In our recent post this week, go back and read How to add greater value at work we offered a technique for you to deploy at work to help you find new ways to contribute. If you haven’t read it yet, go back and do that. And please don’t forget to come back here, too….
Despite the ridiculousness coming out of the American political establishment these days and the atrocious excuse for a role model1 that that makes: YOU DO NOT NEED TO LIE ON YOUR MBA APPLICATIONS.
Here’s a story from Air Force vet turned product marketer turned entrepreneur turned professor Steve Blank about how he was told to lie on his resume by a recruiter in the early days of his tech career.
You already know how EssaySnark feels about ethics, as in, applying to Columbia during their binding Early Decision option while simultaneously applying to Harvard (and conveniently not mentioning it to us — great way to make us remember you negatively forever): If you are planning to apply to Harvard, then you cannot apply to Columbia during Early Decision. Full stop, end of story, your application strategy is now decided. Columbia will be Regular Decision for you. This is not a question of strategy, it’s a question of ETHICS. Same deal with writing your own letters of recommendation. It may seem like the easy way to go, but it is completely inappropriate (aka unethical) and a massively bad idea.
Lying is in the same category. Besides the fact that it’s wrong2, it’s simply not necessary.
If you think lying on your apps is a trivial matter that does not affect anyone — especially when you see people in power lying blatantly on a daily basis with apparently no repercussions for it — we have to ask you to think again.
Lying degrades your moral core.
Lying works against the only system of trust and decency that we have as individuals interacting in this vast universe of uncertainty. It corrodes relationships.
Lying is disrespectful to the person you are lying to.
Lying is arrogant.
Lying is desperate.
Lying is cheating.
Lying is fooling one person only, and that person is you.
Maybe you’ll lie on your apps and you’ll get in. And then you have to go through life knowing that you lied, that you did not get in on your own honest merits.
If you’re a liar, then we can guarantee that it’s because you do not think highly of yourself. You most likely feel very poorly about yourself indeed. Do you think lying to cover up some perceived flaw will make that flaw go away?
No, it compounds the flaw. Now you have a known defect, and you have layered a lie on top of it.
You know you did it, and man that’s a lousy feeling to have. Plus, what if someone finds out?
You may think that lying is a victimless crime. No harm, no foul, right?
No. The victim is you. It affects who you are and makes you less honorable each time you do it.
What more do you have to carry through this life than your honor? What else is there if not self-respect and decency?
It doesn’t matter if you know someone who lied and got in. We’re talking about YOU.
We are up on a soap box because we care about such things, and we believe strongly that in order for the world to become a better place, that ALL OF US need to make a contribution to that, individually, in our everyday lives and the actions we take. Doesn’t matter where you fall on the political spectrum, it’s up to us as individuals to change the world.
Lying matters, because it’s your own individual stance. Are you choosing to operate with the truth as the foundation of your life? If not, what are you trading it for?
It’s kind of like John McCain’s3 speech to the Senate this week where he said this :
“I hope we can again rely on humility, on our need to cooperate, on our dependence on each other to learn how to trust each other again and by so doing better serve the people who elected us. Stop listening to the bombastic loudmouths on the radio and television and the Internet. To hell with them. They don’t want anything done for the public good. Our incapacity is their livelihood.” [emphasis added]
He was addressing his fellow lawmakers, but boy oh boy does EssaySnark appreciate the sentiment. To hell with them. Can we learn how to trust each other again?
After the election last November, we came across this on Medium, The Minister of Magic Gets a Briefing on Donald Trump :
If we believe in any sense of morality, and if we believe that freedom and a good life should belong to more than just the people like us, then we must go to their defense on principle.
In the ‘Snark’s small corner of the world, the currency is truth and honor and decency, and how you present yourself, and what integrity you hold. Those are our principles. What are yours?
While we’re stirring a random soup of ethics and politics today:
Darden professor Bobby Parmar published this (also on Medium): How to Disobey Immoral Orders where he analyzed a famous experiment from the ’60s where study participants were asked to inflict electric shock on people who gave the wrong answer on a test. Professor Parmar says,
“‘All of us are embedded in environments where we get conflicting orders, and often it’s not obvious what the right thing to do is,’ Parmar notes, citing recent scandals like that at Wells Fargo, where employees opened bank accounts and credit lines under customers’ names without their consent. ‘A lot of us are on autopilot.’ When you factor in a paycheck or status within a group, it can be easy to put on blinders.”
