This seems to happen more with international applicants, but not exclusively. However, we do tend to see it a lot with Indian candidates in particular. It could be a factor of how for many international candidates, the American style of school application is different, so they’re just learning what the process is about or maybe…
Well that should be obvious. But apparently it’s not! And, we actually mean it in two ways: 1. There is only one YOU – so if you share who you are with the adcoms, they will see your individuality. This is the essence of the Strategy of Authenticity — which really shouldn’t be called a…
OMG it’s Halloween! And today’s post will indeed be scary. We’ve been focusing all week on how Round 1 might go for you and what you should be thinking about in terms of whether Round 2 is going to be necessary or not, and we’ve covered a lot of territory, with a lot…
If you didn’t bother to go through our wonky decision tree yesterday, then we’ll offer a recap for you now (we can’t call it a tl;dr since all of our posts are tl, even the summary stuff, but you knew that already). This is for those of you in that special pocket of h3ll called…
It’s the end of October. How on earth did that happen??
It’s also the midpoint of the Round 1 application cycle. Again, how on earth??!? Time has this way of slipping by. It seems like just yesterday you were pulling your hair out over essay revisions and banging your head against the table after getting essays critiqued by the ‘Snark. And now here you are, with actual interviews happening!
Or, err, wait. Maybe not?
Here’s a mini decision tree for what you need to be thinking about right now:
Q1: Did you put in between 3 and 6 apps for Round 1?
If YES jump to Q4.
If NO continue.
Q2: Did you put in 0 apps?
If YES jump to UH-OH.
If NO continue.
Q3: Did you put in 7 or more apps?
If YES we are scared 🙁 because most people who submit that many apps don’t actually have a solid strategy and outcomes tend to be poor, but hopefully you’ll be the exception!! Continue.
If NO, it sounds like you put in 1 or 2 apps for Round 1. We’re probably nervous for you, too, but it depends on which schools, your profile, and how you pitched them. Continue.
Q4: Have you already gotten at least 1 interview invitation?
If NO jump to Q7.
If YES, AWESOME! then continue.
Q5: Have you already gotten an admit??
If YES, that’s very exciting! You must’ve applied to someplace like Columbia, Darden, Duke, or INSEAD. Jump to YAY!!
If NO continue.
Q6: Have you already gotten rejected??
If YES then if our fancy schmancy decision tree is correct, you were interviewed at a by-invitation school which has then rejected you post-interview…. and that means an intervention is necessary unless you also have other by-invitation interviews happening for Round 1. We suggest going for the Post-Mortem Review to find out what went sideways for you on the school (probably Columbia) where you got so far… and didn’t make it. Remember, each school’s decision is an independent event, but still, when you get that close and then it goes negative, there’s always something to be learned and then those learnings applied to course-correct from the strategy that had been attempted. For now, continue to Q7, answering the remaining questions in terms of still-active apps (not total apps submitted at the beginning of the round).
Q7: Were at least half your apps to schools OTHER THAN H/S/W?
If NO go to UH-OH.
If YES continue.
Q8: Were at least 2 of your apps to schools OTHER THAN Tuck or Kellogg?
If NO jump to UH-OH.
If YES: Answer the remaining questions ONLY for your active apps that are NOT Tuck, Kellogg, Harvard, Stanford and Wharton.
Q9: Were at least 2 of your apps submitted to schools with deadlines in October?
If YES it’s too early to worry. It sounds like you submitted to schools like NYU or Cornell or Columbia, with October deadlines. Maybe you’re just dealing with a slow-moving school that hasn’t managed to issue invites for your region/industry/however-they-have-divided-things-up-this-year. It takes awhile for the adcoms to get through all of the apps. In past years, we’ve often seen Early Decision candidates to Columbia not get the interview invite until November if they submitted right at the deadline — and they were still admitted even though the invitation seemed to come late. There’s lots of apps to review! Timelines varies by school.
