We know you know what we think about using Columbia Early Decision as an insurance policy. If Columbia is not your first choice school, then don’t apply Early Decision. If you’re also applying to schools like Harvard and Stanford and Wharton, then it’s borderline unethical to also try for Columbia ED since you’re clearly focused…
Some of you may have guessed what we were alluding to in yesterday’s “What’s wrong with this picture?” post, but if not, here you go.
That person sounded like they were definitely headed to Booth, right? Based on how they related the results? Did you examine where else they applied and what their outcomes were?
You may have noticed the admit to the Columbia J-Term, and wondered if we were going to comment on that. Nope, that’s not the issue. The J-Term is not binding. The potential wrinkle is that this person also applied to Duke.
The results didn’t say, but Duke has a Round 1, and an Early Action. Early Action at Duke is like Early Decision at Columbia: They are both binding.
It’s totally possible that this applicant applied in Duke Round 1 with no strings attached. But just in case there are some people considering Duke EA along with their other schools in Round 1, or Columbia ED, we’d like to talk through the options you’re looking at.
We already posted about Columbia Early Decision at the end of June, so none of this is news. We spoke there about how it’s a binding process — but we know that this seemingly obvious stance on how to navigate decisions in life is not universally shared. There are many MBA admissions consultants out there who apparently have no qualms about advising their clients to act unethically. It’s not something we will ever be able to understand. 😕
From a purely practical level though, the advice is flawed from its foundation. The idea is this: Try for Columbia Early Decision. If you get in, then that means you have a chance at a better school, because clearly you did something right!
But actually, no.
Columbia Early Decision tends to be easier to get in through – marginally so, at least, and dependent upon many factors.
So the logic being proposed is: “I’m going to try clearing an easier bar, and that means I’ll have success at the harder one!”
It’s like saying you are going to send your resume out for jobs at the Manager level, and if you get a job offer, then you’ll accept that offer, and then immediately send your resume out for jobs at the Director level, to see what happens.
These are different playing fields entirely.
Maybe the issue is, you’re thinking about it a little bit off. Maybe you’re thinking of it like running.
You run a 5K as preparation for the marathon.
Does that analogy hold?
Well, kinda. If your goal with trying for Columbia first is to learn what’s required to put a good application together, then sure. Applying to Columbia and getting accepted means you did a good job on that.
But these two separate goals — getting into Columbia, versus getting into Harvard or Stanford — they require optimization on different dimensions.
What Columbia cares about in its applicants is really not the same as what Harvard or Stanford care about.
Sure, there are overlaps.
But making it to the end of a 5k isn’t that big of a deal. Heck, OutOfShapeSnark can do it.
Making it to the end of a marathon is a whole ‘nother beast.
They’d be scooping this ‘Snark up off the course at sundown if it were us that were trying it.
The execution of a 5k and a marathon are really quite different.
If you want to get into Harvard or Stanford or wherever, then apply to Harvard or Stanford. Getting into Columbia first does not say anything about whether those other schools will work out. It just says you got into Columbia.
While we understand the thinking with this strategy, to try for Columbia ED and then use that to determine trying for other schools, and while yes, we know people do it all the time, that does not make it right.
Just because other people do it does not mean it’s okay. Do you want to be like other people?
Here’s the real problem with the Columbia/Duke “early” app as a planned first step and a H/S/W/whomever later app in the works (in case our point has escaped you):
Columbia Early Decision is binding.
You would be giving your COMMITMENT to Columbia by applying through their Early Decision process.
Your commitment is your word. It’s about honor. It’s not about the money that you would forfeit by paying a deposit and walking away from it if another school lets you in. It’s about following through on a promise that you make. You can examine the text in the Columbia application and reflect on what you would be promising to them. It may feel trivial, but in our perspective, decisions on every level matter in life.
We have many posts about this:
- “I’ll just apply to Columbia Early Decision as an insurance policy” (because obviously you’re not the first person to be thinking this way)
- Renegging on an Early Decision offer
There are actually more posts than that, in case you’re really into hearing us lecture, but those capture the gist of it.
Ethics are what let us live a noble life, one of honor and character. That’s what EssaySnark stands for, and we are always so inspired to work with others who share those values.
Oh hey wait.
Where have we heard that word before???
Oh that’s right. It’s what so many schools are saying they care about now.
And, the best part is: You don’t need to cheat in order to get in to Columbia!
If you have a solid profile, you’re going to have just as much shot at getting in through Regular Decision, if you apply at the right time and you present yourself effectively. Early Decision has been an advantage more so in highly competitive seasons. Which this season is unlikely to be (at least, not at that level). There is strategy involved, yes. There is execution required, yes. (Shameless plug: We go into all of this in our Columbia Essay Guide!!)
What could be a “weakness” for Harvard or Stanford is not even going to be noticed at Columbia — provided your essays are really strong, of course! Columbia cares a lot about the essays; the essays are very important there, regardless of which round.
