforts).
Every year we get comments like this after doing a final-hour essay review for someone:
Lastly, I know you probably still feel this is a polished turd, but considering I submit tomorrow please help me get to the best product I can in the next 18 hours. (I fired my consultant because I’ve had this essay done for a month and he loved it).
Obviously that BSer sensed that perhaps something was off on the essay they’d created, enough to seek out a second opinion — but not everyone has that premonition.
Even more often, we get people sign up for our Post-Mortem Review at the end of November after their previous consultant told them they were a shoe-in, and they got nowhere on all of Round 1.
So yeah, this is a self-serving post — but honestly, we want all of you to be successful!! You found your way over to EssaySnark by some turn of fate and we feel very invested in helping you get in. We shoot straight. We keep it real. We offer feedback and advice to help you aim higher when warranted, and tools to support you in climbing. We want you to get into the best school you can!
If there’s more we can do, please ask!
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We’ve been in this industry long enough that we’re able to identify and (try to) analyze some longer-term trends. One interesting cycle involves leadership of top business schools and who is appointed as dean. (Warning: Long post ahead! And who the dean is, well, that might not matter altogether much for you as a current or near-term future MBA student. Read on if you’re curious but this post may not offer too much practical utility for actually constructing an MBA application strategy.)
You would think that naming a new dean at a school would be a wholly independent and internal event, not tied to or associated with any other factors or circumstances in the outward environment. In other words, you would think that a business school, when their current dean announces his retirement (and it’s almost always a “his”), would go about finding a replacement as an activity they manage unto themselves. From the outside, that’s what it appears that they do:
1. School issues announcement that Dean X is retiring and will finish out the current academic year, and then step down on June 30th next year.
2. A few weeks later, school announces that a search team has been formed to find Dean X’s replacement.
3. Everything goes dark on the process and you hear nothing as months and months go by.
4. Maybe two or three months before Dean X is supposed to leave, Dean Y is announced as his successor (or, sometimes, an interim dean is named if the school hasn’t been able to find the right permanent candidate, and then six months-ish later, we hear who the next actual dean will be).
That’s typically not how it goes with any corporate leadership change. If a CEO is retiring from a major company (or being fired) then usually the board of that company figures out who will replace him (again, usually a “him”) and they issue a single press release that announces the departure and his successor, all at once. There would still be a similar process going on behind the scenes, where a committee is working with a high-end executive search firm (aka headhunter) to find the replacement if they’re going outside, or they’re figuring out who to promote from within, which seems to happen more regularly in the corporate world than it does in academia. We can only recall one time in recent memory that a school opted to promote from within, and that was Ross when they brought Dean Scott DeRue into the head office (more on him later).
So why the difference in process? Why do bschools make a big deal about the departing dean long before he’s gone and before they have a replacement?
One reason is to signal to the market that there’s an opening.
Corporations don’t do this because shareholders get spooked by instability, and the company’s stock would tank if they announced that they were having turnover in leadership without knowing who would be driving the ship. Also, non-competes are very common in big businesses, where a high-level exec of Google is prohibited by contract from going to work at Facebook, even though it still happens frequently enough, though it also can result in lawsuits about theft of intellectual property and trade secrets . Academia has traditionally been much more incestuous; it is rare indeed that any university would hire a non-academic for any leadership role in any of its schools or colleges. The one exception that stands out in the recent past is UVA who brought in former McKinsey exec Scott Beardsley to run Darden after beloved dean Bob Bruner stepped down from the post. (Beardsley was just this week reappointed to a second term at Darden.)
Anyway, enough backstory. We’re here to talk about trends.
And this is what we’ve observed. For whatever esoteric chaos-theory reason that would be better studied by philosophers or behavioral economists, top bschools tend to experience turnover in waves. We have been doing this long enough that we’ve observed the pattern: Clusters of bschools go through leadership transitions at once. It’s not always the same bschools who have a change in deanship together; different schools apparently have different term lengths for their appointments, and certainly some schools’ deans stay for longer and get their appointments renewed. All of this happens at irregular intervals; these are not lock-step patterns or trends.
But there will be clusters, where one school, and then another, and then at least a third if not more schools announce that their dean is stepping down and they are to bring in new leadership in the same year or two. And then all quiets down for at least two or three years with no movement at the top of any school, before another wave starts to hit. When there are changes, those changes come in groups, where more than one school is going through it simultaneously.
