If you’re an international applicant to business schools in America and Europe then you probably are already aware that a test of English language abilities is required to apply. The TOEFL is considered the standard that’s accepted at most American MBA programs, and the IELTS and PTE are accepted at some as alternates. We talk…
Now that most Round 2 deadlines are behind us and the frenzy of another MBA admissions season is winding down, we wanted to step back and catch our breath and acknowledge some of those hard working admissions teams out there. We’ve done this before, with a few posts in the “adcoms that we love” series that we started five years ago, where we talked about sometimes overlooked schools like IESE and INSEAD. In 2014, we posted our Five Faves which at the time were Darden, Tuck, Yale, Columbia and our #1 favorite, NYU Stern.
This year we’re christening The Radcom Award which we’re going to bestow on the adcom that’s the raddest.
In the ‘Snark’s opinion, of course.
So, who will it be???
We wanted to give it to Ross because they’ve got the coolest videos!! But then they went and put their Round 2 deadline on January 2. C’mon guys! That’s not playing nice! Yeah yeah yeah, that early deadline meant that they’ve already started issuing interview invitations way ahead of most everyone else, which is definitely exciting. But sorry, that doesn’t make up for the pain inflicted on so many a few weeks ago and it’s also, from our perspective, shortsighted.
We simply can’t give it to Haas based on how mean they are with international applicants over the TOEFL. It seems that they’re more and more restrictive on this policy every single year (you can see evidence of that in the comments from BSers on that post).
Coincidentally or not, the adcom that we’ve chosen for our 2016 Radcom Award has policies on the exact opposite side of both of those issues:
- Their Round 2 deadline is the latest of all the top schools
- They don’t even require the TOEFL at all – not for nobody
Yep, you guessed it, we’re giving the Radcom Award to MIT Sloan!
Those aren’t the only reasons for why we like MIT right now.
While their cover letter requirement has proven difficult for many BSers, they are remarkably open and flexible in allowing you to submit almost anything else in support of your candidacy, through their Optional Essay (which is totally different from any other school’s optional essay, just FYI). For MIT, you have free rein on what you want to tell them about or how you want to present the best of your bad self to them. You can cover the traditional “optional essay” topics of low GPA or why you’ve chosen the recommenders that you did, and you can do that in a written essay. OR — or hopefully, AND — you can choose to share something about who you are as a person, through a PowerPoint or a video or anything else you can transmit through the Internet.
They’re not the first school to have such an opportunity (NYU and Booth have both done so for ages) but we like the combination of one very structured yet still fairly free-form submission with the cover letter, plus the do-what-you-will-with-it additional submission alongside.
That’s not the reason we’re giving them this honor of the Radcom Award, though.
It’s also because of how accessible they are to their applicants. It seems like practically every other week there’s been a chat with the Sloan adcom where they’ll let you people hit them up with questions. Other schools do these chats too so again, it’s not like Sloan is blazing a new trail or anything. It’s just that they’re offering them often, and they’re also longer (last one was 1.5 hours; some schools cut you off at half an hour) which is a significant investment of time from the admissions folks. Good stuff.
There’s one more reason why MIT has gotten the highest honor in Snarkville, which we will present along with its significance to all of you
For now, you can learn all about Sloan on our dedicated MIT Sloan MBA info page or check out all our previous posts about MIT’s business school.
We kinda gave away the punchline to one part of this BSer’s story a few weeks back when we complained about a certain school in a previous post…. but this person has a story worth telling and it’s worth hearing it all over again, from their perspective this time! And it does have a happy ending indeed.
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to share my success story on the Blahg! I know that this entry comes to you a few weeks later than promised, so I hope it will still have the chance to be published on the Blahg at some point. I realize that this report is l-o-o-o-o-o-ng (I guess my essay-writing skills are a little rusty), so feel free to pare it down, post in parts or pick and choose whatever you think is of value.
Part-time or Full-time?
My MBA application journey started way back in November of 2014, when I felt that I needed to take some action to accelerate the course of my career path. I started by exploring the top-ranked part-time programs from the two schools that were within commuting distance to where I lived – Kellogg and Booth. As I visited the campuses, went to admissions events, sat in on classes and reached out to current students, I made a couple of observations:
a) The two schools were so starkly different from a culture standpoint that it crystallized how important the “cultural fit” was to me.
b) The current students frequently talked about how difficult it was to balance work and school – those who were closer to graduating often said things like, “Phew, I’m so glad I only have 2 months to go!”.
