It's the time of year where I start having the "Round 2 conversation" a lot with individual clients. Basically, the idea is that Round 2 might be offering a slight advantage, based on theories of market inefficiencies and so forth. For years, the prevailing belief is that Round 1 is the best round to apply to business school. While there is no hard-core evidence to suggest otherwise, some common sense may point to a different result.
Stanford Graduate School of Business is considered by many to be the best business school in the world, and swaps the ranking of #1 with HBS or Wharton on any given day. With over 8,000 applicants per year and only about 1/10th of that number in the student body, it’s daunting to imagine them saying yes. If you happen to have a good-but-not-great GMAT score, you may struggle with your odds of admission at all. But is it even worth applying if you have a 650 or lower?
The latest MBA rankings from The Economist are out and people are understandably freaking out about some of the odd placements that you can find in their list. Poets and Quants has already done an impeccable job running all this down, so I am not going to try to repeat all the great work John Byrne already did. But you should definitely check out the P&Q piece on it. What I want to talk about is why I am happy P&Q ran that extensive post on those rankings (rather than dismissing them) and, indeed, why I am happy these Economist rankings even exist.
I just saw a whole lot of MBA essays over the past few months and now that Round 1 is (mostly) finished, I thought it would be an interesting exercise to jot down the most common mistake I saw for each of the most common essays I worked on with clients. Round 2 clients can get a leg up by simply avoiding these traps.
If you read our editions of our “How to Apply to Harvard Business School” and "How to Apply to Stanford GSB" guides, you already know that cultivating a real reason for applying to an elite MBA goes week beyond the school's name, rank, and prestige. But more than any other MBA program in the world (yes, even HBS), GSB looks beyond having a great GMAT score, a summa cum laude GPA and a blue chip name as your employer. While these are respectable measures of a person’s perceived worth, they are not good enough reasons to apply to GSB.
Why is this?
Simply put, you could someone with a mis-calibrated moral compass or worse, what your colleagues might call an "asshole" (more on the asshole test here and the true cost of being an asshole here). That's right - more than any other school in the world, Stanford has a visceral aversion to those who define themselves by their accomplishments, as opposed to the innate values and beliefs that drive those accolades. Apparently, Stanford has their pick of the litter and they can afford to stand absolutely resolute in their aversion to those whose moral compass points true south.
It's never easy to wade into troubled waters such as those present at Stanford GSB right now. And truly, we're not here to report any detail on the unfortunate scandal involving the faculty and administration of the world's most selective business school. If you want the down and dirty on exiting Dean Garth Saloner and professors Deborah Gruenfeld and Jim Phills, be sure to read the initial reporting by Poets and Quants and then the deep dive by David Margolick of Vanity Fair. Needless to say, it's a sad story that doesn't appear to be getting happier anytime soon. And it certainly leaves a bad taste in your mouth and invites all sorts of questions about GSB. But what should you actually worry about here? That's what we want to tackle.
If you are going to apply to the most selective MBA program in the world, you should recognize the impact that Professor-turned-Dean Garth Saloner has had at GSB. Stanford’s gatekeeper is long-time Dean of Admissions and GSB graduate Derek Bolton. In our opinion, his intimate knowledge of the Stanford Dynamic, along with his high-level of emotional intelligence has granted Bolton a better bullshit detector than any other admissions director in the business.
In the hierarchy of business school rankings, no program is as selective as the Stanford Graduate School of Business. With an MBA acceptance rate that is traditionally in the single digits, GSB is the program that knows exactly the type of MBA candidate they are looking for and they know how to filter out the rest. The school expects applicants to truly know who they are as not only a business professional, but more importantly, as a person. They will accept nothing less from those who eventually gain entrance to GSB - MBA students who truly know themselves and how they plan to change their communities and leave the world a better place than they found it. If you doubt your candidacy to the world’s most selective MBA program, relax for a moment and read this guide.
MIT Sloan is one of "those" schools - the ones that seem to slip into the nooks and crannies of the admissions process.
People don't talk about Sloan as much as its elite counterparts. Nobody immediately thinks about it in terms of being a top 5 program until you start digging and realize, wow, this program is insanely good. Most importantly, because of its unique end-of-October deadline and equally unique two-round admissions process, we would wager that application quality on Sloan apps is far lower than on other top programs (which is a *massive* problem if you want to be admitted there). Candidates often don't even start on their Sloan apps until after the October 3-16 gauntlet of deadlines and then they race to finish because they fear waiting until the "last" round. Indeed, since today is October 4th, it's something of a "last call" for Sloan interest. If you want to be serious about getting into MIT, you had better get started - and that includes bringing on a consultant.