We know some of you are seriously stressing out right now. You had every intention of making Round 1 happen, and yet Real Life conspired, and now you’re not where you had planned to be. Should you just plan to take advantage of Round 2 instead? This is a legit question!! And it completely depends…
We’re reblahgging this from 2013 because this is a cause of failure for so many BSers — and this technique works!
Now that we’ve planted the seed, many of you are beginning to actually think about Round 2. And some of you will actually do more than think about it. Some of you have even gotten started (kinda sorta a little).
Most people haven’t, though.
What prevents many people from ever getting into bschool is that they don’t even manage to submit a single application.
Procrastination can ruin a life.
Or at least, it can prevent you from progressing as quickly as you otherwise could.
Today’s post isn’t about how to write a specific type of MBA essay. We’re not going to talk about career goals essays vs. leadership essays, or mistake essays vs. failure essays. We’re not going to dissect grammar or structure or rules of the road for crafting your message.
Instead, we’re going to talk about how to literally get the essay written.
As in, open up Microsoft Word and start typing.
As in, keep typing. Without flipping over to Facebook to check your feed.
As in, still typing. Without pulling your phone out of your pocket in response to a phantom text.
As in, still typing, all the way through the 500 words or however many the school has allotted you for whichever essay you’re actually attempting to write.
This isn’t rocket science. Perhaps you’ve heard of the technique before. It’s a fabulous method to use whenever you are faced with something you know you should do, but you really don’t wanna. The type of task where you don’t know where to start and so you dilly dally around and convince yourself that you’re working because you’re sitting at your computer but really you’re reading the MBA blogs and then finally you look up and you realize that it’s dark outside and the day is over and you’ve spent the last two hours looking at cat videos (this one is a current fave).
Instead of that, try this:
It’s called the Pomodoro Technique, named after a tomato, as in a timer in the shape of.
The essence of it is, you’ll use a kitchen timer – or the clock on your iPhone, or a app that you can download, or whatever – and set it for 25 minutes, at the start of which you will actually begin working. Like, launching Microsoft Word, copying in the essay question you are responding to, and then beginning to write the essay*. When the timer goes off, you stop. Take a break. 5 minutes. Then you do it again. 25 minutes work, 5 minutes break.
There’s a whole system behind it which, in our opinion, makes it a little more complicated than necessary. You can
procrastinate the next 20 minutes go to this website to check it out.
Lots of people are thinking about writing essays. Make sure you’re one who actually writes them. Get started now.
* EssaySnark actually does not recommend that you write essays from scratch like this. The best way is to start with outlines. So you can use the Pomodoro Technique to begin outlining. Or you can sign up for our Essay Ideas & Outlines App Accelerator and
pretend you’re being productive ACTUALLY START BEING PRODUCTIVE on developing content for your applications.
We had a number of these happy tales from former Brave Supplicants roll in after Round 2 and we’ve been scrambling to get them posted. BTW, a “former Brave Supplicant” is one who was successful! So, congrats to yet another one, this time from the military MBA contingent – though honestly, there’s nothing in here that does not perfectly apply to EVERYBODY. Here’s the story.
I decided to get my MBA after returning from Afghanistan and realizing with the utmost certainty that I did not want to make the military my career. I enjoyed serving my nation, but I was ready to do something different. I got started a little late in the game for GMAT prep. Take heed from ES and really make sure you start early and don’t waste any time. I started “studying” in September of 2013 to hopefully be ready for Round 1 in 2014. Studying consisted of buying a Kaplan book at Barnes and Noble and perusing it for about 30 – 45 minutes at a time on nights I didn’t attend happy hour or wasn’t too hungover on a weekend. I lulled myself into thinking that the GMAT wouldn’t be that hard.
