We had this in our recent Lay of the Land post about the fate of international applicants to U.S. MBA programs this season: You didn’t have to be an incredible candidate to make it in this year. You could present a profile with some glitches and, as long as your essays and recs came in…
After our scary post recently, many of you may have been left panicked. We’re not saying if you’re sitting here with a 710 (regardless of how long ago you got that score) that you absolutely must retest and bring the score higher if you’re going to have any hope of success in the app process…
This is such a difficult situation. And it totally sucks to have to open this post with that line. Because if you’re a Planner who is so thinking-ahead and got-it-together that you took the GMAT before you even graduated from college, then how on earth can that be a bad thing? EssaySnark luvs Planners. (We…
WE’RE REBLAHGGING THIS FROM 2016 BECAUSE IT’S THAT GOOD. THANKS ONCE AGAIN TO THE BSER WHO SUGGESTED IT ORIGINALLY! Yeah that’s the longest title that has ever been written for a post on this blahg. Last year in the throes of Round 2 essay ideas, we wrote a post about Darden’s essay…
We are guilty of sitting on this particular Success Story submission for oh, like two years? Eeek! Did not mean to leave it unloved for so long but sometimes we get so many of these coming in at a certain time of the year that we get overwhelmed and we just…. lame out.
Anyway, this advice offered is timeless and we’re posting today because, well, some of you are thinking about applying to bschool!!
After serving in the Air Force for five years, I’m getting out to attend business school. I’ll be going to a great university (I would say M7, but I know EssaySnark hates that) with a generous scholarship. Although I used many resources, I didn’t use any professional consultants outside of EssaySnark. I want to say thanks to EssaySnark for their (her? his?) help and hopefully pass along some useful advice to any other military vets in search of perspective.
I was lucky enough to have an attractive background for business schools: I went to a top 10 undergraduate program, had a 3.5+ GPA, and earned a 750+ GMAT score. I also had multiple #1 or top 10% stratifications on my resume from performance reports. At this point, GMAT is probably the only of these you have control over, so I’ll be brief. Having a great GMAT score put me in the in the conversation for applying to top schools. Use GMATclub.com, take online practice tests (I used Veritas Prep, who also has great videos in the app store), and study your butt off. I studied for about five months like it was my second job. It won’t get you in, especially if you don’t execute on the rest of your application or interviews, but can tell you which ballpark you’re in.
EssaySnark’s Comprehensive Profile Review will also tell you which ballpark you’re in – it was so great that I ended up purchasing their military strategy guide and one of their school strategy guides. The benefit of having someone like EssaySnark review your background is that they 1. know business schools very well, 2. know what kind of applicants each adcom prefers, and 3. see many different applicants and can therefore provide a good perspective of where you’re likely to get in. They helped me narrow my search from six schools to four and gave excellent, personalized advice. As for the strategy guides, they were a steal – it’s difficult to find that much useful information compiled in one convenient package for you.
I’ll assume that you’re on this site because you want to improve your essays. Remember, I can only speak for myself and what worked for me;
you could take a different approach and be entirely successful!
- I laid a good groundwork before starting. Two books I highly recommend: On Writing Well by William Zissner and The Elements of Style by Strunk and White . These will teach you to write better and will help the people editing your essays focus on important stuff (themes, clarity, school approach) instead of stupid stuff (basics of good writing).
- The essays I wrote had personal details. I wrote about what was going through my head, good or bad. I wasn’t afraid to write that I was scared, or disappointed, or confused (only momentarily, obviously…), or that I had botched something. I think these sorts of moments actually make the best stories. And, if you’ve read the whole EssaySnark blahg, as you should, you’ll know that stories make the best essays.
- I wrote very casually. I used contractions, like I’m doing now. I read a current HBS student’s essay that wrote very formally, so it can absolutely work… but that’s not really my voice. My goal was for the adcom to read my essay and say, “That was easy to read.” I didn’t try to use two words if one would do the job.
- I read the writing of authors that I admire. Find your favorite newspaper or magazine columnist and figure out why you like their writing. I read a lot of Bill Simmons and Dave Barry columns. They inspired me to throw a little humor into my essays, which one of the adcoms mentioned when calling me for my admission!
If you have access privileges on your account to view our Military MBA content then you’ll see a few more special tips below!
[end nifty military-only tips]
The most valuable asset I had throughout the whole process was my best friend, who had applied to schools the year before; I constantly
picked his brain for advice. I hope you have a similar resource, but even if you don’t, I’m convinced that you can out-prepare the majority
of applicants if you put in the time. In the end, you’ll be satisfied knowing you got into the best school for you. It feels really good
when the acceptance calls start rolling in.
