First tip: You should definitely be filling out your app dataset if you haven’t started that already! Second tip: Only do that for your FIRST SCHOOL — not all of them — else you’re likely going to set yourself up for a very muddy process. Why? Because you don’t currently know what your full strategy…
Have you seen any of these Fyre Festival documentaries? Pretty incredible, how all of it went down. The entrepreneur dude who tried to pull it off is called a pathological liar. The most incredible part of all is, even after he got prosecuted by the FBI, he launched a totally new swindling scheme. Apparently his moral compass is calibrated a bit differently than our own.
These tales tend to be rife with irony.
Take the case of a journalist or nonfiction author who plagiarized and fabricates. Every so often we hear of such a case. A big incident happened in 2012 when science writer Jonah Lehrer’s books were pulled. It was discovered that he even made up Dylan quotes for his articles. He admits that his acts “caused deep pain” and he says he did it out of “arrogance”, “a willingness to take shortcuts” and “carelessness” — all reasons why we detest plagiarism. (The big irony of course is that those candid comments came from him during a speech he was paid $20k to give talking about decision-making.)
It’s really easy to get a certain smugness when sitting outside of the circle where such a thing happened. It’s easy to look with an eye of disdain upon the participants in the Fyre Festival fiasco. How could someone do that? How could you be so naive? Why didn’t you say something? How come you didn’t blow the whistle?
The thing is, it’s easy to get sucked in. You get a charismatic enthusiastic charmer and you can get swept away with an idea that, if you stepped back and gave it some distance, or put on your thinking hat, you’d easily recognize it wasn’t so brilliant.
Like all the nonsense with that elite colleges admissions scandal.
So today’s post is a reminder to poke your head out of the morass that it’s mired in, and make sure you’re keeping things on the straight and narrow.
(You’d think we were some type of morals-and-philosophy blog, the amount of time we spend on this stuff. But honestly, in the modern era of The World is On Fire!! we feel that it’s important to be public about these, well, important things.)
So here goes:
When you fill out your MBA applications, telling the truth is important.
Seems obvious — too obvious to even have to say it. But that’s how poor decisions are made.
It’s not that we expect BSers who come to the EssaySnark blahg will be trying to bribe admissions officers or sports teams to get in.
It’s more insidious than that.
You get some idea that you need to show the adcoms that you’re a really impressive candidate so you start making up career goals that you think “sound good” — like, you want to be a some CEO at some big corporation some day.
That’s not exactly a lie, since anybody can say anything about what they want to do in the future, and who knows, maybe you legitimately are aiming high. That’s not going to keep you out of bschool if everything else lines up well and you convince the adcoms about what you’ve done in the past that sets you a part. (Most schools really don’t want such long-term and lofty visions for a career goals statement, but that’s not the main point we’re trying to make today.)
Where things can get slippery is where you get a little creative with the facts of your past.
Maybe you tried to start some type of do-gooder organization at some point. You got together with a few friends and put the basic sketch of a plan together where you would launch a non-profit to raise money for underprivileged kids to pay for their school fees. A noble cause for sure! You had the best of intentions. But after about six months there was some disagreements with your buddies, and one of them took a new job and suddenly had no free time to devote to the project any longer, and you hit some walls in trying to get started. Nobody wanted to give you more than a few bucks. It was harder than you expected. The shine of the fresh idea started to wear and it became work instead of fun, and then it languished by the wayside of your life, and suffered the slow demise of yet another abandoned initiative. It still exists for you in concept, and it was something you always intended to go back to and revive, and make real, but you know it’s not a real thing that actually went anywhere.
Yet in your MBA apps, you have a section of your resume about it with dates coming into the present day, and in an essay you talk about this NGO that you started. You kinda sorta fail to mention that it floundered and never got off the ground.
You really need to be telling the truth in your apps.
You realize that schools do background checks, right?
You don’t need to inflate your history — and it could easily backfire on you if you do.
Same deal with massaging the dates of employment to try and cover up a gap, maybe because you were laid off and are embarrassed about it. Or that you feel you don’t make enough money, so you round up (significantly). Or you’ve heard that it’s possible to make too much money and you don’t want that to keep you out of school.
You don’t need to lie to get into bschool. Really truly you don’t.
