Doh! This post was supposed to go up BEFORE yesterday’s! When we give feedback to a BSer in the Essay Decimator process, sometimes they come back with questions of “Why?” Like, “Why do I need to do that, when I’m already doing this?” A common one is when they ask about our recommendation to lay…
Here’s one of those incredibly awesome emails that we receive from time to time – this one came in right around the Round 2 deadlines at the end of 2016:
Merry almost Christmas EssaySnark,
Thank you for the awesome Comprehensive Profile Review you did on me in August. It was extremely valuable to help me target my overall application and interviews.
So here’s the overall results for you, hopefully the data is useful and allows you to help others more effectively!
Applied: Berkeley Haas, Yale SOM, Michigan Ross, UCLA Anderson, UT Austin McCombs
Interview Invites: Michigan Ross, UCLA Anderson, UT Austin
Admission Offers! Michigan Ross, UCLA Anderson
I was a bit surprised at getting dinged by UT Austin, but since Ross was my #1 I’m not feeling too down about it.
Once again, thanks for the awesome analysis and helping me put my best foot forward.
(Posted with permission, of course.)
This particular BSer had first contacted us towards the end of August to request access to our Military MBA microsite, then ended up going for our Comprehensive Profile Review. (We offer discounted pricing for military, TFA/TFI, Peace Corps, etc., so hit us up if you’re one of those do-gooder types and we’ll fill you in on the details.) This BSer had a middling-to-average profile which, in this era of hypercompetitive admissions, makes us a little nervous, and we spelled that out in great detail in the write-up we produced for the profile review. However, this candidate also had some strong points of differentiation going on based on some facts of the background, plus he was aiming for Round 1. So we had hope.
Where we had the most hope of all was the very reasonable set of targets that he’d defined:
- Michigan Ross
- Yale SOM
- Berkeley Haas
- UCLA Anderson
- UNC Kenan-Flagler
- UT-Austin McCombs
That’s definitely a balanced list, and it’s great seeing a school like Ross at the very top. When we saw that, it immediately told us that this guy had done his homework and had chosen these schools for a reason. This is what that elusive ideal of “school fit” is all about: Figuring out which schools offer what you value most in your pursuit of this next big step in your life.
Here’s a sketch of the rationale that this BSer offered pre-application in choosing this list:
My choice of schools is based off of intersecting strengths between consulting and technology:
Michigan – National recognition, strong inter-disciplinary approach, most hands-on curriculum I have seen so far. Great consulting strengths.
Yale – Consulting strengths, unique curriculum, and new Dean is really pushing international perspectives along with technology.
Berkeley – Heart of the Silicon Valley, academically rigorous, technology emphasis.
UCLA – Regionally strong, collaborative culture, accessible faculty, unique entertainment opportunities.
UT Austin – Coming up in a big way, great location for a booming economy and local tech industry, regionally strong, offer concentrations in information technology.
If you’re still hanging around Snarkville after having gone through a nearly-complete admissions season, then that list and those reasons may strike you as obvious. If you’ve been doing your own research, then you probably would read that and agree, and you even might think that most of those things are common knowledge. But we can assure you, that’s a very nicely edited list, with some good reasons being cited for each school. Many applicants apply blindly to schools all across the country without knowing even half as much about where they’re submitting to. If you’d read that list of targets and reasons before you’d started your entire application journey, would you know those things about those schools? Our point in emphasizing this is to give some kudos for putting in the effort to select appropriate schools – not just for the career interests that this BSer had defined for himself, but also being realistic about the challenges with the core stats of the profile. Again, this applicant had a good set of stats, but in this day and age, “good” is rarely going to be enough at the very best schools. He didn’t need us to tell him that in the Profile Review, because, again, he’d already done his own research.
In his own words, after he got that Profile Review back:
I just finished going through the profile review and damn, comprehensive isn’t a comprehensive enough word to describe it.
I’m definitely surprised at how quickly the competition is increasing, particularly for the GMAT. Up to a year ago I fell in some sweet spots for these schools and I’m already dragging at the low end now!
Some questions came to mind as I read through the review, more of a quick azimuth check on where I’m going from here. I’ll look through the blog first, and if I can’t find them would you mind 2-3 questions?
Thanks for a really cool service,
(This BSer instantly endeared himself to us with that simple statement, “I’ll look through the blog first” — he likely has no idea how much we appreciated that! No need to tell this guy to RTFM. Thanks dude.)
The questions he had were asking about a couple other programs that we’d suggested to him in the Profile Review, and also some questions on whether he should write an optional essay about a specific point we identified on his profile.
After that, in late August, he went dark on us until November when he shared the news of three interview invitations, and then the happy update came a month later with the actual admits. This BSer went off on his own and pulled together the applications to those schools, and he clearly did something right, as you can see from those results!
Of course, the very best part is an admit to his first-choice school.