If YES but you’ve been following your school’s policies and know that they’ve already issued all their interviews, as schools like Ross already have, then this does not bode well. Jump to UH-OH.
If NO and you have not yet gotten the interview invite for Round 1 apps submitted in September to non-H/S/W schools, then go read this and start thinking about Round 2. It’s not that you have no chances remaining or that you’re screwed if none of your apps have turned into an interview yet. It’s just that (provided the logic in our decision tree is sound) your Rd 1 chances are starting to look like they’re minimizing. Maybe the essays just weren’t there; maybe there was indeed more competition from your pool. Unfortunately, we have to say to you also: Jump to UH-OH.
Q10: Have you been praying sufficiently?
We’re not saying that prayer is the way to get in… but you never know, right?
Looks like it’s time to start Round 2 applications!!!!
This is “Uh-Oh!” because either a) you didn’t submit anywhere yet, so the entirety of your essay-writing skills development and all the figuring out about how to present yourself needs to happen in one black-box cycle with no opportunity to learn from mistakes (for example: not getting an interview from a school that should be in range for you is massively valuable input!!!!). OR: b) because you’re in that latter category of at least having gone through the essay-writing process a few times but based on the realities of your current application status, we have reason to suspect that perhaps something was off, and if we’re right about that, then you kinda sorta probably need to think about starting over. But at least you have a leg up on the category (a) people, in that you tried one approach and now you know it wasn’t on target!
In both cases, there will be many groans involved as you face the reality of having to do all this work. You might even reject this completely and go back to the top of our decision tree to see where we’re wrong! (And we might be!)
If you come around to the same conclusions as we have, though, it’ll put you in a strong position — especially the (b) people. The (b) people are at a big advantage because they’ve been to this rodeo before. That whole experience thing truly is valuable.
Very often, the reason the (a) people are in this boat, of having Round 2 apps be their first, is because they couldn’t overcome the dread of how to do this massive project. Procrastination is real. Now you are facing a drop-dead date — at least, if you’re going to apply this year. (Because you know that Round 3 is not your savior.)
While things are looking very good for you, you don’t want to assume too much. It’s not over till it’s over! Our advice: Have a list of at least 3 Round 2 targets lined up, that are in the same peer group as the school(s) you’re interviewing at — and if you’re bound and determined to be sitting in an MBA classroom starting in the Fall, then add one more to the list that you really like but maybe not totally love (that’s in range for your profile). Take a casual look at essay questions. Make sure you understand their interview requirements and policies. Maybe even start in on some outlines for one of their essays. You’ll know in mid-December for sure if you have the daunting task of Round 2 ahead of you, but most schools don’t release decisions until right before the holidays, and it’s a real bummer to have to scramble and get ready for January deadlines if you’re starting at that point from zero. So put in the work NOW — while you’re doing interview prep and have your application content still fresh. At least lay out an informal architecture for what you will have to do then. If it doesn’t pan out, you do NOT want to be starting with nothing except the failed apps from Round 1. It’ll be MUCH (much much much) easier to do this work today than to re-motivate yourself and dig yourself out of the emotional dumpster to do it if you end up having to in December. Right now you’re still motivated and optimistic. Putting in the foundation when you’re feeling crappy is a task from the d3vil. Even though it’s not something you will want to do now, and we’re certain you’ll do it in only a half-a##ed and mediocre way, having at least a mediocre head start in December will be way better than having nothing done at that point.
You can’t bring out the champagne for admissions celebrations until the admit actually happens, and the curse of the calendar means that you’ll learn your fate one way or another at a supremely inconvenient time of the year. You think it was tough to put together apps when everyone else was doing Labor Day barbeques and beach parties? Just wait till you discover how hard it is to do so in December when the entire planet is in holiday-mode and family and travel are taking up all of your time.
