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…
Writing essays. There are more than a few out there who absolutely dread this process. Either you’ve tried to do it before, such as last year or in Round 1 with a prior set of apps, and you failed, and you cannot stomach the fact of going through all of that again. Or you just…
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…
For many of you, Round 1 apps are done. Essays have been written, recommendations gathered, after-submit video questions completed. You’re looking around and you’re wondering, “What next?”
You’ve been so busy for so many months (errr, so many weeks for some of you) that you had this massively overloaded to-do list and all this excess stress of deadlines driving you every day.
What in the heck do you do with yourself?
It can be a weird sensation, when you’ve been pushing so hard, and now you look up and you have nothing to focus on.
But never fear. EssaySnark has some suggestions!!
We made the biting suggestion in our series of HBS posts last week that BSers should “get a hobby” if they came up short on the Harvard interview, and we actually were only somewhat kidding with that.
The very best time to launch yourself full force into something you’re interested in — nay, passionate about — is right now, when you’re coming off the high of being productive in working towards a personal goal.
What most people do when they achieve a success is they coast. They celebrate. They pull out the plug and go on autopilot, and they quickly fall back to stasis. They resume the level of (non)motivation and (semi)productivity that they’d been at before.
In other words, they go back to being banana slugs.
“What success?” you may be asking. “I haven’t gotten in yet. There is no ‘success’ happening for me. All I did was submit my apps, and not even as many as I planned.”
Oui, oui, ma cherie, that is indeed a success!
You set a goal — apply in Round 1 — and you did it!!
You got one or more apps in.
Or, if you didn’t pull the trigger on any yet, you are still in the “apply now mode” of the admissions cycle. You have made some sort of progress, even if it’s only realizing that yes, you need to take the GMAT again, or coming to the stark recognition that no, you’re not ready yet, and you need to hold back and not jeopardize your chances with erratic applications.
Most of you though got in at least two or maybe four or even five applications over the last six weeks, and yes that is indeed a success. You set a task for yourself, one that requires long-term planning and many steps of execution, and you did it.
Time will tell how good those apps were and if you were aiming appropriately, but no matter what, you did something impressive, more than the vast majority of others in the world are doing. You’re in a minority of people striving for more, and it’s something to be proud of.
And, the best way to leverage that energy and momentum is to harness it towards the next thing.
Think of it like climbing a mountain: You’ve just established your base camp, and started to lay down the route to the next phase, and secured your sights on the top.
What do you do next?
You don’t lay down and take a nap. (OK, you can take a short one. One day. Not multiple napdays in a row though!)
You figure out what else needs to be done, and you do it.
The obvious things to be focusing on with your MBA apps are:
- Interview prep – don’t take this lightly, it’s a big task in itself!
- Round 2 strategies – yes it’s good to be putting a Plan B in place, just in case!
- School visits – because October and early November are prime time for getting those in!
HOWEVER. That’s not all you could use this fabulous energy and determination for!
Please circle back to the blahg
tomorrow edit: HERE! for more suggestions on the best ways to leverage your current position in life.
Shameless plug! If you did not get as many apps in for Round 1 as you had planned, or you’re any of the various breeds of procrastinator that exist among the BSer population, then we can suggest the Round 2 MBA Application Countdown which has just gotten underway! This is a week by week reminder from EssaySnark of what to be working on and how to maximize the time you have available from now till the make-or-break deadlines hit us in January. We’ve also reduced the price of the Complete Essay Package to the lowest it will be for the remainder of the year, in case you want even more support on every aspect of your essay development process! Or just keep coming back to the blahg for tips and tricks. We’ve got plenty of advice coming your way on these pages in an effort to support you towards your MBA dreams!
Reblahgging from several years ago – because it’s timely!
So you got a bunch of apps in this week, or maybe there’s a straggler that you’re still working on for tonight. Great! Congrats! That’s huge! Definitely you deserve a break after that big push in the past few weeks.