Don’t be on autopilot with your apps. Don’t be so freaked out by the hype around competitiveness in admissions, and so fixated on the prize of getting in to a great school, that you get into a mindset of the ends justifying the means. You don’t need to lie to get ahead in life. Lying is the opposite of authenticity.
We know that very few BSers would go into the process intending to lie. We’re also not talking about making honest mistakes, like messing up the dates of employment when you’re filling out your app forms.
Instead, lying often happens unintentionally, or you fiddle with a fact here, and then fiddle with a fact there on a story, and it ends up morphing to fit the feedback that you were given instead of being an accurate representation of what happened.
Don’t get so strung out by the stress of this experience that you rationalize or justify. Lying is a slippery slope. It’s like heroin. Once you start, where will you stop? Better not to start at all.
We try to keep this blahg neutral to politics. But every now and then, our truth seeps out. We feel strongly that the constant drumbeat of political ridiculousness happening today is dangerous because it desensitizes all of us to what is right.
1 Sorry but WTF?!? was this Boy Scouts thing this week??? OMFG have you no sense of protocol or tradition or appropriateness at all.
2 And oh yeah, the schools do background checks.
3 In case you are unfamiliar with U.S. politics, John McCain is a long-serving Republican Senator (same party as the President) who is often called a maverick for speaking out and staying true to his conscience, even when it’s not politically expedient for him to do so; last week he had surgery on his eye and was diagnosed with brain cancer, and he returned to the Senate for this speech and a vote on the health care legislation that his party is trying to get passed.
4 Holocaust survivor; for full info please see Elie Wisel Wikipedia page
ETA: This came across our twitterfeed today after this was posted and is so unbelievably perfect…
When you lied on your CV to get the shepherd job. pic.twitter.com/znC4MVvhqY
— Paul Bronks (@virtuallydead) July 26, 2017
Update 7/31/17: This showed up referenced in the Tuck Dean’s weekly newsletter, the Slaughter & Rees Report , where they spoke of the importance of restoring trust to the White House. Link is to the book they mentioned. If you’re accustomed to lying about things, then you’re already actively contributing to a dysfunctional culture around you.
“Additionally, I want the clout of the Columbia MBA to establish credibility…”
So ended the first paragraph of a BSer’s career goals essay.
Let’s step back a moment.
Why do three initials after your last name mean you’re credible?
All it means is that you jumped through enough hoops to get an adcom to say yes to you. It says nothing about your merits as an individual or your character. It might say something about your accomplishments in the world and in academics, since that’s what admissions officers value in the process. But all it means is you’ve been rubber-stamped by The System.
The school that you go to matters. Yes. It does.
But it most definitely does not matter nearly as much as you think it does. As MBA holders from Esteemed American Business Schools ourselves, we can tell you: It does not matter.
You want an MBA to go to Silicon Valley and raise some funding for your startup idea?
Did you know that the MBA is seen with scorn among many old-crusty techies? That anyone having an MBA is instantly viewed with skepticism? Especially the young whipper-snapper types?
Guy Kawasaki, UCLA Anderson grad, says that when he’s valuing a startup, he adds $500,000 to the valuation for each engineer on the team, and subtracts $250,000 for each MBA.
Yes, the tech industry is now hiring massive numbers of bschool grads each year. But that’s only because the tech industry is now a behemoth. It’s matured. It’s not the scrappy nimble red-blooded thing that it used to be. If you’re wanting an MBA in order to go into Big Tech, then you are NOT about braving a risky path in life. You’re not asking for others to take a risk on you. You’re playing it safe. What’s the need for getting vouched for? This idea of the MBA from a certain school bestowing credibility is faulty.
No – please do not say this. At least not in your apps. You may secretly believe this to be true of the world, that an MBA from A Certain Important School will pave your way to success later on, but it’s not going to add even a whit of value in your application process. You need to be pitching them on YOUR abilities and how you will do good in the world. The school’s reputation is NOT what you should be pitching back to them.
If you want to go to School #1, or School #10, on whatever system or in the eyes of whichever judge whose opinion you care about, because you feel that you need to impress that person based on your credentials, then fine. Do it. But don’t talk about it in your apps.
And just because it’s a priority for you to go to an Important School does not mean that that school is the right one for you.
How do you know you’re a fit to the place? How do you know you’ll be happy there?
It’s two full years of your life. We can assure you, the school’s reputation and ranking will matter NOT AT ALL when you’re in the experience of going through the process of learning stuff with your bschool peers. All it means is you’ll be surrounded by more, or fewer, people who are fixated more, or less, on these superficial things.