Here’s what a last wave looked like in 2015 and 2016:
Dr. Matthew Slaughter
Dr. Scott Beardsley
Dr. Geoffrey Garrett
Dr. Jonathan Levin
Dr. Scott DeRue
And here’s what our current wave looks like so far in 2019:
Dr. Ann Harrison
Dr. Francesca Cornelli
Dr. Kerwin Charles
As we’ve laid out, finding a successor to a departing dean is a very secretive process on campus and everyone is totally hush-hush about it until they’ve secured their new person, and you would think that it would be an entirely internal task where the school board selects the best candidate for them looking at their own priorities for where they want their school to go, and not impacted or influenced by anything in the outside world.
But clearly, the world has had its influence.
If anyone believes that #MeToo has not had an impact, they are mistaken. And #BLM. And all the other social upheavals and long-overdue changes that society is trying to finally accommodate.
Drs. Harrison and Charles are succeeding white men; Dr. Cornelli is succeeded a white woman, Sally Blount, who had become the last female dean of a major school after the only other female dean, Judy Olian at UCLA, had announced her retirement in early 2018 (Dr. Olian is now President of Quinnipaic University; Dr. Blount has returned to a faculty role at Northwestern and will continue to teach there).
In between, we had NYU Stern’s popular dean Peter Henry — a Black American, born in Jamaica — step down, and Dr. Raghu Sundaram — an Indian American, born in Madras — be appointed from within to take his place. There’s actually been quite a few Indians leading top bschools, however, including current Booth Dean Madhav Rajan, former Booth Dean Sunil Kumar, Cornell Johnson’s former Dean Soumitra Dutta, and current HBS Dean Nitin Nohria. Indians are minorities in the U.S. however they’ve been represented quite well on the business school circuit (at least, men of Indian heritage have been).
So who’s next?
Well, UCLA still doesn’t have a permanent dean. After Judy Olian left, they named an African-American, Dr. Al Osborn, as interim. After having a woman, and now a minority as interim dean, the pressure is on at Anderson to not hire another white man.
And the other big one we’re waiting on is Columbia, who is saying goodbye to Glenn Hubbard this summer. Unfortunately, given Columbia’s track record and generally conservative or even staid approach to change, we kind of expect them to replace like for like. Not exactly expecting to see them hire, say, a Hispanic woman for the top slot.
Duke Fuqua’s Bill Boulding has also been there quite awhile; we have no knowledge that he’s planning on stepping down anytime soon, nor have we heard that Harvard’s Dean Nohria will be doing so, but both of those gentlemen have been in their respective positions for quite a long time. Maybe one or both schools will end up being part of this latest wave too?
As we’ve said, whoever is in the dean’s chair at your school doesn’t really matter to you as a student. However, seeing the world change and be more open and flexible and representative is a good thing for all of us — and we will be watching who else these other schools choose to lead them into the next era.
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No joke, those were the first words that CynicalSnark uttered here in the office when we saw the news about this bust with all the arrests of the admissions consulting bribery ring .
Get super-rich clients whose parents will donate big bucks to the athletic team in order for the coach to find a spot? Well that seems like an easy way to help a kid make it into college!!!
Obviously CynicalSnark doesn’t run the show here at EssaySnark and obviously we care way too much about ethics to try and pull off anything like this (64 posts and counting in our “ethics” category of posts here on the blahg; that’s more than we’ve written about Tuck or Haas!!).
But this scandal exposes an unfortunate reality in the world of elite universities: Yes you can pay to play.
This is much more common in college admissions but we’ve seen it happen in MBA programs too: A well-connected alumnus/a makes a call. A substantial donation is made to a scholarship fund. A well-connected alumnus/a’s child is suddenly accepted.
We’ve even advised some clients of means to go that route when they really, really, really wanted to get in to a specific school and their profile was just too crappy to make it in (why are so many super-wealthy applicants’ GMAT scores so low??? hmmmm.) And yes, they made it in.
That’s not necessarily illegal but is it unethical? Seems like it, doesn’t it? From the schools’ perspective, why are they willing to prostitute themselves in that way? Or is the applicant the prostitute? Not sure which way the unpleasant metaphor lands, but paying for something like this in America is seedy at best. And yet, it’s done all the time.
