With the proliferation of specialized master’s and new application options, more and more bschool applicants are being enticed to expand their horizons and try for simultaneous degrees. There have long been available certain specialized combinations that were geared towards specific industries or tracks, including the MBA / MPH (Master’s in Public Health) or the MBA…
We spoke recently about the Personal Statement as part of an application to many (non-MBA) master’s programs, and voila! A Brave Supplicant has surfaced with a draft they want to be snarked up. This is for one of the Master of Science programs at the London School of Economics (good school!), in this case their…
We got this super exciting update from a Round 1 BSer who’d been waitlisted at a Very Good School, and we just had to share it with you (with permission, of course). Enjoy and be inspired!
I know I have been radio silent for the past few months, but I did want to touch base to give you an update. Just a refresher on who I am – I used your waitlist assist service in the fall after I got Further-Consideration-ed at HBS. I am a former management consultant and currently work as a [career in education, exact details redacted for privacy]. I had originally applied to the Harvard MBA/MPP joint degree program, so I applied to both HBS (R1) and HKS, and I had planned to apply to MIT Sloan in round 2.
First of all, your feedback – though hard to hear at times – was very helpful. I used your feedback on my resume to totally re-work my resume for the HKS app, and I used your comments on my essay to similarly improve the level of detail I gave in my HKS essays. I guess I am probably not the best judge of my own work, but I did feel that both my resume and essays were stronger for HKS in terms of detail about me and my accomplishments.
Second, the status update: In the end, I was not invited to interview (as you predicted). I was, however, admitted to HKS. After going through the application process, though, I began to re-evaluate my choice to apply to business school at this stage of my career and my choice to narrow my options to HBS and MIT (which, granted, was largely driven by location). I realized that 1) I am fairly young, so I don’t need to rush to business school right now – I could decide to apply again in two years, and I wouldn’t be too old to be admitted; 2) I had my heart set on HBS because my colleagues all went there and many of my peers attend, and if I’m being honest I was enamored by prestige, etc., but there are actually several schools I did not strongly consider that I think could be a better fit, such as Yale SOM and Berkeley Haas, and 3) going to business school certainly could help my career in education, but having classroom teaching experience is also something that I’ve seen can massively bolster the credibility of leaders in education, and that is something I’ve long considered doing.
As a result of this thought process, in the end I decided not to apply to MIT or to attend HKS. Instead, I applied (and was accepted to) Teach for America. I’ll now teach in a public school for at least 2 years starting in the Fall, after which I may still apply to business school.
All of this may seem a bit random, but I am very excited about the path that I am taking, and the HBS rejection might have turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Again, I appreciate your candid feedback, which I think was definitely crucial to the strength of my application to HKS (and for the resume I submitted to TFA). Look out for me again in 2-3 years!
See? Toldja it was inspiring! We say it all the time and stories like this are proof: The MBA is not the be-all / end-all. There are lots of ways to get where you want to go. Sometimes it takes getting rejected (or even sometimes, getting accepted!) before your next steps become clear to you and you see what the right decision is.
Good luck to this BSer! We do hope that we hear from them again in a few years’ time — provided that the MBA is in fact the best next step for them then.
Most Brave Supplicants wandering around on the blahg are planning to apply to business school for an MBA. However, we’re an all-purpose ‘Snark and we’ve had plenty of experience helping BSers trying for admission to all sorts of other types of graduate programs, including the JD/MBA, Master’s in Management, Master’s in Real Estate, Master’s of Labor Relations, Doctorate in Accounting, and on and on. Pretty much every competitive admissions process requires some type of written component to the application. The term “essay” is commonly used for MBA admissions. If you’re trying for some other type of master’s program, you may have encountered other strange beasts among the application requirements, including the Personal Statement, and the Statement of Purpose.
“What in heck?” you may ask.
“What are all these things and how will I sort out a strategy?”
It may seem intimidating at first, particularly when “Personal Statement” is so vague and undefined, and “Statement of Purpose” sounds so, well, meaningful. You may feel like you don’t really HAVE a purpose in life, which is the whole driving force behind your interest in going back to school. You may be at a point where you’re hoping that school, and more education, and the structured surroundings of academia will give you a purpose. How on Earth are you supposed to write a Statement of Purpose for your graduate application when you’re casting about aimless and wandering in life?
Never fear, Brave Supplicant – the ‘Snark is here! And we can tell you straightaway, these application torture devices are not that difficult to write.
