“The only sustainable competitive advantage is [your] ability to learn faster than the competition.”
The question we got recently about GMAT scores and LBS is actually a common one that BSers have.
Here’s one such exchange we had some years back, that seems worth talking about again. This scenario happened like this: The BSer sent us a single essay. We gave some opinions, and we asked some questions. We got more info from the BSer… and then our opinions changed.
Here’s from the BSer themself:
quick question you guys about applications in general – is everything *really* looked at on a holistic basis? I ask because obviously, in sharing only one of my essays with you fine folks, I got one response, but after framing up my profile, etc., it was a different one. I’m trying to get my head around this whole complete package thing, especially since applicants tend to focus on things within their control (essays, general online app, gmat) and it’s easy to get lost in the weeds with that stuff. I didn’t realize it at the time, but it seems like a good sign if everything comes together (i.e., your essays support what you’ve put in the online app, and your recs support the stories in the essay, etc.).
What do you guys think about the whole “holistic” notion of the process? BS or truth?
And EssaySnark sez:
NOT BS! TOTAL TRUTH! EVERYTHING COUNTS – AND THE ADCOMS NOTICE EVERYTHING!!
These adcom-peeps are TRAINED PROFESSIONALS! They’re like SPIES on a MISSION to uncover the truth! They’re SUPERHEROES: They have X-Ray Vision and they know the Secret Sauce!
What they do have is a well-honed BS-o-Meter. Like a finely-hewn sword, then can slice through your crapola in a nanosecond and see if there’s something worth seeing beneath it.
(Or they just hold their nose and go “Eww!” and shuffle your app to the bottom of the deck.)
The adcoms HAVE to look at everything in your app as a whole, because for the most part, BRAVE SUPPLICANTS SUCK at presenting themselves on paper. Now, you can’t totally suck or you won’t have a chance, but if you suck like the most of them, which is just a mediocre suck, then the adcom’s gonna take a careful look and see if they can figure out if you don’t really suck you just don’t know how to present yourself on paper that well, or if you really suck and are faking it in which case they will take a pass.
The adcoms are looking for any whiff of unethical behavior, Really Poor Judgment, and other indications of basically-he’s-not-ready-for-prime-time-let’s-pass.
They are also looking for can he cut it in bschool since bschool is haaaard and many Brave Supplicants do not realize this.
They are also looking for will this person add to our culture since CULTURE is one of the few things that differentiates one school from another.
They HAVE to look at the whole package because sometimes you get this really interesting person who’s done some cool stuff but DARNIT that GMAT score is low. (Just like we talked about the other week.)
They especially absolutely must look at the whole package because even more often you get that LOOKITME MA LOOKIT THIS GMAT SCORE!!!! dude who’s maybe got FLASH! and PANACHE! but is in all other areas not someone we wanna touch with a ten foot pole (can you say arrogant? or doesn’t play nice with others? or some other kind of steamroller and pushy and blech kind o’ dude that nobody wants around thank you very much!)
And they NO-MATTER-WHAT have to look at the whole package — especially if they’re a middle-of-the-pack really-good-school-by-anyone’s-standards-but-not-a-Harvard type school like Ross or UCLA or whatever — and they get lots of Average Joe applicants — like 710 GMAT and 3.3 GPA — and they need to see which of these dudes and dudettes is actually a GOOD GUY or CHICK* but they’ve got soooo many to look at…. It’s THOSE they possibly spend the MOST time on because they want to make SURE that they don’t pass on the next gonna-change-the-world-in-the-future person who just happens to look a little vanilla on paper today or has one flaw or two but is it critical?
