Countdown To R1: Finessing Your MBA Application Before You Hit Send
Maria |
September 8, 2023

In this episode of Business Casual, our hosts John, Maria, and Caroline discuss MBA application strategies as Round One deadlines approach. They emphasize the importance of having a well-thought-out application strategy, highlight the challenges of last-minute applications and the unpredictability of the admissions process, and stress the significance of ensuring recommenders are on track. They advise applicants not to second-guess themselves and to maintain a clear and coherent narrative in their applications. Moreover, the hosts underscore the importance of seeking feedback from individuals with critical thinking skills while cautioning against seeking opinions from unrelated individuals.

Additionally, the hosts delve into a discussion and express skepticism about the methodology of Fortune magazine’s MBA ranking, particularly in relation to its list of top schools, which they find less convincing. Overall, they emphasize the necessity of planning and preparing well in advance for MBA applications.

Episode Transcript

[00:00:07.210] – John

Well, hello, everyone. Welcome to business casual. I’m John Byrne with Poets and Quants, and I’m here with my co hosts, Maria Wich Vila and Caroline Diarte. Edwards. I’ll remind everyone that Caroline is the former admissions director at INSEAD and a co founder of Fortuna Admissions. And Maria is the founder of Applicant Lab and a Harvard MBA alum. As Caroline is an INSEAD alum, I’m the only one here without an MBA. And you know what? I wish I had one. I missed the opportunity to get one, and I regret it to this day.

[00:00:41.840] – Caroline

You should be given an honorary MBA, John, by all of the top schools.

[00:00:49.710] – John

Well, it’s that time of the year where people are counting the hours and the days to those Round One deadlines and all the I guess the people get up early and catch the worm, right? Those are the folks that are applying in Round One, and we are literally days away by the time you listen to this podcast. And it’s a good time to really think about, okay, given the countdown to R1, what is your MBA application strategy? What are the things you need to think about before you actually push the button and hit send on that application? Caroline, what are your thoughts?

[00:01:30.650] – Caroline

Well, I hope that you have figured out your strategy before now. It’s a little late to develop the strategy part, so hopefully that’s something that you’ve given some thought of ahead of time. Because as we’re just days away from some of the schools or weeks away from others, it’s really now more about putting the finishing touches, I think, to your application, rather than the high level picture, which, ideally, you should be doing a few months ahead. If that is the case, if for whatever reason, you haven’t had a chance to get down to the nitty gritty of your application and you feel that you haven’t had the chance to do yourself justice and you don’t have a coherent strategy, then what I would suggest is actually think about round two, right? The good thing about being an applicant right now is that you have two great options for applying in the coming season. You can apply in round one or you can apply in round one and two in January. And with other schools, there are other deadlines as well. The focus on round one and round two in January being really for the very top us.

[00:02:39.220] – Caroline

Schools. We recommend applying for those schools and not waiting longer than that in the season. But now is a good time to think carefully about the strategy for your timing and not rush into a deadline if you’re not ready. But if you are working on putting the finishing touches and you are working towards submitting for the upcoming deadlines, then I would say a mistake that I see people sometimes make at this stage is that the anxiety sets in and they start to second guess themselves. Too much. And sometimes that’s difficult because they may have spent several months working on their application, and so hopefully they’ve done that strategy work ahead of time, but they may start to feel that they can’t see the wood for the trees anymore at this stage. And they might start to think, oh, I don’t think I’ve got the right approach with my essays and start to want to sort of rehash things completely. And I would discourage you from doing that because it’s not a good time to start from a blank slate at this stage. So unless you really feel that you haven’t put your best foot forward, I would stick with what you’ve got and refine that rather than rehashing everything now.

[00:04:01.150] – Caroline

And if you are struggling to see the woodford, the trees, and that’s a perfectly legitimate concern, then I would encourage candidates to get a fresh set of eyes. I think that can be really invaluable at this stage, to bring someone in who perhaps hasn’t seen your application before and get them to review it. Perhaps someone who knows you very well and who can give you some good feedback on how well they feel that the application represents you and also how it all hangs together. Because it’s important to think about the coherence of the application and there are many different elements to an application and it should all come together like different pieces of a puzzle to build a picture of who you are as a candidate. And so bringing someone in with a fresh set of eyes can help you to gauge. Have you done that effectively? Have you painted a clear picture of who you are as a candidate? And also, have you avoided repeating yourself? Right, it’s a shame if you repeat give the same examples, for example, in your essays and then have a recommender, use the same example. Or perhaps you elaborate on something in a resume bullet point.

