OMG it’s Halloween! And today’s post will indeed be scary. We’ve been focusing all week on how Round 1 might go for you and what you should be thinking about in terms of whether Round 2 is going to be necessary or not, and we’ve covered a lot of territory, with a lot…
If you didn’t bother to go through our wonky decision tree yesterday, then we’ll offer a recap for you now (we can’t call it a tl;dr since all of our posts are tl, even the summary stuff, but you knew that already). This is for those of you in that special pocket of h3ll called…
It’s the end of October. How on earth did that happen??
It’s also the midpoint of the Round 1 application cycle. Again, how on earth??!? Time has this way of slipping by. It seems like just yesterday you were pulling your hair out over essay revisions and banging your head against the table after getting essays critiqued by the ‘Snark. And now here you are, with actual interviews happening!
Or, err, wait. Maybe not?
Here’s a mini decision tree for what you need to be thinking about right now:
Q1: Did you put in between 3 and 6 apps for Round 1?
If YES jump to Q4.
If NO continue.
Q2: Did you put in 0 apps?
If YES jump to UH-OH.
If NO continue.
Q3: Did you put in 7 or more apps?
If YES we are scared 🙁 because most people who submit that many apps don’t actually have a solid strategy and outcomes tend to be poor, but hopefully you’ll be the exception!! Continue.
If NO, it sounds like you put in 1 or 2 apps for Round 1. We’re probably nervous for you, too, but it depends on which schools, your profile, and how you pitched them. Continue.
Q4: Have you already gotten at least 1 interview invitation?
If NO jump to Q7.
If YES, AWESOME! then continue.
Q5: Have you already gotten an admit??
If YES, that’s very exciting! You must’ve applied to someplace like Columbia, Darden, Duke, or INSEAD. Jump to YAY!!
If NO continue.
Q6: Have you already gotten rejected??
If YES then if our fancy schmancy decision tree is correct, you were interviewed at a by-invitation school which has then rejected you post-interview…. and that means an intervention is necessary unless you also have other by-invitation interviews happening for Round 1. We suggest going for the Post-Mortem Review to find out what went sideways for you on the school (probably Columbia) where you got so far… and didn’t make it. Remember, each school’s decision is an independent event, but still, when you get that close and then it goes negative, there’s always something to be learned and then those learnings applied to course-correct from the strategy that had been attempted. For now, continue to Q7, answering the remaining questions in terms of still-active apps (not total apps submitted at the beginning of the round).
Q7: Were at least half your apps to schools OTHER THAN H/S/W?
If NO go to UH-OH.
If YES continue.
Q8: Were at least 2 of your apps to schools OTHER THAN Tuck or Kellogg?
If NO jump to UH-OH.
If YES: Answer the remaining questions ONLY for your active apps that are NOT Tuck, Kellogg, Harvard, Stanford and Wharton.
Q9: Were at least 2 of your apps submitted to schools with deadlines in October?
If YES it’s too early to worry. It sounds like you submitted to schools like NYU or Cornell or Columbia, with October deadlines. Maybe you’re just dealing with a slow-moving school that hasn’t managed to issue invites for your region/industry/however-they-have-divided-things-up-this-year. It takes awhile for the adcoms to get through all of the apps. In past years, we’ve often seen Early Decision candidates to Columbia not get the interview invite until November if they submitted right at the deadline — and they were still admitted even though the invitation seemed to come late. There’s lots of apps to review! Timelines varies by school.
If YES but you’ve been following your school’s policies and know that they’ve already issued all their interviews, as schools like Ross already have, then this does not bode well. Jump to UH-OH.
If NO and you have not yet gotten the interview invite for Round 1 apps submitted in September to non-H/S/W schools, then go read this and start thinking about Round 2. It’s not that you have no chances remaining or that you’re screwed if none of your apps have turned into an interview yet. It’s just that (provided the logic in our decision tree is sound) your Rd 1 chances are starting to look like they’re minimizing. Maybe the essays just weren’t there; maybe there was indeed more competition from your pool. Unfortunately, we have to say to you also: Jump to UH-OH.
Q10: Have you been praying sufficiently?
We’re not saying that prayer is the way to get in… but you never know, right?
Looks like it’s time to start Round 2 applications!!!!
This is “Uh-Oh!” because either a) you didn’t submit anywhere yet, so the entirety of your essay-writing skills development and all the figuring out about how to present yourself needs to happen in one black-box cycle with no opportunity to learn from mistakes (for example: not getting an interview from a school that should be in range for you is massively valuable input!!!!). OR: b) because you’re in that latter category of at least having gone through the essay-writing process a few times but based on the realities of your current application status, we have reason to suspect that perhaps something was off, and if we’re right about that, then you kinda sorta probably need to think about starting over. But at least you have a leg up on the category (a) people, in that you tried one approach and now you know it wasn’t on target!