Well done, BSer! Thanks for letting us share this with the world, and congrats on your next big adventure!!
Every now and then we run into a BSer who’s bound and determined to go for the full-time two-year MBA at an American business school. Nothing wrong with that! It’s quite the experience and opportunity! Who would NOT want to take two years’ vacation from life and go off and study fun business courses in a new location?
Totally get it.
A problem sometimes arises when this bound-and-determinedness is coming from someone who’s significantly older, and especially when it’s someone who has some glitches and flaws in the profile that makes it a challenge to attract the attention of the adcoms at these top schools.
We’re not saying that there’s a cutoff in age for a full-time MBA. But we are saying that that program is designed for a particular phase of life, and stage of career, and if you’re outside the norm by too much, then it’s just going to be harder to break in. That is, unless you have so much going for you in so many other ways of distinction and differentiation that the adcoms just can’t say no to you.
But that rarely happens.
We did a mini-series of posts here on the blahg in February 2016 talking about why EMBA is a four-letter word, and we understand the bias against it. However we sometimes see BSers who misunderstand what the differing opportunities are about. There are many valid reasons for why someone might be a better fit to one type of MBA program versus another. The real risk that you have when your profile looks more like the standard Executive MBA student’s profile, and you’re trying for a regular full-time MBA, is that as much as you might want to insist to the adcoms that the full-time track is the one you want, it’s up to them to decide if you have demonstrated that fit appropriately or not.
We sometimes see people banging their head against the full-time wall, trying over and over again at various and sundry schools, and racking up reject after reject. There are four possible options to pursue when that happens:
1. Step back and identify WHY you belong in the standard full-time track, and make that an integral part of your pitch
2. Examine your targets and consider applying to the next lower tier of school
3. Look for a top bschool in another geography
4. Switch gears completely and consider Executive MBA instead
The American schools are the most competitive, and the full-time tracks the most of all. But there’s plenty of schools out there, and plenty of programs. If you are targeting an ex-U.S. program then what is a very competitive the-odds-are-stacked-against-you profile may suddenly become an applicant in demand.
It really depends on your priorities.
Many part-time and Executive MBA programs get the bulk of their applications late in the season, mostly because of people in exactly this position: They originally try for the F/T tracks in the early rounds of the season and get squeezed out, and then look for their options later on since they really want to go to bschool. It’s not impossible to get into one of these non-full-time programs towards the end of the cycle. If you feel you could fit in with the EMBA cohort at a top bschool then it’s definitely not too late to start putting those plans in place.
Apparently this was Career Goals week here on the EssaySnark blahg! We didn’t plan it that way, but every day we ended up posting about goals, because they’re that important, and because they’re so easy to mess up with. The other day we lectured you about how you need to figure out the goals for…
There’s this unavoidable phenomenon that the schools themselves must be acutely aware of and yet apparently powerless to fix for themselves. So we’ll attempt to fix it. The phenonemon is this: Everyone applying to School X talks about the same stuff in their essays. They’re all a bunch of lemmings, racing furiously on cute little…
It’s so obvious. But the ‘Snark is sometimes slow on the uptake.
When a politician is running for office, then s/he will say the darnedest things in an order to win your vote.
When a Brave Supplicant is applying for bschool, so will s/he.
Whenever we hear someone say that School X is “the best” for what they want to go, we just go, “Oh? Then how come you’re also applying to School Y, Z, and Q, R, S?”
Sometimes they even say that they can “only” achieve their goals by going to School X.
Which, if you’re trying to convey that you’re a driven and determined seeker of success, sounds pretty lame.
It’s like blackmailing the reader of your essay: “Look, Adcom Person! I’m holding a gun to your head! If you don’t let me in, my entire life ENDS! It is OVER! I will not be able to achieve a single one of my many audacious and impressive goals in my life! You Must Admit!”
(to the insane asylum)
We finally saw the light and realized what this behavior is called. There’s a word for it. It’s called “pandering”.
Here is a great example – it’s from then-Republican Presidential candidate Carly Fiorina, the day of the Rose Bowl (college football, for non-Americans) which was Stanford vs University of Iowa:
Love my alma mater, but rooting for a Hawkeyes win today. #RoseBowl
— Carly Fiorina (@CarlyFiorina) January 1, 2016
For anyone out there not aware of the U.S. political process: Iowa is one of the earliest primary voting states, way back in the ancient history of this very drawn-out election cycle we find ourselves in.
For the reason why this is pandering: Fiorina is a Stanford grad.
This article lays it out.
The M-W definition of “pander” as a verb does not actually sound like the thing that BSers (or Fiorina) do:
pander: to do or provide what someone wants or demands even though it is not proper, good, or reasonable
The schools do not want or demand this suck-up behavior. In fact, it’s pretty nauseating to see. It can be a real turnoff in the essays when it’s laid on so thick. It’s a recipe for sounding INauthentic, which is exactly the opposite of what gets noticed by the adcom.