[00:05:16.840] – Caroline

So think about eliminating those overlapping points so that you’ve got a coherent story, but there isn’t duplication.

[00:05:25.990] – John

Yeah. And that’s Caroline. One of your colleagues, Matt Simons, in his story that you saw on the homepage, it’s called Countdown to R1, your MBA application strategy. He has six steps. One of them is exactly what you recommend. Get someone to read your application with a fresh pair of eyes, because even if you’ve read it a hundred times, a thousand times, it’s different when you have someone else look at it and you get honest, objective feedback from that person, which can really be invaluable. Maria, I wonder if you’ve seen an uptick on your applicant lab platform of people preparing for their round one applications and what kind of anxiety you’ve felt from your clients in the know.

[00:06:16.040] – Maria

It’s funny. Yes, there has been an uptick. There always is, right before the deadline. I mean, human nature is what it is. It’s kind of funny. When Caroline was mentioning a second ago this is not the time to question everything and go back to the beginning. I think anyone who’s ever done admissions consulting for even more than ten minutes has had that experience where you work with someone for months, and then, like, the day before the deadline, they’re like, I showed this to my orthodontist, and he thinks that this is the wrong approach. And then you’re like, oh, please don’t listen to other get a fresh set of eyes, but also make sure that that’s a set of eyes that has at least some sort of level of critical thinking. I can’t tell you the number of times that I’ve had discussions with people where they’re like, well, I know that we’ve worked really hard, but I showed this to my dad, and he’s a cardiologist, and he thinks that you are. And I’m like, oh, I also think it’s funny that you mentioned John in your little introduction, you mentioned something about early birds and then the early birds versus the people who waited until the last minute.

[00:07:15.930] – Maria

I’ll get to actual advice in a second, but one of my little pet peeves at this time of the season is always when people email and everyone thinks that they’re the only one applying sometimes. And they’re like, my deadline is in two weeks, and so I need someone to help me right now. And I’m like, first of all, it’s not your deadline. It’s literally everyone’s deadline is in two weeks. This weird thing of, like, my deadline is in two weeks. So first of all, everyone’s deadline is in two weeks. Second of all, the deadlines have been the same for literally a quarter of a century, if not more, right? It’s always been September. It’s always been January. It’s not like all of a sudden they randomly sprang three weeks ago. They said, the deadline is in four weeks. Right? It’s not like what? The deadline is in September. I had no idea. You’ve known about this for a while, and as one of my colleagues says, lack of planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on our part. So you might say, like, oh, my gosh, it’s only two weeks left. How is anyone supposed to do this in only two weeks?

[00:08:15.170] – Maria

First of all, some people are very bright, and they are, in fact, able to do it in only two weeks. But second of all, the answer is that most people have not waited until two weeks before the deadline. Most of us have been preparing for this for a very long time. So with that out of the way, maybe one day we can have pet peeves. How to not give your admissions consultant a heart attack or drive them to drink more wine. And they need to be drinking. But I think if I had to give one piece of advice right now, as we do look down the pike, I think the number one thing I think you should work on right now is making sure that your recommender is at least getting ready to fill things out only because they’re the one person you cannot control. If you absolutely you end up procrastinating and you watch a ton of movies and you’re like, oh no, I was too busy watching YouTube and I forgot to submit my application. You can force yourself to stay up all night. You can pretend that you have COVID and call in sick to work for three days and spend those three days working on your application instead.

[00:09:19.700] – Maria

Note no one affiliated with the Business Casual Poets and Quants. Fortune admissions. No one advocates actually lying to your employer about having COVID. But let’s be honest, if you had to call in sick, you can always force yourself to drag yourself over the finish line. But you cannot call your boss and say, hey boss, the deadline is tomorrow and it looks like you haven’t submitted anything yet. What the heck? I need you to pull an all nighter. I mean, that’s a good way to get your boss to admit of a laugh at you. If not, think I would not write a very good recommendation for someone after that if they talked to me that way. I think of all the different pieces and we can talk certainly much more about what some of those different pieces should be and where you should be with juggling all of the different pieces. The one that you cannot control is your recommender. So that’s the one that I would make sure does your recommender know what the deadlines are? Has your recommender been working on the recommendation? Have you maybe provided your recommender with some helpful tips on the kinds of stories, the sorts of examples and the elements of those stories that you want them to focus on those kinds of things?

