Similar to our warning that a project is not an accomplishment, today we’ll talk about what may be less obvious but is nearly as important. Capturing promotions on the resume is super important — it’s actually one of the main opportunities for optimization we see over and over when people go through our Reworking Your…
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!
When choosing who to write your letters of recommendation to your MBA applications, you know the basics: The schools prefer that you get a rec from your current direct supervisor. Professional recommenders who are in a position to evaluate your work product are important. Academic recommenders are almost always not advisable. But who is really…
We started off with a post recently on advice for setting yourself up for success in The Conversation – you know, the nerve-wracking interaction where you have to tell your boss, “I quit! Just not yet.” This stressful situation is more common for the non-traditional candidate. Almost by definition, someone who’s a classic fit for…
We got a very good question from a nervous BSer not that long ago: any ideas how I should break the news to my boss(me wanting to leave the company for BS). I think she would eventually agrees to write reco. letters for me but I am worried about the first time I tell her…
You’re digging into MBA application requirements and starting to think about exactly who to enlist for support in the form of letters of recommendation to be submitted with your bschool apps. Most schools require two recommendations; a tiny few including Michigan Ross want only one; a handful of specific programs want three (as of this…
There’s a few guidelines to keep in mind when choosing your recommenders for your MBA apps: Get a recommendation from your current direct supervisor if you can. If you can’t, that’s OK, but it’s not ideal, and for most schools you will need to say why you didn’t get your boss to recommend you when…
Nor, honestly, should you want to do so. Almost every time, what other people write about you (provided that they’ve been appropriately selected for the task) will be oodles more appealing and useful to the adcom – nay, even more POSITIVE and glowing – than what you would come up with about your own bad…
There are a lot of pieces to keep track of in your MBA applications, and international applicants have more than anyone. Some of these can really screw you up if you’re not paying attention. Case in point: We were rather surprised one year when a Brave Supplicant informed us – after the fact, no less…
Hopefully you’re celebrating with some big news of acceptances — at least one, and maybe multiple! We’ve started to get lots of happy emails and updates from excited Brave Supplicants who are headed to bschool in the fall.
In the rush of your big news of successes then there’s one important task you should not forget about:
Remember all those people who recommended you for admission? The current and former bosses who spent all that time on your apps? Now would be an excellent time to say THANK YOU!! to all of those people.
And we don’t mean just the excited “OMG thanks!” when you announce to your boss you got in. Yes you will do that, obviously, but there’s more to be done at this moment of power.
Having a gesture with people who believed in you, who went out of their way to make effort on your behalf, is a way to close the loop and make sure they know that you appreciate what they did.
It’s not like those people did it because they expected to get thanked or gifted later on.
However, you’re in a moment of power — a big win has happened that you worked hard to achieve. There’s an opening with that, and if you stay humble, and appreciative, and capture some of this energy in a way that sends it back to people in your life that you admire and respect, then it is a way of honoring it, for yourself and for them.
You can say “thank you” in any way that feels right for you, that’s appropriate to the nature of the relationship. Maybe you’ll take your manager out for a drink, or sport for a really nice dinner. Maybe you’ll buy a round of drinks for everyone on your team. Maybe you’ll buy a formal thank-you card from a nice stationery store, and write your appreciate by hand. Maybe it’s a nice box of chocolates that she can take home to her family. Obviously the minimum would be a well-crafted email but our opinion is that this moment deserves more. Reflect on this person. Take some time to think of something meaningful to say. Do more than just thank them. Tell them what you appreciate about them. Share some way that they helped you to develop and grow. Include a small reference to something that they may not even have recognized that was meaningful for you. Make it specific, and personal. Highlight their value to you in some way. Make it explicit.
Or if that all seems like too much, then at least be sure you directly communicate your gratitude and appreciation. Do what feels right to you, based on the nature of the relationship you have with him or her as an individual.
Showing some class, and good manners, at these moments in life will make an impression, especially in this day and age when people seem to always cut corners and be in a rush and it’s easy to forget the niceties of life. But that’s not why you’re doing it. You’re doing it for you. These people did something for you when they didn’t have to, and they clearly did it well enough that the schools want to have you. They didn’t phone it in or just rattle off meaningless answers to the questions that the schools asked for in the recs. (Or maybe they did, but even if so, they still went to the effort of completing them!! and whatever they said didn’t prevent you from getting accepted.) So an acknowledgement and a heart-felt ‘thank you’ is warranted. That’s just about being a decent person.
But what will actually happen if you go to the trouble of doing something more than the minimum is you will capture the magic of this moment in your life, this phase when you’re flying high from your successes, and like embedding in amber, it will crystallize in very fine memories. Those you will have for the rest of your life.
Beginnings and endings are important. You’re in a moment of big transition and these moments will float by so fast. Having a gesture with the people who matter and who have played a role in your life at such times will change you. As they say, sweat the details. The details are all that we have.
Just to be clear, this post is not a veiled attempt to get people to say ‘Thank You EssaySnark!!’ — we’re always thrilled to hear of BSers’ acceptances and MBA wins so such emails and updates announcing your admits are always fun to receive, but that’s not what this post is about. If you wanna let us know you got in we would love to hear it! But if not, that’s ok too. You should still thank your recommenders, either way. 🙂