This is a GREAT time to make massive progress on your MBA applications!!! Whether you’re in go-go-go! mode or you’re chillin on this whole application thing there is a low stress and FUN!! task you can (and should!) be tackling right now: School Research. The goal of school research is to figure out if you’re…
(Well, besides picking up The Reapplicant Guide…)
If you are looking down the barrel of the reapplicant shotgun and wondering what you can do to increase your chances, we’ll lay out a biggie right now:
VISIT THE SCHOOL.
If you did this already, you’re off the hook.
If you didn’t – if you made it all the way through the application process last year without setting foot on that school’s campus, and if you’re planning on giving them a shot again now, then please figure out how you’re going to get your booty out to wherever they happen to be located on the planet.
Visit the school.
No it’s not mandatory – and no we’re not trying to insinuate that the reason you were rejected is that you didn’t visit. But visiting imparts advantages. You will learn stuff about them. You will demonstrate your enthusiasm for what they offer. It could even help you stand out from the crowd.
Plus, it’ll be fun!!
You’re saying you want to spend two years of your life in this place. You may as well go check it out and see what it’s like. Wouldn’t it be weird if the first time you set foot on campus was your first day there as a student? Yeah, kinda.
Please visit the school. It will help.
And do it soon. The schools will be closing up shop for the summer in just a few short weeks – not literally, the admissions people will still be around, but the students will all be gone. Off to internships and new jobs. Not hanging around waiting to talk to you at Happy Hour like they are right now.
Oh yeah – thought we’d mention – we got this from an MIT Sloan adcom chat one year:
“We certainly make note of those who visit, as we have a check-in at the beginning of our events, including the events abroad.”
Other schools keep tabs on attendance, too. No, you won’t be rejected if you didn’t visit – but you think it doesn’t get noticed if you do?
We cover this topic regularly on the blahg so we’ll just link to the original post about it: Your window of opportunity for a school visit is NOW. You can go sometime this summer but the experience won’t be nearly as useful.
You can also check out the whole archive of posts on school visits if you need more convincing.
Yesterday we announced that MIT Sloan earned the first-ever Radcom Award for the 2016 admissions season.
But the REAL reason why Sloan gets the 2016 Radcom Award from EssaySnark?
It’s because of this:
— Essay Snark (@EssaySnark) August 11, 2016
None of you Round 2 BSers would’ve cared about that, but those mock classes were a huge gift for wanna-be Sloanies trying in Round 1 last fall.
The thing is, if you’re a plan-ahead type — say, a new Brave Supplicant who’s just now thinking about applications for the MBA Class of 2020 — then right about now, you’re busy with first steps of the process like the GMAT. You’re eating up the bandwidth on those applicant forums, learning about data sufficiency problems, and getting googly-eyed with dreams of applying to Harvard. You might be kicking the tires on specific schools but probably your research is currently limited to only the schools you’ve heard of – HBS, Wharton, Kellogg, Columbia. You maybe haven’t yet gotten your feet wet with schools like Tuck or Darden. That won’t come till later, after you’ve become a near-obsessive on all this bschool stuff, and you have heard about the concept of “school fit” so many times that you try to figure out what they’re talking about when they say it.
But again, if you’re like most BSers, you’re not worried about actually starting on your apps for months and months – not till maybe July, when everyone on the forums is discussing essay questions after the new app information is released. And that’s when you roll up your sleeves to figure out which schools to apply to, and that’s when you find EssaySnark after some serious Googling, and that’s when you actually READ the essay questions and realize that the schools are asking you to tell them why you belong there. And that’s when you discover the truth behind our near-constant advice, that visiting the school is the best way to find out about them.
And by then, in mid-summer, with Round 1 deadlines looming in early September, if you visit campus, you get only half the experience. Because the campus visits in summer, in the months before Round 1 hits, are missing the important element: The students.
The reason we’re going through all of this today is not only to acknowledge the innovation that MIT Sloan displayed by having these mock class visits for interested applicants to experience the MBA community outside the standard academic calendar. But it’s also to serve as your official reminder:
If you’re going to be applying to bschool in the Fall, then NOW is the time to be planning your VISITS to the bschools, which you’ll want to do in the Spring.
In January, springtime feels very far away, however it’ll be here soon enough and that’s when you should be putting your butt on a plane and getting to campus. An ideal time to do your bschool tour and experience these schools for yourself is end of March through April. After that, class will let out and all those second-years will be graduating, and the first-years will be off to their internships. There won’t be many students around campus and there won’t be any classes to sit in on (at least, not at most schools; places like Columbia have class visits available even in summer based on their J-Term format).