In both cases, there will be many groans involved as you face the reality of having to do all this work. You might even reject this completely and go back to the top of our decision tree to see where we’re wrong! (And we might be!)
If you come around to the same conclusions as we have, though, it’ll put you in a strong position — especially the (b) people. The (b) people are at a big advantage because they’ve been to this rodeo before. That whole experience thing truly is valuable.
Very often, the reason the (a) people are in this boat, of having Round 2 apps be their first, is because they couldn’t overcome the dread of how to do this massive project. Procrastination is real. Now you are facing a drop-dead date — at least, if you’re going to apply this year. (Because you know that Round 3 is not your savior.)
While things are looking very good for you, you don’t want to assume too much. It’s not over till it’s over! Our advice: Have a list of at least 3 Round 2 targets lined up, that are in the same peer group as the school(s) you’re interviewing at — and if you’re bound and determined to be sitting in an MBA classroom starting in the Fall, then add one more to the list that you really like but maybe not totally love (that’s in range for your profile). Take a casual look at essay questions. Make sure you understand their interview requirements and policies. Maybe even start in on some outlines for one of their essays. You’ll know in mid-December for sure if you have the daunting task of Round 2 ahead of you, but most schools don’t release decisions until right before the holidays, and it’s a real bummer to have to scramble and get ready for January deadlines if you’re starting at that point from zero. So put in the work NOW — while you’re doing interview prep and have your application content still fresh. At least lay out an informal architecture for what you will have to do then. If it doesn’t pan out, you do NOT want to be starting with nothing except the failed apps from Round 1. It’ll be MUCH (much much much) easier to do this work today than to re-motivate yourself and dig yourself out of the emotional dumpster to do it if you end up having to in December. Right now you’re still motivated and optimistic. Putting in the foundation when you’re feeling crappy is a task from the d3vil. Even though it’s not something you will want to do now, and we’re certain you’ll do it in only a half-a##ed and mediocre way, having at least a mediocre head start in December will be way better than having nothing done at that point.
You can’t bring out the champagne for admissions celebrations until the admit actually happens, and the curse of the calendar means that you’ll learn your fate one way or another at a supremely inconvenient time of the year. You think it was tough to put together apps when everyone else was doing Labor Day barbeques and beach parties? Just wait till you discover how hard it is to do so in December when the entire planet is in holiday-mode and family and travel are taking up all of your time.
Anyway, our main caution is, don’t get out the champagne glasses just yet. It’s not over till it’s over. Unless you have an admit in hand — for a school you actually want to go to (don’t get us started on the phenomenon of applicants applying and then saying, “Meh, don’t wanna go there”) — then you need to stay in Application Mode all the way through. Don’t cut out early. It’s way easier to keep going with your intent and focus and motivation, then to let it all slack away with the beer and the Doritoes and have to start all over at the beginning again.
And we hope we’re wrong!! We hope our overly cautious and conservative cautionings end up all being for naught. You’ll write us and let us know, won’t you?
OMG YES YOU DID IT YAY AND CONFETTI!!!
Not much more can be said for you! Right? You’re all in that delicious afterglow of success. You do indeed get to break out the champagne! You deserve it!! (Though please check back again tomorrow — POSTED HERE! — as we have a few more words to be said in your case specifically.)
There are likely bugs in this logic where certain BSers will get halfway through and go, “Huh?? EssaySnark, your tree is whacked.” If that happens to you, we’d love to get the details on your Round 1 strategy and your progress to date!! You can either update your School Targets in My SnarkCenter and we’ll reply to you privately (and update the chart) or if you want to share it here on this post you can leave a comment and we’ll respond publicly (and update the chart).
We’re getting a lot of questions from Brave Supplicants on which business schools they should be targeting and in which round — it’s super important to be looking at your applications with this full-season perspective! The “apply in Round 1!!” advice that we harp on over and over on this site is still mostly applicable…
Now that Columbia has officially released its 2018 MBA essays and application, and the essay questions are, as usual, focusing on career goals and “why Columbia?” with the second one asking about being at the center…. So given the focus on an “early” application that we often see at this time, we wanted to dig…
We’re reblahgging this from the ancient past because the underlying idea we’re talking about here is kind of fascinating. And, we know many of you are kicking the tires on consultants! We have quite a few more posts in the category of the admissions consulting industry if you want to learn more on our perspectives on our peers and value on offer. We’ve had to issue a few warnings… errr, more than a few, actually (sigh).