[00:10:23.750] – Maria

That’s the number one thing that you cannot control. So that’s the number one thing you should start to do right now.

[00:10:29.610] – John

So how do you nudge a recommender who is yet to fill out the form and send their recommendation in at this point, obviously, the Harvard deadline is September 6. We’re only two and a half weeks or so away from that. How do you nudge that person? In a diplomatic way.

[00:10:53.090] – Maria

I almost want Caroline to take this one because she’s the queen of, diplomacies.

[00:10:58.850] – Caroline

Well, last week you rather proved your British credentials on that.

[00:11:03.210] – Maria


[00:11:06.630] – Caroline

Mean it’s definitely an issue. And when I was working at INSEAD, we did have panic calls from candidates who had discovered that their recommenders were away on vacation on a beach or January deadline. And the recommender is in the ski shelley somewhere and uncontactable and all hell breaks loose. They’re not able to get their recommendation in time. Hopefully you’ve given them the timeline well in advance. I would recommend sitting down with your recommenders ideally at least a couple of months ahead, which is obviously not possible now. For round one. But if you’re looking at round two, that is certainly feasible and mapping things out with them in terms of what needs to be done and by when they can do it and discuss with them what is feasible for them when they think that they can do it. Because as Maria said, you cannot control what they’re going to do and when. And you need to build in buffer time because by their very nature they are no doubt extremely busy people with many demands on their plate and you are probably not their number one priority. So ideally plan on having them submit it ahead of the deadline, not like the last day or two before the deadline.

[00:12:28.760] – Caroline

It’s great if they can have submitted it like at least a week or two ahead of the deadline. So around about now would be perfect. But if that’s not the case, then you need to follow up with them without becoming a complete pest and you need to figure out what’s the best way of communicating with that person. Right? Some people just are not going to respond to emails because they’re getting 5000 emails a day and they are going to overlook yours. So it may be better to give them a call or if you can walk into their office, knock on their door or send them a text message, figure out what is the best way to communicate with that person, to get their attention and do it politely. But you need to convey to them that there is some urgency if they have not yet done it. And the deadline is now two weeks away. So, as Maria says, you don’t want to be a complete pain in the backside because then they probably won’t give you such a good recommendation. So it’s quite a delicate tightrope that you need to walk.

[00:13:42.710] – John

Is this the kind of thing where you go to your recommender and you know they haven’t filed a recommendation yet and you say, can I help? Can I offer some help with it? Or is that something you don’t do?

[00:13:53.520] – Caroline

Yeah, I mean, it does happen, and it happens quite frequently that the recommender will say, well, please just write it for me and send it to me. And I would really encourage candidates to please try to avoid that if at all possible. Partly because it’s not ethical. Right? The schools do not want candidates writing their own recommendations. It’s quite clear that the schools are expecting the recommenders to write it and it’s not terribly helpful if the recommender hasn’t done that. It’s a bit of a pointless exercise if the candidate is writing it themselves. And another reason is that when I have seen recommendations that the candidate has written, they are never particularly good recommendations, they’re never the best recommendations. Right. I guess because candidates feel somewhat uncomfortable putting words of praise into the mouth of someone who’s senior to them. So the most glowing recommendations come from the heart of the recommender, and I have never seen a candidate be able to draft anything that comes close to a really strong recommendation. So please push back on that because it’s unethical and it doesn’t do you any favors.

[00:15:15.510] – John

This is really the time to finesse the fine details and not to be starting from scratch, right?

[00:15:23.190] – Caroline

Yeah. Yes, definitely. And there are a number of things that can get overlooked at this stage or neglected until the last minute. And so one of those things is the application form itself.

[00:15:36.840] – Maria


[00:15:37.200] – Caroline

Candidates often spend a lot of time, as they should, working on their essays, refining their resume, working with the recommenders. Perhaps they have video questions they need to prepare and so on. It’s a lot of different things. They may also still be working on the GMAT. Hopefully not, but some candidates are in that position of still working with GMAT or GRE, and so it’s easy to neglect the things that look more straightforward, and that is often the application form. And I can’t tell you the number of times that I’ve seen people make sloppy errors in those forms, and it completely undermines your application. So it’s a terrible shame if you have a wonderful, fabulous, imaginative, memorable essay, but then you’ve put your date of birth as today’s date in the application for right. I mean, people have done that or just mismatch of data, that’s another very common mistake, is they will have to put in their employment history in the application form, and it doesn’t match exactly with what they have in the resume. Right. The dates are wrong or mixed up or something. So it’s not necessarily the most fun part of applying.

