The Most Annoying MBA Essays Of 2014

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UVA’S DARDEN SCHOOL & IMD ALSO WERE SINGLED OUT BY CONSULTANTS

The other two schools receiving multiple nominations for annoying questions were Darden and IMD. Says Adam Markus, a long-time MBA admissions consultant: “I find IMD’s application aka ‘The Professor Ralf Boscheck Application’ (used for January 2015 admission since Round 2 and in the January 2016 application) to contain two particularly annoying features. The first is an essay question that really is a piece of work and the other is an application form question.”

What especially bothers Markus is the use of a word in an essay question that is not ever used in English: laudatio.

The IMD question: On your 75th birthday someone close to you presents your laudatio (tribute). It can be a friend, colleague, family member etc. Please describe in detail what this person would say about you and your life. (300 words)

“I think it is particularly interesting to use the word ‘laudatio’ when it will be perfectly meaningless to many applicants unless they have studied Latin,” says Markus. “At least, based on my search of both the British and American English Oxford dictionaries, it is not even a Latin word that has been incorporated into English. Hence only those with a background in Latin will even have an idea of what this is. This is academic pretension at its height and represented a radical break with past essay questions asked by the school.

‘DOES IMD THINK THEY ARE GETTING UNFILTERED MARKETING INFORMATION?’

“If you try Google, you will not find a actual description of laudatio in English very easily,” continues Markus. “The first English listing a found was for “”Laudatio Turiae”, where “Laudatio” refers to an epitaph, which is a fine word in English. I am glad that IMD choose to include “tribute” in parenthesis so that those without a Latin education will be able to understand the question. Still I think the question could have been stated more simply.”

Markus then finds fault with an IMD application question. He notes, for example, that IMD states, Your responses to these questions will not be taken into consideration in the admissions process. And then asks, Why are you applying to IMD? What other programs have you considered / are you considering?

“How can any applicant believe that this is merely information being gathered for marketing purposes?,” asks Markus. “If someone is reading the applicant’s file and it includes such information what actually guarantees that it will not be taken into account? Sorry, but if IMD or any school wants this sort of information for marketing purposes, they should collect it anonymously. Does IMD think they are getting honest unfiltered marketing information here? I always read what my clients write for this answer and they always take great care in making sure that it shows big IMD love and refrains from mentioning anything that could, even at the margins, jeopardize their chances of getting an interview invite and subsequent offer of admission.”

IMD’S SECOND ESSAY QUESTION ALSO COMES IN FOR CRITICISM

Chioma Isiadinso, founder of EXPARTUS, also found IMD’s second essay somewhat misplaced. It reads: Give an example of a time when you were confronted with an unrecoverable event. How did it affect you and what were your greatest learnings?

“The sticking point is the word ‘unrecoverable,’ she says. “Some applicants feel it forces them to reveal something that puts them in a very negative light. The bigger problem with an essay like this is that it’s unfair to ask applicants to answer this question when they may never have had such experiences. Some applicants who don’t have any so called unrecoverable professional experiences may look to create fictitious examples in order to answer the question. It would be more effective to give applicants multiple options and the flexibility to choose to answer this question or to skip it and choose another one if the question isn’t relevant to their experience.”

‘THE TWEETIFICATION OF THE MBA APPLICATION PROCESS’

And then there is UVA. Paul Bodine of Paul Bodine Admissions Consulting says the following Darden prompt has an annoying feature that all too many essay topics share: Tight word limitations.

Knowledge & Skills: The Darden classroom is a high-engagement environment where students learn from classmates as well as faculty. Our case method teaching style is highly experiential and obligates students to share their perspectives. What knowledge and skills will you bring to our classroom? (200 Words)

“That feature is … ridiculously tight length limits,” says Bodine. “Take this Darden prompt: The question itself is 25% of the word count Darden allots for a response. Also, I’m sure Darden will advise applicants that it (a) doesn’t want a mere list of knowledge and skills, (b) wants examples, not just adjectives, and (c) expects its applicants to have more than a handful of skills. But it’s difficult (albeit not impossible) to do all three of these things in 200 words. Call it the Tweetification of the MBA application process: admissions officers seem to have short attention spans.”

‘IF A B-SCHOOL ASKS ONLY ONE QUESTION, IT SHOULD BE BROAD AND OPEN-ENDED’

Adds Bauer of The MBA Exchange: “
It’s unfortunate — for applicants and adcoms — that many B-schools have reduced the number and length of essays so drastically. Understanding, assessing and comparing candidates fully and fairly to determine which ones should advance to a 1-on-1 interview deserves more than 500 words.”

He singles out this Darden question: Describe the most courageous professional decision you have made or action you have taken. What did you learn from that experience? (500 words maximum)

“If a B-school is going to ask only one essay question,” says Bauer, “why not make it broad and open-ended like, say, HBS does? By narrowing the focus to just a ‘professional’ decision, Darden eliminates the option of presenting a more meaningful, more revealing personal or academic example. The applicant’s resume and recommendations already emphasize the professional component of the candidacy. The limited scope of this essay question precludes many applicants from presenting their greatest and most distinctive assets.”

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About The Author

John A. Byrne is the founder and editor-in-chief of C-Change Media, publishers of Poets&Quants and four other higher education websites. He has authored or co-authored more than ten books, including two New York Times bestsellers. John is the former executive editor of Businessweek, editor-in-chief of Businessweek. com, editor-in-chief of Fast Company, and the creator of the first regularly published rankings of business schools. As the co-founder of CentreCourt MBA Festivals, he hopes to meet you at the next MBA event in-person or online.