Yesterday we posted a question from a Brave Supplicant who was worried about their lack of extracurriculars, and we stated that probably, they were overthinking things. If you didn’t read that original question, you probably should go back before continuing, so you get the full picture of what this BSer was asking about. Here’s our…
We’ve got another question to tackle today that was submitted way back. This particular BSer did pretty darned good in the application process and is guaranteed to be starting bschool in the fall; which one is still up in the air, as there are some apps still in play, but there are at least a…
In the category of well-intentioned but potentially damaging:
We keep having BSers tell us what they’ve been told by the current students attending the schools they want to go to.
It’s awesome when they report to us about their experiences or what new changes are happening or some amazing popular course or professor.
It’s often cringe-inducing when they tell us what the students are claiming about admissions to their schools.
Current students just LOVE to tell you how to get in.
Problem is, mostly, they’re wrong.
Current students rarely have the perspective offered from seeing massive amounts of data on who is getting in – and not. They hear about ONE case or ONE applicant – or maybe a handful – and they make all sorts of interpretations about that.
As in, “If you’re a military candidate, you have to have more than 8 years of experience to get into a Top 10 school.” We’re paraphrasing, but that’s essentially what a BSer reported to us recently, that he gleaned from conversations with current vets at different schools.
That is untrue.
No school makes admit decisions like that.
Wait, no, we take that back. Many schools DO make admit decisions on LACK OF experience. But the implication with what was reported to us is that these military candidates believe that they need MORE experience than average to have a shot at a good school.
There’s also huge danger in isolating ONE candidate profile who, for example, didn’t make it into H/S/W. This happens on the applicant discussion boards all the time. Someone has their stats posted in their profile – 750 / 3.8 / PE or whatever. And they have the little log of all the Top 10 schools they tried for, and as decisions come out, you start to see the Rejected flag show up on the best schools.
And then you’re like, “D@mn, even a 750 + 3.8 isn’t good enough for Harvard!”
No, Brave Supplicant, no. That is not the conclusion to draw from it.
Someone with a 750 + 3.8 should be exceptionally well positioned to have a go at H/S/W” and if they play their cards right, AND IF THEY HAVE SOMETHING NOTABLE TO PRESENT ABOUT WHO THEY ARE IN THE ESSAYS then this person should have NO TROUBLE getting into at least one of those schools. Or at MINIMUM getting the interview invite.
Yes you can quote us on that. With stats like that, there’s practically NO EXCUSE to not at least make it to the interview stage at one of those schools.
Now, we’re completely going against our own advice about how a good consultant would never predict someone’s chances based on these two core stats alone. In fact we call that borderline professional malpractice.
What you will note, though, is the very big disclaimer that we’ve put on this prediction: That the person has something worthwhile to present about themselves in the app.
Of course it’s not enough to simply have a 750 + 3.8.
And of course it’s always possible to get in with a 650 + 2.8.
In ALL CASES it comes down to how you actually pitch yourself.
Which really boils down to: What have you done in your life?
The danger of listening to current students offering advice on how to get into bschool is that they have only a tiny sample size from which they’re drawing their conclusions. And current students should KNOW BETTER. They took stats in their first term!
Even for those schools that have current students help with admissions interviews, it’s rare that those students are so intimately involved with the behind-the-scenes decision-making that they can give out meaningful insights about the actual factors that their admissions people are using to issue admits by. Sure, they may hear an anecdote here or there – but anecdotes cannot be used to draw your own strategy from. You have no idea what other factors may have played a part in one individual’s acceptance or rejection.
So just like our exhortation that friends don’t let friends read their essays…. this is important to understand.
Yes you want to be reaching out to the schools and talking to students. And sure, listen to everything that they have to say.
But treat it as gospel? Like they have some insider access or privileged information that can help you get in?
We say, be careful with that.
