We’ve previously spoken of applying for an MBA along with another graduate degree and today we’ll offer additional points to consider as you’re thinking about dual-degree application strategy, including the perennial question of “Is it easier to get in?????” New programs typically do not get that much interest, so app volumes are usually lower, which…
It’s time for MBA admissions directors to fly around the world meeting with chipper-faced Brave Supplicants!
It’s time for Brave Supplicants to not squander the opportunity!
If you’re planning on applying for the Class of 2021 at any of these top MBA programs in the fall, then we hope you’ve been signing up for the schools’ events and subscribing to their email lists, so that you can stay informed of when they will be visiting your area.
Or, even better, you can plan a trip to them! Visiting campus in the summer isn’t ideal, since there are few students around and typically no classes in session, but it’s still valuable to get a feel for the vibe of the place, and most schools have info sessions available on campus every week.
Today we’re serving up this useful reference tool that you may want to memorize for those all-important Q&A sessions at the end. As you can see, it’s for asking questions at a conference, but it doubly applies to your time with an adcom person!!
Apologies to whoever we stole this from — it was on some internet site or another in the past few months and we captured it without remembering to note where it came from.
Here’s something to remember: At any in-person function with the bschools, you’re not there to impress your peers! You’re there to impress THE ADMISSIONS PEOPLE.
To that extent, don’t model your behavior, or your attire, on current students or alumni. They’re the ones who already have what you aspire to get. They’re the ones goofing off, dressing down, being utterly relaxed.
It’s not that you shouldn’t strive to be relaxed — but if you show up in wrinkled clothes and your Teva sandals since that’s what everyone at your casual office wears, or you jostle for position in trying to get the attention of an admissions person when everyone’s gathered round, or you crack an off-color joke or in any other way act like a mild version of a buffoon, you’re not going to score points with the adults in the room.
By the same token: Some admissions people are young enough to be your peer — but please don’t mistake them as such! We’re not saying you should be in suck-up mode (please don’t) but we are reminding you of your role in this situation. Being friendly, yet polite, and always professional is the way to go.
Good luck at your functions! Bring good questions! Have fun! These are great opportunities for you to interact with the school community. Make the most of them!
We’ve been saying it over and over again lately: YOU NEED TO RESEARCH THE SCHOOLS.
But what if your response to that exhortation is, “Okay great I will! But what am I supposed to be researching???”
There are many facets to be exploring and plenty of things to uncover about a target MBA program.
First and foremost, you want to evaluate the basics, like location and size of the class. Geography is important — be sure to read the comments on that post about how easy it might be to recruit in one part of the country when you’re in a school somewhere else. Geography also affects climate, obviously, and if you’re allergic to the cold and the snow then that’s going to rule out a whole bunch of schools as possible targets. Class size matters a lot too, and there are legitimate pros and cons on both ends of the spectrum. A very small school has certain advantages, and a very large one has different ones.*
What are your priorities?
Knowing this is the first step.
Then, once you have a working list of schools — which will undoubtedly change, even perhaps dramatically, as you continue your research (since that’s the whole point of doing research in the first place! to validate and vet your initial ideas, and make sure that you’re honing in on the schools that are really right for you) — you’ll dive in with your efforts on each individual school. And yes, this is a lot of work — but it tends to be super fun work. You’re reading websites and logging onto chats and watching webinars and talking to people about their experiences. You’ll be continuing all of these tasks from now to
eternity the day you decide on a specific program, which is well past the time when you a) submit your app, b) do your interview, c) get your decision, d) attend the school’s Welcome Weekend, which won’t be happening until something like the end of January.
Yes, you’re going to be doing this for awhile!
Once you have a pretty good idea that yes, you will in fact be applying to a specific school in Round 1, then your main objective will be uncovering concrete facts and details about the program that can help you articulate WHY you want to go to this program.
Yes you want an MBA. Yes this is a great school to get one. But WHY?
WHY is it a great school?
And WHY do you need an MBA?
(Pro Tip: Having your career goals well articulated now, before you are knee-deep into researching the schools, can get you really far down the path of answering these questions!!)
Can you answer that simple question? Why do you need an MBA?
‘Cuz you’re gonna have to answer that when it comes time to write some essays!
What you must vow to us, right here right now as you’re reading it, is that you will never ever use the phrase “business acumen” in any of your essays.
It’ll make EssaySnark feel better.