[00:16:54.750] – Caroline

Perhaps doing the essays are not much fun either, but I think perhaps they’re more creative and interesting than doing the application form. But too many candidates leave those what appear to be more straightforward elements to the last minute, and they often do themselves a disservice as a result. And some of those forms often have almost like mini essays embedded in those forms as well. And so those definitely need very careful attention and plenty of thought ahead of time and should not be left to the last minute by any means.

[00:17:29.310] – John

Yeah. And in terms of finessing, it’s often said that your essays shouldn’t really repeat the facts of your resume, but the two should buttress each other. Maria, you agree with that?

[00:17:40.000] – Maria

Absolutely. Why would I even ask for an essay to read if I’ve already got your resume, if your essay is just going to be essentially either things that are overtly described on that resume or also things that can be easily guessed? I think one of my overall pieces of advice for any phase in the application process is think about who your reader is. These application readers are usually at a minimum, they have been trained by the school. Often they themselves have MBAs and so if your resume says something like project manager for a certain new product, then you don’t have to say in the essay. As part of being the product manager or project manager, I called a weekly status meeting. I created an agenda for the meeting. I made sure that there was lunch at the meeting. Yeah, no, I know what project management is. You don’t need to explain these very obvious pieces of the story. So think a little bit more deeply about what are aspects of the story that they would not already know from the resume or from also, like Caroline mentioned a second ago, the application forms also have these little text boxes.

[00:18:40.880] – Maria

I mean, sometimes they can be know, describe your biggest accomplishments at your job, describe the biggest challenges, why did you leave this job? Tell us about your family background. And so you don’t just want to copy and paste things from the resume to the other, but you also want to think about all of the different pieces coming together to create one solid picture. Absolutely.

[00:19:03.710] – John

I had dinner last week with a former member of Harvard Business School’s admissions committee. And astoundingly she told me that just within the last couple of days, she had two new clients who are going to start on their application for round one for the September 6 deadline at the Harvard Business School, essentially giving them little more than three weeks. And this person, who’s now an MBA admissions consultant, already has 20 clients for round one. And I’m thinking to myself, my God, how are you going to put your best foot forward cramming this in while you’re working in three weeks? Am I crazy or are they crazy?

[00:19:51.470] – Maria

I hope she’s charging them a lot of money. It’s doable, right? I mean, some people are really smart and they’re very good communicators. And there are some people that just intuitively understand the idea of here is an audience that has certain priorities when they are reading my application, and they probably have some sort of a rubric or some sort of things that they want to see. And here are the elements of my background that match that rubric or those standards and how do I best match? I mean, some people intuitively have a strong sense of that, so it’s certainly not impossible, but it’s just not wise. I would handicap yourself that way.

[00:20:29.660] – John

Yeah. And incidentally, I had lunch today with someone who told me they just heard from a waitlisted applicant at Columbia Business School who was called by the school and then admitted one week before they had to show up on campus for the start of the MBA program. Wow, that is kind of like amazing in and of itself as well, isn’t it?

[00:20:53.330] – Caroline

Yeah, it can happen. I mean, it happens because someone has dropped out at the last minute and so a seat has become available and so they will often offer that seat to someone at the last minute, but it’s pretty crazy for sure to have to drop everything and relocate for two years.

[00:21:14.550] – Maria

In fairness to the schools, they do say if you’re still interested in being on the waitlist, let us know. It’s unlikely, but it is possible that we might call you the day before and ask you to show up. So I would assume that John was that candidate by any chance in the New York metropolitan area already.

[00:21:32.770] – John

Yes, indeed. So that person doesn’t really have to relocate, which is obviously makes it a lot easier for the person.

[00:21:41.200] – Maria

Yeah, I don’t think that’s a.

[00:21:45.070] – John

Lawyer, right? You got to go to your employer and say, well, I’m giving you one week notice, I’m out of here. That could be tricky too, but hey, it is life.

[00:21:57.190] – Maria

They’ll get over it.

