One of the most common statements that MBA admissions committees hear from applicants who have rocky academics is, “My GPA does not reflect my ability.” We have cautioned against this before as not quite the ideal. So then, what is? We’re reluctant to be too direct in making suggestions for what to say in an…
First of all, if your GMAT is low, then we don’t recommend writing an optional essay about it at all. The optional essay is meant to explain, and thereby neutralize, issues and weaknesses in your app. If your GMAT is low, there is no amount of explaining that will neutralize it. The only thing that…
We see statements like that quite a bit in optional essays about poor academic performance in college and we had thought we’d done a post explicitly discussing it, but it appears that we have not. This one on “My abilities did not match my performance” touches on it. However it deserves a post of its…
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…
A couple months ago, this came in through our HALP ME PLEEZE ESSAYSNARK!! query system:
You already gave me access to the military site. I really appreciate it. After going through quite a bit of material and consultants, I have come to realize that your site is the truth. I really don’t think there is any resource that compares. It seems like most consultants and sites offer 75% fluff and 25% substance. Your site is like 110% content, if that’s possible!!
Anyway, I am writing to see if there is any way any of your moderators / consultants / anyone can help me. I used a consultant for a number of first round apps and had very lackluster results. Ultimately I applied to HAAS, Stanford, Cambridge and MIT. I was only invited to interview at MIT and was ultimately denied acceptance.
My first take away is that I was not as qualified as I thought. Now I am completely unsure of what direction to take. The consultant I worked with had me make some pretty off the wall statements in my essays to “grab people’s attention” and I am starting to think that was a huge mistake, especially after reading essay guides of your’s like the one for Wharton which emphasizes realistic career goals. At the same time, I know that 90% of why they rejected me was probably because of my weaknesses like my low GPA.
I am wondering if there is any way someone can give me an idea if I have a chance at any of my target schools, if I was spinning my wheels and what your recommendations would be for my next apps? Round 3 this year, round 1 at the same schools again ect…?
Thanks for the consideration. I completely understand if you do not have time to read / answer this. If I don’t hear back from you ill get a 29$ consult. Thanks!
The unfortunate truth is that there’s very little we can say with this bare-minimum info. It’s all guesswork and surmising. This person is definitely qualified but this is a super competitive process, and being “qualified” is not enough.
We know this person’s test score: Decent. High enough to make it through.
We know this person’s GPA: Borderline on risky territory, but not necessarily a showstopper.
We know that there are oodles of typos in the short note that they sent over to us, and they shared the resume too which also had
at least one typo more than two typos (gah!). If their app dataset had issues like this, and especially if the essays did, then that can be a pretty big black mark. Reject-worthy? Actually, yes, in combination with the lower GPA, since it shows inattention to detail, which some adcom reviewers interpret to be a lack of caring. (Pro Tip: Learn how to write the names of the schools you’re applying to! It’s not “HAAS” – it’s “Haas”. Knowing how to say the name is a good idea, too.)
We know the schools they tried for, ‘cuz they told us, and — AHA! That gives us some possible clues.
MIT Sloan is the only of those schools listed that doesn’t place a premium on career goals. And that’s the only school where an interview invitation came through.
This BSer himself is now thinking that the career goals may have been off the mark.
So we’ll go with “career goals” being the problem. Though we’re guessing that that wasn’t the full extent of it.
When we check out the resume that was sent along, we’re seeing some interesting stuff. There’s nice potential there. Yet there are more and more military candidates trying for these schools these days, and there’s also some issues with the presentation — we were left with multiple unanswered questions after going through it. The resume is just one piece of the pie, but if the rest of the application did not proactively handle those issue areas, then that can be a real problem. Reworking your resume is one of the most strategic tasks you can take on in this process, especially for military applicants who may not have had a traditional business resume before in their lives. Presumably this BSer’s other consultant coached him on the resume but it’s still not optimized. If your MBA admissions consultant does not have explicit experience in helping military candidates through this process, then our advice is to find someone else.