Next thing I knew it was the holidays and everything started to speed up real quick. I broke my shoulder in January while snowboarding, so I didn’t really have much of a choice to throttle back and took studying more seriously. I wasn’t getting the results I wanted and decided to take a class with MGMAT in April after a couple of work trips and a final farewell to my pre-admissions life at Coachella. I wish I had done it sooner. I hit the books pretty hard and did all the required/suggested coursework while balancing my military duties and I thought I was on track to hit the score I wanted in August . My original timeline allocated more than enough time to get my essays and letters of rec done for R1 at my target schools (I worked with ES to identify and refine a list through the comprehensive profile analysis in March). I had already visited a couple campuses and tried to determine where I would fit in – ES was blowing this whole admissions process out of proportion. It seemed to be going way too easy. [LOL. -ES]
I had a family vacation to Hawaii in August and scheduled to take the GMAT the day before flying out. I think you guys know where this is going – I bombed it. I was crushed. I scored lower than I did on my initial Kaplan diagnostic exam. After going through a service academy and being in a warzone, I felt like I knew what really being sad meant. The feeling I had when seeing that number at the end of my test was awful. Earth shattering. I questioned if I even should bother applying for B-school and if I had made a mistake leaving active duty. Needless to say, I probably had the most miserable 14 days in Hawaii in all of recorded history. [Awwww! 🙁 -ES]
There was no way I would even think of applying to schools with the score I got so I had to shift my admissions strategy to round 2. I signed up to take the GMAT again right before Thanksgiving. For all you guys out there that have to go more than one round with the GMAT, take solace in the fact that you aren’t the first (or last) to have to do it. I got with an instructor from MGMAT where we reviewed my coursework and created a tailored study plan to get a score that more accurately reflected my abilities. Starting the study routine was painful. I dragged myself to coffee shops and generated motivation through a healthy combination of self-loathing and business school brochures that gave me a glimpse of where I hoped to be. When I wasn’t studying or taking practice tests, I was working on essay ideas and fine tuning my resume. Thankfully I have supportive friends and parents that kept me from going over the deep end – especially when I was obsessively reading GMAT blogs and my buddies were getting round 1 invites to interview. Like I said – start your prep early.
D-Day for GMAT Round II arrived and I felt like I was due for some redemption. I got a score I was happy with. I may or may not have Tiger Woods fist pumped when I saw my score flash across the screen. I took a couple of days off over Thanksgiving and thought about some of my ideas for essay topics and strategies. As soon as December rolled around I was writing essays, corralling my letters of recommendation, and filling out apps non-stop. I would not recommend taking the path I did. My family was reading version 100 of “Why you?” and “What’s the biggest risk you’ve taken?” essays on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Day. I was a man possessed by a singular drive to get into school. Finally hitting “Submit” and seeing all the fields show up as green on my application was surreal. Was that it? Is it the waiting game now? My biggest piece of advice is to not look at your application proofs until you have an interview scheduled with a school. Seeing an unintended space or typo after the fact is maddening and counterproductive. [This is EXCELLENT advice. -ES]
I was watching blogs and forums waiting for that call/e-mail to invite. Thankfully my interviews were staggered and I had one every two weeks or so until the middle of March to keep me from going insane waiting for a UCLA interview invite that never came. A common theme I noticed was that I fell in love with whichever school gave me attention and I prepped an interview for. My first interview with GU was a little rough and I took away a bunch of lessons. I flew out to Darden in February and fell in love with the grounds and the culture. I prepped for it pretty well and looked up a bunch of questions beforehand online. I interviewed with USC shortly after and carried the confidence from my Darden interview into it.
After completing my interviews, I didn’t know what to do with myself. I had been dialed into the admissions process for almost a year and I was just waiting. It felt like I had been on a ski boat forever and was learning how to walk on firm ground again. I started working out more and reintroduced myself to my girlfriend after 3 months of being a scumbag boyfriend. I got into USC in early March and that took a TON of pressure off of my shoulders as I eagerly awaited the rest of my decisions. I initially got waitlisted at GU (which I thought was a way of protecting their yield – just my 2 cents) and got the phone call from Darden Admissions over lunch time. Easily one of the best feelings of my life and made the struggle worth it. I got dinged from UCLA without an interview, but I’m ok with it. I’d like to think that I’d still pick Darden if I had gotten into both, but I realize just how fortunate I am to be admitted into one of the b-schools discussed on this site. I’ve already picked out place in Charlottesville and can’t wait for the end of summer.
