The advice we gave to many BSers as Round 1 was breathing down their necks was: If you know you can do better on your applications, then don’t rush them. Don’t submit crap apps in Round 1 just to get them submitted. That advice came with a big caveat, though. It was predicated on the…
When ANYBODY gets feedback about ANYTHING that they care about, it’s personal. It’s just how the human brain is wired. Or maybe more precisely, the reptilian part of your human brain. Your amygdala, to be exact. That’s the part of the brain that deals with emotions, and that’s what’s triggered when we hear feedback, and what makes us get defensive.
Want to see how this works in other people?
Go read this . It’s a review of a high-end restaurant that recently opened in Washington, DC. You don’t have to read it in detail; you can skim it (unless you’re a foodie, of course, and then you might be more interested in the details of what the reviewer is saying).
Now, go here and read the first post. That second link is to an online chat where the food critic takes questions from anyone about stuff. We’ll go ahead and paste in what someone wrote about the restaurant review:
“One of my good friends is a line cook at Mirabelle. To cut a long story short he was pretty devastated last week when the review was published. From what I gather, the kitchen staff worship Frank and think he’s a genius. So they were understandably upset when the restaurant received less than 3 stars. I’m in a difficult situation. On the one hand he’s a good friend and I want to be supportive and side with him. On the other hand, I thought what you wrote was balanced, gave credit when credit was due, and was for the most part objective when it came to what you didn’t like. When I mention this to him he has had… lets just say animated responses. However, beneath the profanity he does make some counters: [details about the chef’s defenses removed for brevity]”
The food critic, Tom Seitsma, who we find to be very balanced in his reviews of these restaurants, and a genuine nice guy in how he interacts with the public on his chats, responded in part with this:
“[details about why the review was still accurate removed for brevity] Your chef pal probably does [not] want my advice, but the best thing to do in situations like this is to re-read the review — there’s lots that’s positive therein — and just keep striving to do the best work possible.”
That advice is spot-on and wonderful.
We invite you to read his review and see for yourself how it comes across. Do you see it as an attack? That’s how (apparently) the line chef did. Or do you see it as one person’s opinion — an obviously educated one, from someone who has a long history in that market and lots of experience with doing that type of review?
If you get feedback from the ‘Snark, we hope you’ll be able to see that in a similar light.
We may have to adopt the words of the food critic as the takeaway message we offer to all BSers:
When you get feedback saying your essays are not strong enough, then the best thing to do in situations like this is to re-read the review — there’s lots that’s positive therein — and just keep striving to do the best work possible.
It’s because Harvard is stupid.
There is no way that your Harvard education is that much better than what you will get at Tuck or at Duke or, heck, at Cornell.
Rankings mess with your head.
From the description of a book, aptly named Engines of Anxiety , that studied the effect of US News rankings on the law school market:
The authors find that prospective law students not only rely heavily on such rankings to evaluate school quality, but also internalize rankings as expressions of their own abilities and flaws. For example, they often view rejections from “first-tier” schools as a sign of personal failure.
What you get with Harvard (bschool, law school, any school) is ACCESS.
You get to go play with the rich boys and girls for a few years. You get “the network” so that when you try that little startup idea you have (before it crashes and burns) you can hit up these alumni with money to see if they’ll fund your starry-eyed dreams.
Is that worth it?
Hell yeah, if you’re going to use it.
But please do not fool yourself.
Harvard is not ‘better.’ It’s just what this system of class and money has designed to fool you, to continue with the illusion that class and money matter.
Exhibit A: Harvard Fellowships Have Always Been A Joke
Mostly what you get with Harvard is the smug satisfaction of the rubber stamp of Society Approval.
Sure, you have to be smart to get in.
Sure, you have to work hard.
But the Harvard kids are not smartER. They did not work hardER. They are just like everybody else — or, frequently, they’re members of the Lucky Sperm Club where they landed in a family of Harvard grads, so they’re what’s called a ‘legacy applicant’ and definitely in undergrad admissions, Harvard College loves those kids. For the class of incoming freshman that just got on campus this summer, one-third are legacy .
It’s like buying a Rolex or a Gucci handbag or a Ferrari.
A brand like that will deliver some attention to detail and refinement in the product. It’s going to be made with better materials and care of construction than what you find at your local Macy’s or the Kia dealership.
But a Rolex is just a watch.
Wearing a Rolex is a symbol to the world that you can spend that much money on a bauble on your wrist that tells you the time.
Everyone else is just looking at their phone. You get to shoot your cuff and show off this glint of luxury.
That’s all that Harvard is going to do for you.