The only way for a non admissions person to tell you what happens in admissions is to have volumes of data to analyze about what different applicants have presented at that school, and how their candidacy turned out. And the only way to extrapolate full-system trends and insights from that is to have the appropriate volumes across the ecosystem of schools.
It’s also a reason why you want an admissions consultant who deals with lots of clients every year. That’s the only way for the consultant to be able to give valid advice.
Talk with lots of people. Then talk to some more.
Then carefully filter out the information that your different sources are offering and evaluate it based on what the source actually has access to.
There are so many myths and misconceptions in this industry. You don’t want to get thrown under the bus inadvertently by a well-meaning friend.
This is actually a pseudo-essay critique in disguise; we can’t claim it literally as a Wharton career goals essay critique since the Wharton essay questions haven’t been released yet. And this one is from a past season. But we’re going to talk mostly about a common question among the applicant crowd, about the size of…
Say you’re the prettiest girl at the bar.
You appreciate having options.
You don’t want people to think that you’re taken.
(Except for the sleazy ones. Well no wait, it’s still kinda flattering when they make a move… buy you a drink… makes you feel good to get the attention.)
You’re nice. You’re friendly. You don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. But you also know that you’re not going to go home with them.
Still, you don’t want to discourage them. You don’t want them to think you’re a b!tch. You can’t help it that you’re beautiful and everyone wants to be near you.
(We know that none of you are really like this. But play along for a sec, m’kay?)
As the evening progresses, the partying is going strong, but then as it starts to get late, the bar begins to thin out. It starts getting a little less fun, with less of an adoring crowd. The pretty girl’s self esteem starts to suffer, without the swooning admirers. She’s pouting a bit.
There’s fewer, ahem, candidates around.
What’s the best strategy for the pretty girl?
Well, what Harvard Business School does in this situation is, Admissions Director Dee Leopold posts encouraging advice, saying “The myths aren’t true! Round 3 is viable!”
Here’s what she said on her blog a few weeks ago:
Myth #1: There are no spots available.
Not true. We manage the selection process to ensure that there are always spots open for the candidates we want. Are there as many spots open as in Rounds 1 and 2? No. Are there as many applicants? No. Do I think a strong candidate has a fair shot? Yes.
In other words: “Don’t go home yet! I know it’s late but I want to party with you!” Pats the seat next to her. “Here, this spot is open, and look, my glass is empty!”
OK, BSers, let’s dissect this.
Is Dee Leopold really on your side? Is she really saying “Ooh! You’re hot! We want to meet you! *You* have a chance!”
Or is she just making sure that she has choices available?
Obviously she wants to encourage everyone. It’s in her best interest. HBS always gets more apps than any other school so it’s not like she needs to artificially drum up the numbers to make some quota or in order to feel like the popular one.
In recent years though, the schools for which Round 3 is actually a difficult round have started to (finally!) be open about this fact of life in admissions. Many schools are acknowledging that Rounds 1 and 2 are preferable, and that there’s diminished chances in Round 3. After all, by the time March rolls around, the class is filling up. They’ve waded through scores of applicants and they’ve had many people gleefully accept their offers and cough up deposits to commit. There aren’t that many empty seats left on the merry-go-round.
But Harvard is Harvard, and they like doing things differently. The standard rules don’t apply to them. So every year, we have Dee Leopold telling everyone that they should go ahead and try in Round 3.
EVEN THOUGH YOU’RE NOT LIKELY TO HAVE MUCH OF A CHANCE.
Oh wait. We shouldn’t have capitalized that. No need to shout about it. Because you won’t have much of a chance at Harvard anyway.
It’s wicked-tough to get into Harvard. Could it really be any tougher in Round 3? Especially since they get fewer apps… seems like you’d have the numbers on your side. You could stand out better when there’s only a couple hundred, maybe a thousand of others… instead of multiples of those numbers. Maybe it’s actually easier at this time of year.
Hold the phone, Brave Supplicant. The deal is this:
HARVARD THEMSELVES SAY NOT TO APPLY IN ROUND 3.