Thank you so much for everything ES. For the rest of you downtrodden BS-ers, best of luck getting through the suck of admissions. That phone call is well worth it.
Wow what a great story – full of trials and tribulations, ups and downs, and many lessons learned that (hopefully!!!!) all you fresh-eyed BSers considering this process will heed!
Former Brave Supplicant, THANK YOU for this write-up and GOOD LUCK at Darden! Charlottesville is indeed awesome, and we hope you stay in touch so we can hear how the next phase of this adventure goes for you.
And it causes you to take longer to finish – and your work quality is lower.
This excellent article from Annie Murphy Paul explains it: Why learning and multitasking don’t mix
Here’s an excerpt that specifically caught our attention:
“[T]he mental fatigue caused by repeatedly dropping and picking up a mental thread leads to more mistakes. The cognitive cost of such task-switching is especially high when students alternate between tasks that call for different sets of expressive “rules”—the formal, precise language required for an English essay, for example, and the casual, friendly tone of an email to a friend.”
Sometimes we get drafts of MBA admissions essays for review that are totally disjointed – where the paragraphs just don’t fit together. Now we’re wondering if essays like that were drafted concurrent with texting with friends about some important new social development happening at the same time. That would certainly explain it.
As Round 2 starts to peek over the horizon and you gear up for another season of writing essays, you can start to train yourself for the extended concentration sessions needed to produce quality work on the page. Writing is a brain-intensive task. Take some time to set up your environment – clear the clutter from your desk, throw away the empty boxes of cookies that have collected in the corner, make it a place that is inviting and easy to be in. Get rid of the distractions. A TV does not belong in the same room as a person studying. Or writing bschool essays.
We have a bunch of posts here on the blahg to help you with time and task management. Here are a few from the Sn*archives that may be useful:
- How to stop avoiding the difficult jobs (August 2013)
- And maybe this most (un)helpful of all: How to write an MBA essay (June 2013)
OK, we just gave you three posts to read, which is enough of a procrastination indulgence. Now use some of those techniques and suggestions and get to work!
(Click on the title to see the fun part!)
EssaySnark was pleasantly surprised recently when we heard from a long-ago Brave Supplicant – like, someone we’d worked with two years ago – saying that they’d made it into bschool!!! It’s a more unusual story of the road they took to the MBA. We’re honored that they wrote up their experience for us to share and we’re posting the first part today – much of it very timely indeed, given what we know many of you are going through right this very minute!
Here’s the first phase of their story:
I first became interested in getting an MBA when a colleague entered an executive MBA program, and raved about the experience, the network, the classes, and what it did for her career. Given the constantly changing nature of the industry that we were working in and the kinds of skills I had at the time, I thought getting an MBA would be extremely useful for me as well, but I focused on the full-time MBA.
So in the fall of 2011 is when it all started. I took a practice GMAT exam, scored 650. Then I signed up for a GMAT class. I visited with schools at MBA fairs (yikes! what a cattle call), or if the school was coming through, went to their reception/coffee chats. I made class visits to NYU and Columbia. I was in Chicago for a vacation, so I added in a side trip to Booth. I studied for the GMAT and initially planned on taking it in November, but postponed the test by one month to December to make sure I was absolutely prepared. In December, I had locked in a score of 690. On to applications. But it was already December!
Here’s the thing–my initial plan had been to do applications in the fall of 2012, but sneak one or two applications in the winter of 2011, if possible, and see what would happen. By this time, I had already read many dire warnings about not applying in Round 3 (as Essay Snark, and adcom members themselves say), and that you need to get your application done in Round 2 if you’re going to apply to the top schools. Since I had just finished taking the GMAT, I just didn’t feel I had enough time to do more than one application for Round 2. Or maybe I was being overly cautious? Hindsight is everything, of course.
I made the Columbia application my priority. It was the school I had visited the most and was the most impressed by. Though, I should say, all the schools I encountered were represented by accomplished alumni. (Heck, I met someone from UC San Diego Rady who had an amazing job! It’s the truth.) They do a great job of wooing you. They all sound great. But which school is best for you?
