Sorry peeps, have to offer this Public Service Announcement. We’ve covered this before: Another warning about incompetence in this industry. Does your MBA admissions consultant know this? Sorry but this is ridiculous: Predicting your chances based on profile stats How admissions consultants can actually damage your chances at Stanford. Et cetera. Today is Exhibit #17,387…
We have so much sympathy for you BSers. You’re out there, trying to navigate this complicated process, and there’s so much advice tossed about. Despite how self serving it is for us to write posts like this, we feel compelled to do so when we are faced with so many instances of blatant incompetence in this industry.
Following a full (and unfortunately, fairly pessimistic) assessment of a BSer’s academic history through our Overcoming Bad Grades App Accelerator we got this in a follow-up comment:
To be honest, your review for my grades got me thinking a lot, as I have not received any negative feedback till date from anyone on my profile. Even the consultant I worked with for Tuck was very confident about my chances, even though they had reviewed my transcripts. Anyway, that is all in the past.
It’s a real shame that your previous consultant did not steer you in the right direction on these issues. We hear of similar problems from our colleagues in this industry all the time and it’s so sad when it’s guys like you who are the ones to suffer from it. 🙁
This BSer’s grades in college were not just borderline, they were really quite low. It’s possible that you could look at a final mark or CGPA number and not recognize how poor the performance was. We’ve made that mistake at times.
It also takes A LOT of experience to know how to evaluate foreign transcripts. It’s one of the hardest things to learn in this field. If your admissions consultant does not have extensive experience in doing this, through working with dozens and dozens of other candidates, then you’re at a disadvantage.
If you’re an American applicant, then presumably any American consultant will be able to handle this if they’ve been doing consulting for a reasonable time. However, not every American consultant can work their way around an international transcript, as this BSer discovered — but only after spending a full admissions round with that consultant, and getting zero results with them.
Overlooking or misunderstanding a weakness like this is understandable, but it is not excusable.
Same thing happens with U.S. military applicants, by the way. That profile type used to be a shoo-in for admission; a candidate transitioning from the service was so unusual and sought-after that even with some real weaknesses on the application, it would not be difficult to get an admit to a very good school. That means that pretty much any admissions consultant could have success with that profile — because that profile would make it in anyway. These days? It’s a different landscape.
If the consultant you’re considering does not have a track record of success helping people like you position their apps for the win at the schools that you are targeting then we would suggest they may not be the right fit.
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We know many BSers are itching to get started on their apps and we keep getting asked, “When is School X gonna release its questions?”
We did a full post on this last year which covered app / question release dates for 2015. Based on that, here’s what you can expect from here.
Stanford, Harvard, Columbia, Yale, Ross, NYU and Haas already have released questions and maybe UCLA too (we can’t tell if their site is saying it’s same requirements for 2017 or not). We’ve already released an updated SnarkStrategies Guide for Stanford GSB, Harvard HBS and Columbia, so if you’re trying for any of those, you can most definitely get started now!
(Pro Tip: YOU CAN GET STARTED NOW ON ANY OF THEM!)
This is one reason for a rare Saturday post – it’s the weekend – we’re encouraging you to actually do that! Like, TODAY!
The other schools will all have questions coming out soon as well. How soon? Here’s when that happened in past years.
2015: July 8th app opened with essays and deadlines (no pre-announcement of details)
2016: June 17th essay questions announced
2017 estimate: SOON! (we expect essay to change)
2015: May 7th deadlines announced; essays announced in June
2016: June 16th essay questions announced
2017 estimate: SOON! (we expect essays to change)
2015: May 7th essays and deadlines announced
2016: June 24th essay questions announced
2017 estimate: Adcom says app will be out in mid-July;
2015: June 9th essays questions announced
2016: July 5th essay questions announced
2017 estimate: Around July 10th (we expect essays to change)
2015: June 15th essay question announced
2016: July 1st essay question announced
2015: June 17th deadline announced; essays were not confirmed until app opened on July 22nd
2016: July 7th (?) essay question announced
2017 estimate: Around July 1st (we expect essays to change)
2015: July 8th app opened with essays and deadlines (no pre-announcement of details)
2016: June 14th deadlines announced, essays came later (ack it’s a hole in the data!)
2017 estimate: Around July 15th (we expect essays to change)
Unless noted above, these are EssaySnark’s estimates for 2017.
Now let’s get more practical:
Your essays will be better – and you can save $$$! – if you start now.
We try to make both of these points very clear:
1. You need TIME to develop good essays.
We do not recommend waiting till essay questions for your school to come out before starting on your essay strategy! If you read our school questions page for your target school, you will be able to see what they have asked before, and you’ll get an overview of what that school cares about.