Should this matter in the context of which schools to apply to?
Well sure, you want to go to the best school you can. Anybody wants that. It’s obvious that that’s going to be a key objective for all BSers.
However, whenever this comes up in conversation with someone, it’s almost always because we’ve given them the feedback that we don’t really think that a top-tier brand-name school is going to be feasible for them, based on whatever elements of their profile that they’ve shared with us. We could be wrong – we don’t want you to NOT apply to somewhere you’re in love with just because we don’t think it’ll work out – but if you’re gung-ho on the idea of getting an MBA, then picking only these brand-name schools is not a sound strategy. Especially not if there are gaps and weaknesses and risks in your profile that you’re not facing up to and dealing with. (Especially not if you’re a reapplicant with all these gaps and holes…)
Instead, figuring out WHY YOU WANT AN MBA is super important.
An MBA from a high-rep school on its own is not going to give you success in life.
Yes, in certain circles it’s going to make certain people impressed by you when they hear you graduated from That School.
But then it’s going to be UP TO YOU TO GET THE DEAL DONE.
If you have not brought sufficient “GET THE DEAL DONE”-ness to the equation NOW, in the process of trying to GET IN to one of these schools, then sorry, we hate to be so blunt but we just don’t see it happening down the road, either.
A piece of paper framed on the wall from Important School is not the answer to life. It’s not what’s going to make the biggest difference in how you experience success and happiness in the future.
Same thing with “the network.”
“The network” is not going to give you diddly squat in life. If you’re already a go-getter who goes and gets stuff, then sure, going to a school with an extensive network can be awesome.
But you HAVE a network today. You’ve gone to some college or another that graduated some quantity of undergrads out into the world around the same time that you graduated. Have you used this network before? No, it’s not an MBA network, but so what? There’s all these people out there with a shared experience, theoretically also motivated to help each other out. Have you reached out to them before? Have you given anything back?
We understand that in certain cultures, more prominently in Asia, the school that you go to matters for quite a bit. We know this.
But that does not change the fact that you might have significant trouble getting into one of those schools if you don’t change the way you’re approaching this.
Just our thought for the day, BSer.
If you’re qualified and capable of getting into a top-tier business school, then that automatically tells us you’re qualified and capable of going off to do all sorts of amazing things in life. You don’t need the “credibility” of a fancy-pants school.
And if you’re qualified and capable but you DON’T manage to get into a top-tier business school, then THAT STILL means you’re qualified and capable of achieving similar success.
The MBA can open doors. But so can the hustle.
Six-word story. (Berkeley Haas)
Pick Six. (NYU Stern)
Six Moments to choose from. (Chicago Booth)
Oddly we even came across a student story on the Wharton site titled “6 Words That Changed This MBA Student’s Assumptions About Wharton”
What’s up with this magic number of six this year?
Is this the current marketing trend? “Use the number ‘six’ to capture your audience’s attention!” some pundit advised. Or maybe they did a study…
Nope, it just seems like a bizarre coincidence.
We’ll toss out our own “six” for your consideration:
Six rounds of review.
That’s our best guess for how many drafts you’ll need to write on the first set of essays you produce for your initial MBA app.
If we’re talking Harvard or Stanford, then try 16.
No joke. We’ve seen BSers do that many revisions. At least on their first essays, and also on their most important ones.
(Not that you should be doing Harvard or Stanford as your first application. Those need to wait. They’re too hard.)
Once you get the hang of writing essays, you won’t need quite that many revisions. But three rounds, yeah. Three. That’s a good number that you’ll want to be planning for. Three full separate start-to-finish new drafts on each of those puppies.
Did we mention that this is a lot of work? 😉
If you’re wondering about that six-word story and Haas: The Haas 2017 MBA Application Guide is at your service
If you’re thinking about the Chicago MBA and their six Booth Moments: The Chicago Booth 2017 MBA Application Guide is here to help you
If you’re kicking the tires on NYU Stern and want to get started on their Pick Six: (sorry, that one’s not ready yet, but it will be soon!)
Basically, we’re telling you, it’s time.
Here’s another “six”:
That’s the Harvard Round 1 deadline.
Which is in 2 weeks, 5 days.
But who’s counting.
