We’re still in catch-up mode, cleaning out the piles of junk mail sitting on the kitchen counter, sorting through the mounds of laundry that piled up in the corner, trying not to forget to pick up the dry cleaning when we’re out doing errands, and working diligently to knock out all the less-urgent but still-important…
Writing essays may be akin to navel-gazing. You need to understand who you are and where you’ve come from. One of the most difficult parts of writing many essays is coming up with the “lessons learned” out of a story. Schools like Tuck and Kellogg specifically ask you what you learned from an experience. It’s…
Today we’ll tell you a story.
This one time, EssaySnark was coming home from a business trip, and we were on that little bus that takes you to the airport after you drop off your rental car. Right when the bus driver was about to close the door, a woman came running up behind. EssaySnark said to the driver, “Hold up, here’s someone else.”
The driver closed the door. We said louder, “Hey, wait a sec, someone’s coming.”
Some of the woman’s friends were already on the bus. “Please wait,” they said. “Our friend.”
The driver started to pull away from the curb. EssaySnark stood up in the aisle – surely he must’ve heard us? – and yelled over the engine noise, “HEY! WAIT!”
He looked back in the rear view mirror. Eye contact. Looked away. Kept driving.
EssaySnark went up to the front of the bus. “Didn’t you see her? That lady was trying to catch the bus.”
“Please take your seat while the bus is in motion.”
Couldn’t believe it.
When we got to the terminal, we called the car rental company, and we narked off the bus driver. We asked for a manager to come talk to us. The bus waited too. The airport was not that busy.
A second shuttle bus arrived with the supervisor, and also the woman who’d been left behind, who was reunited with her friends.
You know what the supervisor said? That he’d done it before. That it was against training.
We were like, “Yeah, you used to have that little recorded message saying something about customer service is important but when you don’t play that anymore then we were wondering if new management took over or something.”
She was all, “We do have a recorded message that plays on the bus.”
We were like, “No, there was no recorded message that played.”
The bus driver had disconnected it. Why? Maybe because the little “Welcome to the airport” recording had an invitation to fill out a customer satisfaction survey at the end of it.
Pretty sure that driver was separated from his job that day.
This is a VERY small and VERY insignificant story — not at all comparable to protesting Nazis — but it’s an incident we remember vividly. Somebody was being mistreated, and we stood up and said something. We had planned to share this with you in the context of essays this week. We expanded this post considerably after what happened this weekend.
You don’t have to be out in the streets protesting. Yet we’re sure you have similar stories.
These are how you can reveal your character.
If you want to be very task-focused: These are the types of stories that, sometimes, when heartfelt and told with conviction*, can move an adcom reader in an essay.
When we talk about values, we’re talking about stuff like this. It’s the small moments that make up your life. Our values let us know when we’re being true to ourselves. They help us make decisions.
Now before you get all indignant: “OMG EssaySnark, you got that guy fired!!” We’ll counter with some advice that we heard from a career coach a long time ago: When you get fired, it’s a gift. Your company is freeing you to go find something you’re happier in. Because clearly, it was not working out, and you weren’t listening to the evidence that was trying to tell you so. If your job is to pick people up and take them to the airport, then that’s what you do, to the best of your ability. You don’t leave them at the curb.
If in your job, you find yourself leaving people at the curb, then hey, that’s a pretty big sign that you’re not happy!! Either change yourself, or change your job!
We’re telling you this today not just because maybe it’ll help you think of new topics for your essays.
We’re telling you because WHEN YOU SEE SOMETHING THAT’S F*CKED UP, YOU MUST SAY SOMETHING.
We’re living in a world where a lot of f*cked up things are happening.
Did that Google engineer deserve to get fired for what he wrote?
Not sure. That’s a hugely complicated situation. His argument about women engineers has some sound science at the beginning (there are indeed biological differences between men and women) but then the reasoning he used to get to his conclusions is twisted (it is not true that those differences are why there are fewer women in tech). The argument is fatally flawed; it is not logical. Is he entitled to his opinion? Sure. Did he make other valid points about the current environment in Silicon Valley tech companies? Yes. Is a company in California allowed to fire at will? Indeed they are.