The latter gave me pause – if I were to take the plunge, it would mean balancing a considerable amount of travel (for work) with commuting 90+ miles for classes over the weekends plus managing school work.
So after giving my GMAT, I decided to test the waters of the full-time programs and the difference in the attitude of the studdents was remarkable – everyone was super excited about school; those who were close to graduation were actually sad that the 2 years were coming to an end; alums often referred to their time in BSchool as the best two years of their lives. This was an eye-opening moment. I realized that I truly wanted the full-time experience… and what’s more, I was in the very fortunate position to be able to go for it if I chose to. (Note: I understand that going part-time can be the absolute right choice under different circumstances for certain people. I luckily did not have family constraints or location constraints. Also, my company wasn’t going to pay for me to go part-time, which made my decision easier.)
Once I decided to apply to the full-time programs, I went all out with my research. After narrowing down my 3 target schools based on culture and focus on healthcare, I visited every single page of the school websites, connected with students and alums, visited the campuses and attended various admissions events. I then spoke with a handful of popular (and expensive) admissions consultants and was immensely disappointed. Some said I didn’t have a shot at any of the top 15, some recommended schools that didn’t make sense at all after I had explained my criteria and some said I was too old for my candidate pool.
Just as I was getting ready to strike out on my own, fortune struck and I stumbled across the Blahg. I started with paid access to the blahg and read hundreds of posts. I then contributed to the Crowd-Sourced Essay Review and was pleasantly surprised to receive positive comments from the Snark. So I decided to go for the Comprehensive Profile Review – when I got back the super detailed 16-page evaluation, not only was I completely sold on the EssaySnark services, I also felt my hope return and my self-doubt fade away. [Yeah! Hope was appropriate! Because like this BSer had a real shot at the best schools! Not too old! Not unqualified! Apparently some other admissions consultants aren’t offering good enough advice to help their clients with similar profiles get in???? WTF! This type of thing drives us nuts. /ESrantover]
As with every other BSer I’ve ever known, my essay-writing experience was painful. In hindsight, I am extremely glad I purchased the Complete Essay Package. It provided a solid framework for my soul-searching process so that by the time I was ready to write my essays, I had almost all my content squared away. The goals accelerator was particularly helpful in steering me toward realistic, but specific goals. I also highly recommend starting with the school guides – I diligently followed the advice in the guides (especially regarding outlining and structure) and as a result, my essays needed way fewer draft revisions to get to a decent quality. My advice for essays is pretty boring and unoriginal: start early and schedule enough time each day to get yourself in the “flow” mode. What worked for me was dragging myself and my computer to a coffee shop for a couple of hours. During these periods of intense focus and content generation, I sometimes hit a wall and experienced frustration. But I often had the best ideas after these sessions, when I was driving or in the shower and no longer agonizing over the essays. And the next time I sat down in the coffee shop, the jigsaw pieces fell beautifully in place.
TOEFL and Unexpected Hiccups
Two weeks after turning in all my applications, I received an email from Haas, saying that I needed to turn in my TOEFL score in order to be considered for Round 1. Although I am an international applicant, since I have lived, studied and worked in the US, I was exempt from writing the TOEFL at most schools. However, Haas is one of the schools that has stricter criteria for exemption. So I had called and checked with the school before turning in my application and was told that I was indeed exempt since I already had a master’s degree from a US university. When I cited this, the admissions personnel I was in contact with said that it didn’t seem plausible and asked weather I remembered the name of the person I had spoken with, as if insinuating that I was not being truthful. Apparently, my research-based masters didn’t count toward the exemption, since I didn’t have enough course credits per semester to satisfy the criteria. (This is where EssaySnark kinda spilled the beans on this story already. Darn it Haas, why you gotta make things hard on these nice people?!??)
EssaySnark was kind enough to offer advice and coached me through a follow-up email to Haas admissions. Ultimately, they were unwilling to budge on the requirement and my application was tabled for consideration in Round 2, provided I satisfied the TOEFL requirement. The whole experience left a sour taste in my mouth and I was no longer as excited about Haas as I had been. I did however end up taking TOEFL and sending them the scores, as it didn’t make sense to withdraw my application after all that work. Also, EssaySnark wisely advised against judging the school based on my experience with admissions. As reluctant as I was to accept this, I knew deep down that it was true.
