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.
h/t to this dude on Medium for this.
[T]he inventor of the first programmable computing device design, Charles Babbage, was asked about this on two different occasions:
“If you put wrong figures into the machine, will the right answers come out?”
His response is classic:
“I am not able rightly to apprehend the kind of confusion of ideas that could provoke such a question.”
That’s kind of the deal with the MBA admissions process.
If you put the wrong inputs in, how are you going to expect to see the answer you want on the other side?
“Wrong inputs” might be:
- Inflating your achievements
- Hyping up what you have done in your career in an attempt to sound impressive
- Changing your job titles on the resume
- Shifting dates just real subtle-like to try and hide a small gap in employment
- Or the other thousand-and-one ways you could manipulate the facts of your background to try to hide what you perceive as a weakness
This, all in an attempt to fool or convince or in some way cajole the adcom reader to admit you.
The “system” in this case is a school that tells you over and over that they want you to be yourself, that they care about authenticity, that they want to meet you as an individual. And yet many BSers get all strung up into knots in trying to come across in a specific way.
It’s very rare that a BSer goes into the process PLANNING to do this. Those small decisions are usually made one at a time and they each probably seem like non-issues. But every time you sugarcoat, or obfuscate, or glaze over the facts, then you’re at risk of taking yourself further away from the goal.
Adcom readers develop this incredible Spidey sense. It’s pretty darned easy to tell if someone is totally full of it.
It’s also really easy to spot the ones that work hard, that have thought through all of their answers, that have written their drafts and then ripped them up and then written them all over again. Those aren’t always the ones that the tippy-top schools are able to admit all the time, but they definitely are the ones that get noticed, and that get pondered over, and that the adcom reader spends more time with before making a call.
Garbage in, garbage out is a pretty good rule for how life tends to work. It’s definitely one of the truisms of the application process as well.
EssaySnark has a corporate initiative designed to allow us to give back to the world a little by offering some pro bono and reduced-price deals to those in the service-based professions. Awhile back we did a freebie Comprehensive Profile Review to someone through our Military MBA support program and we got this note back from them:
First of all, thank you for the time and effort in putting together what is, frankly, much more of a detailed reviewed than I expected. You have given me quite a bit of good feedback that I need to fully digest over the next few days. Support for the military and the pro-bono work that you do is never expected but always appreciated. I plan on utilizing some more of the accelerators but may need to do some more homework first. I will surely recommend this to other service members going forward (maybe after the first round…)
To which EssaySnark says “Hmmm.”
1. We totally appreciate that this person sent this note! Sometimes BSers seem to forget. And that hurts our widdle feelings when it happens *poutyface*
So THANK YOU to this BSer for saying thanks! It was definitely appreciated.
2. We never expect anyone to buy stuff from us, so it’s not necessary to say you’re gonna use other services that we offer. We don’t do these pro bono deals because we’re trying to drum up business. We do it because for us, it’s the right thing to do. So just to be clear for all who may read this: It’s totally groovy by us if you get some free (or cheaper) thing and never buy anything further. If you decide that we can add value, then that’s always a nice thing, but it’s by no means an obligation or expectation from this side. So, no worries either way. We’re happy for the chance to give back when we can.
3. That last bit though…. That’s where we hafta to say something. 😀
We get it. You think EssaySnark is awesome. But you don’t want too many people to know, because hey, then THEY might use EssaySnark too! And then where will you be?? The competition is hard enough as it is!!!!!!
Totally understand the sentiment.
Why would you empower your opponent?? Who on earth who is sane would ever do that?!
It kinda comes down to the giver/taker mentality, or maybe how much confidence you have in your own abilities to execute, and general uneasiness about the unnerving nature of this whole process. Understood. Why make it easier for someone else to get in, when you will be fighting for the same spot?
The reason we got rankled when we saw that comment though is we just did something totally for free for this person and they replied back with the promise to return the favor by telling others about all the goodness that they received… but only after it won’t damage their chances.
We just HELPED you. And your response is to NOT HELP someone else?
Maybe we’ve totally misread the intention. Maybe that’s not what they’re saying. We’ve been wrong before! On so many things.
And we are not doing these freebie reviews for people because we want them to refer us to others. But when someone says, “Yeah, I have buddies who could use this, maybe I’ll tell them about it too” we get excited — and then we realize no, they won’t tell them, or not when it would actually do any good.
Very often what we tell BSers in the profile review is, HEY BUDDY! YOU’RE IN TROUBLE! YOU NEED TO STOP AND TAKE INVENTORY, AND CONSIDER A NEW PATH!!
If you’ve got a friend who is trying for this very ambitious endeavor like you are, and you realize how much value there is in the advice that we can offer, then don’t you think maybe he could use the same?
Not only later, when it’s safer for you?
Anyway. We just felt like that needed a response.
If you have honorable inclinations, that’s great! If you want to do something to help, all the better! Everybody is only motivated by self-interest. We get it!
But life is not a zero sum game.
If you’re a do-gooder, we’d love the chance to do some good for you! Military candidates can please follow the instructions on our Military MBA page; all others can send in a request (please include your resume) and we’ll let you know what might be available. Capacity is limited right now but we should have a little sum’in-sum’in to offer, or if you’re planning ahead then there will be more options available.
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.