At least, that’s what they say buried away towards the end of this webinar presentation recording that they have posted on their site (tucked away in a corner that we didn’t even know existed – perhaps we haven’t been paying close enough attention – EssaySnark, get out of that rock you’ve been hiding under!).
Here’s the actual quote from the webinar:
“We encourage most people not to apply in Round 3.”
That’s pretty black-and-white, if you ask us.
Now, we’re not saying that Harvard isn’t unique in many ways. One truth: They are exceptionally liberal in doling out dollars to accepted candidates, and they are flush enough with cash in the coffers that they can do this all through the season. Someone admitted in the last round is just as much eligible for the free money fellowship award at HBS than a first-round person. This is different than other schools, due to the amount of money Harvard has to spend on students. It’s just economics.
All this other baloney about Round 3 though? No different. It is HARDER.
But again, it’s relative. As we already stated, and as you already knew, it’s so darned hard to get into Harvard anyway, is it really that much harder now?
Or you could look at it in a glass-half-full kind of way: If you’re Harvard material, then you’re going to get in during ANY round.
As with all things admissions: Consider the source, look for their perspective, and do your research. And always remember, what one school says does NOT apply to any other school.
We talk on and on at this blahg (and on and on) about the dangers of a Round 3 application and just yesterday, we told you that if you’re thinking of applying to Columbia, don’t bother.
The confusing part is schools that have four rounds. There used to be several of those, including LBS and Cornell, however Cornell dropped their fourth round this season and now they have just three rounds – though their dates are off-kilter from the standard sequence of round deadlines that other schools tend to use. Their Round 3 deadline was just last week, on February 12. Also, Cornell is an exception in that they will continue accepting what they call “late” apps, even though the official “round” deadlines are past – you can still apply to Cornell up through mid-April.
Today we’re going to offer up some excellent guidance on applying in Round 3 from Cornell admissions themselves – though note that this blog post was published by Johnson Admissions Director Christina Sneva last year when they still had four rounds. We hung onto it to post now because it’s so chock-full of goodness. Most all of this applies to anyone / any school (though odds of admission in the final round decrease significantly – like, SIGNIFICANTLY – the higher up the bschool rankings that you go).
(Her post is “Round 4 Myths.” The snark in us wanted to take issue with the fact that Christina called these things “myths” but then proceeded to say that some of them are true…)
Anyway, her points are important to consider. Different adcoms will be more or less in sync with everything she’s said. Be aware of how you’ll be perceived with a Round 4 (3) app and proceed accordingly.
And just in the interest of full disclosure: We almost ALWAYS see people have much more success if they sit on their hands right now and wait till May, when the essay questions will start to come out for the next application season and they can get to work on putting together the most stunningest Round 1 app the world has ever seen.
You may also be interested in:
- To Round 3 or Not to Round 3? (March 2013)
- “I realize it’s Round 3 and that it’s recommended to wait…” (April 2012)
- Possible SITUATIONS where a Round 3 application might make sense (March 2011)
- Possible PROGRAMS where a Round 3 application might make sense (March 2011)
In our 3 Myths about MBA Admissions post last week – one of which is the idea that you need to have brand-name firms on your resume to get into bschool – someone posted a comment basically saying “Prove it!” (They didn’t say it in a mean way, just a doubting and skeptical way.) Here’s the question:
Even though every year some applicants working at no-name company get into top b-schools, isn’t it the case that more applicants from big name companies get in top schools compared to those from no-name companies (Goldie’s Pawn Shop). [we thought that said “Goldie Hawn’s Shop” at first]
What does your data say?
When ever I browse through the current students in top schools on linkedin, I see most of them have either a great undergrad school or a top company on their resume (sometimes both).
I understand we may be looking at correlation than causation, but isn’t the data tilted towards top companies.
Short answer: No.
The majority of our clients do NOT come from big-name companies. Sure, a bunch do, but “the data”, from our side at least, is not tilted that way.