If the BSer who wrote in for help is still around and still debating which schools to try for, we have the Late Seasons Targets Review. As we mentioned the other day, we also have discounted pricing on the Comprehensive Profile Review for military candidates and certain non-profit types.
Parting thoughts: If your MBA admissions consultant suggests you write stuff that you’re like, “Hmmm really, I should say that?” then our advice is don’t write it. And find another consultant. Being off-the-wall is NOT the way to get into bschool. Being authentic and specific and honest about your interests and intentions and why you want an MBA and how you’re prepared and ready to go for this big jump, by presenting actual evidence of all of that through detailed stories used in answer to the essay question, is how you get noticed.
A low(er) GPA is not an instant reject.
A cohesive pitch that does not help the adcom see why they should accept you despite the lower GPA is what will do you in.
Maybe it’s time for some celebration and a happy post, given all the challenges in the admissions world (and the political world) that many of you have been navigating lately? Here’s an email we received a few weeks back from an early-bird Brave Supplicant who is now all locked up with their MBA admit. In their own words…
I just wanted to send you the notes from my success story!
Military guy, super low GPA, applying to dream school. Totally lost, google to the rescue, hooray Essay Snark! Hours of reading later, revised application strategy then hours of writing, rewriting, editing. Paid my deposit and going to dream school next year! Woohoo!
I’ll let ES handle the application advice but for some lessons learned:
- Take the GMAT early. I started “studying” for the GMAT in December 2014. I flipped through the Official Guide and the Manhattan Prep Books and was convinced that I could easily score above a 700. I took my first diagnostic test a few months after my half-hearted attempts at studying and scored in the mid-500s. Ouch. I spent the next two months diligently reviewing core quant concepts and sentence correction and hit my target score before essays were released for the season. Having the GMAT out of the way was a major stress relief and allowed me to take a three-week break before diving into applications.
- There is no substitute for essay writing, rewriting and editing. Along the same lines, share your essays with people who know you well. Be careful about trying to incorporate all of their feedback into revisions. In the end, I totally scrapped one of my essays after my friend told me that it was totally incongruent with my personality. My rewritten essay was a total hit according to my interviewer!
- For the military applicants, connect with the Veterans Club at every school you are applying to. They are more than willing out to help out with every aspect of your application. Also, don’t be afraid to reach out to veterans working at the companies that you think you may want to target. I was able to connect with employees at each firm that I thought I might want to work at and it helped provide perspective on what to expect after the transition. It also helped tremendously during the interview when I was asked “Why XYZ?”
- For you low-GPA types, there is hope! I was accepted to my top choice with a GPA that is almost a full point below the class profile. Own your undergraduate mistakes, don’t dwell on them and offer the admissions committee evidence that you are more than just a number.
- Enjoy the process. It is a lot of work but along the way, I got to take some serious time to do some introspection and met some really awesome people. The introspection helped me define my career goals and the people I met ultimately drove my school selection.
- Finally, ES knows what they are talking about – listen to them! I scrolled through way too many of the blahg posts while procrastinating. From the short-form application questions all the way through the interview, the website has every answer that you could possibly be seeking. They won’t do the work for you but they give you all of the tools! Thank you squirrels!
Thank you so much for all of your help.
CONGRATULATIONS! Love getting these reports. For the record, this was a Brave Supplicant who navigated this mostly on their own – we did a Comprehensive Profile Review for them under our military pro bono program back in the summer, but then they took the ball and ran with it (with some of our MBA application guides and the blahg of course). We’re happy to have played a small part but this is another example of a do-it-yourselfer who did it themself, and all turned out just grand! It’s not necessary to pony up for expensive consulting services to make this thing happen. We are always available to help those who do want more hands-on guidance (often, yes, it can make a real difference in the process) but please don’t get sucked into the notion that you “must” enlist the services of a consultant to get into bschool. You’ve got proof right in front of you that it can be done under your own power. Congrats again!