Your goal in your school research, then, is in providing you with meaning FOR YOURSELF.
Knowing you want an MBA is one thing, but knowing WHY you want to spend two years of your life – plus at least one full year more in this blasted application process – and spend oodles and oodles of cold hard cash, and go through all the pain and suffering and trials and tribulations of not just applying, but flying around tarnation to visit these places, and the stress of the interviews, and then a massive major relocation that uproots everything in your life, and that’s even before you’ve started!!!
WHY DO YOU WANT TO DO THIS?
There are macro and micro answers to this.
You should be gathering notes on them both.
This is the raw material from which your most excellent essays will be drawn.
*None of that even starts to touch on the issues involved if you have a partner who’s going to be following along with you, relocating to a new city and building a life of their own there. We have posts here on the blahg about applying for an MBA with a partner and a bunch more in the ‘snarchive about couples applying together, so those are places to start if that’s you.
This map was updated for 2018!
If you’re unfamiliar with U.S. geography overall or where the top American business schools are actually located, here’s a cute little mapping gizmo thing that we put together.
This is admittedly simple but it lets you visually identify which schools are in places that, say, get lots of snow in the winter, and which are more rural. It also has school attributes, so you can, for example, see which larger schools are easier to get into.
Check out the key at the bottom left with the button that currently says “Competitiveness Level” – you can flip that to other attributes and see which schools fit your interests and requirements.
We’re using a freebie version of that mapping tool so the ads being displayed are from them, not us; EssaySnark tries to keep ads off the site but this one seemed like a worthwhile tradeoff. Hope you don’t mind.
What other attributes would be useful to add to this map? Let us know in the comments and we’ll see if we can get them added.
Also which other schools should be on here? Right now it’s got the 16 U.S. schools from our Top 19 list. If we get enough votes for others then we’ll consider adding them, too.
The map was originally created in 2016 and now has been updated for 2018!
When a starry-eyed wanna-be-bschool-student tells us that they are only interested in the M7, then we assume we’re in for some trouble. Using the “M7” designation is just another way to say “I care about brand and reputation more than anything.” We’re not exactly bschool insiders, but we’ve been around quite a bit – and…
Sometimes people come to us early in their MBA admissions quest and they just know they want to go to “the best” school.
Which is basically the same as saying “I want to go to Whanvard.”
Because there is no such thing as “the best.”
“The best” is relative.
You want to go to the best school…. for what?
It’s like saying, “I want to buy the best car.”
Okayyyyy…. so we know you want to buy a car.
Or maybe you really want to buy an SUV or a crossover but you lumped those together into “car” and expected us to know they’re included, too.
Do you want a race car?
A family car?
An electric car?
Do you want a car that gets great mileage? That has low maintenance costs?
A used car?
A new car?
Do you want lease?
Will you pay cash?
How much can you put down?
There are so many factors.
Do you care if it’s built in your country or do you like imports?
What exactly does “the best” mean?
When you say you want to go to Whanvard, you’re outsourcing all decision-making to some third party sources who have annointed certain schools as “the best.”
But why do YOU want to go there?
Why do you feel they’re “the best”?
The best for what?
The best because everyone will be impressed when you introduce yourself at a cocktail party as a Harvard grad?
The best because you’ll be going to school with Very Important People who will end up in positions of power themselves one day?
The best because it will give you a rubber-stamp seal of approval so you can finally know that you have arrived?
What do you know about these schools?
What do you know about YOURSELF?
We’re not saying that you should not want to go to Harvard or Stanford or Wharton.
We’re saying that when someone comes with only those schools identified, with maybe MIT and Kellogg added to the mix to, you know, round out the list, and when the BSer’s profile is flat and unremarkable and they have a middling GPA from an OK school and a decent GMAT but nothing to write home about. And they haven’t been busting butt for the past three years to do impressive things in the world. And they say, “Yes please, I’ll be applying to H/S/W, thank you and will I get in?”
We just hafta go, um.
Yeah sure maybe.
If there’s more to the profile than what we’re seeing on the surface.
If you know what you’re about and why bschool is important.
And oh by the way if you’re really committed then you may want to take a look at the GMAT again.
Go for your Whanvard strategy. But expand your sights to also include some reasonable targets. And make sure you know WHY each of these schools is on your list.
We’re not saying you have to compromise your standards, but just recognize that when you’re saying “I deserve to be admitted to THE BEST!” then we come back with, “Okay great! Now please demonstrate for us how YOU are ‘the best’ so that we can see why you deserve to be admitted!”
Know what you’re up against, Brave Supplicant. This process is grueling. It’s important to go into it with eyes open.
Prepare for a chat?!?? Why on earth would you need to prepare for a chat? Can’t you just show up?
Well…. if you really want to make the most of the chat experience (and even better, not embarrass yourself with this important panel of admissions people who are hosting the chat) then you should take some steps to be ready.
Recently we covered some purely logistical tips on getting yourself scheduled for chats. Today we’ll talk about decorum and a little on etiquette, and also some pointers based on issues we’ve seen come up over and over in observing applicants in these forums for years.
Make sure you know which program the chat is for!! If you’re in an EMBA chat and you’re asking questions about applying, the answers you get will be specific to the EMBA admissions which can be QUITE different from the answers you might get at the same school for their F/T program. If you’re in a Careers chat then you’re not going to be able to get answers about application requirements. Many admissions peeps can field answers about other areas too but you should be aware of what the focus is for the actual chat you’re in. Be an informed consumer, and don’t waste your (or their) time.
If you’re not familiar with how Twitter chats work, then figure it out ahead of time. For example, when you go to that #boothmba page , you’ll want to click on Latest to get the whole stream (rather than the default selection of Top). Remember that these are not private; the whole world can see them, and anyone can participate.
Figure out some questions to ask – and please, make them questions that aren’t easily answered by a click or two on the school’s website.
Even better: Read through the school’s website, including their essay questions and go through the full application too. Very important: Read their class profile. Know their standards for things like GMAT score and GPA. Most schools report that stuff publicly. You shouldn’t be asking about those basics in a chat. That would be, like, not very impressive to your adcom person on the other side of the computer.
Remember that in many cases, the schools will know that it’s you. Some chats let you participate fully anonymously, but others require you to at least select a username, if not use your real name and/or it’s tied to your email address that you registered with. They’ll either know who you are or they could figure it out based on systems. Please don’t forget that! Be on your best behavior. Don’t try to answer questions on behalf of the adcom (yes we’ve seen people do that). Don’t post lame questions like “Why are you better than Wharton?” (yes we’ve seen that). For a Boston school that travels to do interviews, don’t ask if they’re coming to Washington, DC (ditto). Don’t ask them if your GMAT is good enough (they won’t be able to tell you). Don’t ask them why they think you should apply (they don’t really care if you do, if they’re being honest). Don’t ask them when their next deadline is (c’mon really??). Write in full sentences, with no text-talk or shortcuts, and proper spelling please. A typo won’t matter but don’t be lazy or sloppy.
You can of course simply sign on and learn from what others are asking; this is a fine strategy too. If you don’t have something that you really want to know, then don’t just ask in order to ask. It’s not necessary to interact with the adcom just for the sake of an interaction. Some schools like Berkeley Haas publish a transcript of their chats later on, so going back over those resources is almost as good as being in the chat in real-time.
To some of you BSers, who are more on-top-of-it, these tips may seem very basic – but you’d be surprised. We find ourselves rolling our eyes too often on those online chats and you just KNOW that the adcom peeps are doing the same on their end.
Don’t be that guy. Don’t say something stoopid* in front of the people who are going to be evaluating your app in a few months’ time.
Of course, the VERY BEST WAY to research a school is BY VISITING. Read up on all of our posts about school visits here.
*Don’t let the fear of being stupid paralyze you, either. If English is not your first language, it’s totally OK if your sentence is not written perfectly or if you misspell something. If your question is sincere then please ask it! We’re not saying to be a lump on a log, either. Step up! Be brave! Take the bull by the horns and dive in! These chats are a low-risk environment. Just take them seriously, too. Lots to learn, so get learning, BSer! And you can always ask us if you have questions we can help you with, too. 😀
We’re slowly moving into the part of the season where the schools are focused on outreach to potential applicants, and where BSers planning to apply this year should be making school research a priority. While we still say your very best effort is to actually GO VISIT the schools – and, HEY! April is a great time for that!!! – there is also tremendous value to participating in the online events that will start popping up with greater frequency.
Today we’ll offer some tips for how to make the most of an MBA chat (and some warnings of how not to mess things up).
1. How do you find out about the chats? Register on the website for the schools you’re interested in. (How do you manage the flood of emails you’ll be receiving as a result? Do so with a dedicated MBA email account.) If your target school does not have such a “register” function (which most do these days, but you may have to search for it) then they probably publish a list of events, so find that page on their site and bookmark it, and put a reminder in your calendar to go back and check it every few weeks.
2. When a notice about a chat comes in, open it up and read it right away – and register for the chat immediately if it requires advance registration, and if you know you’ll attend. It’s not the end of the world if you sign up for a chat and then don’t show up for it, but you shouldn’t make a habit of it (and this is not the same as registering for an in-person session or coffee chat; if you register for those, you must go, or un-RSVP yourself).
Why should you register right when you receive the email? For two reasons: a) because sometimes they have capacity limits and they fill up, or they close registration the day before and so if you wait till the last minute, you won’t be able to join, and b) so that you don’t forget about it. It sucks going back to an email for a chat you really wanted to attend, to discover that it happened yesterday.
3. Enter the chat into your calendar – converting to your local timezone – and include the URL for the chat in your calendar entry too. You don’t want to be scrambling to figure out how to get into the chat if you’re running late that day.
If it’s a Twitter or Facebook chat, then include the direct URL to the school’s feed in your calendar item, and include any hashtag they’re using. So, for Booth MBA on Twitter, it would probably be https://twitter.com/BoothFullTime (NOT @ChicagoBooth which is the feed for the whole school and NOT @BoothEveWknd which is their part-time program, even though they have their own chats which are also often usefull). When the chat is live, Booth usually uses the hashtag #BoothMBA which is another way to easily track the action.
Another reason to register and schedule it right away is that oftentimes, schools end up scheduling chats for the same time. They don’t coordinate calendars amongst themselves. It’s up to you to make sure there are no conflicts.
4. At the same time you’re scheduling yourself for the chat, go to that URL on the device you intend to participate from (latop, phone, iPad, whatever) and check out the system requirements. Many schools use plugins for their chats and sometimes they require Flash or Java, and you need to make sure your device can handle it. Go through whatever test sequence they might have. Download/update/pray to the proper gods with a sacrifice under moonlight in advance to make sure that you’ll be able to join the chat easily at the time it goes live. Most schools these days have decent tech running their chats but there are still some exceptions, and it’s beyond frustrating to try to join a chat that’s already started when your system is chugging through some type of software configuration step.
5. Set a reminder on your calendar entry just like you would for any other important meeting.
Just like we blahgged about back in February: Making a priority of your personal-improvement projects, and not blowing things off that your FUTURE SELF will benefit from, in favor of your NOW SELF’s laziness or poor planning, is the best way to advance your life and progress towards your goals, and to change.
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This “school fit” thing is really a nebulous concept.
At least, at first it is. When you’re first trying to figure out what schools to apply to and everything. It can be truly overwhelming. Where do you start, and how do you understand this “fit” thing in the first place?
Often this only is revealed in its final form much later in the process.
Initially people will decide where to apply based on multiple and myriad factors. The list will change frequently. The value of “school fit” initially is it tells you where NOT to apply.
How it works is this:
You come up with your list of schools, based either on where other people you know have gone, or maybe just only on rankings. Or geography. You decide you don’t want to go to school where it snows. Or that you want a place with an outdoors culture.
And then you go visit. (Hint: Now would be a grand time to do that!!)
Or if you can’t visit — and even if you can — you start talking to people. You connect with the school. You attend their webinars and go to a local info session when one is in town. You hook up with some students in a coffee chat and learn about their experiences.
Through these points of contact, you start to form impressions. Those opinions will guide you. You will discover what school has people you resonate with.
This is what is meant by “school fit” — at least, it’s one key dimension of it (and, to EssaySnark, really it’s the only one that matters).
The other aspect of “school fit” is a more clinical one, namely: Are you a fit to what type of student they typically accept? It’s coming from the direction of the school, and how you present yourself to them. That’s a whole different topic which we should probably discuss in full another time — or, just read all of the posts on this blahg about planning your strategy and writing your essays, and pick up the school strategy guide for the school that you’re targeting. We cover this stuff 24/7 here.
The final arbiter of “school fit” often does not manifest until very late in the process. That’s when you’re faced with decisions on which offer to accept. If you’ve done your homework and played your cards right and applied to the right set of schools in Round 1, then almost guaranteed you will be faced with the difficult decision of choosing between multiple options.