So. Kudos to MIT Sloan for coming up with this new way to offer prospective students a chance to experience the MBA class, even when classes are not in session. We hope they’ll do it again this summer. For this innovation, along with the other applicant-friendly policies, they have earned our Radcom Award for 2016.
For all of you:
If you do not currently have an admit to an MBA program locked up from Round 1, there’s a chance that you might end up a reapplicant in the Fall (we hope you get in this year of course! but just staying on the prudent side of things, if you’re not in yet, you can’t assume you will be, no matter how many apps you crammed in two weeks ago). Or, if you’re one of those forward-thinking BSers who’s planning ahead for Class of 2020, who’s on the early side of your research project, then kudos to you too for getting started so soon.
In both cases, we would like to suggest that you flip a few pages ahead in your 2017 calendar, to see about getting a few days’ vacation and booking a flight or two, to get out to these schools that you’d like to be applying to in the Fall.
No, it’s not mandatory to visit before applying, but it ALWAYS is beneficial to your process.
We’ve been sitting on this awesome contribution to the blahg from a former BSer for over six months now because we were trying to find the right time to serve it up to you current crop of BSers when it might offer the most value – and that time is now! This submission is long so we’ve chopped it in two. Today you get the first 5 steps of this former BSer’s journey to stupendous success.
I don’t like trying to give advice. Whenever the impulse strikes, I’m reminded of that old Ben Franklin line (“wise men don’t need it; fools won’t heed it”). I’m doubly skeptical of any advice that takes the form of personal anecdote. Just because something worked for one person (me) doesn’t mean it will work for someone else (you). Even the very best advice can’t escape the post hoc fallacy problem—a happy result doesn’t suggest an unimpeachable process. Did I get in because of the things I did…or in spite of them?
But here’s the rub: the Snark blahg was quite probably the most valuable source of MBA admissions knowledge/information/advice during my process, so it only seems fair that I tell the squirrels my story and give them permission to share it in this space. And since “my story” lacks drama, I’ll go ahead and dispense with the fiction that it’s anything other than a step-by-step list of the things I did en route to getting admitted.
With the caveats out of the way, I’ll go ahead and explain why, against my better judgment, I’m writing a de facto advice column: I was accepted at all four schools I applied to. A Top 5 school offered me a full-ride scholarship. Another, the one I’ll be attending this fall, is extremely competitive and has a notoriously low acceptance rate.
This was not the result I had expected when I began to consider applying to business school. I’m a non-traditional applicant well past the age of 30. My undergraduate GPA was kind of crummy. My expectations for the GMAT, informed by a vague recollection of SAT scores I’d received long ago, weren’t exactly sky high. Suffice it to say, I wasn’t thinking Top 5/Top 10 when I started looking into MBA programs.
So how did I get here?
- I made the GMAT priority #1. I realized early on that the GMAT would go a long way towards determining which schools I could reasonably expect to be accepted to, so I decided to put everything else (school/career research, resume polishing, alternative transcript building) on hold until I got through the test. I took a prep course. I completed one full practice test per week for 10 weeks. I took the test in mid-June 2014—a full 15 months before submitting my first application—and was thrilled/shocked when I landed a score in the 99th percentile on my first (and last!) official attempt. I have since become a GMAT instructor and would love to tell you, Brave Supplicant, the same thing I tell all of my students: anyone can do well on this test. All you need is time and a good test prep strategy. Of course, since this isn’t a GMAT blahg…
- I began my school research by thinking broadly about my priorities. Geography played a huge role for me (3 out of my four schools were in the same region), but I also knew I wanted to be in or near a big city, that I strongly preferred a large class to a small one, and that certain areas of emphasis (strategy, marketing, social impact) appealed to me more than others (tech, operations, finance).
- I got EssaySnark’s Comprehensive Profile Review. I can’t recommend this service highly enough. Who you are on paper matters a lot in this game, and so having an objective, experienced, and outside perspective evaluate your candidacy is really valuable. While I wasn’t shocked by anything that came up in the review, it kept me clear-eyed about my candidacy and gave me a huge boost of confidence at a time when I couldn’t stop thinking, “Am I crazy? Aren’t I too _____ to get into business school?”
- I took a road trip to visit the schools I was interested in (as well as some others that I was less interested in). Although I took this trip during the summer (which is obviously not ideal [because you can’t sit in on a class – but if you visit now, in October/November, you can! -ES]), I was amazed at how visceral my response was at each school. Each one evoked strong feelings—positive and negative—and I learned a lot just by walking through the campuses, facilities, residences, and surrounding neighborhoods at each one. A few that seemed like good fits on paper felt like bad fits in person, and one that I’d initially been skeptical of immediately felt like the place I wanted to be.
