This data was published in Spring 2018 so it covers the graduating Class of 2017 — however we expect these trends to be even more pronounced in the Class of 2018 data as it becomes available. As you look at this information, please keep in mind that it covers full-time programs at a wide range…
So enough of the philosophical musing about what is ethics and the handwringing about what we should do when faced with massively unethical behavior from a client. Let’s bring this full circle and focus on the practical: In what way will ethics play a part in your MBA applications? Essay Questions First and foremost, we…
We inadvertently have created a pseudo-tradition around here where we lay out some forecasts and predictions of what is going to change in the admissions process at specific schools in the coming season. We’ve got a half-way decent record of accuracy, as you can see if you’re curious:
(Apparently we’ve been doing this for awhile.)
So, what do we think is going to happen with MBA applications for the Class of 2021?
1. We predict changes to the essay questions at
Harvard [ETA: DOH! 0 for 1 already – HBS question will stay the same this year as announced on the director’s blog today! we’ll have to see if they make any other substantive changes in the app UPDATE #2: As of mid-May, HBS has in fact made changes — they’ve ditched Round 3!! EssaySnark should get at least a half-point for this category of prediction!! We’ll see if anything else comes down the pike from here] and Stanford — and possibly Duke. Harvard and Stanford both have relatively new-ish leadership in their admissions function and those new directors have now been on the job for one full season each. It’s not hard to predict that they may want to make changes to their apps at this time, particularly in the case of Stanford where the essay questions have been static for a very long time. That’s true at Duke, too, which is why we’re feeling like it may be time for a shift there. The reason these specific schools have had stable app requirements for so long is because their essay prompts have been very effective — so for that reason alone, it’s possible that Duke may hold tight with those prompts for yet another season.
2. You can also assume that essay questions will change at Ross [YES!], Berkeley [YES!], Darden [YES!], Columbia [YES!], Tuck [BIG YES!], Kellogg [NO 🙁 ]. There are a number of schools that tend to change their questions every single year so it’s not really a “prediction” to name those, since it’s how they typically manage their processes. However, all these schools will remain generally consistent in terms of what they are looking for — which can be summed up as candidates with strong stories of leadership, impact, and teamwork. The one school on this list that’s likely to have a larger change to their essay prompt is Darden. For the others, it’s much more likely to be an adjustment or refinement to the same types of questions that they’re currently already asking (though Tuck too is signalling that perhaps there may be larger changes on the horizon for them as well).
3. We believe that probably Yale will change its question (though we’re on the fence on this one; the current question in use for the last two seasons is quite good and “very Yale” [AND TURNS OUT THEY KEPT IT!]) and we believe that NYU may tweak the way it’s phrasing their second essay question, or possibly combine it with essay 1, though we’re less certain of this so we’ve placed them in a different bucket than the list of schools named in #2 above. [THEY DID AWAY WITH QUESTION 2 COMPLETELY!! SO WE WERE RIGHT ABOUT THIS ONE] MIT also is likely to continue to innovate through changes and modifications to their questions, as they have being doing more of this in their admissions process than almost any other school lately. [AND OH BOY DID THEY! MIT HAS THEIR NEW ORG CHART REQUIREMENT]
4. Wharton [YES! NEW ESSAY 2 BUT MAIN ESSAY THE SAME], Booth and UCLA [YES! NEW SHORT-ANSWER PROMPT BUT MAIN ESSAY THE SAME] may make small fine-tuned changes (for example, Booth will publish a new set of photos that they want applicants to respond to [WE GOT THIS ONE WRONG BIGLY – BOOTH DITCHED THE PHOTO THING COMPLETELY!] but we don’t expect anything wholesale to be different at these programs.
What are the implications to you as a Brave Supplicant who’s planning on applying in the Fall?
The most important advice is to simply sit on your hands and wait at least in regards to essays. There are some eager-beaver types out there every year who get all gung-ho and fired up about applying that they start writing essays now. While it’s fine to take a gander at what the adcoms ask in their applications for the just-closed season (Class of 2020), it doesn’t make any sense to actually start writing any essays yet. There is value in reading through the questions that they have posted and doing some thinking on how you might try to answer them, in theory — as in, think up a possible project or scenario or situation from your life that you would use in support of your answer to the question they have posed.