[00:21:58.340] – John

Okay, so any last things that people should do other than have a glass of wine? Look at all the work you put into this. Sit back after you get the fresh eyes on it from someone else. Don’t second guess yourself. Don’t redo anything from start to finish. Finesse the details. Make sure you didn’t make any dumb mistakes so that you’re going to put your best foot forward, but relax and just say, hey, wow, I feel good about all the work that I put into this and I don’t have any doubts and I’m going to roll the dice and what happens, happens. And I’m going to drink my glass of wine tonight and smile because I made it this far. Don’t you think that’s the right strategy?

[00:22:46.790] – Caroline

Sounds great. Sounds good to me. And also just get it in a few days ahead, right? Don’t leave it until the last point.

[00:22:54.380] – John

Good point.

[00:22:55.540] – Caroline

You never know what’s going to happen at the last minute.

[00:22:58.050] – John

Oh yeah, computers do crash. It’s been known to happen.

[00:23:01.470] – Maria

And one of the many details Caroline mentioned before that people will put the wrong dates or the wrong salary levels, one of the other details that people sometimes miss is the actual time of day during the deadline day. So some schools will say it’s midnight East Coast time. Some schools will say it’s 05:00 p.m. West coast time. I mean it could be anything like that. So you might think you still have several hours left to go and then whomp. Whomp. Yeah, I think I do tell people like, look, have something ready for you, have some sort of reward waiting for you at the end to look forward to. So that way in those last few horrible hours where you’re dragging your feet and your eyeballs are bleeding and the last thing you want to do is revisit this form for the millionth time, just say to yourself, okay, but you know what? This weekend I’m going to go do something that I like to have that be your little beacon of hope in.

[00:23:48.910] – John

The darkness and for all of you out there, just to let you know, august 29 is the round one deadline for Cambridge judge, September 1 is the round one open interview deadline for Dartmouth Tuck. And what open interviews mean is that you get an interview automatically, which can be very helpful if you can present yourself professionally very well. Toronto Rotman. September 5. Early round. Then the two big ones, harvard and Wharton, September 6, the super Tuesday of it all is really September twelveTH. And for those of you outside the United States who don’t know what super Tuesday is, that’s when many of the states have their primary elections for the presidential race. And the super Tuesday for the MBA crowd is Stanford, Yale, INSEAD, columbia Business School, Notre Dame, all on September twelveTH for round one, so that’s a big one. And then in between, you have Virginia Darden and Duke Fuqua at September 7. And you have London Business School. Round 1, September Eigth. You can check all the dates and double check everything. Incidentally, don’t take anything for granted. We have a story called MBA application deadline for the 2023 2024 admission cycle, and all the dates are in there, along with links directly to the web pages of all the schools for their admissions information.

[00:25:14.630] – John

The other bit of news that just happened is there’s another MBA ranking that just came out. This one is from Fortune magazine, and Fortune is publishing what effectively is their third annual MBA ranking. They got into the game later than anybody else, and not very well. We don’t think a whole lot of this ranking, in part because it was hastily put together by Fortune, I happen to know that, and it really doesn’t measure a whole lot. 65% of the weight, in fact, is based on median and average starting salaries, with no sign on bonuses or anything else. And employment rates, although we don’t know if they do three months after graduation or at graduation and we don’t know how much weight they apply to each of those three metrics employment rates or average or median salaries, because fortune doesn’t even bother to tell you. And then the rest of this ranking is based on two other wacky kind of components. One is a brand survey where they attempt to measure the reputation of a given school and not necessarily its MBA program, even though this is a full time MBA ranking, and then some other kind of wacky little thing.

[00:26:34.050] – John

You can read about it at Poets and Quants, of course, notably Harvard number one, and no surprise, Harvard, Stanford, Wharton, one, two and three, although there’s been a bit of a shake up there. And the big surprise in this ranking is Yale’s highest rank ever, in any ranking ever published in this particular ranking, the Yale School of Management, which admittedly is a fantastic school, there’s no getting away from it. And you look at their stats and they’re every bit as good as the admission stats or the employment stats of the M7 schools, even though they’re not considered part of the M seven. For the first time ever, yale ranks ahead of Kellogg, Columbia, Chicago, Booth and MIT Sloan in fourth place. What do you make of.