This means that there isn’t much logic to the plan of trying for Columbia before trying for the others. That’s a common fallacy of a “trade-up strategy” and we just don’t see it work out that often. Admissions to each school is an independent event; the only reason that there is correlation between admits to multiple schools is based on underlying attributes in a profile, but the execution of each of those apps needs to be quite different in almost every case – and that’s ESPECIALLY true for the presentation of material for Harvard and Stanford compared to Columbia.
Someone who’s admitted to Harvard or Stanford, also being admitted to Columbia and MIT? Yes, absolutely, that’s going to happen all the time.
Someone admitted to Columbia or MIT also having a solid chance at Harvard and Stanford? No, sorry. Doesn’t work that way. Correlations fall apart when you move that direction.
Oh hey look! We cover this in multiple posts, too!
- The typical futility of aiming higher
- You got in somewhere good. Should you now try for somewhere better?
- Round 1 and your favorite school
There have been several years in a row now where admissions was all whack. The adcoms didn’t know what to expect in terms of numbers of applications, and how many would matriculate. This year is likely to have some uncertainty associated with it, but unless there’s a major shock to the economy, we do not expect it to be anything like what’s been seen previously. In other words: It looks like things are more stable. Predictable. If you want to play a risky strategy and try “trading up” then there’s no harm in trying — but having a sound Round 1 strategy in place first is really important. That’s the conservative way to do it.
Try for your most important schools early. Then if they don’t pan out, figure out why, and go at it again in Round 2 with that learning under your belt.
If you’d truly be thrilled with an admit to Columbia and wouldn’t be tempted by other schools later, then go for Columbia Early Decision. If you cannot commit to them upfront, then don’t.
It’s not necessary, and every time we compromise our values, a little shadow darkens our souls.
The other takeaway message from that results post from yesterday: This is a GREAT TIME to be reapplying to bschool! With a forecast of a softer season ahead — especially if you’re trying in Round 1 — it could totally turn into a set of happy results like this other BSer racked up. Congrats to him from last year! Maybe you’ll be in a similar wonderful (difficult!) position of having to choose between great programs in a few months.
We’re reblahgging this from the ‘snarchives since it’s an important topic!! You can see some comments below from BSers who’ve gone before, asking about their own strategies — feel free to post your own such questions too if you have them! Should you apply Early Action? (Note: Not to be confused with MIT Sloan’s…
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…
Well-meaning or not, a BSer we worked with this past season ended up executing on an application strategy decision that, had we known about it, we would’ve advised against. This person used our help to apply to a bunch of top-tier Round 1 schools. They did a good job on those essays. Apparently somewhere along…
Reblahgging this from 2010… since some people didn’t get the memo about “binding.” Apparently, there’s lots of people who didn’t carefully consider the big picture when they pulled the trigger on an Early Decision/Action application to Columbia or Duke or whomever. Because as you now know, those are “binding” apps, meaning that by…
The “early action” concept is much more common in undergrad admissions in the U.S. Among top business schools, only a small handful have such a thing for MBA admissions. They are: Columbia Early Decision – binding Duke Early Action – binding Tuck Early Action – not binding UNC Early Action – sort of binding? Tuck…
Back in February, we did a little series on the blahg about ethics, and when compiling some examples of real-life ethics and challenging situations, we of course thought of the many ethical issues involved in applying to business school.
We know that none of you would ever think of copping someone else’s essays as your own. We don’t write essays for applicants, and we’re sure that none of you would ever seek out the assistance of some type of “consultant” or essay-writing service that does. So we’ll skip that, as not needing to be discussed.
The obvious one is lying on your application.
Our categorical advice is, don’t do it.
It’s not worth it.
It doesn’t matter if you know someone who lied and got in. We’re talking about YOUR integrity.
If you encounter an admissions consultant who suggests that you bend the truth, then we suggest, run. Fast. Why would you trust possibly the most important opportunity of your next 10 years to someone who plays so loosey-goosey with honesty?
There are plenty of grey areas to wander through in developing your application. What is misrepresenting? What is spin, versus appropriate levels of self-promotion? What’s marketing and positioning when it comes to presenting yourself on the page? We admit, these can sometimes blur together. But you will KNOW if what you are writing is not true. You will KNOW it. Don’t let your ambition (or fear) override your good sense. When you get that squirmy feeling inside as you’re typing away on an essay or editing that resume, listen to it.
Another landmine lurking for many BSers are the letters of recommendation. Your boss asks you to write it, and she’ll send it in. Nope. That’s a no-go, too. Writing your own recommendations is unethical. Full stop, end of sentence. You can’t do that and submit an honest application.
There’s one more area of MBA applications where it’s easy to justify some questionable decision-making – call it an EssaySnark pet peeve (yeah, we admit, there’s more than one of those) – which we’ll cover in detail tomorrow.
Columbia does things differently. For one, as you may have noticed, they open their application earlier than a lot of their peer schools. Because of the unique processes and options, between the Columbia Early Decision and the J-Term Accelerated MBA, and how all of their admissions is rolling, it can be a little confusing. So…
In no particular order, some words of warning for those of you starting to consider engaging the services of an MBA admissions consultant this season. Be careful of: A consultant who tells you to make stuff up for your resume. We hear of this all too often and it gives us the heebie jeebies. Talk…