Or at least, no more difficult to write than any other MBA essay – and certainly far far easier than grappling with the crazy questions like Stanford’s “What matters most” or Harvard’s open-ended “What should we know about you” MBA prompts.
Before we go any further, a quick disclaimer: The one endeavor that we have pretty much zilch experience in is med school. If you’ve decided you want to dedicate your life to helping humanity through the field of medicine, then we’re not the ‘Snarks for you. There’s plenty of resources out there to help you through that grueling admissions process, and anyway, if that’s your plan, you’ve likely been working towards it for some time already. It’s not like you woke up one day and decided to go to med school. It’s not a casual undertaking.
For many other master’s programs, though, your application may vary rather significantly from what the business schools require, but the essence of it will be:
- An online app
- Your transcripts from college
- Some recommendations
- A written component
There may or may not be an interview, which may or may not be optional.
As you can see, these are all basically the same elements that comprise an MBA app, too. As we mentioned above, that fourth item might be called different things but it’s essentially an essay.
Here’s some examples of instructions that different programs have given for this written component:
Statement of Purpose
A one- or two-page statement stating your reasons for undertaking graduate work, as well as an explanation of your academic interests, including their relation to your undergraduate study and professional goals. Include your full name and your proposed field of study at the top of each page.
Pretty generic, isn’t it?
Here’s another one:
Personal statements should describe your background, past work in your intended field of study, plans for graduate study and professional career, if applicable. If you are presently in a graduate program at another university, please explain why you wish to leave. If you have not yet come to a decision about your career, or if your plans are tentative, please do not hesitate to say so.
This is one of the more detailed that we’ve seen, from Cornell’s real estate school:
Statement of Purpose
One of the most important pieces of the application, the statement of purpose provides an opportunity to discuss your motivations, background, character, personal goals, and any other insights that you want the admissions committee to consider in evaluating your application. There is no set format, but statements should be no longer than 750 words. The admissions committee reads the statement of purpose to gauge an applicant’s passion for real estate, leadership potential for the real estate industry, and the ability to contribute in the classroom. Questions the committee hopes to finds answers to within the statement of purpose include:
- Are you someone that positively impacts the people and organizations around you?
- What experiences can you share that point to your character and integrity?
- Do you have the traits that will inspire a legacy at whatever organization you serve during your future real estate career?
Wanna know a secret?
Most applicants’ Personal Statements are crap.
If you do even a half-way decent job of writing your Personal Statement for your graduate app, you’re going to be so far ahead of the game that nobody will be able to catch you.
The most common problem with graduate applications is the same exact problem that we see over and over again in MBA applications. The main difference is, the competition for the top bschools is so fierce that everybody trying for an MBA seeks out help on writing their essays, so the overall quality of applications across the entire pool of candidates is halfway decent (with massive variability, of course; there’s some gawdawful MBA essays that get submitted all over the place every year). For other types of graduate programs, admission typically isn’t quite so selective, which means that there’s fewer incidence of applicants seeking out help, with fewer resources on how to write a good application available. If you’re trying for a smaller program or a less popular discipline, then the crazy competitiveness simply hasn’t affected the applicant pool the way that those forces have done in MBA admissions.
All of this is to say that the level of quality among Personal Statements submitted to most of these graduate programs is markedly lower than it is in the MBA sphere. Which means that if you do a good job on your Personal Statement, you’re going to stand out like a firecracker lit on a moonless night in winter in Antarctica.
OK great, so how do you go about writing a good Personal Statement?
Especially if the program you’re applying to has a really vaguely-worded prompt or loosey-goosey instructions that don’t tell you what they want?
Well, one trick is to find a prompt for another school that is more specific and detailed, and just use that.
Here’s a discussion of a career goals essay question from a lesser-known bschool that could serve that purpose really well.
Remember, when you’re applying for a graduate program, you’re basically telling the admissions committee that you want to go learn stuff which will then let you go do stuff.
There’s only two possible paths that you would have in mind:
- “I want to go get this specialized education so that I can pursue this specific new career out in the business world.”
- “I want to go study this specialized discipline so that I can contribute to the body of knowledge in this field and either become a researcher or teach it.”
In both cases, your statement that you need to be admitted to their program needs to cover why you want to go there based on what you want to do with it. There are differences in how a pitch would need to be developed for someone interested in pursuing a PhD and go into research, but no matter what, your main objective with your application is to help the adcom see what your plan is. What’s the endgame? Why is this degree, from this school, necessary for you to get there?