EssaySnark has met a bunch of these adcom peeps, and we can say for sure, the adcoms take their jobs very seriously. They care about their school, they care about the educational mission and opportunities that an MBA can provide. They love seeing the kids that they accept come to their school and go through their program and come out the other side with amazing new jobs. They are not frivolous. By and large, they want you to succeed! So they’re gonna give you a chance. They know how difficult it is to put together a good application — which doesn’t mean they’ll cut you some slack if your essays are riddled with typos and you’ve got the name of a different school in your essay … a la “I really want to go to Columbia Business School because…” when it’s an application to NYU Stern… Uh, no. BUT!! they’re looking for winners, they’re looking for potential, they’re looking for proof that you’re gonna come to their school and make them proud — and they know that comes in myriad forms — and they know that it’s an inexact science at best.
Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus… the adcoms look at the whole enchilada. And if it’s on the EssaySnark blahg, it must be true!
*Sorry for the “chick” reference ladies but you hopefully agree that it’s better than “gal”, right?
Well, that’s a semi-misleading title. We’re not going to talk about the need to wear deodorant today. Instead we’re talking about the need to present yourself appropriately to the situation of applying to bschool.
You may need to clean up your act.
Have you Googled yourself lately?
What does your social media presence communicate?
We did a whole lotta posts recently on the idea of authenticity in your apps. If you are authentically a Grade-A #1 Jerk-O in how you interact with the world on social media, then, well, we suggest doing more than just whitewashing that history. It might be time to rethink your approach to life. But that’s outside the purview of the ‘Snark’s influence.
Along with the tactics of being a fine upstanding citizen (which is hopefully not a tactic) and showing good manners (ditto), the opportunity of applying to bschool could also be a chance for you to look at how you’re perceived by others. And, maybe, in some ways, to change.
Take this moment to do a survey of your social media accounts. If you need to check privacy settings, then do that.
While it’s true that certain individuals have made it to the upper echelons of American public life despite the fact that they are absolute a-holes, it’s unlikely that that trend will continue — and if we were you, we wouldn’t count on the adcoms being quite so gullible. If you’re showing your true colors out there on them interwebz and those colors are glaring and obnoxious and rude, then you’re not likely to have an easy time making it into one of these places.
YMMV, of course.
But now may be the time to look at the face you’re presenting. Do you retweet jokes and put-downs that might be offensive? Do you make snide comments about celebrities and politicians?
It’s fine to show personality, and to have an opinion. We’re not saying you need to scrub all traces of heated debate or evidence that you are a free thinker. You can engage with other people on the internet in ways that are respectful and courtesy, that still make your feelings known.
It’s the behavior that crosses the line into personal attacks, or that shows signs you do not see others as equals, that may strike a complete stranger (read: adcom person) as distasteful.
Rude people are admitted to bschool all the time. You’re not necessarily going to be rejected simply for being rude. If you get your jollies out of pushing other people’s buttons, or if you feel that just because you believe a certain thing in a certain way, that anyone else who has a contrary opinion is an idiot and must be denigrated in public…. If you’ve ever participated in doxxing of any kind…. These are traits that most business schools are not going to find very attractive.
Being authentic would imply that you should leave all that stuff out there.
If it’s truly who you are, then maybe you should.
But we ask you today, at this crossroads in your life: Is that the person you want to be?
What to check on social media
- First check your privacy settings. You don’t have to delete stuff from your accounts if you’re careful on what’s set to display publicly. Test it in a private browser to see what others will see.
- Look at your last year’s of posts. What’s the general theme that you see? If it’s all photos of drunken happy hours and parties — even if everyone is having a good time — what message is that sending? Being a party animal won’t get you rejected from bschool, but it may raise eyebrows if all the shots are of you doing shots with your bros.
- If you hold strong political views, have you been civil in how you have discussed them with others? It’s not necessary to change those views or pretend that you don’t hold them (heck, that sort of topic may even serve you well in an essay!!). What we’re asking you to examine is the nature and tone of the discourse. You don’t have to come across as “nice” (whatever that is) but if your interactions with others seem mean, well, that’s not a warm-fuzzy for your adcom to experience.
Are you into video games? Even very violent ones? That’s fine. You don’t have to scrub that from social media.
