In case you missed it, we started this discussion of How to decide which U.S. business school to go to when you get multiple offers?? here. If you’re also in this wonderfully privileged yet oh-so-stressful position, today’s post is for you. First bit of advice: We have a treasure trove of posts on individual schools…
The first page of the Kellogg School MBA application has a very polished video that flashes images of the gorgeous new Global Hub building and plays one-second soundbites of students sharing the stress and anxiety (and self-reflection) that they experienced in their application.
It’s easy to tune out and not really absorb any of it. We’re hit with so many marketing messages every day that we become immune.
But we encourage you to spend time with this, and with every other production that every other school you’re trying for makes available. Sometimes their messaging is straightforward; sometimes it’s so overbranded that you can’t actually distill anything meaningful. But in many, there are real gems of wisdom that are not only important but also relevant, and can possibly be reflected on to find nuggets on the inside of you that you can leverage in presenting your message back in your apps.
One comment that somebody makes in the video is “Rankings will not tell you what’s the best school for you.”
This is the type of thing that can wash right over you, because yeah, you know it’s true.
But why not stop and think about it?
Many, many people are focused on rankings and often rankings alone in their choice of an MBA program. This makes total sense, since everyone wants to go to the best program they can. But rankings tell an exceedingly limited story.
The only legit way to choose schools solely on rankings is if you have spent the time yourself to dig into the methodology used by that publication that develops the rankings. If you cannot sit here and spout off the factors and weightings that Bloomberg BusinessWeek uses to identify Kellogg as a Top 10 school, or that USNews does, then it’s irrelevant that Kellogg is Top 10. (Their methodologies are quite different, BTW.) To go only by rankings is to completely outsource the entire selection process to some nameless corporation. Rankings are useful as a starting point, but that’s it. We’re not going to go so far as to say that rankings are fake news but in this day and age especially, you need to be an informed consumer of everything you take in.
After all, we’re talking about YOUR LIFE.
Remember that these promo videos by the schools are designed for a reason. Significant time and effort is put into them. They are the result of many deliberate choices to try and convey something about the school — something that the school thinks is important. While it’s easy to think that all schools are alike, and to review a bunch of websites makes all of them start to blur together, it’s also important to recognize that each school is desperately trying to convey what they’re about.
Sometimes all it takes is that you listen.
Any long-time reader of the EssaySnark blahg knows that we’re no fans of bschool rankings.
Sure, they give you a starting point when you’re brand-new to this process, to understand which schools are considered “good” — but they hardly tell the whole picture.
When we have a BSer come to us saying they’re interested only in Harvard, Stanford or Wharton, then we just heave a little sigh and say, “Oh well.”
It’s a very limited way to look at the world.
A ranking is someone else’s evaluation of the school. Not your own.
Harvard, Stanford and Wharton are soooooo different as to be almost laughable.
And, there are so many other really good schools out there!!
Anyone claiming that the ROI is only worthwhile with H/S/W is simply saying that they only want to buy their way into a club. That they want the prestige or rubber stamp of a particular brand associated with their name.
They are overlooking the fact that it’s a TWO YEAR COMMITMENT into an experience that will CHANGE you.
Don’t you care about what that experience will be like?
The Harvard and Stanford and Wharton experiences are similar, sure, but they are by no means the same — and they are by no means that much different from what you might get at Columbia, or Ross, or NYU, or…
You get the point.
The biggest issue with someone saying they only care about H/S/W though is when in the same breath they lament the fact that these schools select applicants on GMAT score.
They don’t, of course.
They evaluate the whole package. They look at everything you submit individually and complete a holistic review on how you present your background and your qualities and your strengths and your weaknesses through the individual elements of the app. Including GMAT score, of course.
But they do not select applicants on the basis of GMAT score alone. If they did, the top schools would have only 780-scoring students and nobody else.
Yes it’s a factor.
And yes, the rankings maybe can play a part, in the initial phase of your process of investigating the schools.
But please, if you’re serious about changing your life and you REALLY want to impact the world, then don’t rely on rankings alone to evaluate quality of an institution.
Go find out for yourself what the place is about.
Do your own research.
Construct your own viewpoints. Don’t accept someone else’s.
Rankings are not like fake news; they all are constructed through different methodologies put in place by the different publications. They all profess to use data behind them.
But if you’re serious about learning what the world is really like and not being a victim of propaganda and undue influence from the powers that are trying to control your mind (said in half-jest) then please find out what the world is like FOR YOURSELF.
The schools don’t make admits only on GMAT.
You should not use ranking to figure out where to apply.
We’re reblahgging this from last Fall ‘cuz, well, it’s relevant! 😀 And no, that does not mean this post is about YOU — we are not publishing this now in response to working with any particular BSer. It’s just an overall appropriate topic, ya know? What’s particularly useful is to read the comments that BSers last year offered (after you’ve read the post) — those can be incredibly instructive for you sitting here with the advantage of the full season ahead of you.
There are only three types of BSers:
- The ones who are H/S/W or Bust. These people are aiming for, err, H, S, and W. Only.