If you can communicate that succinctly, while weaving in evidence for what you have done in the past that has set you up for success in pursuing this new endeavor today, then you’ll be the golden child in the eyes of the adcom. They will love you forever.
Being clear, and specific, and detailed in how you lay out your plans for the future – nay, your Statement of Purpose – will take you far, Brave Supplicant.
Want more help from the ‘Snark on your pitch to graduate school? Our Single Essay Decimator is a great option for evaluating your strategy and execution on the Personal Statement!
Most people who want an MBA are looking to increase their salary — and that’s fine. It’s understood that you’re looking to go back to school to change your employment profile and open up more opportunities. It’s probably the main reason you’re focusing on the full-time two-year on-campus MBA, and why you want to go…
How about Harvard Law?
Apparently they’re having trouble getting applicants.
Or so you’d think, based on the changes they’ve just announced.
It’s long been known that law schools have suffered. Oddly, after the financial crisis, law school hiring tanked and never recovered. That happened in financial services too but that sector recovered way more than the legal industry did. After a few years of a dismal hiring market for freshly minted lawyers, enrollment at law school and then law applications took a hit. We’ve even hypothesized before that all those wanna-be lawyers have infiltrated the market for the MBA, given how just lately, the bschools have been seeing an increase in applications every single year. There’s still plenty of young people out there looking to advance themselves with spiffy new careers. It’s just that they’re pursuing different fields these days. The law has lost its lustre.
As a consequence to the downward trends, a few law schools from competing universities in a particular region have merged (crazy! schools merging?!?), and others have scaled back.
Now, we’re seeing Harvard Law – obviously one of the leaders in the market for legal education – innovating.
Or, not so much innovating, as copying HBS.
- Accept the GRE instead of the LSAT
- Ditch the requirement for a deposit for admitted students (?????)
- Start a deferred enrollment track that largely resembles HBS 2+2, where college seniors apply and commit to attending later on, after a few years in the workforce
They’ll also now conduct admissions interviews via Skype, which apparently is a big deal (dang, all that innovation is making us feel faint!!).
Just like we discussed the other day, when Harvard changes requirements, it gives other schools permission to do the same. We saw that with HBS and essay questions, and with this announcement, it’s highly likely that other law schools will loosen up and start playing with the formula.
And it makes sense. After all, things like standardized admissions tests don’t test for knowledge of a particular subject. They test for the ability to work hard and apply yourself to studying. It’s about time that somebody acknowledged this. (HLS apparently did a study where they compared test scores for students who had taken both the LSAT and the GRE and followed those students’ performance through the first year of law school.) Being a good standardized test taker means that you’re able to suck it up and do the work of learning how to handle the requirements of that test. The tests themselves are quite different, but who cares? They’re all super hard. If you can excel at the LSAT, then it’s highly likely you’d also be able to figure out the idiosyncrasies of the GRE – or the GMAT. Which is sure to come as an alternate for law admissions, too.
But this is an MBA blahg. For BSers interested in business. Why would we be suggesting that you consider law school instead? Especially if nobody is hiring lawyers??
Well, we do know that there’s way more you can do with a law degree besides just practicing the law. If the changing world order has gotten you interested in politics, then law school is an excellent platform from which to launch your work to change the world.
What about more traditional business careers, like consulting and finance?
Here’s what Yale Law says about it on their careers page :
Consulting firms seek candidates with strong analytical and quantitative skills, teamwork capability, leadership, interpersonal skills, presentation skills, energy, flexibility, maturity, and creativity. Because the large consulting firms have offices around the world, they are also interested in candidates with strong foreign language skills. Typically consulting firms will hire upperclasss students for summer and permanent positions. Like law firms, the large management consulting firms offer full-time employment to summer interns who successfully navigate the summer experience.
So short answer: Business careers are definitely possible coming out of law school.
Or at least, being formally trained in the law can help you in situations like these .
Obviously law school is different from bschools; for starters, it’s usually three years instead of two, which means a significantly greater commitment of time and money. If you’re headed to law school for a business career then you’ll likely need to be scrappier about your job search, since you’ll be at least somewhat off the standard track.
However, all the top schools have cross-polination among law and business programs, and if you’re headed to bschool for an MBA, you will undoubtedly at some point in your educational journey end up sitting in a classroom with students who are enrolled at the law school instead.
When a staid institution like Harvard Law is making changes to its admissions like has been announced recently, you know the market for candidates has shifted.
What are your career goals? Why do you REALLY want an MBA? Are you sure that that’s the best way for you to make a difference in the world?
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