As they all say, the waiting is the hardest. As we drew close to decision dates, I grew anxious and started prepping for Round 2 – something I hadn’t originally planned for, but now had to consider due to the issue with the Haas application. In the end, it proved unnecessary, as I was admitted into what I later realized had been my first choice school all along. I was waitlisted at the second school and dinged at Haas. But I couldn’t have been happier with the outcome! After all, if you do the work and only apply to schools you really want to go to, one admit is all you need.
Yes indeed! You just need one! Especially when it’s the one you landed!! This BSer proves that it’s all about hard work – and then from our perspective, we believe that it comes down to a touch of fate. Or maybe it’s like Abe Lincoln said: “I find that the harder I work, the luckier I get.”
We’re guessing that this BSer is no longer frequenting the blahg but in case you are, then congrats once again on the great success you achieved, and we’re certain you’re putting this opportunity to good use! If you want to offer any in-the-trenches updates about what your experience is like so far as a first-year on campus, we’d be eager to hear them – and we hope you’re having a blast!
Finally, a small disclaimer to anyone reading this with skepticism: When we ask clients if they want to share their story on the blahg, we do NOT request it as a testimonial – we always state that they can write about whatever they like. We are of course honored and pleased when they choose to talk about their experience with EssaySnark but it is not what we are looking for by making those requests – so this is not intended to be an advertorial! Obviously yes when we help someone along the way then it makes sense for them to mention the experience but we didn’t want people to get the wrong idea on why we’re posting these. Nobody gets compensation for writing their stories for EssaySnark (which BTW is **not** how it works with some other consultants!) – we just like sharing the positivity and we hope that it helps some of you who are in middle of this very challenging process!!!
We’ve got a long history of lovin’ on Haas around here yet in the past two seasons they’ve pulled some lame anti-applicant maneuvers.
In both cases, their ridiculously strict policies resulted in very fine applicants being moved to the next round.
In other words: These applicants submitted in Round X and because of a technicality, their apps were moved to Round Y.
The first time it happened, we brushed it off since it was really the BSer’s fault. But it was lame. This person was moved from Round 2 to Round 3 simply because they submitted the app a few minutes late. We were shocked that Haas was so inflexible but we also tsk-tsked because the BSer should’ve known better.
The second time it happened, on a different issue entirely, it was NOT the BSer’s fault. In this case, the BSer was only moved from Round 1 to Round 2, which is not the end of the world – but it’s also a MAJOR wrench in the works of a well thought-out strategy.
We didn’t name Haas in the original post where we warned BSers not to submit late because again it wasn’t really Haas’s fault. You submit late, there are penalties. That’s true for anything in life. We remain surprised that being a few minutes late on getting an MBA app in has such dire consequences but if that’s how they want to run things, they’re entitled to. When they’re so strict like that, they don’t exactly get a reputation for being customer friendly, though. By contrast, Harvard leaves their application open for several hours after their stated deadline time, to allow stragglers who are still working in panic mode to get everything in, and they’ll even give your recommenders a day or two extra to get recommendations in too.
Berkeley-Haas ESPECIALLY does not get a friendly reputation when you consider this second case: Haas has much more strict policies on the TOEFL for international applicants than most other schools do. No problem, we aren’t complaining about that, and it’s not customer-unfriendly for them to require the test in more cases than their peer programs do. That part is fine.
That being said: We will interrupt this post for a moment with the comment that some schools have done away with the TOEFL entirely. MIT has not ever required it for as long as EssaySnark has been in this business (which is a pretty darned long time now), and Yale ditched it after they rolled out their in-app video essay. The GMAT gives adcoms a pretty strong sense of verbal skills and the interview gives plenty of feedback on language abilities too so we don’t really see how the TOEFL is adding so much value – especially since most people do just fine on it. It’s really an outlier candidate who bombs the TOEFL and that person would also bomb the GMAT verbal sections. The TOEFL is sort of a legacy requirement, if you ask us. It’s kinda like the little toe; we’re told that as a species, we don’t actually need it, but we’re still hanging onto it. Little toe / little TOEFL. Hahahahaha.