Please take a moment and read through this:
It is axiomatic that outcomes will revert to the mean in a system that combines skill and luck. An extremely favorable or unfavorable single outcome is going to be followed by an outcome that has an expected value closer to the average of all results. If a system reverts quickly to the mean, you know that it has lots of luck. If a system is slow to revert to the mean, you know that a good amount of skill is contributing to the outcomes.
Read it again. (It’s academically-written, thus a little dense. But, if you’re interested in bschool, you need to get used to this type of writing!)
Here’s EssaySnark’s gross interpretation:
Endeavors that involve skill and luck, like playing poker, or getting a new job, or applying to bschool, where outcomes are independent of each other — like each hand in a poker tournament, or each decision by each bschool — can be said to involve either mostly luck, or mostly skill, based on how many outcomes are close to the average (mean).
In bschool admissions, the “average” outcome is to be rejected. Most people applying to most schools are rejected.
If in your attempts to gain admission (your “system”), of your, say, five applications, you get one interview invitation and one offer and the rest of your apps are rejected, you were lucky on that one offer. If you were more skilled in writing your apps, there would have been more variability in outcomes.
Conversely, if in your five applications, you get five interviews, leading to two offers, two waitlists, and one rejection, you can know that it was more skill in play for you.
The big problem with bschool admissions is that in many cases, you won’t know the results of your efforts until it’s too late to adjust course for subsequent attempts. In other words, you may not get the “reject” outcomes until you’ve already submitted all your applications.
This is one reason that it’s very wise to submit some applications in Round 1. Not only because you have a better chance of being admitted (we’ve covered this umpteen times before). But because you can rework your strategy and IMPROVE YOUR CHANCES with subsequent schools in Round 2 if your first applications don’t pan out.
The other important angle to consider? How much “skill” do you have in writing an application to bschool??? Do you have confidence in your ability to:
a) assess your profile against what the schools really care about
b) know what personal attributes are most important to highlight
c) understand which weaknesses are important to explain or offset
d) choose the right stories to tell to maximize those strengths and counter those weaknesses
e) choose the right details in each story to highlight
f) write it all up in a way that’s impactful without being nauseating
These are all areas that a (good) MBA admissions consultant will help you with. Beyond simply advising you on which schools to target in the first place.
A (good) MBA admissions consultant (should be able to) increase the SKILL at your disposal that will “contribute to the outcomes.”
This is not cheating. This is using a trusted advisor who is expert in the nuances and practicalities of a specialized process. Just like getting advice from a lawyer or an accountant, an admissions consultant can change the equation from mostly one of luck (odds are you will lose) to one of skill (you’ll put your best foot forward in the best way possible).
A (good) MBA admissions consultant will pay for him/herself many times over, by helping you maximize your chances for success.
(Caveat emptor of course — there’s a lot of “not-good” ones floating around the interwebs to fall victim to, and a “not-good” admissions consultant may do more harm than going it alone. So it’s tricky.)
Want to read (and re-read) that academic article on skill vs luck? It’s from a Columbia professor and it’s available here.
Also, we have at least one or two other posts on skill vs luck.
Well this is a welcome change! We’ve been harping on the uselessness of Round 3 here on the blahg basically since its inception and now Harvard Business School has acknowledged the reality that Round 3 is not really helping. It’s definitely one of the most applicant-unfriendly things around — heck, we even took the former admissions team at Harvard to task for their very mixed messages about it in the past.
The only one who benefits from Round 3 is the admissions teams who can report to their deans that their app volumes were higher because they encouraged hapless BSers to apply late in the season even when the adcom knows there’s no room.
Because let’s think about it:
If a school has ANY applicant on its waitlist, why on earth would they be encouraging MORE applicants to apply??
It’s like if you’re engaged to someone who you’ve decided is A-OK in your book…. and yet you’re still active on Tinder.
Just doesn’t seem right.
Some schools like Duke don’t even want international applicants to try in Round 3 due to stress and possible delay from the visa process.
And on-campus housing is often quite scarce. And some schools have far less scholarship money there at the end of the season. So even if you got in, there were challenges and major disadvantages (though that wasn’t the case with HBS who always has spare money available for granting scholarships when they want).
Not to mention the fact that someone who tries in Round 3 sets themselves up at a significant disadvantage when they’re rejected — which most Round 3 candidates are — and then they have to pull everything together into a brand-new but not-new reapp in just a few months.
So this is a good thing. As we said yesterday:
Finally! A top #bschool ditches Round 3. Thank you @HarvardHBS! Hardly anyone ever got in during that last round and it just raised applicants' hopes unnecessarily. Let's see if other schools will be brave enough to follow. https://t.co/fxzznxKx3B
— Essay Snark (@EssaySnark) May 15, 2018
Will other schools turn this into a trend?
We’re betting that most of them won’t, for that reason we just stated above. Heck, MIT Sloan only recently added a Round 3 when they hadn’t originally had one. They’d been a two-round program for ages, and then switched like two seasons ago.