Are you an activist? On the left- or the right-wing? That’s fine. You don’t have to change that.
Have you called a politician an idiot? That’s fine; most people would probably use that term to describe some politician or another these days.
Have you called them a pig? Or a slut or a whore? That’s starting to be less fine. Sure, there’s such a thing as free speech and all, but those terms are not necessary to express your political opinion.
If you’ve ever used any racial or ethnic slurs, or if you have a habit of casually applying homophobic or misogynist labels on people, then that’s not going to endear you to the adcoms.
This is what we mean by “personal hygiene.” Are you making it easy for others to be around you?
Again, we will reiterate: It’s totally acceptable to have strong views. Photos of your best friend’s wedding where you got royally hammered are no problem. Post after post expressing your rabid obsession with the Oakland Raiders (gah! moving to Las Vegas?!?? how could they!) is fine. Sharing who you are with the world is, in fact, OK. You can be a gun enthusiast, or into the goth scene, or you moved to Colorado in 2014 because they (ahem) changed certain laws. Or heck, you can even collect coins, or crystals! We’re not telling you to be someone you’re not.
We’re simply calling attention to how you might be perceived, if your standards of civility have lowered in this era of uncivil society. If you have a habit of expressing your views in ways that are caustic, or very accusatory, or that get too personal, then that may not be such a positive for others to see.
And going forward, remember: Social media lives forever. Once you put it out there, the internet takes it. You lose ownership. Even deleted posts are often discoverable by a motivated googler. Think twice before posting, Brave Supplicant.
You may also be interested in:
- Applying to bschool? The Strategy of Authenticity
- No whitewashing
- Quick Tip for managing your MBA applications this year
UPDATE 6/5/17: Harvard College withdraws 10 acceptances based on comments in online chat – yes there are consequences to being a dumbsh!t online.
In a very unscientific post-Round 2 survey, we asked BSers on the blahg why they were interested in getting an MBA.
Here’s where things ended up after a week:
Clearly this is a case where the quality of the survey results is dependent on the quality of the survey. 😉 EssaySnark is not SurveySnark. The survey could’ve been designed a bit better.
We offer in contrast:
“Alumni GME” means, alumni of graduate business programs (“GME” means “Graduate Management Education” in GMAC-speak). It includes MBA grads along with Master in Management, Master of Financial Engineering, Master of Data Analytics, and all the varied and sundry other graduate programs offered by bschools around the world.
One takeaway is, EssaySnark could do a better job of designing our little surveys. 🙂
Another is, establishing clear expectations upfront, before you embark on this expensive and time-consuming endeavor, could be worthwhile.
It sounds like most people were happy with their post-degree salary — but not all of them are. If we’re reading that correctly, almost 60% of students pursued further studies in order to increase income (a number which actually sounds pretty low) — yet almost 20% of them were not satisfied with the amount of salary increase they achieved. That’s a pretty big chunk of grads being unhappy with salary, especially when you realize that it costs a lot of money to get the darned degree in the first place. Being realistic on expectations – what kind of salary can you count on coming out of school – is likely key.
If you’re an international applicant who’s working in a very different economy, then it can make you googly-eyed to consider the average salaries at places like Harvard and Stanford.
- Those are averages
- The highest salaries are usually offered for jobs in America
- Getting hired as an international worker in the U.S. has never been easy, and the outlook is especially cloudy nowadays
Just because average salary at your target school is $120k doesn’t mean that you’ll land that. You might, if you’re qualified, and if your background shows the appropriate level of skills and achievement. Just keep things in perspective.
Similarly, if you’re already making >$100k a year, then the bump-up from an MBA may not feel that extreme. If you’re in finance and looking to return to finance post-MBA, then ostensibly you’re bringing experiences and a working knowledge set that will make you a more valuable hire, and you can potentially command a higher-than-average wage at your first job after school. But those are the exceptions. To get there, you need to be exceptional. Right? Right.