Is it career goals? Many schools are very focused on that. Are you able to present your short-term and long-term goals effectively? Like, can you do it right now, reading this post? You need solid career goals for Columbia and Berkeley, and it’s likely that Wharton and Tuck will also have essays on goals. (Want help? The Career Goals App Accelerator or for many of you, the MBA Career Goals Planning Guide for Entrepreneurship, will get you started!)
Is it accomplishments and achievements? All schools are focused on that but that doesn’t mean they’ll end up as essays per se. You still need to be able to show your achievements and professional readiness in the app, even if you’re not writing an essay on it! THIS IS IMPORTANT FOR ALL SCHOOLS! (Want help? The Accomplishments & Achievements App Accelerator is your answer!)
Is it personal qualities, and life experience? Or commitment and values? Fewer schools are outwardly focused on this, and yes, it makes sense to tackle such topics through the confines of an actual essay question. But these schools already have their questions out, for the most part! Yale and Stanford and Berkeley Haas and Ross are all looking for essays on these topics. You’ll want to pick up their respective SnarkStrategies Guides as the best resource — and yes, all of those will be updated soon if they haven’t been already!
In addition: Your first drafts are going to suck.
You canNOT wait to start your essays until two weeks before the deadline and expect them to be as good as they could possibly be. You need time – that composting thing we’ve been talking about recently. You also need time for the standard cycle of:
– Write a bunch of stuff and think that it’s totally good
– Submit it for feedback and EssaySnark tells you it’s actually not
– (two weeks go by)
– Come out from the corner where you’ve been pouting and try again
– Read read read and read some more. Devour the blahg. Study the resources we’ve been pointing to all along. Think think think (ouch this part hurts!). Try writing another draft. Throw it away out of discouragement. Sit on it for awhile. Come back – AHA! lightbulb – write something that you think may actually be on target.
– Submit it for feedback and hold your breath
– Cry again but this time in relief because EssaySnark said it’s on track and it has potential
– Revise revise revise
That is how you write good essays. That does not happen overnight.
And oh hey look!
2. You will save MONEY if you start now!
Now that we’ve actually got your attention…
Here’s some data. Two totally different BSers from last season who both made it into the schools of their dreams. One started crazy early like we don’t even know if anyone has ever started this early before (we’re talking YEARS ahead of their planned applications) and the other started ohkindalate.
Here’s how much they paid for the exact-same EssaySnark services:
Brave Supplicant #1
Brave Supplicant #2
First Essay Decimator purchase:
Total price paid for these services: $1,583
First Essay Decimator purchase:
Total price paid for these services: $1,822
You see, EssaySnark pricing goes up as we get busier. That’s how this supply/demand thing works. We incentivize you to start early by offering lower prices as encouragement. We’re already so busy with other motivated BSers that we will most definitely be raising prices again soon (we’re even wondering if this might be the first year we have to shut the doors on new sign-ups based on capacity). You can bet that if you wait till August to sign up, it’s going to be more expensive than if you start now (heck, if you even wait till July…).
The other advantage of course is that BSer #1 was done with their essays much much earlier and was not sweating around deadlines. BSer #2 ended up paying significantly more than this in Speedy Review add-ons, whereby you can get super-fast turnarounds, because they were up against the deadlines; we did not include those charges in the above costs because they are optional. These data are core services only. Start now and you’re not going to be at risk for any such add-ons once Snarkville gets crazy and our dance card starts to fill up. You’re going to be done early, and boy, won’t your Future Self be thanking you!
If you’re sitting here thinking, “But wait, how do I work on my essays when the essay questions aren’t out yet and I only have 60 days on the Essay Decimator subscription based on EssaySnark’s terms of purchase?”
Well, there are options:
1. The Complete Essay Package has a whole heckofalotta other steps to start on BEFORE you’re gonna write a single word of a single essay. It includes all the App Accelerators referenced on this page. Those’ll keep you busy for at least two weeks!
2. We can’t guarantee this, but we’re assuming all of the schools will have their essay questions out in the next month. That gives you another month to do the essays. That should be plenty of time to work through the two-stage review process on any of the Essay Decimators we offer (HBS or Standard).
3. If you are diligently working on your essays and you simply run out of time, we will always entertain well-intentioned requests for extensions. If you’re a slacker, an extension can be purchased at an additional fee to reactivate an expired service. No, you can’t warehouse services; you can’t buy stuff now at early cheaper pricing and expect to get a free extension later if you aren’t actively working on them. That defeats the entire purpose of our subscription model and it just won’t work.
So that’s our pitch for today.
Whether you use EssaySnark or not, please take this opportunity – you have the whole weekend ahead of you! – to START ON YOUR MBA APPLICATIONS!!!!
We’re obviously around in case anyone has questions.