Yes the process of constructing your messaging in the applications requires some careful planning, and there’s an art to choosing what to say and definitely also how to say it. That’s part of what we mean when we say that you need to construct a pitch — it’s messaging and it’s being selective in what you share and the way you present it. (Pro Tip: This is why a) you need to plan for multiple drafts of every single essay, and b) getting the help of a qualified reviewer who knows how to pitch to a top MBA adcom is critical.)
If you’re talking to an admissions consultant who advises you to go ahead and apply to Columbia Early Decision as an “insurance policy” even if Columbia isn’t your first choice, then please consider carefully the ethics that this person is demonstrating. Just because an admissions consultant tells you it’s OK does not make it OK. Don’t leave your own morals outside the door when you enter into an agreement with any type of coach or advisor.
We believe in karma — to the extent that each and every decision you make affects you. You are the only person who has to live in your skin, inhabiting your life experience. Every time you cut corners or fudge the truth even just a little it decays your core. It takes the shine off your being. Do this often enough and you’ll end up a nasty person without even realizing how you got there. Maybe all that matters to you is your own success in whatever external way you’re defining it. But we would suggest that that’s not the recipe for true happiness in this life.
If you’ve done even two seconds of research into applying to business school, you’ve encountered the assurance from the admissions teams that they do a “holistic review” of your application. What does that even mean, and what should you do about it? You’re probably well aware that “holistic” just means “whole,” as in, they look…
Several months back we called out some top bschools with their not-so-great resume templates. But not all of them are bad. There’s one school especially that has a good resume template: Yale SOM Now, it may not look like much to you in that preview. It is pretty basic. But basic is also totally appropriate…
We know a lot of you are wrapping up your Round 1 applications – congrats!! You should feel very proud of yourself if you’ve managed to submit even a single application. Each one (as you now appreciate!) is a tremendous amount of work, and you deserve to feel good about the effort you’ve made. You’re also likely wondering how things will turn out, and we can’t offer much on that except to be prepared for a whole rollercoaster ride of emotions in the coming weeks — many people on the other side of this process say that the waiting you’re about to go through is the hardest part of all!
We know it’s tempting to chill for awhile after you click ‘submit’ on that final application, and you should feel good about doing some well-deserved slacking for a week-ish after your last app is in.
But before you do! Two new tasks that we’re going to add to your to-do list today:
1. If you didn’t already: Please go sign in to each of your school’s app systems and download the PDF or export your version of the application that you submitted. If you don’t do this now, you may forget to ever go back and retrieve it, and this is information that we hope you’ll never need!! But, in case you end up as a reapplicant, you must have your current-season’s app available to do a good job in strategizing for your repeat attempt. Or, on the opposite side of the spectrum, if you end up getting admitted, then you may want to have a record of your fabulous submission to share with a friend who’s going through it themselves later on. (Not that it’ll provide much value to anyone else. But you never know when something like that will be useful.) The app you submitted will be available to you probably all the way through May 2019, but it’s highly unlikely you’ll ever think to go back and retrieve it — and if you don’t, and end up needing it, you will be SOL forever. The schools won’t be able to access it from any archive. It’ll be gone to you forever. So, take the time, log on to each one, and file it away (place it somewhere on your drive in your permanent records that are being backed up in case your computer crashes — you do have a backup system in place already, don’t you? If not, then today’s post contains three tasks for you to take care of!!).
2. If you haven’t already: Register to vote! Regardless of where you lean politically, your vote counts! This is obviously being directed to our American readers, but anyone living in a democracy anywhere in the world needs to vote. In America, a midterm elections is coming up in November through which important federal offices will be decided that will determine either Republican or Democratic control of one or both houses of Congress — but at least as important, many state and local governments have critical contests and initiatives on the ballot this Fall as well. Here’s some insight from college students who were interviewed about the importance of voting and why it matters . If you’ve just started your first term at bschool (and you’re American) make sure to register where you live now, or find out how to vote by mail through an absentee ballot submitted in your hometown. Do this now! These things take time to process, and while the election is not until Tuesday, November 6th, most county boards require that registration happen well in advance of that date.
These are things that are in the category of “being proactive” and “taking care of stuff” and they’re never fun to do, necessarily, but doing them prevents a lot of regret later on.
And then you can go back to your Netflix bingeing again.
Hopefully when you did your tour of your target school’s online MBA application recently you paid careful attention to their policies around issuing a waiver of the application fee.