(And the value only goes so far. If Harvard Business School were so great, why are its tweets so lame? We are convinced that they’ve got an undergrad student writing them — no offense to Harvard undergrads. But c’mon people.)
Please don’t be confused by what you are going to get.
Is there value to that prestige?
Sure. But the EDUCATION is what will change your life.
Not the association with wealthy elite.
So many people think getting in to Harvard will finally be validation. No, maybe they don’t CONSCIOUSLY think it, like, “If I go to Harvard then I’ll finally be worth something!” But it’s what’s driving the engine, under the hood.
But guess what? If you’re actually so insecure that you’re constantly seeking out external validation from The World, and you think going to Harvard will finally put all those internal voices of doubt and self-criticism to rest, no, that’s not what will happen. Instead, when you get on the campus at Harvard, you will be surrounded by a more extreme concentration of People Who You Think Are Better Than You than you’ve ever experienced in your life. You will see all these other AMAZING students who have done more impressive things (who have way more money than you) who have traveled the world, who already have a Rolex and not a Gucci bag but a Birkin. You think that’ll make you feel better?
We’re not saying not to apply to Harvard. That would be silly. We’re saying that you may want to look at your reasons for why you’re so enamored of the BRAND.
Because that’s all it is.
It is a BRAND.
A school is different than a consumer product, because a school is an experience and a community and oh yeah, an education. But very few people are focusing on applying to Harvard because of any of that. They may not be consciously thinking, “I want to go to Harvard for the prestige” but really, that’s what’s driving our social-construct personalities so much of the time.
Unless what’s really fueling your interest in Harvard is so that your unborn children will get to go to Harvard. Then by all means. Apply to Harvard.
We hope you get in!
You may also be interested in:
- The schools being ranked think that rankings are stupid.
- MBA Application Mistake #1: Not Researching Schools (and why we balk at the M7 thing)
- Why we react so negatively to someone focusing on brand or prestige (kinda the same thing we’ve said in today’s post, just 3 years earlier)
- An MBA is what you make of it
We asked you to exercise some critical thinking skills recently.
Why not turn those same skills to evaluating the MBA rankings?
Here’s the 2016 BusinessWeek list. Duke #3. Why?
The simplistic answer is that they scored at 90.5 which is higher than Booth and lower than Stanford.
Is that the position you’d expect Duke to be at?
We’re not knocking Duke. That’s an honest question.
What about the Jones school, at Rice University? They’re at #8. Why?
Comments? Reaction? Discussion?
Please base this on the actual data on the BusinessWeek chart. Here’s a link to the BusinessWeek rankings page where you can sort to your heart’s content.
There are only three types of BSers:
- The ones who are H/S/W or Bust. These people are aiming for, err, H, S, and W. Only.
- The ones who are “I’ll go anywhere.” These people are not so much aiming, as papering the country.
- Everybody else. These people are aiming for Top 10.
Almost everyone in Category #1 is a first-time applicant.
Almost everyone in Category #2 is a reapplicant. Usually their first time they were in Category 3.
Those in Category #1 tend to be the BSierest of all BSers.
They also tend to be the worst procrastinators. Not always, but often, sometimes to the extent where Round 2 is their first and only submit, even though the GMAT was done long ago. This is just what our experience has been in working with this type of applicant.
They also tend to be least likely to succeed in the current era of hypercompetitive MBA admissions.
We have our theories.
One is that they are frequently coming from the elite firms, after attending the elite colleges; they now have nailed a good GMAT score, and they have a recommender who’s a Harvard alum. They think that’s enough.
Sometimes, at Wharton, particularly in Round 1, in fact that can be enough. In Round 2 it’s much less likely to be.
This type of Category 1 BSer maybe will toss out an app to Columbia or Booth along with the other three, to, you know, have a (cough) safety school in the mix. But that’s just a pretend.
Because what frequently happens to this BSer if they only get into their ‘safety’ and not into H/S/W, is that their sense of entitlement kicks into overdrive, and instead of realizing that, gee, maybe you need to WORK FOR IT (as in, ON YOUR ESSAYS, so that you don’t come across as quite such a pr_ck), and maybe that Chicago or Columbia or whichever other school that did say ‘yes’ to them is actually a really really good MBA program as well, that they just scratch it. They turn down the offer. They stick with their current situation in life and they get the sour grapes thing, the attitude that an MBA at some lesser-than school like Columbia* just doesn’t have the ROI so I’m not gonna bother.
In case it’s not clear, this post is for Category #1 folks. 😀
Orrrrrr….. On second thought, maybe it’s not.