Anyway, our main caution is, don’t get out the champagne glasses just yet. It’s not over till it’s over. Unless you have an admit in hand — for a school you actually want to go to (don’t get us started on the phenomenon of applicants applying and then saying, “Meh, don’t wanna go there”) — then you need to stay in Application Mode all the way through. Don’t cut out early. It’s way easier to keep going with your intent and focus and motivation, then to let it all slack away with the beer and the Doritoes and have to start all over at the beginning again.
And we hope we’re wrong!! We hope our overly cautious and conservative cautionings end up all being for naught. You’ll write us and let us know, won’t you?
OMG YES YOU DID IT YAY AND CONFETTI!!!
Not much more can be said for you! Right? You’re all in that delicious afterglow of success. You do indeed get to break out the champagne! You deserve it!! (Though please check back again tomorrow — POSTED HERE! — as we have a few more words to be said in your case specifically.)
There are likely bugs in this logic where certain BSers will get halfway through and go, “Huh?? EssaySnark, your tree is whacked.” If that happens to you, we’d love to get the details on your Round 1 strategy and your progress to date!! You can either update your School Targets in My SnarkCenter and we’ll reply to you privately (and update the chart) or if you want to share it here on this post you can leave a comment and we’ll respond publicly (and update the chart).
Now that the craziness of the first round deadlines is behind you, we wanted to make an important point clear:
All school decisions are independent events.
We have touched on this at regular points throughout the life of the blahg, including this post on “I got into one school, should I now try for a better one?”
It matters most to remember this once decisions start coming out and people start getting rejected.
Just because one school rejects you does not mean you’re doomed for all of them to do so.
(Well, that’s true if you’ve done your homework and submitted a strong application to each of the schools. If all your apps are crap then please don’t expect any of them to work out differently.)
Assuming you are a) qualified, and b) presented well and c) did your research to show the school why they’re a fit (not mandatory at all schools, but high priority at most) — then just remember that each school has its own idiosyncrasies and priorities and will be screening your candidacy through at least a slightly different lens.
Typically, if someone makes it into Stanford, they’re also highly likely to get into Harvard. Or at least Wharton.
Or if someone gets into Columbia, then Tuck could easily say ‘yes’ as well.
That’s just because those particular school pairings are more similar than different.
But if Columbia rejects you … that does NOT mean you’re not going to have any luck at Kellogg.
One season we had a BSer admitted to Duke who was turned away from Ross. That was a surprise. But there are often surprises.
We’ve had plenty of people get the interview at Stanford and not at Harvard.
Or make it into LBS but not INSEAD.
These are the same people, with the same profile, and generally similar essay-writing skills, applying to schools that are more similar than different – yet they are able to convert at one place and not another.
See? Independent events.
Happens all the time.
So before you read too much into any one school’s decision on your application – either for or against – just remember that they’re all different. Which is what you’ve already gained an appreciation for, based on all the work you’ve put in in researching them. Well, those differences extend to how they will be interpreting your pitch and the decisions that they make on your candidacy.
Of course, all this is predicated on the presumption that you did a good job on the apps.
If we’ve never reviewed your work before, then you can always hit us up for a Post-Mortem Ding Analysis if you start getting those rejects and don’t know why. Or better yet, have us do a Sanity Check on the apps before you submit. We are in the best position possible of answering the “What are my chances?” question through that service. We also always tell people going through the Essay Decimator essay review process if the drafts that they’ve submitted are so far off the mark that they won’t likely work out. We’re big on dealing straight with people.
We also know that this whole thing becomes this massive emotional roller coaster torture chamber experience. So we are trying to help you manage expectations – and better interpret the input that you’re going to be receiving in the coming weeks and months.
Sometimes, a reject is a fluke, and every other app turns into an admit.
Sometimes, the rejects stack up – in which case it’s likely that there’s an unrecoverable flaw in the pitch. Which means, you need to change course before submitting additional applications.