All schools offer at least one category of waiver, typically around service-based professions like military, TFA, and Peace Corps. (BTW, we do too! We have limited flexibility in doing pro bono work at this stage of the season because, like, WORKLOAD, but we definitely can set you up with some goodies if you’re a do-gooder type.) HBS was slow to embrace this for military candidates but they have recently gotten with the program, and they actually offer waivers for all full-time military regardless of citizenship, whereas other schools only offer waivers for U.S. military service. Some schools are exceptionally generous, offering discounted fees or full waivers for things like participating in their Diversity Day and other on-campus events. Duke is in this category. Yale offers a sliding scale for the fee for very low-income candidates.
These policies are too variable for us to list all of them out, so today’s post is only to exhort you to research early, and sign up soon. If you qualify for a waiver, then you’ll need to request it following the instructions in each school’s app. Some are automatic and the online application grants the waiver immediately upon you attesting to qualify for one. Others have a review process where you submit your request for the waiver and it needs to be verified first. Because all of these work differently, then you need to look into them NOW and jump through whatever hoops the respective school requires (it’s usually only a matter of submitting an official document into the app but it could be more than that).
Because of the lag time involved in requesting the waiver, and having it approved, then definitely take advantage of this option now. The schools will not issue you a refund of an application fee later on, if you failed to request it on time and you end up forced to pay the fee in order to get the application in.
Definitely don’t hold off on submitting past the application deadline, either! If you run out of time on something like this and the waiver didn’t get processed before the app is due, you’ll need to pony up the money for the fee and just live with the pain of paying when you didn’t have to. Contacting the admissions office on the day of the deadline to get the fee waived is truly ill advised; that would not be sending the right message as you’re working to put forth a strong impression!
To see some helpful comments from BSers who’ve gone before, these prior-season posts on the topic of MBA app fee waivers and app fees in general may be useful — just remember that policies can change from year to year, and always review the current information published in each school’s own online application for the applicable rules today.
Hopefully by now you’ve at least created an account in one or more of your target schools’ applications and taken a look through.
If you have not done so yet, STOP.
Click off this site.
Then go through it, page by page.
We don’t suggest actually starting to fill it out. Not yet. Instead, familiarize yourself with the full extent of what they’re asking. This is a great way to get oriented into the entire process and figure out what the schools look at. Every single datapoint that they ask about in the online application is important — else they wouldn’t ask for it! There are some fields that are optional and it’s up to you if you choose to include that data. This includes stuff like gender identity and how did you learn about this school and other non-core pieces. Typically we suggest entering every single item that they ask for, but we can appreciate that there may be situations where a certain tidbit should justifiably be omitted.
However, you’re not entering any of those tidbits at this stage, for two reasons:
1. If you start entering the data in a slapdash way the first time you’re in the system, then you are undoubtedly going to mess something up. Either you’ll enter in the data that you think is right, such as your start date at your current job, or your HR job title, or any number of things that you assume you already know. But it turns out to be wrong, and once the field is filled, it’s quite common for people to never go back and look at it again. Or, you’ll knowingly enter data that’s incomplete, just as a placeholder, and then you’ll forget to come back and fix it later on. Both of which would be real bummers if you submit your app with gaps and holes. It may sound obvious to say that but it happens all the time, so that’s why we’re trying to warn you about certain ways you can make things harder. Don’t enter your data until you’re tackling that task intentionally, with a significant chunk of time available to you to focus uninterruptedly, and to concentrate, and all the documents or reference materials you need available to enter it accurately, in one shot.
2. The purpose of the app review that we’re suggesting is not to do anything with the app. It’s to understand what the schools care about and get a tangible sense of the entirety of a “profile” in the context of MBA admissions. When schools say they do a holistic review, they mean “we look at everything you tell us” which obviously means they look at the stuff you submit in the app. When you understand what is within scope of this “holistic review” then it gives you more of a chance to optimize the entirety of your presentation. (We talk more about this whole “holistic review” thing here.)
Instead, take notes on what they’re asking for — including details. Especially if you’re a reapplicant! For example, many schools require reapplicants to submit only one recommendation, and some (e.g., Columbia) require that it be from someone new, who didn’t write for you last time. Other schools don’t care who you pick. (Pro Tip: If re-using a recommender from last year, make sure he or she knows not to re-use the recommendation!!! The letters of recommendation need to be fresh and new for a reapplication.) These details are often only revealed in the actual application.