Lots of you know from firsthand experience that it’s just harder for a qualified Indian candidate to get into one of the best U.S. bschools. It’s harder because all the schools are admitting something like 35 to 40% internationals — but that’s all internationals. If you’re an Indian American (meaning, a U.S. citizen of Indian…
— Carolina Williams (@justcarolina22) May 9, 2017
When seeing snippets of a successful app, PLEASE REMEMBER you're only getting (ahem) *a slice of the pie* – we will be discussing on blahg! https://t.co/QHK8sCC12H
— Essay Snark (@EssaySnark) June 6, 2017
This reminds us of the “tortilla essay” that made it into the Stanford GSB many (many) years ago.
You can read more about this current iteration of food in applicant essays at the Washington Post – including the news that this applicant chose Auburn instead of Yale. (wow, that’s pretty incredible right there)
Before you decide to write about pizza in any of your MBA essays this year, we wanted to break down a few things.
First, this is a college application. The rules are (somewhat) different. Applicants to college are like 17 years old. By definition, they have not yet gone to college. You have. The standards and expectations are different for them.
Second, any attempt to replicate another applicant’s success based on following some sort of formula is just so likely to backfire. This young woman was successful in writing about pizza because of the nature of her answer in the context of the question.
As a reminder, the question was “Write about something you love to do” and the space allotted was 200 words. It’s not all that dissimilar to what Columbia is asking in the two variations it’s given you for Essay 3.
One reason we feel this essay resonated with the Yale admissions peeps is because she didn’t overthink it. She loves ordering pizza. It’s meaningful for her, in multiple ways. The remark about how it made her feel like a grown-up when she was younger is particularly insightful; that alone shows some self-reflection took place before she wrote her answer.
However, what a 17-year-old can reveal about herself in a simple story about pizza is going to be different — we hope — from what you will be able to reveal about yourself in a similar short essay.
When most people are faced with the question of “what are you passionate about” they immediately go into I-must-impress-you mode. Many people will launch into stuff like “I am passionate about helping others” or “I am passionate about the environment” or whatever. Those are packaged responses; they may be true, but in many cases they’re more contrived than real. They don’t go very deep.
This young woman was able to show stuff about herself.
Note too how specific she got.
She didn’t say “I love pizza.” She said “I love ordering pizza” and then she described why, with examples. She took you into her world and how she gets excited by it.
It was a direct answer to the question.
It also tells us that probably this young lady did not have the help of an admissions consultant because that type of answer is often ixnayed by “the professionals” as being too meaningless. Instead, her true self came through.
Again, she didn’t overthink it…. but she did think it through. This was an essay she spent time on. She built in layers of her answer, and it reveals stuff to us about her as a person. Plus, it’s quirky; she opens with the bit about the doorbell before going into the true answer to the question. (That’s not necessarily a technique that we think works so great, but again, she’s a teenager; it’s fine.)
The last very important point that we will raise though: This was not the sole essay in her application package. This is what some schools call a “just for fun” question; it’s designed to be low-risk and sometimes high-payoff. You can answer ANYTHING for this type of question. There are no rules for how to handle it, as long as you give something concrete and specific. That’s also true for similar questions in an MBA app, like the aforementioned Columbia Essay 3.
Would this type of answer work for Yale’s single essay asking about a commitment?
Not only was that one essay as part of a set of essays, but the essays are just one part of the total application. We also know that this young lady is the first in her family to go to college. Yale and other elite colleges are actively recruiting from all socioeconomic backgrounds, and the “first in family” profile is particularly of interest to them in helping to increase specific elements of diversity.
Why did admissions officers comment on this essay?
Well, for one, it was memorable.
However, it’s quite likely that the reason that we even heard about this essay is not because of the essay, but because Yale was doing outreach and recruiting to this admit, trying to get her to enroll. Which is what ALL SCHOOLS do. And, in an effort to make that process as effective as possible, the admissions folks who reached out to her specifically commented on what she had submitted to them — in this case, the pizza essay, since it was distinctive and easy to relate to.
Admissions people at many schools do something similar. When they reach out to admits, they want to make a connection. It is, after all, recruiting at that stage; they’re trying to get you to choose them. (Yes, it’s an odd position to be in, when you have multiple offers come in and suddenly the SCHOOLS are courting YOU and wanting YOU to pick THEM; it can be a little surreal when it happens.)
We’d be willing to bet that lots and lots of Yale admits got very similar notes from these same admissions people. It is only because this enterprising young woman tweeted at Papa John’s Pizza to let them know that she wrote about them — and then Papa John’s did what any red-blooded American business would do, they instantly offered her free pizza and the whole thing went viral.
That’s why you heard about it. Because of standard 2017 marketing techniques.
Not because she got in with an essay about pizza.