Should anyone be resorting to threats or acts of violence to defend their point of view? NO — yet the firing of the engineer provoked many on the alt-right to do just that, and now some Google execs are afraid.
That’s the world we’re living in now.
So what’s the connection to that and the shuttle bus driver and your essays?
It’s that some things are black and white. Some issues are easy to see. Some problems do not require debate or “further study” which is what the President said about the Charlottesville violence on Saturday. WTF?
When you see something that is not right, say something.
Let’s all look at how we respond to everyday life.
“Hate never yet dispelled hate.
Only love dispels hate.
That is the Law,
ancient and inexhaustible.”– The Buddha
The airporter bus driver was not spewing hate.
But what he did was not right.
The Google engineer was expressing his opinion. However that view of the world would not exactly create a welcoming environment for women who had to work with him. What’s more, that kind of faulty reasoning is the basis for much of the alt-right’s indignation about being victimized by others (you certainly see massively bad logic and effed-up reasoning on the left, too; this post is not about right or left, it’s about right or wrong).
It’s not your job to change people’s minds. We’re not saying to proselytize or preach.
But what you do owe yourself, and to all of us as a society, is to speak up when you see something going down.
What moments do you remember, however small, where you know what you did was right?
Some schools invite you to talk about that in your essay.
EssaySnark invites you to live that in your life.
The story we shared today is admittedly very “small”; we also used a lot of words to tell it. But it (we hope) reveals a small slice of character. That’s what stories do. That’s why they’re so powerful to use in your essays.
We also hope that you’ll consider the power of words. If you currently are in the habit of posting inflammatory comments on anonymous forums or you like to rile up others by being intentionally combative in how you respond on social media, we ask that you pause. Look at yourself. Ask why do you do it. Strong views are fine, and commendable; it’s good to believe in something. It is not necessary to hurt other people through verbal attacks, no matter how much “fun” you think it is. Getting a rise out of someone by saying something shocking and rude is a very low form of entertainment. That buzz of adrenaline can become addicting, but is that who you want to be? If you’re doing it online, you’re doing it. Doesn’t matter if you think nobody knows. You are as bad as your worst online habits. What you do on the internet is who you are. All of it. If you currently do anything out there on the web that you don’t want someone to know about, we invite you to face up to that, and ask yourself why. And please, NEVER PARTICIPATE IN DOXING. Or revenge-posting of photos. None of it. Seriously harmful. Seriously not cool.
You could be spending your energy on something so much more valuable.
Like working to get into bschool.
Finally: We debated whether to post this. There’s been plenty of posts about values here lately and a charge against us of virtue signaling could have merit. We also like to believe that most BSers reading the blahg don’t need to be preached to about lying or cheating or ramming cars into crowds or taking a gun to an early-morning practice at a softball field. We welcome all belief systems and political views here. Deadlines are coming, and we’ve got plenty to say about apps!
Yet, damn, we just can’t help it. This is a BIG MOMENT in our country’s history. We refuse to say nothing.
Our “new normal” is not normal.
This country has problems, yes. We are also lacking any real leadership that might solve them. Each person individually must stand for their values; after all, you’re interested in the MBA to change the world. Well, this is EssaySnark’s small platform to do that. We hope that someday soon, we’ll be able to go back to talking only about MBA essays.
That UVA Darden essay question sure takes on new significance today:
“When preparing for class at Darden, students formulate an opinion on each case before meeting with their learning teams and class sections. When encountering different views and perspectives from their own, opinions frequently shift. Tell us about a time when your opinion evolved through discussions with others.”
* Please just make sure that the story you’re telling is a fit to the essay prompt.
Hello BSers! It’s time! We have a submission for a Class of 2020 essay for the Stanford GSB that we’re going to discuss today, sent in by an earnest Brave Supplicant who’s undoubtedly thinking that this is a good essay. 🙂
We hate to be the one to dispel the illusion, but…
Here’s what we got:
What matters most to and why?