In addition, many schools aren’t so great about keeping their websites up to date. We frequently see schools post one set of requirements on their website or use a particular phrasing in an essay prompt — or, as recently happened with Wharton, one word count for an essay (400 words for Essay 2). Then in the online app, there are subtle or not-so-subtle differences (Wharton’s essay 2 this year allows 500 words, but their website was only updated with this information last week). The online application is the final say (except in the case when it’s not! argh! such as happened with Booth earlier this season).
We’ve even seen BSers build out complicated spreadsheets tracking all of these items, though frankly, that seems like an exceptionally awesome way to totally procrastinate on doing any actual work on actual applications.
This pre-review step is also critically important for, say, the HBS essay. The Harvard essay question is basically saying, “Talk to us about stuff we didn’t ask you to talk about.” There’s many ways you can approach that, but fundamental to it is understanding what else they’re asking for, so you can get a sense of what content would be new. (We have an entire MBA admissions guide for Harvard Business School which goes into much greater detail on what to do with that challenging question, in case you want some significantly more detailed guidance!)
There are many commonalities among schools’ online applications but there’s also striking differences as well. Some are really long and involved. Some ask questions that may surprise you, or that you are unsure on what to do with. Some may require research or investigation.
We have additional tips and advice on maximizing the online application dataset in the ‘snarchive so don’t overlook those, and if you have a question on a specific school’s question on the app, hit us up in the comments, we’d be happy to offer some input on what they are asking for and how to deal with it.
If you're applying to bschool in Round 1, a great task to complete today is to go through at least one online app form in its entirety. Get familiar with what the schools are asking. It's an excellent way to get your feet wet in this daunting process!
— Essay Snark (@EssaySnark) July 29, 2018
We tweet tips like this sometimes!
The twittersnark will be more focused on essay strategies and specific school advice as we move towards Round 1.
And finally, a blatant upsell: If our comments about letters of recommendation for reapplicants got you worried about who you’re choosing and what they’re gonna say, our Letters of Recommendation App Accelerator is the perfect solution!
This isn’t an actual application weakness, but like many particulars, it does require careful handling in your application. If you work at an exceptionally small company, then it may make sense why you’ve held only one job at that firm. Smaller companies aren’t often focused on organizational structure and don’t have standard promotion schedules, but…
Going along with our post from yesterday where we alerted you to the fact that all the schools are asking really different essay questions in their MBA apps this year and the ramifications of that to your app strategy, we’ll further elaborate on some important cautions when you’re researching the schools. We had a very important WARNING! post many years back that talked about when to bother retaking the GMAT or not based on how much of an improvement you expect to be able to make. That post quoted the MBA admissions director at Yale with some scary advice.
When we saw that, we said, “!!!!!”
Dunno if he feels the same way today but he might — and to be fair, we understand where he was coming from. (Pro Tip: Read that original post we just linked to — oh hey here it is again!)
We’re offering this as an example to make a larger point.
Most certainly, the Yale director’s view about GMAT score improvement is shared with others, but it’s not a universal.
There’s an opposite school of thought among some admissions professionals where they appreciate every effort to improve, and the mere fact that you’re trying gets you some brownie points.
Our purpose today is not to discuss GMAT test strategies (you can find plenty of that in the ‘snarchive under the category of GMAT and GRE). Instead it’s to warn you to pay attention.
Because it happens every year and it’s happening again this year: Different schools have different requirements, which you probably know, but different admissions folks have way different philosophies and standards, too.
It makes sense, obviously. Everyone comes into a job with their own biases and priorities, and also every school has a different set of values and they tackle the task of evaluating candidates through different approaches.
This means that not only do you need to review carefully all the details that a school offers to you on applying, but you need to keep them straight and not assume that what applies in one place is translatable anywhere else.
So this is just a PSA for today.
Review those applications early! Read all the pages!
Keep notes! Make a spreadsheet!
Sweat the details!
Make sure you’re giving each school what they want!
Pay attention to what the admissions peeps tell you in the info sessions! But don’t think that every other school will have the same view!
As promised in our previous post on What transcripts do you need for your MBA apps, we’ll go into detail on a situation that can cause much consternation for certain BSers: What if you enrolled but you did not graduate? What if you (eek!) dropped out of a program? What if you started at law…