- I wrote out an essay for HBS’s 2014-15 prompt (“What else would you like us to know?”) even though I had no intention of applying until the 2015-16 cycle. I know, I know. EssaySnark has been advising BSers to hold off on writing essay responses to HBS’s open-ended questions for years. [Presumably they’re referencing our advice to not tackle the HBS essay first, and also not to waste time writing essays for the past season since many schools change their questions from year to year. -ES] But I couldn’t help myself. I learn a lot from the process of writing. It helps me clarify my thinking and sometimes even leads me to change my mind. For me, thinking about what I’d tell an admissions committee if I could tell them anything at all was too tantalizing to pass up. So I went through the exercise and I think it helped me lay some thematic groundwork for the essays I’d write the following year. I want to be clear about this: I didn’t reuse any of the actual writing. The words I’d written for that essay were never recycled into another one. But the themes and content (ie, my stories) did come back, and I firmly believe that the process turning my ideas into actual written words at a time when I was under no pressure to meet an application deadline helped give those ideas longer to marinate, and I think the essays I ultimately better because of it.
TO BE CONTINUED….
There’s so much awesome right there that we hope you appreciate! More to follow when we post Part 2 next week (UPDATE: POSTED HERE!). Thank you to this former BSer who sent this in!!
Last year we had the pleasure of working with a particular Brave Supplicant who impressed us with their motivation and thoughtfulness. From what we could see, they were doing everything right in their quest for the MBA: Planning ahead, visiting schools, putting in the work on the GMAT, all of it. They were coming from a crowded pool and they weren’t leaving anything to chance. We felt like they were lining up well… yet the actual admissions process threw some curve balls.
What’s most interesting, though, is where this person started out in their thinking about where they fit the best, and where they ended up. With permission, we’re sharing some of the earliest comments that they left for us on school targets, and the end of the story – captured over a very extended timeframe. As we usually do, in an abundance of caution, we’re omitting the names of the actual schools, just on the off event that some BSer might be recognized from which schools they did (and didn’t) make it into. We believe you should be able to appreciate the progression that’s captured here even without those specific details. Suffice it to say, this BSer was going for only top-tier programs.
In their own words…
August 2015: First dialogue with EssaySnark about schools
(Explaining rationale for their edited list of 3 targets)
I have chosen these schools for the following reasons: focus on healthcare (both curriculum and recruitment), culture (close-knit collaborative community), team-based learning environment and global opportunities.
October 2015 Update
Hi ES!! Thank you for your amazing feedback and support throughout this process!! Please excuse my recent radio-silence – the last few weeks have been a whirlwind, with a [School 1] campus visit, app deadlines for [School 2] and [School 1], and interview with [School 3]. I still have to complete my on-campus interview with [School 2] and my [School 3] app. I owe you a HUGE THANK YOU for the resources you provide here through the blahg and your services. I’m only at the halfway point, but your resources have removed a large chunk of stress and anxiety from my journey. I will definitely be leaving some positive reviews on your different services here. Thanks again! Hopefully, the next time you hear from me, I will have some good news.
We replied to that with a question about their school visits, and got this in response:
The campus visits were interesting.
I attended the [School 1] diversity workshop and it was a breath of fresh air! The alumni I met with blew me away with their honesty and straight talk.
I enjoyed the [School 3] interview experience, as it was obvious that they were really interested in getting to know me, my motivations and my personality. I had done a lot of research on the type of questions they ask, but still a couple of the behavioral questions were unique and surprising.
Overall though, I came away from [School 3] feeling a little strange. It felt like the school lacked a certain…. energy. Also I wasn’t super thrilled by the [specific school-identifying feature redacted] there, although that shouldn’t matter in the grand scheme of things. I almost felt like I didn’t know the school very well anymore. Not quite what I expected to come away with. Either way, I’m going to attend their weekend for women event. Maybe that will help figure out how I feel about the school.
Next week is my [School 2] interview!! It’s been so many months since I visited, so I’m excited to see what I come away with.
I’ll be sure to keep you posted throughout my journey!
Due to an unfortunate development outside of their control, this BSer ended up having to push their School 1 app to Round 2 in January, so they had two apps active for Round 1 and one for Round 2. Many months went by, and then in the spring, when the season was wrapping up, EssaySnark pinged them to hear how things went. Here’s what they said:
The big news! April 2016
Happy spring to you too and thank you for thinking of me! I’ve been meaning to write to you for a while now. I ended up getting dinged at [School 1] without an interview. I also withdrew myself from the [School 3] wait list back in January, after much contemplation. After connecting with several current students and alums at [School 2], I felt that I didn’t need to look any further. The culture is amazing and the post-MBA prospects for healthcare are even better than I had originally thought. Also, since my husband will remain in [city] for the length of the time I’ll be in school, [School 2] is a much shorter commute for us to meet up over the weekends. I didn’t realize it until the admit, but [School 2] had always been my top choice and the first school that I was sure I wanted to go to. I guess I never dared to imagine the possibility that I might get in. I remember your wise words that one gets into exactly the school that they are destined to go to. Thanks again for your help with my essays and your many blog posts – they went a long way in elevating my messaging that much more. I will be sure to spread the word about your services to other BSers that I meet in the coming years!!