YOU GOT IN!
Now what? 🙂
So many times over the past year and a half, we’ve been tempted to blahg about the person who’s become the Republican candidate for President of the United States. So many teachable moments – and some positives, too, actually! There has been debate in Snarkville about it (not nearly as heated as the debate last night!) but in Fall 2015 we decided we’d just leave it alone. We don’t want this to be a political place. You come here for snark about bschool admissions; there’s more than enough snark out there on the interwebs about all of this other nonsense. We wanted this to be a safe space (ha!) where you could enjoy living in a parallel dimension where none of that RL stuff ever invaded.
But then last week we posted a snippet of a field report from a last-year BSer that referenced a political candidate and on Friday, we were served with an opportunity that was too good to pass up.
Anyway, it’s not like we’ve never used politics or current events as fodder for the blahg before. We referenced the 2008 Democratic Primary debate between Obama and Clinton in a 2014 “Are you likeable?” post about interviewing. And we actually covered what we’re going to talk about today last year in this post about hacked emails where Sony executives made jokes in poor taste about the President.
What we got on Friday was a scandalous recording from ten years ago where this Presidential candidate said some things about women, which prompted the candidate to release a video Friday night ostensibly apologizing for what he said. (If you have not seen either or both of these videos yet, what rock have you been hiding under??? We’re not about to link to them directly, they’re easy enough to find on your own if you need to catch up.)
In the apology video, the candidate made the classic assertion:
“Anyone who knows me knows these words do not reflect who I am.”
Why on earth is EssaySnark going to such pains to lay all of this out for you?
It’s because it’s the most common assertion in the world and it pretty much always is bogus.
When you say to the adcom, “My grades in college do not reflect my abilities.”
Or when you say, “My GMAT score does not…”
Well guess what?
These things DO reflect. In fact, by the very nature of them – words, behavior, test scores, GPA – that’s EXACTLY what they do.
The only thing we have to evaluate our fellow human being and to see what they’re made of is the things that they do and the things that they say.
That is ESPECIALLY true in your MBA applications.
Your academic record is a sum total of all of your abilities – or if not your abilities, your willingness to put forth the effort.
The words a person speaks come from their thoughts. Nobody will ever say something that does not originate in their mind. If you’re claiming that your mind is not a reflection of who you are, well, sorry but that does not fly.
Same with this classic (and useless) excuse about academic performance or results of a standardized test.
When you trot out this “does not reflect” line, you’re basically insulting your audience. You’re saying, “Look, this happened, OK? Much as I’d like to pretend that it didn’t, and have tried to hide it, now that it’s out in the open and part of the record, I guess I need to deal with it. But you shouldn’t judge me on it. Why not? Because I say so.”
If you find yourself in a situation that you need to explain something negative from your profile to the adcom in your MBA applications, then…
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THAT is how you handle a difficult situation from your past. THAT is how you neutralize a negative in your profile – or even, best case scenario, turn it into a positive. THAT is how you avoid insulting your adcom reader’s intelligence with the fallback and totally transparent and empty claim that everyone says when they’re busted with something that they shouldn’t have done, but they did.
To bring this around to a positive and mention the original reason for the Snarkville debate on whether or not to reference this man on the blahg: Everyone by now has heard him speak. What struck us even a year ago and continues to this day is his speaking style. He speaks in short, declarative sentences using simple language and structure. Most of his sentences are of the basic form: subject -> verb -> object. (Usually with some big adjectives and adverbs thrown in.) This style has been evaluated as speaking at a third-grader’s level , or by others in a more rigid analysis, a sixth-grader , which to some sounds like a criticism, but it’s actually a technique that invites clarity.
We are not about to suggest that anyone model their MBA essays on this person’s style – but we will say that writing more simply is usually an advantage in your applications. (We will leave the question of the content of this person’s speech for you to evaluate.)