It’s impossible to ascribe a monetary value to the EXPERIENCE of the MBA. It’s an enriching opportunity, being surrounded by super smart people in a fast-paced environment, where everyone is go-go-go. That alone is worth it for many, based on the personal transformation you’ll experience. You will be challenged. You will have to adapt and to grow. You’ll stumble and fall, and you’ll learn stuff. It’ll be worth it (we hope!).
If you haven’t done so already, you might want to take a little time and jot down the reasons you’ve decided FOR YOURSELF to embark on this Big Deal proposition. It’s gonna change your life.
Do you know how you want your life to change?
Being deliberate about these things, and planning for regular check-ins with yourself to make sure you’re on track with your own inner priorities, will let you make the most of it.
So there’s a school you’re really interested in. And they’re holding an MBA chat on, lessee when was it? Oh yeah. Wednesday at 9am.
“WEDNESDAY AT 9AM?!??
I’M SUPPOSED TO BE WORKING RIGHT THEN!”
Most chats unfortunately do happen during business hours, since that’s when the admissions people are available. It’s rare to see one offered on weekends or evenings, though from time to time it does happen. (Note to schools: Maybe you can offer more of these?)
Most people applying to bschool end up doing a lot of their MBA application work during work hours. We know this, based on the timing of when submissions come in to EssaySnark for review, and when people make purchases of our MBA guides and such.
Is that ethical?
When you’re at work, they are paying you to work. Not to work on something that’s going to let you escape the work and
go on vacation better yourself for the next two years.
One possible exception might be if your company has offered to sponsor you, in which case, sure. They’re on board with the whole get-an-MBA thing. They’re paying for it. It can be (slightly) more justified to be spending your working hours on the project of getting in.
The other wriggle-room area is when you’re working at a crazy-demanding job when you’re at the office for 80 hours a week and you’re tied to your cell phone the remaining hours. If you’re expected to be on-demand and available for your job nonstop including evenings and weekends, then yeah, we can see how it might be justified to spend some standard business-hours time doing MBA research.
But do keep in mind, applying to bschool is a PERSONAL project. It’s for you and you alone. Your employer should not be subsidizing those efforts. It’s not even a grey area; it’s pretty cut and dried. It’s using company resources and time on a personal thing. Different companies of course have different standards and it’s not like you’d be fired at most places in this modern era of work. But some bosses may frown on it, and some may start to get actively annoyed by it.
Does that mean you keep doing it but just hide it? When you’re on a bschool chat, have a separate browser with work stuff loaded up, and be ready to flip to it when someone walks by?
That seems kind of lame, too.
How about you formally acknowledge that you’re doing something for personal time and trade out a regular work time block for it? So, if you normally take an hour for lunch, then on the day of the school’s webinar, you use that as your “lunch” time and then work through the standard lunch hour by eating at your desk? Or you stay late an hour, to give your employer the time that you used for the webinar?
It really depends on your environment.
Participating on an MBA chat from your work computer might be no problem for some companies, but others may not like it. Having your cell phone available – and stepping outside the office for a break to do it on your own time – could be a better way to handle things.
No matter what, we do NOT suggest using your work email account to sign up for school accounts or for EssaySnark stuff. That’s just really not appropriate. Use your personal email for all of that. Work stuff should stay at work. It might seem insignificant to you, but having clear lines like this is one way to keep clean.
You may also be interested in:
If you’re thinking about applying for an MBA this year, here’s a suggestion: Set up a new email address — in gmail or whatever — that you’ll use specific to your application process. Why? This is because you’ll be registering for a lot of stuff – many business school events and newsletters and eventually applications,…
It definitely means going beyond the obvious. Nowhere is “don’t tell us what you think we want to hear” more applicable than in your MBA essays for the Stanford GSB. If we read one more Stanford essay about “what matters most is helping people” then we’re gonna scream (j/k. if that’s what you wrote we’re…