Admissions directors are rewarded for having more apps come in every year. Harvard and Stanford and maybe Wharton are the only schools that have the abundance of app riches, that would allow them to entertain something this drastic (and we really don’t see Wharton ditching their last round). For other schools, dunno. There’s quite a bit riding on things like applicant volumes.
Harvard has long been a trend-setter among bschools. They can afford to be.
Some other schools in the past have taken risks with their applications (notably UCLA many seasons ago, when they asked for an audio essay) and have seen app volumes decrease. Who knows if it was a direct cause-and-effect relationship but common wisdom in the admissions office that year was that it was. Making big changes can be dangerous to a school that’s not comfortably ensconced in the lead.
The only known outcome of ditching their Round 3 is that guaranteed, the school’s numbers will go down.
Harvard of course is still maintaining its Round 3 but only for a special category of applicants, those who are currently in college and want to try for their 2+2 program. So it’s not like they’re getting rid of it entirely.
But this is one of the applicant-friendliest moves that we’ve seen come out of a top school in awhile.
Also recently, Tuck’s new-ish admissions director made a big deal about how they’re standardizing their rounds which is also helpful in terms of reducing some confusion, but unfortunately they also decided to take away a mid-season round that many applicants valued, so unfortunately that change didn’t really tilt in all of your favor. Would much prefer to see three rounds, one in September, one in November, one in January!!!! And preferably not the very first week of January! But alas, does anyone listen to the ‘Snark???
We had predicted that HBS would be making more substantive changes to its essay question this year which has not happened, but turns out they are in fact making a very significant change overall.
Now, if only Chad Losee could find a way to do something about THIS! The major problem with the way Harvard handles its MBA admissions
It truly sucks to be stuck on the waitlist, especially if you were placed there in Round 1. Why does it suck? Well obviously because it’s a total limbo state, where you have no idea if it’s going to work out and you should be planning a move to a new city / country, or if it’s just going to wither on the vine and die and you’ll be left with nothing in another few weeks or a month.
But what sucks the worst of all is being on the waitlist and watching the school advertise its Round 3 deadline so loudly.
Because c’mon, if you were good enough to have them want to keep you hanging around, why can’t they just accept you? Why do they have to keep encouraging new whippersnappers to apply?
It’s discouraging for sure. It’s like they’re saying, “Yeah, we like you, but what if someone else comes along who we like better?”
This is one reason why the Round 3 thing just feels so unfriendly for applicants. We get it, the schools want to offer one more chance, especially since there’s a really big difference between who you are in November or December, and who you are in March or April.
Reflect back on that: Now that it’s Spring, do you feel like the same person you were when you were putting your app together in the Winter?
For many people, applying to bschool is something they’ve worked on for well over a year. That’s almost definitely true for those who try in Round 1, including those who got waitlisted then. But for many last-round applicants who are putting an app in right now, they may have only recently decided to apply, and crammed for the GMAT a few weeks ago. Some people decide to go for an MBA as part of a New Year’s re-examination and goal-setting process. They’re reasonably fresh to all of this stress and chaos that MBA apps present.
If you applied in Round 1 last Fall, or Round 2 in January, you’ve been stressing and chaosing for quite some time now — especially if you’re still on the waitlist.
It hardly seems fair for the top schools to essentially be placing preference on those who’ve stressed and chaosed for far less time than you.
It’s like you’re in a relationship for awhile, long enough to be talking about whether maybe the two of you should get married, and you’re even starting to shop for the ring. And then all of a sudden, this significant other in your life who you thought you might be ready to commit to asks if it’s OK to see other people. You’re like, “Huh?? I thought I was good enough! I thought you thought we had a thing!”
OK that analogy doesn’t fully hold, but still.
It feels like a kinder thing to do would be for the schools to clear the waitlist before they accept any apps in Round 3.
Or maybe not, if that means that someone is rejected when, who knows, maybe they would’ve gotten in if they stuck around longer.
It’s hard to say what’s best in these cases. We do know it feels mighty unfair to watch the schools be so encouraging to everyone to “Yes you should totally apply in Round 3!!” when we know there are very strong well-qualified candidates hanging out in their limbo state still.
If you have signed up for any of the business schools’ contact lists and have not yet submitted this season, or if you’re following them on Facebook or attending any admissions events, you likely have been inundated with enthusiastic messages encouraging you to pull the trigger on a Round 3 application. There are a number…
We don’t offer this advice lightly, because we know it’s discouraging and not what many people want to hear. And, it’s very possible that we’re wrong, or your situation truly is different! You don’t have to listen to some old ‘Snark out there on the internet. You just need to make sure you’re going into…