It’s not like it really matters if any of you get into a top MBA program. It certainly does not matter to the ‘Snark. (We really really really want a whole bunch of you who we’ve been working with for the past few months to get in, ‘cuz we’ve learned your stories and know a little about you and see that you’re nice guyz and cool girlz and you’ve worked hard and yes we do think you deserve it!!) If none of you make it into any of your target schools this year, it’s not like the earth will fall off its axis or the Universe will collapse in on itself. It’ll be a bummer, but it’s not going to make a massive difference in how your life, or ours, continues to evolve.
Us writing this post today to invite all reading it to examine which category of BSer they are most definitely will not change your fate in this process, and it’s unlikely to get anyone to change.
If anything, it may only serve to piss off the Category #1 folks, where we’ll have some readership drop off, and lose them from the crowd. Instead of prompting any type of soul searching or convincing anyone to not be entitled about their situation in life, a more common reaction to a pushy post like this one is for some to be turned off of the ‘Snark and move on.
In case us talking about these trends and patterns in BSers might get one or two of you to self-reflect on where you’re at, and what attitudes you hold, so that you can either:
- Expand your list of targets
- Start working NOW on your Round 2 applications – ESPECIALLY if you skipped out on Round 1 completely
Well, then we’d consider that a success.
*Yes there are really many BSers who think this!! Obviously we disagree.
You may also be interested in:
- Immediate follow-up to this post: ROI and the MBA
- When your safety school is actually a stretch school
- How valuable is that MBA?
- If the main reason for getting the MBA is financial…
aka, How to spend your time and focus your efforts in this between-round period! aka, How to create a life worth living!!! We covered the important next steps for moving from Round 1 to Round 2 yesterday. Today we’re offering some additional ideas on how to leverage your newfound-motivation to make it a permanent part…
Today is U-M Day.
If you applied to Harvard in Round 1 and you didn’t already luck out* this week, then you’ll be nervously checking your email at 12noon Eastern time. If you’re in Europe, you probably didn’t get much work done so far today. If you’re on the West Coast, you at least have the advantage of not having been conscious for too long so far this morning. Marginally less stress, based simply on the fewer pre-announcement hours you’ve had to get worked up in a tizzy. It’s still stressful waiting till 9am, but not as stressful as for those who’re in a spot on the planet where they’ve had all day to think about this.
For most people, the nerves will lead to disappointment. It’s just how the cookie crumbles. There’s only so many spots available – only so many interview invites to be had – and most people stalking their inboxes today will be disappointed.
For them, today will be b-U-M-m-e-r day.
For a slim number of others, who will get the coveted invite, today will be – after a huge sigh of relief – s-M-U-g day. Anyone who ends up accepted to HBS – or even just invited to interview – almost without fail has an sense of self-satisfaction about them. We see it all the time. Yup, it’s unappealing. We share the elation when we see someone move to the next stage; it’s surely exciting. Never want to dampen those spirits. Undoubtedly though, when we interact with them – OK, many, not all, it’s not a universal reaction – but oftentimes, the BSer has an inner attitude, that you can tell they’re trying not to let show, that says “Of course I was invited! I’m all that! It’s me we’re talking about and I am hot sh!t – how could they not invite me?” The preening begins. The rooster comes out. They can’t help it.
Bummed or smug. That’s how this puppy plays out.
There’s yet another category: The BSers who will be left hanging – or, still in the game, depending on your perspective. There’ll be a chunk of applicants who will be asked if they’re interested in the not-quite-a-waitlist Further Consideration category – and who ever says no to that?!?
In our experience, these FC people frequently are more bummed than those who get rejected outright. They for some reason often feel doomed. We have never seen a BSer interpret it as the glass-half-full situation it actually is; there’s no partying in the hallways with a waitlist invite. The limbo of not making it but still being under consideration is apparently a heavy weight to carry. There’s no closure. You don’t know what to do with this news. You are resigned to facing the likelihood of needing to do Round 2 apps after all – again, b-U-M-m-e-r – and even though you’re still in the running at HBS, it’s not like they have chosen you. You’re not celebrating. It’s complete uncertainty, and it usually comes riddled with self-doubt. “If only I’d done such-and-such differently…” The second-guessing begins. Depression slinks in. For these BSers, the news makes them g-l-U-M.
Funnily enough, anyone who’s been rejected would gladly trade that outcome for a spot on the waitlist. But many people waitlisted get all down and out about it.
See? U-M Day. For the moods of a BSer. Bummed or smug or glum.
Be prepared for it.
* As we’ve tried to make clear so often, getting an invite from HBS is really not a matter of luck. It’s about the strength of your application and how diversified you are as a candidate. We have gone into this in some detail in the long-ago past in case you’re curious.