Good luck with those apps this year, Brave Supplicant!!
So we just spent 1,000 words yesterday telling you that the schools look at everything. And they do. In every chat, webinar, and info session, you’ll hear admissions directors of top MBA programs tell you that they do a “holistic review” of their candidates, that they don’t weight any particular component of the profile, that…
We published our very own BusinessWeek-like MBA rankings here on the blahg and wow, it’s 3 years old now?!?? A BSer asked us to update it, so here goes. First, a disclaimer and an explanation: The disclaimer is that this is just our view of the admissions landscape, based on our own experience watching lots…
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 served on the admissions committee at your target school last year, 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?
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 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.)
This post is merely to say, evaluate any potential consultant with clear thinking and logic — EssaySnark included. Think through any claims being made and consider the way they’re marketing themselves, just like you (hopefully) would with any other purchase. There’s a lot on the line here.
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After several years in a row of record-level application volumes at many top schools, we have to believe that the situation will ease this year.
We were actually pretty surprised last year when it got even MORE competitive than it had the year before. We expected it to stay equally competitive. But it got worse.
It can’t do so for another year. Can it?
Of course, we keep thinking that the stock market is going to crash, too, given how lofty those heights have been. An accurate prognosticator of such matters, we are not.
However, we were relieved to see some data from the GMAC (you know, the GMAT people) that indicates a potential softening of interest in the U.S. MBA from international applicants.
You remember that survey you filled out when you registered for the GMAT? That asked you about what type of MBA program you’re interested in, and where in the world you want to go for your graduate studies?
It seems that since the end of 2016, the GMAC has added questions to that survey asking about test-takers interest in coming to the U.S. (given the protectionist immigration rhetoric and changing landscape) and the UK (due to Brexit).
Their data is showing that, indeed, international applicants are becoming less enthusiastic about the good ol’ United States of America.
Here’s a direct quote:
Since November 2016, a growing share of international candidate say they are now less likely to pursue a graduate business degree in the United States due to the U.S. presidential election results. The percentage of non-U.S. citizen mba.com registrants who say they are now less likely to study in the United States has grown from 35 percent in November to 43 percent in February.
January 27th, as you may recall, is when the so-called “Muslim ban” was announced, so it’s very possible that those numbers deteriorated even further. The administration’s travel ban has since been hung up in legal challenges, but the U.S. administration has made its preferences clear with the initiatives they’re pushing and lots of rhetoric. Illegal immigration is said to be down considerably, and we’ve heard that the tourism industry in America is suffering. These policies are obviously also having a dampening effect on interest in studying in the States.
How much will this impact the applicant pool at the top U.S. business schools?
Probably not as much as it might at the next tier of school. People may say, “Dang, the U.S. ain’t such a friendly place these days…. but hmmm, maybe I should apply to Harvard?”
And to illustrate, an eight-point reduction of interest in the U.S. MBA may not translate to big numbers. Here’s a chart published by those GMAC folks in the same report:
Note: Most of 2016 was an increasing-volumes year; it wasn’t until the last two months that the entire situation changed with the surprise outcome of the election, and even then, nobody knew what that would actual mean in the reality of governing (four months in, we still don’t know what it means, actually…!)
The competition among the international applicant pool has heated up to such insane levels that if the top schools got even 10% fewer international candidates, it would make it easier for all you qualified and very motivated BSers to at least have a shot again. The schools don’t have quotas but they don’t want their international student population to expand beyond around the 40% level. There are only so many slots available.
We saw lots of amazing candidates turned away last year (not all of them were denied, but enough were for us to be shocked by it). If those candidates had been trying in the 2013 or 2014 admissions season then things were very different. It’s unlikely that the calendar will turn back to those levels, no matter what type of crazy new policy this current adminstration will try to implement — and we certainly aren’t wishing for MORE radical policies just as a way to deter candidates and reduce the overcrowding in the admissions pipeline.
But, maybe there’s a glimmer of hope? An easing of the insanity on the horizon?
Obviously if you’re a reapplicant, international or otherwise, you need to be planning on Round 1. And, we know that all of you are looking for ways to improve your candidacy in the time remaining before apps are due. Having a well reasoned strategy — including U.S. schools if you haven’t been turned off by the politics, as well as, say, Canadian, or maybe French or Spanish targets — can help increase your ability to land a win.
Questions on this? Lay ’em on us, we’re happy to help.
And for all you internationals out there: One reason America is such a wonderful place is that it allows diversity of opinion. There may be some voices that are being broadcast quite loudly these days, but you will also find a broad spectrum of ideas coming from thoughtful people all across this land. Try to stay connected with a variety of individuals and you’ll gain a better perspective of what this country is about than you might understand by only reading the headlines or watching the news.
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