So, Columbia was at the top of my list. In general, as many people warn, you should definitely not make your top school your first application! But at the same time, I was also trying to work with the advice that if you want to apply to Columbia, you need to apply ASAP, and December was already late. I didn’t rush my application, but I felt late to the game.
I wrote my essays, requested letters of recommendation, and kept revising my Columbia application over the holidays. I devoured everything I could find on forums about Columbia, the business school application process, and stumbled across Essay Snark’s blog.
Essay Snark was offering some kind of special essay package for tardy Round 2 applicants, so I signed up and contacted Essay Snark on December 31st. [BSers, please don’t count on that happening this year! Our prices are currently as low as they’re gonna be for Round 2 – and yes we’ll still be helping people on New Year’s Eve but PLEASE don’t wait that long! You can get started now. -EssaySnark] Here’s where a bit of testimonial/endorsement comes in: Essay Snark was nothing less than amazing and extraordinary, and the process of revision was entirely worthwhile. Even better, I learned from Essay Snark’s comments and I grasped why Essay Snark was asking questions about certain parts of my essay. Essay Snark really does know what they’re doing. I didn’t consider that my answer about X and Y could be interpreted as Z instead. So it’s best that Essay Snark finds those weaknesses in the essay stage and you think long and hard about everything. If Essay Snark isn’t understanding your story from your essays, it’s not likely the AdCom will either.
I got my Columbia application in a week later than I would’ve preferred, as I had to wait until my other recommender got the letter in later. Maybe I was too Columbia-obsessed, maybe I was being too cautious after reading warnings about not applying after Round 2, but I decided not to apply to any other schools for that year. Happily, I received an interview invite from Columbia. I don’t think I knocked it out of the park, but it was all right. Ultimately, though, I was waitlisted.
Oh no – waitlisted! But it’s not over yet. See what happened next for this Brave Supplicant when we resume this story next week (posted here!).
You do realize, don’t you, that a whole bunch of people have already been ACCEPTED to Columbia Business School? Or at least gotten their interview invites?
Due to Columbia’s rolling process, they start looking at apps pretty much the same moment they put the application live – in May. They’ll move BSers all the way through the whole cycle – invite to interview, go through committee, render a decision. Some BSers already know where they’re headed to school for the Fall. They will never write another essay again!
Not like you, poor slug, who’s up to his eyeballs in drafts and revisions and reviews – OH MY!
What’s our point…. OH YEAH! Deadlines are good.
You should apply at the earliest chance you can.
Round 1 (or EA/ED) is definitely an advantage – but you know what? A strong candidate has a good shot later on, too. There’s fewer slots available the later you get in the admissions cycle – this is true at any school – so going for the earlier rounds is very important if you can hack it. If you have a decent GMAT score, then you need to get at least one application submitted in the Fall timeframe – September through December. If you are still working on getting that GMAT score up, then make that your priority and focus focus focus – get it done so you can move on to the next step as quickly as possible. Besides the increased chance of admission in Round 1, the other key benefit of submitting a couple apps at the first deadlines is that you’ll know if your strategy is on target or not – and have the chance to fix it for Round 2 if necessary. Sometimes Round 1 is a real wake-up call. People think “I’ve got this” and they submit apps to some good schools expecting to waltz straight in – and they fall flat on their face. If you do that in the first cycle of Round 1, then you get to dust yourself off and rework your strategy and try again for Round 2. If your first submissions aren’t till January, then guess what honey? You’re gonna be SOL if none of those pan out.
The problems that people face at this point in the MBA application cycle are compounded by the stress of those dates staring them in the face. They hear this advice that Round 1 is important and they think that’s the critical strategy to deploy. The pressure sometimes causes bad decisions. Round 1 has an advantage so apply at all costs? No. Apply in Round 1 if you’re ready.
If you’re reading this now, on the day it was published, and your GMAT is done, then you definitely can be ready for most schools’ early October deadlines. No problem. One month is enough time to do it all. Harvard Round 1? Still possible too – we have availability to review your essay with our standard Essay Decimator critique service. Submit it soon though. We haven’t yet seen one HBS essay that was good the first time out. You’ll need time to revise and make it better.