Anyway, Berkeley is hanging onto their TOEFL something fierce. It’s actually a UC requirement, and now UCLA has the same rule too. These schools require a lot more applicants to submit a TOEFL than any other MBA program does, and we know that it deters people from applying. Berkeley does have rules by which, if you’ve done at least a year full time study in a degree-granting program in the U.S., Canada, or the UK or some other country where English is the official country language, then they’ll waive it.
This is where one of our peeps last season got hung up.
This BSer was educated in a non-English speaking country for college but then earned a Master’s in a country that qualifies for the exception. This person did what Haas instructs on their website: They called the Berkeley admissions office to confirm that they did in fact qualify for this waiver to the TOEFL. They were told by the person answering the phone that yes, the waiver applied in this case.
Great! So this BSer merrily submitted their app in Round 1 – excitedly submitted, even, since Haas had become their first choice school.
So then what happened?
Well, several weeks after the deadline, they were informed that they needed to take the TOEFL. There was a technicality based on the type of Master’s program that they attended, that DIS-qualified them from the waiver. The waiver did not apply – despite the fact that the Haas admissions person TOLD THEM THAT IT DID.
This BSer jumped through all the hoops, and were still caught in the net.
Lame Lame Lame.
EssaySnark is belaboring all of this to make a point (and no it’s not entirely about Berkeley-Haas):
You need to READ THE POLICIES in each of your target schools’ application carefully.
If you’re an international student especially, you need to research every rule that applies – not just about the TOEFL but also about transcripts and getting certified translations if they’re not issued in English.
If you took the GMAT awhile ago, make sure your score is still valid; the policies vary radically between schools.
You don’t want to be surprised on your first app – or your fifth. Check out ALL the apps and understand that policies may vary.
And in the end, remember that you can’t judge a school by its adcom. We still love Berkeley Haas and maybe with their new leadership in admissions, there may be opportunity for change.
Thinking about applying to Berkeley? The EssaySnark Berkeley Haas MBA Application Guide lays out all the details for answering those essays with aplomb!
Gotta love autocorrect.
We got a question from a BSer this past season where they were asking what to write in the optional essay. This sentence was included:
“Because of your advice I’m taking the woeful again and need to know if I have to explain this to adcomm.”
EssaySnark about fell out of the chair laughing.
Of course they meant they were “taking the TOEFL.” And for anyone who doesn’t know, T-O-E-F-L is usually pronounced, “TOE-FULL” which makes “WOE-FULL” absolutely the perfect substitute.
The fact that the TOEFL is an English language test made it all the funnier.
Ah, the humor of an admissions consultant.
Semi-related: If you’ve ever wondered how some of the odd names in MBA Land are pronounced, we’ve got a handy dandy guide for you. It helps to be able to say the school’s name correctly; gives a certain kind of confidence to the interactions, when you’re doing all that outreach to students and alumni at your interested targets.
If you’re a TOEFL taker – typically being international applicants whose prior educational experiences have not been conducted in English – then now is a great time to be tackling that part of your profile. We often hear that the TOEFL is a snap (relatively speaking) after the challenges of the GMAT, so the standard advice is to take care of your GMAT first. The prep work you do in studying for that should serve you well for the TOEFL, too. Don’t put either off; these are things you should work to cross off the application checklist quite early on, so get working on these now. A bare-minimum TOEFL score would be in the 105 range, in case you’re interested in some broad-strokes targets. As with everything, it depends on the details, and on the whole profile – and most successful international applicants to the top U.S. schools are able to pull off a TOEFL score that’s higher than that.
Remember, the schools all use the case method, which means you’ll need to be able to present and defend your ideas in real time in a classroom full of other smart people, which can be intimidating. The adcoms need to know that you have mastered the language so that you’re set up for success in that environment. If you have questions on the TOEFL – or the woeful – let us know in the comments!
In our “Start Your Engines!” kick-off post recently we promised to talk a bit about the TOEFL, since it tends to not get much love here on the blahg. Today we’re going to do just that. First of all: Most international candidates who did not attend an English-speaking college need to take the TOEFL (or,…
We hardly ever talk about the TOEFL test on this blahg for exactly the reason captured in the title of this post: It’s not that important. It’s also not a part of the admissions process for most Brave Supplicants we work with. The majority of people coming to us for help are either native English…