When these rejects are coming TO YOU then understandably, it can be hard to interpret them accurately. That’s what we’re here for. We’re happy to help out if we can!
Last season we had a slew of Round 2 BSers who were reapplying to bschool. No problem with that, plenty of schools are very open to reapplicants. The problem occurred with the essays. In multiple cases, these applicants hit us up for help really really late – like, less than a week before their deadline….
The exercise we’re proposing today may strike fear into your heart.
And that’s OK.
Fear can be a valuable motivator! Fear is a big part of life. Fear is probably the only reason you floss your teeth; fear of the dentist, fear of your teeth falling out, fear of being a bad boy (or girl) or whatever worked as motivation to get you to start. (oh, you don’t floss? Well you SHOULD! don’t you know that your teeth might fall out??)
Applying to business school is like that.
Well, sort of.
You’re applying to bschool because you want to change your life. Because you think it’s expected of you. Because you feel stuck in your job. Because you want to pivot. Because you want to have an impact on the world. Because of a myriad of other reasons that have motivated you to go through all this time and hassle and trouble. And essays!! If you’d known about the essays you would never have started. But now you’re in the thick of things and you’ve told everyone you’re doing it, and you’ve got recommenders lined up and your family is expecting you to get in. So you’re sucking it up, and you’re writing those essays, and you’re praying more than you’ve ever prayed in your life.
Or maybe you’re not. Maybe you’ve had this idea for ages that you’ll be applying in Round 1 of 2018, and you’re ready with GMAT and your recs have been chosen and yes, you’re writing those essays, but you’re assuming all of this is going to work out. After all, you made it into college reasonably easily. Your GMAT is in range. You’re doing everything right.
The practice that this article suggests, of doing a “premortem” where you cast your mind out to the future — say, December 15th or so of this year — and you imagine that you failed. Close your eyes and sit with it.
You submitted to all of these schools in Round 1.
Now it’s December, and the decisions have come in.
You’re sitting there empty-handed. All of that work, and all you have to show for it is a bunch of admissions letters saying, “We regret to inform you….”
From the article:
Going through this exercise not only helps to ensure that your optimism is at least somewhat grounded in reality, but it also helps you to uncover potential pitfalls on the path to your goal that might otherwise be overlooked. This way, you can prepare for them in advance.
The two most common causes of MBA application failure that we tend to see over and over are:
1. Aiming too high. The profile is not a match to the schools they were targeting. Read more
2. Craptastic essays. The schools chosen are in range for the profile but the execution is simply not there. Read more
However, those two causes of failure are actually results of something else.
1. Aiming too high is a result of not understanding how very, very competitive this process is. It’s a result of assuming that a certain GMAT score is “good enough.” It’s a result of fooling yourself about how good your own stats are or how differentiated you think your background is, or thinking that getting an alum from Harvard to put in a word will be enough to land a spot. Aiming too high is usually about a lack of education about the realities of this process, or a willful blindness to issues in your package. Aiming too high is usually a result of naivety or ignorance, or it could be caused by misinformation, like when some admissions consultant gushes about how strong your profile is and you’re sure to get into School X, but you asked the wrong person for their opinion and really that person was just trying to sell you something. Like an expensive admissions consulting package.
2. Craptastic essays is a result of thinking that you write well, so how hard can it be? It’s the result of not putting in enough time, or thinking that the essays aren’t the most important part, especially when you’re presenting a 750 GMAT and a 3.5 GPA. Craptastic essays stems from the reality that writing essays is really hard, and most people absolutely suck at it, and it’s a skill that needs to be learned, and you need to give yourself time to figure out how to do it. Craptastic essays are caused by the issue that many people apparently aren’t so good at analyzing the essay prompts — especially the really simple ones — and they end up writing about stuff that doesn’t fit the question.
This is just a starting point.
We could go on for days.
The value of doing this premortem exercise is you sit down with yourself and identify the things that YOU could do poorly, and where things might go sideways in YOUR applications.