Once you’ve caught up on your sleep, and re-introduced yourself to your girlfriend/boyfriend/spouse, and apologized to your boss for being totally checked out mentally this week… what do you do then?
We strongly recommend that you pick up a hobby. You’re gonna need it.
The first day or so after deadlines typically brings a rush of satisfaction. You did it! Apps submitted, project accomplished! That alone can be a pretty great feeling.
But now you’re headed into what some claim to be the very hardest part of the entire process: The waiting.
The days and weeks and months from right now, today, through Decision Day in March are not going to be easy. At least those Round 1 BSers had Halloween and Thanksgiving to serve as distractions and interruptions from the waiting. Yes, you will (hopefully!!) be receiving invitations to interview, and there’s the inevitable disappointment that scads of applicants will experience right around the end of January / first of February, when HBS “releases” its crop of candidates who they aren’t asking to interview. So there will certainly be plenty of drama, and (hopefully!!!!!) you’ll be busy with interview prep in the sometime near future.
But that won’t occupy your time, and even more importantly, it won’t occupy your mind.
What you need is a hobby. Something to do with yourself. A way to put yourself to productive good use in your idle hours.
Even better: Dive back in with the volunteer work you told the adcoms that you participate in – that you haven’t actually participated in very much for the past year since you’ve been busy with GMAT and then essays (and reading MBA forums) for way too much of your time.
The very best advice that we can offer right now: Pick up the pace in your life. You’re on a high from the submits. Use that newfound energy to your advantage. At this very moment – yes, NOW – figure out what you’re going to do with yourself for the next three months. Chart a course. Come up with a plan. Then DO it.
Get re-engaged at work. Find a way to improve things for your team. Look for a project that will make your boss look good. (You do realize that that’s the best way to make your manager love you, right?) Turn your attention to something that matters, and find a way to have an impact with it, at work or in community or just in your life. Clean out the closet or organize the garage or detail your car. Do something that you’ve been putting off and never managed to get around to.
Right now, you’re riding high with the energy of accomplishment. The best way to get to the next level in your life is to apply that proactively to the next big thing. That’s how you can leapfrog yourself and become a new and better person in no time flat.
It’s the New Year. Grab hold of that energy that’s available and make something happen.
Or you can go back to the couch with your beer and your video games.
Life is all about choices. Make some good ones in the next day or so and who knows who you will become?
The problem is, in most cases, the consequences will hit so far in the future that the cause is practically divorced from the result.
Take the choices you make today about what to eat or drink, or whether to skip the gym or push yourself to go, or how late to stay up tonight binge-watching the latest TV series on HBO. By now we all know the possible outcomes of smoking, and we recognize that more sleep and less caffeine are probably better for us (though there’s debate about the latter), yet in the throes of the day to day, it’s hard to perceive the actual impact. That’s because these things accumulate over time, and it’s typically only after many years of questionable decisions have gone by that the impact will be known in the body.
OK, so before you tune out because we’re waxing too philosophical on you, we have to point out that the decisions you make today will also affect your outcomes in getting into bschool.
We harp on BSers every year at this time that getting started on app strategy early is wise. (Very wise.)
But making a decision is hard – especially when it involves effort. It’s easy to join the gym on January 2nd, when you feel guilty about overindulging on December 31st, and ready to embrace the New Year with all sorts of vows to change. But when January 5th rolls around and it’s dark outside when your alarm goes off, it’s way easier to hit the Snooze button like a gazillion times and blow off your planned early morning trip to the gym entirely.
Decisions about the future are hard, because the person making the decision NOW is not the person who will need to execute on (or live with) the decision LATER. You are assuming that the motivation you feel after finally shaking off that New Year’s Eve hangover on January 2nd, that you will turn over a new leaf and make a real effort of getting into shape this year, will still be intact in your psyche on the remaining 29 days of January when you have committed to yourself that you’ll be going to the gym without missing a day. The person who wakes up on January 5th is simply not that person who made the commitment to join the gym in the first place. The person who wakes up on January 5th is tired and grumpy and hasn’t had any coffee, so who can blame them for not wanting to drag themselves out of bed to subject themselves to the unpleasantness of a grueling early morning workout?