But don’t start actually writing anything.f Not yet. The probability that a school will change its questions is quite high, and you’ll end up having to start over. Or, worst case scenario, you may get attached to the direction you’ve started to go, and be unwilling to relinquish that as your topical strategy once the real questions for the Class of 2021 come out. Sometimes an adcom may tweak its phrasing, and sometimes BSers assume that the question is the same, but that can really trip you up if you’re overlooking the nuances or not appreciating how the question changes require a different approach in your answer.
So don’t get ahead of yourself. Understanding the themes that a school tends to focus on and starting to dig through the examples from your own life that may be relevant can surely be helpful, as it gets you thinking on these hard topics and reflecting on the questions of who you are and what have you done with your life to this point. By that same token, picking up the SnarkStrategies Guide for one or two of your schools of interest can’t hurt now, even though those are all published for the past season. They will give you an in-depth introduction to what the school focuses on, though, so if you’re new to everything then that may be an advantage, to help you focus your research efforts and understand the direction your strategy should be going in later. The actual writing? It can wait.
What else might change?
In reaction to the suppression of apps from international candidates and the overall trend for simplification in the admissions process, more schools are likely to ditch the requirement for a TOEFL score. Already, MIT, Yale and Duke have dropped it (or never had it). We’ve gotten word that Columbia may be making this change for the upcoming admissions cycle as well [
to be confirmed UPDATE: THIS CHANGE IS CONFIRMED FOR THE 2018 APP].
Will a school like HBS ditch the TOEFL? Hard to say. They’d be a natural choice to remove the English language requirement, partly because Harvard likes to lead the way in big changes to admissions that then percolate through the whole industry (HBS was the first bschool to begin to reduce both word count and quantity of essays in its app, back in like 2012, which generated a whole trend of other schools racing to simplify their apps). Also, and much more saliently, Harvard’s admissions team does all the interviewing, so they have a direct interaction with any applicant before they admit them. This adcom-interview system is the key reason why MIT has not seen the need for a separate TOEFL exam. The Sloan admissions people can see for themselves what your grasp of English is. This also would indicate that perhaps NYU will drop the TOEFL but they are a school much more committed to doing things their own way; if their admissions team continues to see value in a TOEFL then they’ll keep asking for a TOEFL.
Schools like Berkeley-Haas and UCLA have their hands tied; the TOEFL is a university-wide requirement at these places and so we would be quite surprised if they even loosen their requirements for this proficiency test. Currently, Anderson and Haas have the most restrictive policies of any top bschool. They’re on the opposite end of the spectrum. Since we doubt that Berkeley especially has seen any significant drop-off even in international apps this year, based on the pull of Silicon Valley that attracts so much interest among BSers from everywhere, they are unlikely to see the need for a change, particularly when Dean Lyons is on his way out. We expect a bit more of the status quo at Berkeley until they have new leadership ensconced. For a similar reason, we don’t expect many changes to come out of Cornell for the time being, as they have had too much tumult in their leadership function. Sticking to what’s been in place already is the safe bet at Johnson for now.
Will any top school begin to waive the GMAT/GRE?
Highly unlikely. This may happen at some point down the road but we’re skeptical — at least, not any Top 15 school. The less competitive / lower ranked programs may indeed start to experiment with a test-optional policy but we’re not expecting to see this at a school like HBS anytime soon. That being said, Stanford University has recently rolled back its campus-wide graduate admission requirement for the GRE and now it’s up to individual schools and departments if they require any test at all with admissions. So things are changing but it’s early days still, and we don’t expect any top MBA program to waive their GMAT/GRE requirement for full-time admissions (not anytime soon). The only reason we mention this is because there’s now a trend with college admissions to go test-optional for the SAT and ACT; in June 2018, the University of Chicago announced that they won’t require a test to apply. This is to try and even the playing field and remove the advantage that well-off students have in the seemingly unlimited resources they can tap for test prep. Test-optional has taken hold in undergrad admissions but we don’t see it coming up for MBA at least not in the current admissions environment.