- The ones who are “I’ll go anywhere.” These people are not so much aiming, as papering the country.
- Everybody else. These people are aiming for Top 10.
Almost everyone in Category #1 is a first-time applicant.
Almost everyone in Category #2 is a reapplicant. Usually their first time they were in Category 3.
Those in Category #1 tend to be the BSierest of all BSers.
They also tend to be the worst procrastinators. Not always, but often, sometimes to the extent where Round 2 is their first and only submit, even though the GMAT was done long ago. This is just what our experience has been in working with this type of applicant.
They also tend to be least likely to succeed in the current era of hypercompetitive MBA admissions.
We have our theories.
One is that they are frequently coming from the elite firms, after attending the elite colleges; they now have nailed a good GMAT score, and they have a recommender who’s a Harvard alum. They think that’s enough.
Sometimes, at Wharton, particularly in Round 1, in fact that can be enough. In Round 2 it’s much less likely to be.
This type of Category 1 BSer maybe will toss out an app to Columbia or Booth along with the other three, to, you know, have a (cough) safety school in the mix. But that’s just a pretend.
Because what frequently happens to this BSer if they only get into their ‘safety’ and not into H/S/W, is that their sense of entitlement kicks into overdrive, and instead of realizing that, gee, maybe you need to WORK FOR IT (as in, ON YOUR ESSAYS, so that you don’t come across as quite such a pr_ck), and maybe that Chicago or Columbia or whichever other school that did say ‘yes’ to them is actually a really really good MBA program as well, that they just scratch it. They turn down the offer. They stick with their current situation in life and they get the sour grapes thing, the attitude that an MBA at some lesser-than school like Columbia* just doesn’t have the ROI so I’m not gonna bother.
In case it’s not clear, this post is for Category #1 folks. 😀
Orrrrrr….. On second thought, maybe it’s not.
It’s not like it really matters if any of you get into a top MBA program. It certainly does not matter to the ‘Snark. (We really really really want a whole bunch of you who we’ve been working with for the past few months to get in, ‘cuz we’ve learned your stories and know a little about you and see that you’re nice guyz and cool girlz and you’ve worked hard and yes we do think you deserve it!!) If none of you make it into any of your target schools this year, it’s not like the earth will fall off its axis or the Universe will collapse in on itself. It’ll be a bummer, but it’s not going to make a massive difference in how your life, or ours, continues to evolve.
Us writing this post today to invite all reading it to examine which category of BSer they are most definitely will not change your fate in this process, and it’s unlikely to get anyone to change.
If anything, it may only serve to piss off the Category #1 folks, where we’ll have some readership drop off, and lose them from the crowd. Instead of prompting any type of soul searching or convincing anyone to not be entitled about their situation in life, a more common reaction to a pushy post like this one is for some to be turned off of the ‘Snark and move on.
In case us talking about these trends and patterns in BSers might get one or two of you to self-reflect on where you’re at, and what attitudes you hold, so that you can either:
- Expand your list of targets
- Start working NOW on your
Round 2 applications – ESPECIALLY if you skipped out on Round 1 completelyRound 1 applications — since this post was reblahgged in June 2018!!!!! Don’t skip Round 1 people!!!!
Well, then we’d consider that a success.
Update for 2018: We do expect this season to be significantly less competitive for international applicants. The U.S. is just not making friends on the global stage, and there will be another drop-off in applications from around the world. This is to your advantage if you’re still seeing the value of an American MBA. HOWEVER, you also need to be conscious about the changing economic climate and the possibility that when you graduate in 2021, a) there could be a massive recession going on which means that international applicants are the first to suffer in U.S. hiring markets, and/or b) there (very slim chance) could be immigration reform that locks out international students; and/or c) the local living situation in certain American geographies will continue to become stridently anti-immigrant and (EXTREMELY slim chance — we hope!!) you may experience outright racist behavior. These things are truly possible and need to be accounted for in your application strategy. What you might do is proceed with your Round 1 apps to your U.S. targets and just take a very cautious approach, and also consider expanding your app strategy to include some non-U.S. schools like Canada or Europe.
Want EssaySnark’s advice on your 2018 situation? We can do a one-off question through our Private Consult or you may benefit from the entire Comprehensive Profile Review process — you can ask about your schools, plans and options in the questionnaire that you submit.
*Yes there are really many BSers who think this!! Obviously we disagree.
You may also be interested in:
- Immediate follow-up to this post: ROI and the MBA
- When your safety school is actually a stretch school
- How valuable is that MBA?
- If the main reason for getting the MBA is financial…
When a starry-eyed wanna-be-bschool-student tells us that they are only interested in the M7, then we assume we’re in for some trouble. Using the “M7” designation is just another way to say “I care about brand and reputation more than anything.” We’re not exactly bschool insiders, but we’ve been around quite a bit – and…
Sure, if you want to pursue the most expensive way in the world to start a business. EssaySnark is just not a fan of using the MBA to launch a company. And we really don’t think Harvard is the best place to learn entrepreneurship specifically. They were fairly late to jump on the entrepreneurship bandwagon…
It’s because Harvard is stupid.