EssaySnark is writing to you today on behalf of your FUTURE SELF.
Your TODAY SELF does not realize how quickly the time will be passing. Your TODAY SELF feels like the Round 1 deadlines in September are a forever away, and that you will get started on your applications soon enough to make it all happen. Your TODAY SELF is living in a mirage.
You do not have all the time in the world. If you start now, you will have JUST ENOUGH time to do all that needs to be done at a reasonable pace without getting too wound up about things. In fact, if you start now, you will still feel that you don’t have enough time at the end – but at least your FUTURE SELF will also feel proud that you took EssaySnark’s advice and didn’t dick around in the Spring, but instead made the most of this long stretch of days and weeks leading up to those deadlines. You will feel stressed, but you won’t be pissed off at your own self for screwing around.
(You will also save money, BTW, if you choose to use our services – all MBA admissions consulting options are super cheap right now!!)
The decision to get started on your MBA applications is one you’ve probably already made. That part is simple. That part is what brought you to the blahg in the first place. And while we compliment you for being forward thinking and planning ahead, and for starting to get started, for most of you reading this today, you haven’t actually gotten started. Instead, you’re pretending to work on your apps by reading the blahg, or the forums, or whatever other MBA-focused site you are frequenting in your daily internet rounds these days.
But you need to recognize that reading blahgs and BSer forums is not actually getting started. Our post today is to exhort you to MAKE A DECISION that your future self will thank you for. And you know what? THIS DECISION IS EASY.
It’s even what Jeff Bezos calls a Type 2 decision – one of low risk:
Some decisions are consequential and irreversible or nearly irreversible – one-way doors – and these decisions must be made methodically, carefully, slowly, with great deliberation and consultation. If you walk through and don’t like what you see on the other side, you can’t get back to where you were before. We can call these Type 1 decisions. But most decisions aren’t like that – they are changeable, reversible – they’re two-way doors. If you’ve made a suboptimal Type 2 decision, you don’t have to live with the consequences for that long. You can reopen the door and go back through. Type 2 decisions can and should be made quickly by high judgment individuals or small groups.
That was from the Amazon 2015 Letter to Shareholders (download here if you’re interested – fascinating read about the way the business is run).
When you read it in context, you realize he’s talking about something quite different than we are today, but it’s still relevant and true to the point we’re making.
It’s the Type 1 decisions that change your life:
- Propose to the girl (or boy)
- Put the bid in on the house
- Accept the transfer to the overseas office
It’s the Type 2 decisions that get you to the point where you can make the Type 1 decisions:
- Buy the engagement ring (you can always return it!)
- Make an appointment with the realtor
- Tell your boss you’ve always wanted to work abroad
You’ve decided you want an MBA – and probably you’ve even taken the GMAT or are in the process of doing so – but both of those are still Type 2 decisions. You’ve committed, but you have not committed.
Even starting on your apps is not committing – that won’t come until you pay the first deposit at a top MBA program sometime next year (and even then it’s not irreversible, you can always decide not to go).
But that “pay the deposit” thing cannot happen until you’re accepted, and that cannot happen until you’ve convinced the adcom that you’re the one they want, and that cannot happen without doing a bang-up job on the app, and that cannot happen without a lot of effort on the essays, and that cannot happen if you don’t get started soon.
Right now, what you’re faced with is a long stretch of days full of many, many opportunities to make Type 2 decisions:
- Shall I go out with the gang to Happy Hour tonight?
- Or shall I stay home and watch Netflix?
- Shall I head to the gym instead?
- Or shall I … work on my MBA application strategy?
All of those seemingly have little to no consequence in your life, but all of them will lead you to very different possible outcomes. The decisions seem inconsequential today, but they change your destiny in the aggregate.