Will any top school start accepting the Executive Assessment for its full-time program?
Again, not likely. Perhaps someday — but if they do, then they’ve got a perception problem to deal with first, based on how the test has been named and the purpose for which it was created. For any lower-ranked bschool that begins exploring test-optional policies, we can see how they might allow you to submit the GMAT or the GRE or the EA, or potentially no test at all if certain parameters are met (such as, having graduated from college within the last X years, from a STEM or business major, with a GPA of x.x or above). If you’re an Executive MBA candidate then you can check out our overview of the Executive Assessment here.
Will it be more competitive this year?
We’ve got some ideas on this that are bouncing around; we’ll offer them up on these pages as we have more confidence in how we think things may go. [Update: there’s a note at the bottom of this post from the end of June about this.]
Remember, predictions and forecasts are fairly meaningless when it comes down to what your application strategy should be. If now is the time for you to try for an MBA, then none of this matters. Your strategy will need to be your own, and nobody can realistically predict your chances based on the aggregate.
Of course — Shameless Plug! — that’s where our Comprehensive Profile Review comes in! We can predict chances based on your specifics. Hit us up if you have questions!!
Dang, yesterday’s post was really long and we failed to offer specific conclusions for y’all.
Here’s the tl;dr:
Though “less” does not mean “low”; it’s a comparative. Meaning that we’re hopefully going back to more like the competitive environment of around 2013 when it was “easy” to get into a good school if you did a good job with your app. (Note the quotes around that word; it is never actually easy to get into a top MBA program – it requires significant work!) We hope never to return to the situation of the past few years, where so many incredibly qualified and very hardworking BSers were turned away from their favorite schools like Duke or Yale or Tuck or Haas only due to the competition.
Again, a full discussion is available in yesterday’s post which is totally worth reading even though now you’ve got the Cliff’s Notes. 😉
And also just please note: If you’re coming from certain other countries and trying to break into a top-top U.S. program, it may actually be harder this year.
The countries where it seems there has been more competition?
- Brazil and other Latin American countries
We have also seen more pressure on certain categories of American candidates but that’s a post for another day.
A European or Middle Eastern applicant to an American school is likely to do just fine in this process, provided that the core stats line up and the essays are good.
Want to know what your own situation looks like?
Shameless Plug: This is exactly what our Comprehensive Profile Review was designed for!! Get advice on your exact profile and how it may stack up against the specific targets you’re aiming at. Currently at its lowest price of the season!
If you’re an international BSer who’s failed to execute this season then please don’t feel bad by what we’re about to say. So far in this cycle, it’s been EASIER for applicants from certain perennially-crowded pools to get into many top U.S. schools. We predicted this in May 2017 and it was in fact the…
Here’s what’s gonna happen with GMAT scores: They’re gonna keep creeping up. In 2011, a 48Q was 80th percentile. Today, a 48Q is 69th percentile. On the ESR – Extended Score Report – the GMAT people say this: “Gradual over long periods” eh? Hmmm. Eleven points seems like an awful lot. Test-takers are gonna continue…
Every admissions season is different yet there are trends and cycles that play through that create some patterns, if you’re able to step back far enough and look at them with a wide-enough lens (and a broad-enough set of applicant stats). Thankfully EssaySnark has had this perspective so we’ll offer some thoughts today on what…
Being told we were “too young” always used to piss us off. When someone said that, it either meant they were denying us an opportunity, or dissing us that we were naive or ignorant.
This post is just a reminder that yeah, you millennials are young.
We tweeted this yesterday and the article is worth reading:
— Essay Snark (@EssaySnark) February 8, 2018
Can you say “hubris”?
A kinder way to put it is that it’s just naivety.
Can’t be blamed for being naive.
Back in the old days, when the Internet first happened, there were all these new-fangled dot-com companies like furniture.com and pets.com and Lycos and WebVan and Kozmo and all these others.
Guess what? None of those are around anymore.