I’m all set to quit my job at the end of June, spend some quality time with family and do some traveling before starting school. The journey is just beginning! Can’t wait!!!
The takeaways are: 1) Doing the legwork yourself is important. You never know how you’re going to react to a particular school until it’s YOU reacting to them. This is another example where getting on campus was super helpful for this person. 2) Bschool decisions are all independent events. This is THE SAME PERSON with the same profile, the same strong writing skills, the same thoughtful approach to the essays, yet each of these three schools reacted totally differently:
School 1: Rd 2 – rejected without interview (yes we were surprised at that)
School 2: Rd 1 – accepted
School 3: Rd 1 – waitlisted
All three of these schools are comparable in certain ways, in terms of competitiveness, prestige, etc. They’re all different, too, as this BSer discovered, but the most remarkable thing is the full range of outcomes that this person experienced. It reminds us of a long-ago discussion of “skill vs luck” (in investing, but especially in getting into bschool!).
Anyway, as they alluded to in the comments above, we do believe that everyone ends up exactly where they should – and this BSer nailed a major win with their admit. Makes the decision-making easier when the one school that gives you a straight-up admit is an amazing MBA program that others would trade a right arm for an admit to!
We were thrilled to see how it worked out for this person (despite some ups and downs in between) and we wish them all the luck in their pursuit of the next big thing!
Every interaction with a school is an opportunity to impress. We’re in the middle of info sessions and MBA tours and all sorts of bschool recruiting and outreach so it might be a good time to cover some basics.
Even though we used to advise differently, the world has changed, and these days, no, you don’t need to wear a business suit to go to a school info session (though it’s fine to come in one if a suit is your standard work attire). We previously covered some basics of hygiene and today we’ll lay out some standards of meeting etiquette so that you don’t set yourself up to be remembered by the admissions person for all the wrong reasons.
First of all, if you RSVP to a school function, then it’s expected that you will actually attend that function. If something comes up and you can’t go, then have the decency to tell them. Un-RSVP. We heard firsthand from a student admissions ambassador several years back that yes, these things are noticed. If you’re running late, then just slip unobtrusively into the room and find a seat. It’s always better to be late than not to show up at all (though obviously it’s better not to be late if you can help it!).
We said that a suit is not necessary. Instead, for most events, business casual is fine – but please remember that jeans are not actually appropriate as “business casual” attire. Khakis can work, or slacks and a sport jacket. Ladies might choose pants and a blazer, or a dress or a skirt as long as you’re not showing too much skin (no sundresses, please, and no flipflops). More conservative is typically the safer choice.
During the event, be considerate of the speakers and keep your attention focused. Your phone stays in your pocket, and your laptop in you bag. There are really no exceptions to this. In fact, it’s best if your cell phone is OFF – not just on vibrate, but OFF. If you need to take notes, do it with pen and paper. It doesn’t matter if you have the fastest thumbs in the West and you think you’re more efficient tapping your notes out on your device. When someone is staring at their phone, the speaker assumes that they’re texting. You come across as disengaged. Instead, sit up straight, keep your eyes on the presenter, and please cover your mouth when you yawn.
Stay for the full event, or at least until the formal presentations are over. It’s very disruptive to everyone when, in the middle of someone’s talk, some dude (or dudette) in the audience clambers over a full length of people with whispered “excuse mes” and goes to leave the room. If you know that you need to leave early, then find a seat in the very back, on an aisle, and when it’s time, then make your exit as unobtrusively as possible. If you decide to leave halfway through because you’re bored, well, courtesy says that you don’t. Wait till the presentations are over, or at the very least, until there is a change of speakers and then use the lull in the program to make your escape. Imagine what it would be like for you to be giving the talk, with half the room staring at their phones and people popping up like gophers right and left to bop out.
All of us can use a reminder every now and then so hopefully these few guidelines for what to do and how (not) to behave when you attend an event hosted by a business school were helpful. It does not matter if the admissions folks are able to identify you by name. You still want to present yourself to the world with good manners.
Bonus: This video from an admissions guy at The Rotman School is pretty much totally excellent: