This question comes up fairly often: “Hey EssaySnark! I got into School B! Do you think I should try for School A?” where School A = Harvard or Stanford or Wharton, and School B = not When this question comes at this stage of the admissions season – right after Round 1, before Round 2…
Let’s continue what we started on Friday! Here’s a Q&A from EssaySnark to a long-ago Brave Supplicant who’s now made it all the way through the process, completed his MBA, and been spit out the other side. Catch up on Part 1 if you missed it, and here is Part 2!
## **EssaySnark:** How did you determine if a school met those priorities or not? What was the best resource you used or action you took to learn about the school and decide if it was a fit for you?
**former BSer** Any school on my list would have been fine. Heck, any school in the top 20 or 30 would have worked for my original consulting goal. Mainly this was because I didn’t care about recruiting. After networking into BCG on my own without an MBA, I knew I did not need to depend on the usual recruiting game.
What really changed everything was the visits.
My first visit specifically.
Ah, Tuck! Tuck is like the high-school crush you move on from, but always remember with a sigh. My visit was amazing, and it helped me realize what all the jabber about “fit” really meant. This, ahem… refocused my priorities, and it’s why Darden eventually rose to the top.
You see, Darden is akin to a southern Tuck, which made it a fantastic fit for me. Furthermore, Darden prides itself on an educational experience built around the case method classroom, which is exactly what I needed to do better in consulting case interview. (The GMAT proved it wasn’t a mental horsepower issue, and my earlier networking provided it wasn’t a fit issue. This left confidence as the problem, and so a classroom built on the case method would be perfect).
The school visits changed my thinking.
At Tuck, I fell in love with the school.
Then, at Wharton, I felt like a number in a large system. A good friend with a Wharton MBA would later tell me that it took her almost a full year to find her crew. Looking back, that would not have been the best place for me. (Wharton is a fantastic school, and “not the best for me” is nearly a distinction without a difference).
At Kellogg, I had a good time. Almost too good of a time. Actually, I was beginning to suspect the hardest part of my MBA would be keeping up with all the twenty-somethings late night shenanigan-izing.
At Darden, they let me visit a real class. And I still remember it clearly. It was the last session of a first-year strategy class. The interactivity and thoughtfulness of the classroom discussion blew me away.
Best classroom I’d ever seen. Hands down.
Darden only lets you visit one class, but I charmed my way into a second one, because I figured the one I had seen was a fluke. So I visited an operations class. I saw the same level of interaction. It was as if the students were teaching the course, while the professor was conducting or directing the discussion.
As you guessed from all that gushing, Darden went to the top of my shortlist.
Actually, Darden turned me down for their regular MBA but wanted me to interview for the EMBA. I was so totally and emotionally invested in the MBA that it took a couple weeks to work through my feelings to make an objective assessment. I boiled the situation down to a simple question. Was an MBA worth $200,000 more than an EMBA? (This is a simplistic estimate based on lost wages and loans, disregarding the NPV of future income, but it was the key question that focused my analysis of the choice.)
Because I had been so caught up in my plan to get an MBA for consulting, it was difficult to admit the EMBA was actually a far better option for me. However, I still stand by this assessment. It would have been a personal and financial step backwards for me to go into a regular MBA.
Hmmmm….. the plot thickens! More to come as we follow along retrospectively with this former BSer’s adventures to bschool! UPDATE: POSTED HERE! In the meantime, we can offer this post from the ‘snarchive on related topics….!
We actually posted this in May — but we’re resurfacing it again today because if you’re ready to take our advice from this week and want to gear up for Round 2, then school research needs to be happening NOW.
We’ve been saying it over and over again lately [errr– in May we did and we should probably be saying it again now — oh wait, that’s what we’re doing by reblahgging this here in November]: 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.
The first page of the Kellogg School MBA application has a very polished video that flashes images of the gorgeous new Global Hub building and plays one-second soundbites of students sharing the stress and anxiety (and self-reflection) that they experienced in their application.
It’s easy to tune out and not really absorb any of it. We’re hit with so many marketing messages every day that we become immune.
But we encourage you to spend time with this, and with every other production that every other school you’re trying for makes available. Sometimes their messaging is straightforward; sometimes it’s so overbranded that you can’t actually distill anything meaningful. But in many, there are real gems of wisdom that are not only important but also relevant, and can possibly be reflected on to find nuggets on the inside of you that you can leverage in presenting your message back in your apps.
One comment that somebody makes in the video is “Rankings will not tell you what’s the best school for you.”
This is the type of thing that can wash right over you, because yeah, you know it’s true.
But why not stop and think about it?
Many, many people are focused on rankings and often rankings alone in their choice of an MBA program. This makes total sense, since everyone wants to go to the best program they can. But rankings tell an exceedingly limited story.
The only legit way to choose schools solely on rankings is if you have spent the time yourself to dig into the methodology used by that publication that develops the rankings. If you cannot sit here and spout off the factors and weightings that Bloomberg BusinessWeek uses to identify Kellogg as a Top 10 school, or that USNews does, then it’s irrelevant that Kellogg is Top 10. (Their methodologies are quite different, BTW.) To go only by rankings is to completely outsource the entire selection process to some nameless corporation. Rankings are useful as a starting point, but that’s it. We’re not going to go so far as to say that rankings are fake news but in this day and age especially, you need to be an informed consumer of everything you take in.
After all, we’re talking about YOUR LIFE.
Remember that these promo videos by the schools are designed for a reason. Significant time and effort is put into them. They are the result of many deliberate choices to try and convey something about the school — something that the school thinks is important. While it’s easy to think that all schools are alike, and to review a bunch of websites makes all of them start to blur together, it’s also important to recognize that each school is desperately trying to convey what they’re about.
Sometimes all it takes is that you listen.
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!
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. 😀