When the stock market was soaring to new heights and there were IPOs happening right and left and valuations were totally divorced from fundamentals and everyone was ignoring pesky metrics like revenue and profits in favor of eyeballs (and separately, day trading was just starting as a ‘thing’), many analysts explained all of it by saying that it was a new economy and everything had changed and the old rules did not apply.
Until they did.
The quote from that article from a 29-year-old trader sums it up nicely:
“Find me someone who worked in the era of 15 percent inflation and I’ll talk to them about Bitcoin and the Internet.”
The only time U.S. inflation was anywhere near 15% in the last hundred years was a six-month period in 1980 . Other than that, it was exceptionally high from 1917-1920, when, BTW, the First World War was happening. Sure there are lessons to be had from a 15% inflation era but nobody is saying that those would be relevant today.
In case you’re not a finance type, inflation today is very low. By historical standards, it may even have been a little too low in the past year. Economists debate this. EssaySnark does not know what’s right. We won’t know until the cycle moves along.
What we can share with you though, is that just because there are new innovations with things like bitcoin and virtual currency, or remember CDOs? Those are collateralized debt obligations (one of a class of derivatives) and they are one of the major contributing factors to the 2007-2008 market meltdown. Another shiny object in today’s financial markets is the VIX (volatility index). Just because there’s a new way to make money does not mean that the forces of nature no longer apply.
Be very wary of anyone who ever says, “Yeah, but this time, it’s different.”
It’s different… until it’s not.
When your grandpa is starting to talk about bitcoin or a local government is thinking about an ICO then that’s a very good sign that perhaps it’s seen a peak.
Our personal theory of what’s going on politically at this time is that it’s a pendulum swing. There was a lot of loosening of standards across cultures in the ten years prior to 2016, resulting in massive cultural changes such as acceptance of homosexuality (changes in the military, marriage equality) and a new awareness of diversity (Black Lives Matter, the beginning of destigmatization around transgender). Given how fixed attitudes had been for so long, by comparison, the early 2000s saw tremendous change at an accelerated pace.
The retreat that we’ve witnessed starting in 2016 — first the Brexit vote, then the U.S. election — where people have responded to messages of national retraction and an urge to assert a so-called traditional identity (protectionism, nationalism) — all of this is a to-be-expected swing of the pendulum, a reaction to the swift cultural changes of the preceding years.
You might hold up the #MeToo movement as an exception. Isn’t society now waking up to the abuse of power and how women have suffered in business? Isn’t that a new shift that’s only begun recently? Doesn’t that show that the opening and increasing awareness and greater acceptance that we referenced (gay/transgender/minority) is continuing? Well sure but it has nothing to do with politics. Some claim that #MeToo would not have happened except as a reaction to the current occupant of the White House. We disagree. If his opponent had won the 2016 election, #MeToo would still have happened, and everyone would be saying, “Oh, it’s only happened because she is in office, a female president opened the cultural floodgates and allowed this to occur.”
A president cannot cause a social movement. A president is only a reaction to one.
That does not mean that a president does not affect society.
Last year (2017) saw radical changes in the U.S. to what had been established policy and cultural norms. We are getting desensitized to it and so much is hitting the radar every day that it’s easy not to notice how VERY different things are now. It’s hitting everything from the immigration issue and the daily reports of arrests and deportations, which has affected the entire world when interest in coming to the U.S. has dropped for tourists and students alike. The international application volumes at all educational programs in America have dropped and tourism was down 4%. The current administration is actively dismantling government programs including national parks and monuments, healthcare, consumer financial protections, student lending, individual privacy and tracking, net neutrality, climate and environmental protections… The list goes on and on. The changes to the tax code mean that many nonprofits are very worried that they will see a decrease in donations from individuals starting this year. This is just one example. We could name hundreds.
THERE WILL BE IMPACT FROM ALL OF THESE THINGS.
Change happens slowly. Until it happens fast.
Policy changes tend to filter through society at a snail’s pace and it’s hard for the individual to notice them on a day-to-day basis. If the Department of Urban Housing has its budget slashed, then a middle-class person is not likely to notice it. It takes awhile before the lack of funding for homeless services or low-income rentals is felt on a social scale. Some say that the spike in homelessness caused by the 2008 housing meltdown had only recently been corrected and the trends normalized again, but now homelessness is on the rise in major cities. Look at what’s happening in San Diego or LA or San Francisco.