You know your tendencies.
You know your patterns.
You know the habits of laziness, or overthinking, or how much you hate writing.
You can debug what might go wrong with your application process, before you’ve set it in stone.
So we invite you to spend some time with this, BSer.
If you started a journal like we’ve suggested before, go dig it out from that pile of magazines collecting on top of it on your nightstand and use it for this.
There could be plenty of other causes of the end result of you sitting there in December with no admit in hand.
Maybe you blow everything off and don’t even manage to submit.
Maybe you screw up with a recommender or you miss a deadline completely — even when you thought you had made it.
Maybe you don’t study the requirements and you don’t have a TOEFL when you need one.
Maybe your transcripts are not in English and you don’t have the right translation done on them.
All of those issues can be prevented if you plan for them now.
None of them can be fixed if you slouch off and don’t do the research and planning.
Round 1 is always better, for oh so many reasons.
We can guarantee you, if you are reading this now when it’s published, in September of 2018, and you blow off all deadlines and figure you can just apply in Round 2, you’re gonna end up feeling lousy when December rolls around and you hear news of all the other BSers who have gotten in.
Do a premortem now. Then you will be (hopefully!) taking yourself out of the market for the EssaySnark Post-Mortem later on.
It’s much easier for our prayers to be answered when we’ve laid the groundwork effectively.
Hopefully by now you’ve at least created an account in one or more of your target schools’ applications and taken a look through.
If you have not done so yet, STOP.
Click off this site.
Then go through it, page by page.
We don’t suggest actually starting to fill it out. Not yet. Instead, familiarize yourself with the full extent of what they’re asking. This is a great way to get oriented into the entire process and figure out what the schools look at. Every single datapoint that they ask about in the online application is important — else they wouldn’t ask for it! There are some fields that are optional and it’s up to you if you choose to include that data. This includes stuff like gender identity and how did you learn about this school and other non-core pieces. Typically we suggest entering every single item that they ask for, but we can appreciate that there may be situations where a certain tidbit should justifiably be omitted.
However, you’re not entering any of those tidbits at this stage, for two reasons:
1. If you start entering the data in a slapdash way the first time you’re in the system, then you are undoubtedly going to mess something up. Either you’ll enter in the data that you think is right, such as your start date at your current job, or your HR job title, or any number of things that you assume you already know. But it turns out to be wrong, and once the field is filled, it’s quite common for people to never go back and look at it again. Or, you’ll knowingly enter data that’s incomplete, just as a placeholder, and then you’ll forget to come back and fix it later on. Both of which would be real bummers if you submit your app with gaps and holes. It may sound obvious to say that but it happens all the time, so that’s why we’re trying to warn you about certain ways you can make things harder. Don’t enter your data until you’re tackling that task intentionally, with a significant chunk of time available to you to focus uninterruptedly, and to concentrate, and all the documents or reference materials you need available to enter it accurately, in one shot.
2. The purpose of the app review that we’re suggesting is not to do anything with the app. It’s to understand what the schools care about and get a tangible sense of the entirety of a “profile” in the context of MBA admissions. When schools say they do a holistic review, they mean “we look at everything you tell us” which obviously means they look at the stuff you submit in the app. When you understand what is within scope of this “holistic review” then it gives you more of a chance to optimize the entirety of your presentation. (We talk more about this whole “holistic review” thing here.)
Instead, take notes on what they’re asking for — including details. Especially if you’re a reapplicant! For example, many schools require reapplicants to submit only one recommendation, and some (e.g., Columbia) require that it be from someone new, who didn’t write for you last time. Other schools don’t care who you pick. (Pro Tip: If re-using a recommender from last year, make sure he or she knows not to re-use the recommendation!!! The letters of recommendation need to be fresh and new for a reapplication.) These details are often only revealed in the actual application.