Really hate that the system works that way, but it does. Nothing we can do about it. Many experts and analysts in the education field (and other admissions consultant) who have been interviewed about this college admissions scandal have said that they don’t expect things to change. Not really.
What happened in specific in this case is, for example at Stanford, the coach of the sailing team was approached by this admissions consultant on behalf of the consultant’s clients. His clients were these wealthy parents who wanted their kids to go to Stanford. The consultant had set up a non-profit for the parents to donate to, and the consultant was offering to make a donation to the Stanford sailing team as a quid pro quo: Stanford sailing gets the money, and the coach somehow is able to find a spot for the kid on his team — even though the kid did not sail and did not even qualify as an athlete.
This happened in schools across the country with athletic teams who were not seen as stars of campus, the niche rich-kid sports like tennis, crew and water polo — to the tune of $25 million over the years.
And oh yeah: As of today, Stanford doesn’t have a sailing coach. The coach who facilitated these pay-for-play deals there was fired and he’s facing jail time. Other coaches have been placed on leave, and the schools are “investigating.” Yeah, maybe they should’ve investigated earlier? Isn’t it suspicious when so much money arrives out of nowhere like that, especially when it was sometimes tied to the admits of multiple kids from the same family? Not only were there people in the schools actively involved in this and justifying their actions, but there must’ve been many many others who suspected something foul and looked the other way.
And just ‘cuz it’s so damn juicy and brazen, we’ll crib this image of a transcript of the call courtesy of the WaPo:
The other part of the scandal of course is paying someone to take a test for your kid. And to that we say 😯
The most heartbreaking thing?
If you read through the transcripts of calls between actress Felicity Huffman and the “admissions consultant” dude who was orchestrating these scams, her second daughter wanted to get in on her own. The older daughter used the SAT test-center scam where her test results were “corrected” by someone on the inside of this ring, and presumably was able to use her artificially improved score to make it into a good school. The younger daughter was “academically driven” says Ms. Huffman on the call and wanted to take the test at least twice on her own. Yet her mom was meddling in it and arranging cheating on her behalf — when it sounds like the daughter didn’t want her to. 🙁
Dang, parents. WTF?
How do you think your kid’s gonna feel their whole life when they know that they only got in to fancy-pants college because their parents PAID for it? That’ll send you to therapy later on.
At least in this situation, the court docs say that the daughter did not use the test-cheater’s services. Good for you, second Huffman daughter!!
The way we see it, all of this boils down to the issue of wealthy people thinking the rules don’t apply to them, and the very
slippery slimy lack of ethics that follows from that. There are hucksters and scammers in every part of life and everyone is trying to play the game. It may seem like there were no victims in this scheme; it would’ve been really easy for an individual parent to justify these actions. After all, for the sports-donation side, they could feel holy and righteous in making a big donation that they otherwise would not have done, that enabled the school to do more for that underappreciated sport. (Those poor water polo players, nobody gives them any love.)
Yeah. No. Nope nope not.
This is a case where that kid from the cheating family got a spot where some other kid who was working hard and trying to make it on her own merits did not.
Hate it hate it hate it all the way to the parade.
So no, we’re not doing it wrong. We believe in the perhaps naive-sounding American dream, where you work hard and you get places in life. Maybe that’s all a charade, a trick played on the lower and middle classes to trap them, with all those rich 1%ers laughing into their tea. Dunno. We’re not in that group. Plenty of former BSers are but you probably are not.
What we know is that hard work makes you happy, and EARNING your place in life lets you sleep at night.
So that’s where we end up on all of this.
Thoughts? Comments? Shock and horror that this is going on? Lay it on us in the comments if you want to share your opinions.
Will the system change? No, not fundamentally. It’s how capitalism works. The schools are selling elitism — not an education.
That’s why we’re so meh about rankings in the first place.
That problem is too big for us to solve.
So all we can do is say, values matter, and that’s how we choose to live.
You’ll make your own choices in life. When you’re in the rich 1% class, hopefully you’ll remember and keep that moral compass in good working order.
PS: USC seemingly cannot get a break. They have had scandal after scandal after scandal in the past few years. We do NOT currently recommend USC to any applicants for any program, whether MBA at Marshall or otherwise. There is something rotted there.
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