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….
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 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…
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…
It may seem like everyone but you has been accepted to bschool this year, but it’s not true. There have been lots of disappointments. You’re not the only one. Everyone crows about their successes but many who don’t make it go very quiet about everything so you can sometimes feel like you’re the only one…
Can you believe we’re halfway through the Fall already?!??
Can you believe that Round 1 is this far along???
Can you believe that it was way back in July that we first heard from our intrepid Brave Supplicant who’s sharing his story with us?????
Nope, we can’t either!
Here’s an update on app strategy, approach, and (yay!!) progress made so far for our reapplicant friend!
If you missed his first episode, you can check it out here.
Episode 2: Progress in Round 1!!
Disclaimer: The content produced for this series was provided as a contribution to the EssaySnark blahg in exchange for free EssaySnark consulting services. The BSer created this report on his own. All opinion, advice, and ideas are his — though we recognize quite a bit of our own coaching advice coming through!!! 😉 For anyone new to this process who wants to learn the strongest techniques for presenting yourself in your essays as he has described, we’d suggest looking into our App Accelerators for guidance. We also have to caution against submitting to that many schools if this is your first season of apps and especially if Round 2 is your first round. However, we have to commend him on the approach to school research!! EVERYONE can benefit from that.
We’ve had the honor this season of being trusted to advise and support a number of reapplicants in their renewed attempts at getting into the schools that they are excited about. One such trying-again BSer we’ve known for several years now, and partly because of that long-term relationship and partly because we’ve gotten to know this person, and admire him, and know that he can share something others can benefit from, we extended an invitation for him to share his journey here on the blahg.
We also figured a new format might be a nice change of pace.
So, here is the first installment in our Future Success Story for the 2017 season!
Episode 1: What happened last year, and gearing up as a reapplicant
If any of you have questions for him, you’re invited to post in the comments.
We’re looking forward to following along with his journey through Round 1!
UPDATE: Follow along HERE!
Disclaimer: The content produced for this series was provided as a contribution to the EssaySnark blahg in exchange for free EssaySnark consulting services. EssaySnark offered some ideas of what to present, however the BSer created this on his own. All opinion, advice, and ideas are his own (though obviously we believe he has good ones, or we wouldn’t have invited him to share!).
We recently issued an invite to any BSer we worked with previously who’s looking at becoming a reapplicant this year to tell us of their plans so that we could give some input into the situation. It’s a little sad how many BSers came out of the woodwork; last season was really challenging for many…
If you’re just starting the process of applying to bschool for the first time, this post is not for you. Today we’re mostly talking to those who are either still on the waitlist, or who will be reapplicants, and who will be informing the adcom about an updated GMAT score either in a waitlist update…