BERKELEY AND WHARTON ‘MILDLY ANNOYING’ ACCORDING TO ONE CONSULTANT
In the “mildly annoying” category, Paul Bodine also points to the MBA applications of both Wharton and Berkeley’s Haas School of Business.
Haas asks applicants this year: What is your desired post-MBA role and at what company or organization? In your response, please specifically address sub-questions a., b., and c.
a. How is your background compelling to this company?
b. What is something you would do better for this company than any other employee?
c. Why is an MBA necessary and how will Haas specifically help you succeed at this company?
“In many ways.” says Bodine, “this is a standard goals question, with an interesting twist: ‘How is your background compelling to this company?’ I like the way Haas forces applicants to not just state their goals but show why a recruiting firm would be interested in them. But the next question takes a good thing too far: How many applicants are truly so good at one thing that they surpass everyone else in the organization? And isn’t it supposed to be bad form these days to encourage applicants to thinking in this kind of elbow-sharpened way?”
PROMPTS FROM WHARTON DEEMED ‘BORING’
And then there are the Wharton prompts:
1. (Required) What do you hope to gain both personally and professionally from the Wharton MBA? (500 words)
2. (Optional) Please use the space below to highlight any additional information that you would like the Admissions Committee to know about your candidacy. (400 words)
Optional Essay: First-time applicants can use this essay if you feel there are extenuating circumstances of which the Committee should be aware (e.g., unexplained gaps in work experience, choice of recommenders, inconsistent or questionable academic performance, significant weaknesses in your application). (250 words)
“None of these questions is actually unusual or inappropriate, but taken together and given such minute word counts, they send an unmistakable message: ‘We here at Wharton do not like reading essays, we don’t really trust anything people say in them, and we would be surprised if you had anything interesting to tell us. What’s your GMAT score?’ They’re boring,” concludes Bodine.
MORE GENERAL PET PEEVES ABOUT MBA APPLICATIONS
Some consultants have more general issues with the MBA application process, not specific to a school or a question. “My biggest beef with the essay sets is the question that many schools are NOT asking, which is is some version of ‘who are you, what do you want to do, and what are you good at?,'” says Adam Hoff. “This could be called the ‘goals question’ or ‘Why MBA’ and it was a staple that I felt long separated the MBA application from something like law school, where schools basically abdicate all responsibility when it comes to forcing candidates to truly consider the path they are on (which is no big deal because there aren’t any unhappy or unemployed lawyers out there).
“I always respected that business schools made you sit and think about why you wanted to spend two years and countless thousands of dollars earning this degree – and I do believe that just the exercise of mapping out goals and reasons and motivations helped applicants cross-check their own pursuits,” continues Hoff. “To see many schools do away with the long, hard, introspective goals question is incredibly disappointing. (Aside: UCLA Anderson’s essay instructions do a great job of explaining why the ‘exercise’ of a goals essay is so vitally important, more than looking at the piece as some sort of crystal ball.)”
A NUMBER ONE PET PEEVE: WHEN SCHOOLS REQUEST YOUR SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBER
For Anna Ivey, another long-time admissions consultant and founder of Anna Ivey Consulting, it comes down to a specific data point requested by schools. Her number one pet peeve: “Some schools (not all) ask for social security numbers as part of the application. Not only is that an inappropriate use of a social security number altogether, but it’s creates a risk for identity theft,” says Ivey.
“It’s just as bad as when a doctor’s office insists on it, or even the membership form at the gym. Nobody should be asking for it except the federal government — for legitimate social security purposes. The applicant’s full social security number even shows up in PDF print-previews of some applications. There are other ways schools can create unique identifiers to track applicants in their databases – they don’t need to abuse social security numbers to achieve that administrative result.”
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