There is no way that your Harvard education is that much better than what you will get at Tuck or at Duke or, heck, at Cornell.
Rankings mess with your head.
From the description of a book, aptly named Engines of Anxiety , that studied the effect of US News rankings on the law school market:
The authors find that prospective law students not only rely heavily on such rankings to evaluate school quality, but also internalize rankings as expressions of their own abilities and flaws. For example, they often view rejections from “first-tier” schools as a sign of personal failure.
What you get with Harvard (bschool, law school, any school) is ACCESS.
You get to go play with the rich boys and girls for a few years. You get “the network” so that when you try that little startup idea you have (before it crashes and burns) you can hit up these alumni with money to see if they’ll fund your starry-eyed dreams.
Is that worth it?
Hell yeah, if you’re going to use it.
But please do not fool yourself.
Harvard is not ‘better.’ It’s just what this system of class and money has designed to fool you, to continue with the illusion that class and money matter.
Exhibit A: Harvard Fellowships Have Always Been A Joke
Mostly what you get with Harvard is the smug satisfaction of the rubber stamp of Society Approval.
Sure, you have to be smart to get in.
Sure, you have to work hard.
But the Harvard kids are not smartER. They did not work hardER. They are just like everybody else — or, frequently, they’re members of the Lucky Sperm Club where they landed in a family of Harvard grads, so they’re what’s called a ‘legacy applicant’ and definitely in undergrad admissions, Harvard College loves those kids. For the class of incoming freshman that just got on campus this summer, one-third are legacy .
It’s like buying a Rolex or a Gucci handbag or a Ferrari.
A brand like that will deliver some attention to detail and refinement in the product. It’s going to be made with better materials and care of construction than what you find at your local Macy’s or the Kia dealership.
But a Rolex is just a watch.
Wearing a Rolex is a symbol to the world that you can spend that much money on a bauble on your wrist that tells you the time.
Everyone else is just looking at their phone. You get to shoot your cuff and show off this glint of luxury.
That’s all that Harvard is going to do for you.
(And the value only goes so far. If Harvard Business School were so great, why are its tweets so lame? We are convinced that they’ve got an undergrad student writing them — no offense to Harvard undergrads. But c’mon people.)
Please don’t be confused by what you are going to get.
Is there value to that prestige?
Sure. But the EDUCATION is what will change your life.
Not the association with wealthy elite.
So many people think getting in to Harvard will finally be validation. No, maybe they don’t CONSCIOUSLY think it, like, “If I go to Harvard then I’ll finally be worth something!” But it’s what’s driving the engine, under the hood.
But guess what? If you’re actually so insecure that you’re constantly seeking out external validation from The World, and you think going to Harvard will finally put all those internal voices of doubt and self-criticism to rest, no, that’s not what will happen. Instead, when you get on the campus at Harvard, you will be surrounded by a more extreme concentration of People Who You Think Are Better Than You than you’ve ever experienced in your life. You will see all these other AMAZING students who have done more impressive things (who have way more money than you) who have traveled the world, who already have a Rolex and not a Gucci bag but a Birkin. You think that’ll make you feel better?
We’re not saying not to apply to Harvard. That would be silly. We’re saying that you may want to look at your reasons for why you’re so enamored of the BRAND.
Because that’s all it is.
It is a BRAND.
A school is different than a consumer product, because a school is an experience and a community and oh yeah, an education. But very few people are focusing on applying to Harvard because of any of that. They may not be consciously thinking, “I want to go to Harvard for the prestige” but really, that’s what’s driving our social-construct personalities so much of the time.
Unless what’s really fueling your interest in Harvard is so that your unborn children will get to go to Harvard. Then by all means. Apply to Harvard.
We hope you get in!
You may also be interested in:
- The schools being ranked think that rankings are stupid.
- MBA Application Mistake #1: Not Researching Schools (and why we balk at the M7 thing)
- Why we react so negatively to someone focusing on brand or prestige (kinda the same thing we’ve said in today’s post, just 3 years earlier)
- An MBA is what you make of it
We asked you to exercise some critical thinking skills recently.
Why not turn those same skills to evaluating the MBA rankings?
Here’s the 2016 BusinessWeek list. Duke #3. Why?
The simplistic answer is that they scored at 90.5 which is higher than Booth and lower than Stanford.
Is that the position you’d expect Duke to be at?
We’re not knocking Duke. That’s an honest question.
What about the Jones school, at Rice University? They’re at #8. Why?
Comments? Reaction? Discussion?
Please base this on the actual data on the BusinessWeek chart. Here’s a link to the BusinessWeek rankings page where you can sort to your heart’s content.
The MBA is a very expensive degree. Hopefully you’re aware of that already. The schools publish numbers on their sites about tuition and estimated costs, yet many applicants neglect to read those pages until after they’ve been admitted and are faced with the prospect of plunking down a deposit and looking at how they’re going…
“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.