Second recommender down – as well as energy levels

As discussed last week, the task moving forward in my applications for last week has been securing the support of my second recommender. Her background is as a former MBA-grad herself, which brings with it both a certain credibility as a recommender and also a good awareness of the requirements of the admissions committees.

I’m pleased to say she has wholeheartedly agreed to support me, and accompanied it with an amazing show of enthusiasm. She began the conversation with a wish to ask me to consider a secondment to help develop internal succession planning – considering this, it’s even more gracious of her to consider supporting an application that she will surely know will result in a significant chance of me leaving the business.

Now away on annual leave to visit her home in the states, I am largely left to my own devices, blundering aimlessly through the unstructured mess that are my essays. This is still an improvement on no mess at all!

In other news, I had been sharing in the general feel in the blogging community a slight ‘summer slowdown’. I suspect the long anti-climactic build-up and working through the summer is draining the energy (and fun) out of the process for many. My recommenders getting involved is giving me a little extra push so some progress has been made this week. Long may it continue up until my ill-advised holiday in the first week in September…

EDIT: Logged into the HBS application this evening. Went in just to enter some basic information, and check I hadn’t forgotten anything that needed ordering like transcripts. Feel overwhelmed! Throughly recommend logging in early if you haven’t already.

x drafts + y rewrites = ?

MBA applicants around the world are starting to lock themselves away with laptops and immersing themselves in their essays. Unless they haven’t started yet or still brushing up their GMAT in which case that last sentence won’t help at all.

I came across a rather extraordinary exchange on a prominent forum the other day, that went a little like this;

Applicant 1: I’m 3 drafts down for HBS and done 2 drafts for Wharton….

Applicant 2: I’m on draft 4 for HBS

Applicant 3: I’ve done 6 drafts for HBS already!!!

Applicant 1: Man, I need to write faster. I suck at writing essays.

I think that really sums up my point. Since when did more drafts equal more quality? Who has six genuine separate stories that they need to tell the admissions team of their chosen school? Absolutely no-one, that’s who.

Maybe its because graduate business applicants by their nature are quantitative-heavy in general, they feel the need to measure themselves in such discreet terms. I’m sure that some applicants feel less than secure about their message and that they also need to brag about these stats online. And I’m absolutely certain that no-one who writes ‘6 drafts’ as they put it has any 1 draft that makes a good essay.


“A number-of-draft to quality ratio can be expressed with an inverse exponential equation”… Seriously, just shut the f%$* up!

I’m certainly working on my essays. How many drafts have I written? Well, for the one’s I’ve started worked on maybe 1.5 – 2.5? Its rare I complete tear up a draft and start again. I take bits out, I put bits in, I take bits out again. I cut down words, I use simpler clearer vocabulary. But I don’t start all over again, and I have no idea how many ‘drafts’ I’ve written.

I don’t come from any genuine experience, but I do have a good gut feeling about some of these things. If you’re out there, locked in your room, furiously crossing whole essays out with red pen, relax and write something about you that is true and matters. I’m sure it’ll be a better essay.

I’ll put the unusual rage displayed in this post down to light cabin-fever…


Stop! Essay time.

I’ve not posted in a little while. I’ve attempted to have a break before application season really kicks off, but in reality I’ve been quite occupied with work-things.

I came out of this semi-relaxed phase with a jolt with the news that several schools have essays out – first Columbia, then Stamford and now Harvard.

I’ve tried to motivate myself to write some ‘dummy’ essays but it feels quite a wasted effort when you’re not writing ‘real’ subjects. Thankfully these have provided some real material to get working on.

Columbia’s essays seem quite ‘standard’ application essays based on what I’ve seen from previous years. No real surprises. I don’t really know too much about Columbia at the moment, but they seem more preoccupied from pointing out at every opportunity “HEY LOOK! WE’RE IN NEW YORK! NYC! YEAH?”. Maybe if every school was a person, they’d be from New Jersey?


I can now hit the bin from 10 yards with these, 100%!

Last week I read the essays that had been released from Stanford. There’s no big changes from last year’s questions. The first question “What matters most?” is incredibly open-ended which should give some flexibility to creative souls and I’m sure provide some entertaining answers. I did find these a little intimidating until I saw Harvard had released theirs…

Harvard have shocked me with their one essay, optional, compared to the fairly generic essays they had for last year (“Describe one thing you did well” etc.);

You’re applying to Harvard Business School.  We can see your resume, school transcripts, extra-curricular activities, awards, post-MBA career goals, test scores and what your recommenders have to say about you.   What else would you like us to know as we consider your candidacy?

There is no word limit for this question.  We think you know what guidance we’re going to give here. Don’t overthink, overcraft and overwrite. Just answer the question in clear language that those of us who don’t know your world can understand

Well I like the emphasis on clear speaking, it clearly pushes the writer to focus on something they’re passionate about. But no word limit? No real subject? That will be a challenge to make it interesting to the reader compared to some of the off-the-wall answers they’re sure to get. It sounds a little like they’re trying to out-simplify Stanford – but surely a big risk they won’t get the detail they need to make an informed decision about applicants?

In other news, I’ll be attending talks from MIT, Harvard and LBS in London during next week – so I’ll be posting what I’ve found from that.