Other short answer: Yes it’s correlation if anything.
Last short answer: We didn’t say that the schools don’t admit lots of people from those companies. What we said is that it’s no disadvantage if you did not come from one of those companies.
But let’s go back to how you’ve changed the premise… and yes, this post is morphing into a very long answer.
We actually don’t think that the absolute numbers are what you believe.
We’d hypothesize that one reason you may think that “most of them” come from a great pedigree is simply due to the name-recognition factor; you’re looking at a profile that says Company X and your brain easily lodges the info; you see a handful of them and it feels like everyone went to Company X. No-Name Company A and No-Name Company B don’t lodge in your brain ‘cuz you’ve never heard of them before. It’s just like what happens when you learn a new word – now all of a sudden you see it everywhere. There’s even a word for this: the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon. What we’ve described is “selective attention.” You notice something, then you notice it more, and it seems like it’s everywhere, it’s inescapable.
So that’s just our theory on what’s happening with you. Another theory is that perhaps those from big companies are more inclined to post profiles on LinkedIn etc. Regardless, there’s no way you can be looking at the profiles of everyone who’s graduated; we’re talking 900 people at Harvard alone. So we know that your sample is skewed. While we can’t claim that our sample is definitely representative, we would be willing to bet that it’s directionally so.
We don’t argue the truth that there’s lots of people from brand-name companies at top schools. Certain big companies do feed a lot into bschools. Some of them are almost pre-MBA machines; if you’re at one of those places, you have advantages, due to everyone who’s gone before who can help you. Some firms even offer on-site MBA admissions consulting and lots of support, and certainly the people doing recommendations from those companies have done it before and tend to do a good job for their people. This may be one reason why we don’t get as many of them seeking help from the ‘Snark – we do get some, definitely, we have experience across the gamut of profiles and backgrounds. But sure, we’ll give you that; it’s possible our data is not explicitly representative of the entire population of successes.
Regardless, the fact is that a huge number of people we work with do get into school (and we work with huge numbers) and most of them are not from big-name companies, and that gives enough proof that our assertion is true: As we stated in the original post, the thinking that “I’m at a disadvantage because I don’t have any ‘brand name’ companies on my resume” is BS.
Or you can ask the schools. ALL OF THEM will tell you that it’s not necessary.
There’s two easy reasons that the schools may choose a bunch of these kids:
1) Getting into a great university or being hired by a top firm means you’ve “passed the test” – those acceptances show you’ve met some criteria and you’re ahead of your peers; it’s very tough to get through those screening processes, just as it is to get into a top MBA program, and so having done so in the past gives evidence that you’re an overachiever – this is definitely the CORRELATION bit.
and 2) The schools are huge and need to fill their classes from somewhere. The MBA is the natural next step for many people who started in consulting or finance, and the schools place lots of grads out into consulting and finance. The schools are just tapping a natural market.
At the same time, none of the schools want too many people from any one company, since that squashes the whole notion of diversity. In fact, it can sometimes be very difficult for those applying from the top companies to get in because too many of their colleagues have already been admitted. Or the person they want to do their recommendation has already written five recs this year. It’s even MORE competitive for these people.
Not that most of you will have too much sympathy for that. 😉
We spoke of some of this in a thread on GMAT Club recently and of course we’ve been discussing these issues for weeks here on the blahg with the stuff about the “Harvard ‘type'” and pretty much every Success Story you can read on this site is from someone who was not at one of these marquee name firms.
Not sure what else we need to do to convince you.
(And not to be argumentative, but the question seems a little silly, why would we write a whole post about something that our data and years of experience did not support?)
And oh yeah: We did in fact have a client who worked in a pawn shop once. He made it in. Never had someone working at Goldie Hawn’s Shop though – but they probably would have some good luck with their apps too, given that everyone thinks that you need to know someone famous to get into Harvard. We should probably deal with that myth sometime too huh.