In addition, many schools aren’t so great about keeping their websites up to date. We frequently see schools post one set of requirements on their website or use a particular phrasing in an essay prompt — or, as recently happened with Wharton, one word count for an essay (400 words for Essay 2). Then in the online app, there are subtle or not-so-subtle differences (Wharton’s essay 2 this year allows 500 words, but their website was only updated with this information last week). The online application is the final say (except in the case when it’s not! argh! such as happened with Booth earlier this season).
We’ve even seen BSers build out complicated spreadsheets tracking all of these items, though frankly, that seems like an exceptionally awesome way to totally procrastinate on doing any actual work on actual applications.
This pre-review step is also critically important for, say, the HBS essay. The Harvard essay question is basically saying, “Talk to us about stuff we didn’t ask you to talk about.” There’s many ways you can approach that, but fundamental to it is understanding what else they’re asking for, so you can get a sense of what content would be new. (We have an entire MBA admissions guide for Harvard Business School which goes into much greater detail on what to do with that challenging question, in case you want some significantly more detailed guidance!)
There are many commonalities among schools’ online applications but there’s also striking differences as well. Some are really long and involved. Some ask questions that may surprise you, or that you are unsure on what to do with. Some may require research or investigation.
We have additional tips and advice on maximizing the online application dataset in the ‘snarchive so don’t overlook those, and if you have a question on a specific school’s question on the app, hit us up in the comments, we’d be happy to offer some input on what they are asking for and how to deal with it.
If you're applying to bschool in Round 1, a great task to complete today is to go through at least one online app form in its entirety. Get familiar with what the schools are asking. It's an excellent way to get your feet wet in this daunting process!
— Essay Snark (@EssaySnark) July 29, 2018
We tweet tips like this sometimes!
The twittersnark will be more focused on essay strategies and specific school advice as we move towards Round 1.
And finally, a blatant upsell: If our comments about letters of recommendation for reapplicants got you worried about who you’re choosing and what they’re gonna say, our Letters of Recommendation App Accelerator is the perfect solution!
We’ve been talking about the difficult conversation of telling your boss you’re leaving to go get an MBA and the Everyworkers’ Dream of “I just want to quite this thing!”.
So let’s talk the future.
If you are applying to a two-year MBA with a traditional schedule, like most of the programs in the United States, then when would you be exiting your current company? When would you resign your role? When would you be out of there?
Working backwards, you might assume that most universities start up class in the Fall, right?
Well, sort of.
Most two-year MBA programs in the States have an orientation that starts at least a week or so before classes officially begin. You will need to be on campus much earlier in the year for your first year, than you will when you return as a second-year student.
In addition, most bschools have pre-term programs like math camp or language lab. Sometimes these are required for certain admits (e.g., if you’re an international student with a TOEFL score below a certain threshold); agreeing to attend could be a condition of acceptance into the program.
And then of course there’s the super fun stuff like pre-MBA travel. Many schools have a tradition of incoming students going off on trips with second-years before school starts, as a fun bonding experience before studies begin. These are optional, and they’re not included with your tuition, but they’re certainly a lot of fun.
Finally, most people have to do the whole hassle of relocating to wherever their bschool is. Sometimes people decide to relocate early, to get established; others put it off till the last possible moment, especially if they’re moving to a more expensive city and want to minimize the amount of time they have to pay a higher rent.
Every school has different requirements and opportunities for all of this, and since you don’t yet know where you’re going to be going to school, you can’t be too exact about it. However, when you add it all up, you should expect to, most likely, be quitting your job and packing your things to make the move sometime in May or June next year. Mid-July would be the latest, for most people.
Yes. In about a year, you will be loading up a moving van and driving away from your current apartment for good.
Wow, now didn’t THAT suddenly make this whole bschool thing more real for you?
When you’re thinking about what to say to your boss when you tell her you’re applying to business school, then you’d better have all of this straight in your head.
Exciting stuff, Brave Supplicant!