The value of a deadline is that it make you ACT. You’ve known about these dates for months yet you didn’t get moving until like yesterday. That’s OK, it’s a common pattern, people make it into bschool under these conditions every single year. But it’s not ideal. It’s great that you’re finally motivated though!
The downside of the deadline is that people make rash decisions. You need to be honest, and look at your actual chances for success.
Just because the deadline is here does not arbitrarily mean that you’re ready. The advantage with Round 1 is non-existent if your application is not strong enough. Please don’t slap together an app and submit it in 3 days just to meet an earlier deadline.
The advantage to deadlines is that everything suddenly becomes real. The page of the calendar turns and OH NO THIS IS REALLY HAPPENING! The blood starts pumping, and you finally come to terms with the fact that you need to start writing.
Sitting here now, early September, you can totally make this happen. So get writing, and good luck with it, Brave Supplicant!
Not long ago we turned you on to the Pomodoro Technique, to help you get through the process of starting, and actually finishing, a draft of an essay.
If you’re the kind of person whose procrastination habits are so fully developed that that post wasn’t enough to make a dent in things, then here’s another suggestion:
This amazing little book called Eat That Frog! by Brian Tracy.
The gist of this book is, when you have something on your to-do list that you keep avoiding, that you put off and put off and never seem to get around to tackling, there’s another option:
Make it your first priority of the day.
There’s more to it than that, but that’s essentially the prescription.
And it works.
If you have trouble self-motivating, this may help.
Good luck with it, Brave Supplicant!
Applying to bschool is a big project. Like, on the scale of the really big projects you will tackle this year, it’s the biggest. It may even be the biggest thing you will have tackled in five years.
Once you’re accepted at bschool, and you actually start, you will soon realize that doing bschool and then finishing bschool and actually graduating from bschool put the whole applying to bschool project to shame by comparison. Actually earning your MBA is a much bigger deal than just applying to get accepted.
But for now, this whole application process is in the category of REALLY BIG DEAL.
Like in the OMG HOW WILL I EVER PULL IT OFF type realm.
Regardless of how much we preach this, we know that many (most) of you will end up scrambling to finish your essays and pushing the Submit button on your applications in the days — sometimes hours — before the application is due.
The problem with deadlines is that they’re completely ethereal when they’re months and months away.
Why bother getting started when there is no pressure at all? You’ve got all the time in the world… or at least, all the time till October. Or maybe it’ll be September when you start to feel the heat.
The real reason most people don’t get an early start on writing their essays is FEAR.
Yup, we said it.
Fear of how big the project is: you don’t even know where to start. Fear of failure — what if all of this works out and you actually get ACCEPTED? Maybe fear of writing: when was the last time you had to write an essay?!? Fear of being exposed…. many of these essay questions are so PERSONAL. Even the career goals essays… you have to tell someone what your hopes and dreams are? Fear of being laughed at, fear of being seen as ridiculous… fear of not dreaming big enough…. All sorts of things play into this.
We came across this most insightful article from HBR about exactly this a few months back and we set it aside to offer to you now. This article talks about how to deal with that fear that’s stopping you from getting started on something big. There’s some truly great advice in that piece. Go read it.
And then take that first step: Make an appointment with yourself to get started. Ideally that appointment will be in the very near future. Of course, if your school doesn’t yet have their questions out, then there’s only so much actual essay-writing you can do… though there’s plenty more in the area of research and prep that you can tackle. You could schedule a school visit, for example, or at the very least, make a date with someone in your network who went to a good bschool, to talk to them about their experience. Come up with a tangible thing-to-get-started and put it on the calendar. Use this time wisely. You’ll be in panic-mode soon enough, trust us.
And of course, if you want some help along the way… the Esasy Optimizer Plan gives you a step-by-step approach of what to do first, and next, and after that. It’s the most efficient way to go from here to SUBMITTED that we know of — and it can also dramatically increase the quality of your output through proven advice for what you need to focus on. Now would be a great time to sign up!