Or to be precise: Laying it on thick like this WILL get noticed, but not in the way you want to be.
One online dictionary actually has “pander” as a noun, with the definition: “a pimp”
Ouch. But, yeah. We’d have to agree.
Don’t pimp yourself out in your essays. It’s totally superficial and fake. Yes you want to talk about why you want to go to School X. But there’s ways to do it without sounding like a flake. Or a sell-out. Or a soulless politician so desperate for votes that you throw away the common decency of rooting for your own school in a meaningless match-up.
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There are many surprises to be found in this process! Not only might you end up falling in love with a school you didn’t expect to, but you’re undoubtedly going to find out things about yourself that you never knew, too. Here’s a firsthand account with some “lessons learned” by a former Brave Supplicant who had a hard-earned success or two last season (hint: he was waitlisted before being accepted elsewhere… we’ll let you discover what happened for yourself).
Thanks for all you did to help me through the process. Also wanted to take the opportunity to follow up on the “lessons learned” you asked me to think about. Not sure this will be a truly coherent account, but here goes (bet you didn’t miss these really long rants haha). Obviously chop away! [We like to post these exactly as received! No chopping. 🙂 -ES]
1. Fit is a really annoying concept until you actually find it somewhere. The only way to find it somewhere is to reach out to folks and then to actually go there. I’m the 8 millionth person to say that, but if I couldn’t have compared my three primary schools based on a similar level of experience, I’d have driven myself nuts. If you can’t find positive fit, at least figure out what doesn’t work for you. I wasn’t as disappointed to be waitlisted at Fuqua as I was at McCombs. Based on message boards and rankings/reputation alone, that doesn’t make any sense. In real life, it turned out to be much more clear. At the same time, even if I had gotten into McCombs, I wouldn’t have gone once Kenan-Flagler said yes.
2. Look for opportunities to really kick the tires on a program. Beyond regular events, K-F basically said here’s a 1-on-1 session with one of our professional development coaches, take a half-hour with one of our career advisors, etc….go nuts. When those kinds of things are offered, take them…I left with a much better idea of what kind of support and guidance I’d actually get if I decided to accept the offer.
Tying that back to number 1, I found consistency was key. I had uniformly great experiences with K-F people and events…I knew I wasn’t just catching them on one good day.
3. Particularly in the essay development process, the advice to be true to yourself (i.e. “don’t just say what [you think -ES] they want to hear”) is really hard to follow but essential. However, I feel like that tends to be discussed in terms of strengths…you don’t have to pretend to be an accounting whiz who’s managed 30 people and launched a new business in a country no one has heard of. Tying this back to #2, I learned after the fact that being honest about my weaknesses was part of what got me into K-F. I was unemployed for a decent chunk of time and I didn’t make it in the field I previously went to graduate school for…of course, I had to show how I made lemonade out of those lemons, but just the fact of having gone through that struggle was apparently a point in my favor. It gave me a perspective that stood out in a field of people much younger than me who have not known anything but professional success to date.
4. I’m amazed how comparatively little $$ has impacted my decision. With two waitlists in my pocket, I decided to also apply to Arizona State (curious to hear your thoughts on their new approach, random aside [We may circle back to this! -ES UPDATE: CIRCLED BACK HERE]). Just found out that I got in there as well (and to clarify, I put in a deposit at UNC because there was only a week between the ASU decision date and the UNC deposit deadline…I didn’t want to be rushed, but was still open to going to ASU if they blew me away. I withdrew my names from the McCombs and Fuqua waitlists a while ago). However, my experiences there hasn’t been anywhere near as good as K-F to date. Their admitted students weekend is coming up, and I intend to hear them out (which I think would be irresponsible not to do with the whole 2 kids thing), but I can’t believe I’m likely going to turn down the money. As you’ve frequently said, if you’re going to do this, do it for the right reason. Money can be a tie-breaker, but if you don’t feel like you’d get value out of a program, the fact of it being free isn’t a sufficient cause to go.
So that’s what I think I have? I hope they make sense and don’t make me sound like an idiot or a jerk. [Nope! Neither! Good stuff here. -ES] Either way, this has been an incredible process for me and I’m so fortunate to have been given the opportunities that came from it. Thank you so much for your patience with me and keeping me moving toward the end. Can’t say enough about how happy I was with the service you provided throughout…definitely feel like I made the right call!
Have a great rest of the week and thanks again!
So there you have it – chockful of surprises for all involved! This was a non-traditional applicant who definitely had a lot to offer but yeah, had some explainin’ to do, as they say. And they did it! It was a rollercoaster for sure but clearly – as you can see for yourself with these awesome insights – they ended up in the right place, and for the right reasons.
Congrats once again to this former BSer – we see great things ahead for you!