The whole notion of a zero-sum game is one of the most depressing ideas out there – and it’s not actually a philosophy we subscribe to in the context of MBA admissions.
In case you’re not familiar with this idiom, a “zero-sum game” is one where players compete, and for every winner, there is a loser. It’s the opposite of today’s “You’re all winners!” culture of raising kids in America where everyone who participates gets to bring home a special ribbon or trophy. In a zero-sum game, one person ends up happy and one person very very sad.
Many people in MBA admissions claim that this is the situation at hand. After all, there are a finite set of seats in the incoming classes of the top business schools. If there’s a limited supply, and seemingly ever-increasing demand, then let’s face it,
you’re f#cked— no, sorry, that’s not what we meant at all!!!!
Here’s how EssaySnark looks at it:
1. We are particularly fond of 16 American business schools that we’ve identified as “the best.” (It’s the ones that we post MBA essay questions for, and that we – try to – publish app strategy guides about every year.) The order or ranking of which school should be at the top of that list does not matter. Yes your opportunities (and income) are likely to be quite different if you graduate from Harvard, vs Ross, but really, if you graduate from Ross you are going to do A-OK. So, 16 schools. We’re not going to add up how many seats are available at these but it’s somewhere around 8,000.
If you don’t make it into one of those programs, then:
2. The European schools are GREAT and are often overlooked by many BSers, Americans and otherwise. We can easily expand our list of “best” business schools to 19 – and could go even higher without much effort – simply by including Europe in the mix. Those programs tend to be somewhat smaller than their U.S. counterparts but we probably bump up to the 10,000+ open seats range by pulling them in. (PS: We now have an application guide for European MBA programs, too.)
That right there should tell you that there’s a spot for everybody. Harvard gets around 9,000 applications per year. Everyone applies to Harvard – OK no not really, but we’re betting that a large percentage of people who apply anywhere in a season have submitted to Harvard. We work with a big group of level-headed folks who also realize that HBS isn’t for them and submit to other schools without wasting their time on Harvard, so certainly it’s not like Harvard volumes represent the entire universe of applicants. But how many more can it be? A thousand? Two thousand? Three?
Now clearly, this analysis is flawed because there are countless applicants who try for bschool every year and don’t make it in anywhere, and end up not starting their MBAs when they want to. Yet there are not seats that the top schools want to fill that end up going vacant. Demand > supply in this world. There are clearly more people who want a high-end MBA than there are high-end bschools to provide it. (Not everyone who wants it is automatically qualified of course.)
Nobody has come up with a way (yet?) to optimize the equation and make sure that everyone who wants to go to bschool is appropriately matched with an open seat at a good school. Now THAT would be an algorithm to build.
But the reason we claim that it’s not a zero-sum game is, just because one guy gets in and another does not does not mean that the one who didn’t is a permanent loser. There’s something called a reapplication and there’s lots and lots of BSers we know who simply require two rotations of the merry-go-round before they land their spot.
And, for the highly motivated and/or impatient, there are part-time programs – more and more of them these days, including hybrid MBAs that have a blended curriculum offering online plus realtime (on-campus) components. We cannot even begin to count how many of those are out there. At the top schools alone, we’d wager that there’s easily 4,000 to 5,000 seats available in non-full-time MBA programs. They’re still teaching you MBA stuff and awarding you an MBA degree at the end – in fact, it’s literally the same MBA as the full-time programs award. It’s just earned through a different program structure.
So yes, if you have a very limited view of the world, and you tend to be a pessimistic type, we can understand why you might see this as a black-and-white win/lose zero-sum game. That’s just not the outlook that we subscribe to, and it’s also not a relevant assessment anyway. Because even if it is a zero-sum game, what we know is that the individuals who do the work and don’t lose focus and present a pitch that convinces the adcom of why they belong in their school… well, those people make it in.
And that can be you. And then it doesn’t matter what label you put on the odds of admission.