You say you want to work in tech. You say you want to change the world. Do you know what’s happening on the streets of San Francisco?
If you do not have an awareness of these societal issues then you’re being willfully blind.
Now, at a time when governments all around the world had been artificially propping up markets through monetary policy for over a decade (if that sentence does not make sense to you now, then don’t worry, you’ll learn all about that in bschool!!), when these world economies have FINALLY stabilized and returned to healthy after YEARS of struggling, we get a U.S. government being very, very irresponsible.
The tax cuts stimulated the stock market and sent it soaring to new record highs because yes, they are good for business — but business was doing just fine. Business did not need the boost at this time.
Nobody is paying attention to the fact that the tax cuts have bloated an already-massive government deficit, and the new budget going through Congress is adding more of the same.
These large government changes will have an effect. These are big changes — bigger than any young analyst has seen in his or her lifetime.
Cryptocurrency is not a game-changer. Sure, in the short term, it’s new and different.
But it does not change the realities of the world. Nature likes a balance.
Bitcoin is a variation of the same game (like day-trading was, back in the late ’90s; day-trading only became possible with the internet as a consumer reality). Bitcoin may look like a totally different game, because it’s on a new playing field. But the same rules will assert themselves in that field over time.
Bitcoin isn’t what’s affecting the overall markets today, and daytrading did not cause the collapse in 2000. Those are just two examples where people have made wild amounts of money based on new tech. They are hyped-up phenomena that accompanied a rise of the markets, and some people eventually get burned.
Innovation is good. Adaptation and change are good. The world had swung very far in one direction, so a quick correction to the opposite is natural and normal.
You could say that about the stock market.
You could say that about society as a whole.
The point of all of this is, today is not different.
The rules of nature have not changed.
Please don’t confuse a short-term effect stemming from innovation, or social adaptation, or mutation, with a change in the underlying forces.
What goes up must come down.
A swing to the left will produce a swing to the right.
Whenever markets correct, you’ll get retrospective explanations for what went wrong and what caused it. The flawed thinking that went into the run-up to the peak will be re-examined, and in some cases, smacked down. The reason that “eyeballs” were the valued metric in the first dot-com boom was because it was thought that traffic to a website would allow for eventual monetization. What really ended up happening is that one big player — Google — is the beneficiary. At what cost? Primarily print media. When was the last time you looked at a classified ad? When was the last time you read a physical newspaper? A huge chunk of the advertising dollars that used to get allocated to print advertising has been redirected to the web. It decimated the newspaper industry and many of those traditional properties are barely hanging on, if they still exist at all. It’s very hard to monetize traffic as a publisher on the web. When you’re giving something away for free or selling it for less than it cost you then it’s hard to make money (duh, right? yeah). When we see the modern incarnation of that type of thinking (MoviePass comes to mind) then it rings some alarm bells.
Every market is different though, and there are definitely things today that are unique which make it so hard to know what will happen. There were few people predicting the market collapse in 2007. NYU’s Nouriel Roubini (Twitter ) was one of them. He is incredibly scornful of bitcoin these days. Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger are equally bearish (see interview with Ross Dean DeRue ). These gentlemen have been around a downturn or two.
Are they wrong? This time, maybe it really is different?
But our money is on nature prevailing.
UPDATE 2/26/18: This video from former Dean of Darden talks about similar stuff as we’re touching on in this post.
You may have seen the headlines over the past year that application volumes at American business schools have dropped since 2016. While that’s true, it’s overlooking a critical fact: Application volumes at the subset of TOP schools that all of you are interested in went UP over the same period. Here’s some GMAC data to…
Is getting into bschool all about how high your GMAT is? No — unless you’re coming from a hypercompetitive sector. In which case it’s not all about the GMAT, but the GMAT can make an outsized difference for those in these ultra crowded pools. Which pools are the most crowded these days? We can’t claim…