A few years ago, I was taking a pre-dawn stroll along a beach in northern France. As the sun rose, I tried to envision myself on this same beach, only 70 years prior, in an attempt to understand and appreciate the sacrifices that were made by America’s “greatest generation”. It was June 6th and I was standing on Omaha beach in Normandy.
Listening to the waves wash ashore, I was musing on that infamous day when an elderly French woman, her son, and grandson approached. I was wearing my flight suit because I had to work later in the day, so I had assumed that they just wanted to say good morning or talk (military) shop. In actuality, the lady came up to say ‘thank you’ and wanted to tell me a story. She didn’t speak any English, and my French doesn’t extend far beyond “merci”, so her son played translator.
She was just a young girl during World War II and vividly remembers German soldiers visiting her house numerous times – the Germans’ presence easily identifiable by the loud banging on the door, their distinctively black boots and the screaming and chaos that followed their entrance. She quickly sought out a ‘safe spot’ that provided a view, yet offered her some protection from the harassment. One day, however, there was a lighter knock on the door. To be safe, she still ran to her secret hiding spot, which ended up being underneath her parents’ bed. To her surprise, she didn’t recognize the all-too familiar German boots nor the language that the men were speaking. Instead, these men had brown boots on and spoke with a softer tone. There wasn’t any screaming and her parents seemed relatively calm. After gaining the courage to come out (with her parents’ help), she soon realized that these were the ‘good guys’; they were Americans.
She then thanked me, of all people, for rescuing her and for my service to protect liberty and freedom around the world. We then hugged, cried, and hugged again. After a few more stories and some small talk, I graciously thanked her for sharing her memories and then we parted ways. Although there have been many, that moment alone validated my decision to serve my country in uniform and is a perfect example of what matters most to me.
It wasn’t until I was invited to a week of introspection and study at the Aspen Institute’s “Seminar on Leadership, Values, and the Good Society” did I realize that the majority of my adult life decisions have been motivated by a similar theme; having a significant impact, providing opportunity, and making a difference by positively affecting lives through service and community.
Alrighty then, we’ll stop right there. That’s about 450 words, of an essay that Stanford suggests be around 750 words total.
We ask all of you reading this: WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNED ABOUT THE APPLICANT FROM THIS ESSAY?
Go ahead. Read back over it. We’ve got some of our own thoughts, comments and observations we can offer after the jump, but the best way for you to take advantage of this opportunity is for you to put on your thinking cap and analyze it for yourself.
Then continue on reading what we have to say.
In our series on authenticity we posted a great video with co-speakers David Aaker and Jennifer Aaker which we hope you watched. No? Didn’t get a chance to? Here it is again: https://youtu.be/eq0SCz2Vncw The whole thing is absolutely worth viewing in its entirety — especially now that Haas has released its essay questions which focus…
We’ve been talking about authenticity as part of the MBA application process this week – in case you missed it, here’s the first post, and then one specific to Stanford but which offers an exercise that may prove interesting in general. Then we had another on sharing who you are with the adcoms, and finally…
Ah those well-meaning BSers. They’re always trying to say the right thing in their essays. Here’s a snippet of an essay that we get all the time: When I started being a better listener, and not being so assertive with my opinions, I started realizing that my teammates were guided by different values and experiences….
Yes it’s Labor Day here in the States but it’s also the official beginning of deadlines! EssaySnark is on duty reading essays. Are you writing them? We had a full week’s worth of support on that recently: During WRITING WEEK we warned you about all sorts of issues that we see in essays, including TIMEWARPS….
Continuing with WRITING WEEK, today we’ll talk about flip-flopping (not the kind that politicians do; this is the kind that some of you do, in your essays, a lot). Here’s a comment we left on a BSer’s main Duke essay some time back: Again, why are you telling us this here? Either group all of…
After completing a resume review some months back, we got a very good question from a sincere BSer. This person is not coming from the traditional MBA profile and was struggling to put together a resume – a new task for them! As the post title indicates, they asked us: “Where is the line between…