We’re not knocking the young lady or her creativity. She earned a spot in Yale University, after all. That is not easy to do, whether it’s Yale SOM as an MBA or for undergrad. She deserves the attention.
But please don’t think that there’s a formula for success – or that it has anything to do with pizza.
You might also be interested in:
It’s so easy to let things slide.
One way to make sure that you advance yourself every year and get better and better as a person, and closer to your own specific goals, is to place a priority on those actions every week.
If there’s something very important to you, that keeps getting pushed off into the future, then make a point to accomplish a baby step on that project every day.
If you’re applying to bschool this Fall, then it’s too easy to say, “There’s nothing for me to do now, since deadlines aren’t till September.” And then you stay a lazy bum all spring and summer, until you go into Panic Mode in August and have a life of h3ll for two months.
Instead, you could be making progress even starting now, by making it a priority to get something small done every week.
For example, identifying your short list of schools, and being clear on the reasons why. This can only evolve through the concerted effort of school research.
There’s lots of steps you can be taking today.
However, today’s post is more general in nature. We’re not talking only about applying to bschool. We’re talking about improving yourself as a person.
Say you decide you want to learn how to program. Now that’s a big goal!
Maybe you get started on it. You take a class and learn about HTML. Or you have this great idea for a website that you actually began working on in college with a buddy, but you both let it lapse when you graduated.
Or you’re a musician, and you love writing songs, but just lately, you haven’t had the time. In fact, maybe you didn’t write one since August.
Or you want to start a blog — or you started one, but it hasn’t been updated since 2015, and you don’t think anyone ever reads it…. And now it’s become like a big downer. A huge ugh. You don’t even want to think about it since it makes you feel like a slug. One more datapoint for how you don’t get stuff done.
But every time you’ve ever made progress on this heart project you’ve got, you’ve felt SO GOOD about yourself.
But maybe it’s tough to get started.
There’s always something else pulling on your time.
Well here’s an idea: (ohnoyeswe’regonnasayit) JUST DO IT.
Meaning, do SOMETHING today – even right now if you can – to advance yourself towards this goal.
Even if it’s just SCHEDULING a time in your calendar for sometime in the next 24 hours where you CAN go do it. ‘Cuz right now, while you’re reading EssaySnark, you know that you really should be preparing for that meeting with your team in 20 minutes, and you don’t have time to do something for yourself at this very moment.
What you can do is set up a reminder in your calendar for later today or tonight (or better yet, tomorrow morning) where you will have the freedom to do it.
And then make it happen!
If there’s something that only your FUTURE SELF will benefit from, it’s all too easy for your NOW SELF to blow it off. Usually your NOW SELF is all about responding to the immediacy, the urgency, the I-just-want-to-take-a-nap-ency. Your NOW SELF is an enemy of your FUTURE SELF.
And what happens, when you live long enough, is you start to look back over the years accumulating and you realize, “Dang, if only I’d started this when I first had the idea, I’d actually be done by now.”
Instead, we blow stuff off and blow it off, and we don’t change. We stay the same.
But if you’re interested in getting an MBA, there’s something about you that’s driving you. That wants to be different.
Why not honor that self?
For many people, the most precious time of the day is the morning. If you make a commitment to yourself to do something – ANYTHING – to further your own personal project as your first task of the day, then that’s guaranteed to let you actually make real progress on it over time. You need to be vigilant. Carve out the time. If it needs to happen before you leave the house for work, then find a way to do it – even if it’s only 5 minutes at first. Even 5 minutes is valuable.
The trick is to establish that as part of your routine. If you ALWAYS take 5 minutes, every morning, for two weeks, then you should be able to easily enough expand it to 10 minutes.
If you’re working on something for 10 minutes in the morning, then you’ll be thinking about it on the commute to work, and you may get some spark of inspiration that hits you during lunchtime, and then you’re so excited to implement that idea that you go home from work and you do more on your personal project that night.
Then the next morning, your 10 minutes grows to 15 minutes, and you’re on a roll with it! And you are so jazzed by it that you actually wake up before your alarm the next morning (omg that never happens!!) and instead of going back to sleep you’re wide-eyed and bushy-tailed and you GET UP and you go to work on your big idea.
And voila, in no time at all, you’ve changed.
Now you’re someone who has energy. Who’s inspired. Who’s excited by life. Now you’re working towards something.
One of the hardest parts is GETTING STARTED.
So today is an invitation.
Make tomorrow morning your first day of 5 minutes.
How will you use the time?