Sometimes that choice is a tormented one. BSers often agonize in the end, over which one to select, when there are multiple choices on the table.
But sometimes, the choice becomes obvious even before it has to be made (or sometimes it’s made for you).
An example from Round 1 last Fall is a BSer who was invited to interview at three top schools. But then as decisions started getting released, one of those was a “no.”
Here’s what we said to this person in response:
OH NO! How disappointing about [School X]!!!!!!!!!!
(But you wanna know a secret? We see you as more of a [School Y] or a [School Z] person anyway!!! When it comes down to values and all that!!)
Still, really bummed to hear that [School X] said no in the end. 🙁
It’s incredibly happy news to know that [School Y] accepted you, and let’s see what [School Z] does next and maybe you’ll have a difficult decision to make in the coming weeks!!!
Fingers crossed for this last one!
And, here’s what that BSer said back in response:
Thank you!! To be honest, I felt the same way, and have shared with a few close friends that I felt like it might be really hard to pick [School Y] or [School Z] over [School X] if I got into [School X], so getting that off the table almost feels like a relief (though of course I am disappointed). [School Y] and [School Z] were absolutely my favorites! I cried when [School Y] called me – she said very nice things about connecting with my essays and what a great fit I’d be for them. And hey – NO MORE ESSAYS or APPLICATIONS! Let’s see what [School Z] says!
BTW, this person did get into School Z as well.
So the moral of this story is:
Do your research — starting NOW.
Expect your list to evolve.
You’ll be making many decisions along the way, but you won’t likely know that how you’ll feel about any school until you get further into the process of applying, and learning about them, and experiencing those choices firsthand.
There is no One Size Fits All answer to the question of school fit. It’s totally personal and individual. But it’s just like falling in love: You know it when it happens to you.
Or maybe we should append to that title: “…if you’re Harvard.”
Yeah, sure, a larger cohort does of course provide some value. You may have interpreted our recent post about class size vs class size as saying that the size of your bschool is immaterial. No, of course not.
A larger program means more incredible people. Everyone getting into a top business school (well, except that one guy) is amazing. It’s the adcom’s job to make sure of that. Admission to a top MBA program is a screening process whereby only the accomplished and impressive (are supposed to) make it through.
You go to a bigger bschool, you are surrounded by greater quantities of them.
As you’re likely well aware, the whole “diversity” thing is a big deal with all the bschools these days – and man, if you visit any of the European programs, you’ll get hit over the head with it especially hard. “Diversity diversity diversity”, that is the buzzword that admissions people repeat early and often.
Diversity is in fact an advantage for the student – and it’s something that most every school actually can offer. In different ways, of course. Diversity at LBS really means diversity. Like, of the cultural/geographic/ethnic kind. They’ve got something like 85% international students there. Compare that to most American business schools which hold steady at like 35% international. You go to an American school, you’re mostly going to school with Americans. There’ll definitely be some ethnic and geographic variation in the mix – you saw that Columbia video for their essay 3 with the guy from Tennessee, right? (Or was it Kentucky? We always mix those two up.)
And diversity at Harvard… Yes. You’re going to go to school with some very unique individuals. Lots who are the standard bschool type, but also the “wowzer” ones too. That’s ‘cuz HBS is a big program, and ‘cuz it’s HBS.
We already drug* the “big alumni network” thing through the mud. We’re certainly not going to subject you to all THAT again.
Our point is simply that going to a larger school does afford the opportunity to meet and mingle with more people. “Well duh, EssaySnark.” Fine, you didn’t need us to tell you there’s value to that. It’s particularly true when you’re at a top-ranked school that attracts, and selects for, the most interesting, varied, and, yes, driven personality types.
You’re still unlikely to form deep bonds with more of them than if you were to go to, say, Tuck or Haas. But you’ll have the opportunity to do so. Which is good.
But in a big school, there will ALWAYS be a huge number of your cohort who are virtual strangers to you – who you’d pass on the street and not even know they were also going to your school.
Unless they’re that total hottie who you keep seeing in the cafe…
That actually points to another argument in favor of the large school: Larger dating pool.
Which is apparently one reason why some people go to bschool in the first place.
(Columbia students should be embarrassed about several of those Follies videos. Sheesh.)
* Yes, we know that it should be “dragged” – but doesn’t “drug” sound so much better in that sentence?