To all MBA Candidates out there, especially those of you racing to hit the HBS deadline on September 9th ... please, for the love, know when to set your essay down, put your hands in the air, and say "time." I borrow from Top Chef and call it "put your knives down!" It's that moment in the show when the buzzer has sounded and they have no choice but to put the chef's knife down, put their hands in the air, and accept that their dish is finished. In our situation, there isn't a buzzer (yet), but we can still use the principle. In fact, one of the great ironies of the Top Chef "quick fire" challenge that gave me this expression is that some of the best dishes on that show come because there IS a buzzer - it keeps the contestants from noodling and tweaking and, basically, ruining a great plate of food. So ... how can we use this for our MBA apps?
Today we are analyzing Yale's 2015 Essays ... sort of. What we are really doing is taking a look at them and using this essay set as a way to remind everyone to read the fine print when it comes to dealing with applications and even schools in general. I'm not blowing the whistle on some grand conspiracy or anything like that, but just illustrating that you can't take everything at face value. This is especially relevant at a time when applicants are killing themselves to try to hit Round 1 deadlines because an admissions officer "told them to," or when candidates make horrible errors in judgement based on the same logic. The truth of the matter is you have to keep your eyes open and use your own common sense when navigating this process.
It's time to cover Wharton, as it looks like I've locked myself into a pattern of covering every school's set of essays. The common response to Wharton's new essay set (one of which is required, one is optional) is "another case of schools shrinking this essays!" This is technically true, as the total words went from either 1,000 to 900 (if you use the Optional) or from 1,000 to 500 (if you don't). However, the next leap is almost always "as schools continue to try to make things easier for applicants." I'm sorry, I simply don't buy that line of reasoning. Almost everyone who truly knows admissions knows that fewer words makes things harder, not easier. This is because it requires confidence and clarity to approach such a task, it requires concise and structured writing to execute it, and it makes it far less likely that you will "accidentally" come up with something great, just by virtue of spewing out words. Now, it might be a byproduct of the essay shrinking that it's easier on the readers or that a few people might (mistakenly) think it's easier to apply, but I highly doubt that is the intent.