This was not a sponsored post! We did not request this former BSer to talk up our products as they did and we’re also leaving in their rec of test prep provider. The links to the recommended books go to Amazon under their affiliate program so if you click those prior to purchase then we’ll get a small commission. Beyond that, this is just what a successful Brave Supplicant wrote up for us after sharing news of admits a few years back! Thank you again to them and good luck to all of you with your efforts for bschool this year!
Dang. You didn’t make it in. BUT WHY???
Most schools are explicit with a no-feedback policy. All decisions are final, and they’re unable to talk to you about it because they don’t have the bandwidth to field all of those calls.
But some schools are much more generous with their time and attention and encouragement.
For example, if you didn’t make it in to Darden, they’ve often offered the chance to get feedback in case you want to reapply. Usually they make this available in June (mark your calendar now!).
Only a few schools do this. In the past, HBS would do it if they interviewed you and/or put you on the waitlist before rejecting you, though they don’t advertise this policy very loudly and we’re not clear if it’s a one-off thing or a standing offer that they’ll continue to make available if you ask. Tuck will do it too. Yale does it. We understand that Berkeley-Haas is no longer doing it, which is a bummer.
If you go for one of these feedback sessions, just manage expectations. The stuff they say tends to be pretty standard. Unless you’re one of those super qualified candidates who just couldn’t break into bschool this year because there were too many others in your pool, then the adcom is more likely than not going to tell you stuff that you should already know. By the time you go for a feedback session, then hopefully will be able to predict what the admissions person is going to tell you. You should have a sense based on profile self-assessment (or a simple comparison to the school’s class profile) what the issues are. If your college academics are not that strong, or if your GMAT is a little low, then that’s what your adcom person will say. Predictable.
They may also tell you if your essays weren’t up to snuff. Maybe.
Generally speaking, the reports we hear back from BSers who ask for one of these feedback sessions are largely the same. The value of such calls is usually a bit limited. The adcoms aren’t going to tell you REALLY why you were rejected (especially not if the reason was the you came across like a jerk in your app in some way, or if your recommenders did not say nice things about you – it’s unusual but it happens, and these reasons will definitely not be directly disclosed). The adcom peeps are more likely than not going to give you some vague comments about how you’re qualified but it’s competitive, yada yada yada.
It can still be useful to go through the experience but honestly, you hopefully by this stage of the game have done enough self-reflecting and gone back over your candidacy in a more objective light, that you are aware of the deficiencies that may have been in evidence. And, even more hopefully, you’re already taking steps to fix them, in preparation for the coming Round 1 season.
We’re of course always up for taking a look at rejected apps – we have the formal Post-Mortem (aka “Oh noz!!”) review where we go into great detail on every aspect of your application. Or you can just get the Comprehensive Profile Review which lets you understand how things may be perceived by the adcoms in the upcoming cycle.
We do still appreciate the schools that do this. It’s certainly an attempt to be more transparent, and it’s an applicant-friendly policy. But it’s kind of like when someone is breaking up with you; it’s possible you’re going to get some variation of, “It’s not you, it’s me” – or maybe, “It’s not you, it’s your test score.” Sometimes people need to hear that directly from A Person In Power before they’ll decide to actually do something about it, so if you’re skeptical of the assessments you’ve heard elsewhere, then definitely get some time on the calendar with your friendly admissions person and see what they say. No matter what, it shows that you are motivated, and if you reapply then they will see that you took advantage of this opportunity, which can only be a positive.
Also, there are some schools that offer such conversations at the beginning of the process, before you even put together your application to submit. Schools like HEC Paris and certain tracks at Duke (e.g. the Cross-Continent MBA) and also many EMBA programs invite candidates to reach out and connect with their admissions teams for a detailed discussion in advance of applying. Typically how it works is you submit your resume to them and then schedule a call where they talk about that specific program and how you might be a fit. Sometimes they’ll steer you to another of the degree programs that that school offers, but often it’ll be a way to encourage you to apply to that program specifically. It’s a high-touch approach that they find valuable, since it lets them start to build the relationship and gain exposure to what they offer, and it can be great for you as a potential applicant since they even sometimes coach candidates or steer them in a better direction on issues like which test (GRE or GMAT or for EMBA, Executive Assessment) and what type of score would be needed. This is more common for some of the European full-time programs; it’s not something that most of the top U.S. schools offer since they don’t have the ability to meet all the demand that they would have for it. Be sure to dig through all the pages of your school’s website to see about such opportunities, and if an admissions team offers it, then jump on the chance.
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This week we’re discussing the real-world situation of the Brave Supplicant who tried for an MBA but did not have success getting in. This is not so much about planning a reapplicant strategy, though that isn’t at odds with this either. This is about, hmmm, things didn’t go as planned, and sitting here in middle…