[00:27:32.990] – Maria

I mean, is there any ranking we don’t love to just destroy, and bash? You know, the outcomes are always going to be a little bit weird. At least there seems to be some consistency. It’s not like a complete wild card where it’s like Maria’s MBA program that she runs out of her garage is ranked fourth. It’s like, well, that’s really know intuitively. Yeah, this is the best Yale’s ever done in a formally published ranking. But as you said, I mean, Yale is a really strong school. I think we’ve often advocated here different ideas for rankings, such as maybe putting like buckets or tiers of schools instead of an ordinal 1234 or five.

[00:28:09.280] – John

Wait a minute, you mean like a Moody’s or an S and  P rank?

[00:28:12.100] – Maria

A rating, maybe something like that would be a little bit more useful, at least as a starting point in terms of eliteness, because otherwise is MIT six or is it 7th? Is it 7th or is it 8th? Is it fourth, or is it putting that’s forcing a ranking into something that really is unrankable. At the end of the day, Maria.

[00:28:34.480] – John

S P do things like junk bond ratings. Now, which schools would like that?

[00:28:41.670] – Maria

Well, if they don’t want a junk bond rating, they shouldn’t be a junk school. That’s a good incentive for them. The positive thing of the Fortune it’s a little bit weird. I have a couple of negative things, but a positive thing is that one of their elements of their ranking is how many, I think Fortune 1000 executives have MBAs from certain programs and at least the Fortune 500, the Fortune 1000, at least it then gives them almost like a raison de etra. It gives them like a reason for existing. Otherwise who needs another ranking? Well, we’re Fortune, and we are famous for having the Fortune 500, the Fortune 1000, whatever. Therefore, we’re going to use that element of our existing brand elsewhere to in some way inform this ranking. At least there’s some logic to it, instead of just like random person on the street coming up with their own ranking. It’s a little bit strange because they’re like, well, what percentage or how many people in the C suite at these different companies have MBAs from which schools? And the fact is, a lot of C suite executives in the Fortune whatever 1000 don’t have MBAs at all.

[00:29:50.910] – Maria

So it’s a little bit strange. But fine. You got to quantify it. You got to tie it into your existing brand equity. I get it. The one that’s a little bit strange and this is, I think, probably the reason a lot of one of the reasons people like to bash on this ranking is that this sort of brand equity, brand. Survey where they survey 2500 people, which is a good sample size. That’s a great sample size. But it’s a little bit weird because in order to submit your ranking or your own opinions to that survey, you have to be familiar with only a minimum of two schools on the list. So if you’ve only heard of two business schools ever, and there’s a universe of 80 business schools, I don’t know that your insight on those only two schools is necessarily worth a whole lot. And the other thing that was a little bit strange and I was trying to look up their methodology right before we jumped on and it looks like the actual survey that they are using right now for the 2023 ranking, it looks like that brand survey was actually conducted in March of 2021, two and a half years ago.

[00:30:56.930] – Maria

So, I mean, it’s an interesting idea. We could quibble as to whether or not should there be a minimum of you knowing ten programs that have two? Should you be able to if you went to an MBA program, should you be allowed to mention your own program, we could dig into the details and dissect the methodology itself. But at a minimum, if you’re going to release a quote unquote new ranking, then you should have new data. The brand score is 25% of the ranking. So 25% is going to be exactly the same from the last time. Assuming that the last ranking also used this data for 2021, what’s the point?

[00:31:32.570] – John

Then even the salary and employment data is a year old. Now, I know that most schools have not yet released their employment reports, but if you actually surveyed the schools or waited one month, you could get that and have fresh up to date data as opposed to year old data, which would help a lot as well. Well, the other interesting thing is that Fortune ranks 81 schools. And if you look at the ranking closely, you’ll find that 16 of the 81 schools can’t even rank in the top 100 of US. News. And in fact, a good number of them are even unranked by US. News. Now, how can that be? Well, it’s because a number of schools refuse to play with Fortune and won’t cooperate. But some smart third tier schools say, hey, we’ll get a top 100 ranking just by participating because there are so few schools in this ranking. So schools that are completely unranked by US. News are outside the top 100, will send in the survey to Fortune and therefore be part of the group of 81 that Fortune ranks. And on their websites they can claim to be a top 100 MBA program in the world, even though this is only US.

[00:32:47.800] – John

Centric. So this is the game that different schools play and the game that Fortune wants them to play to get more publicity for their ranking. Now, I know the biggest fan of rankings among US. Three is Caroline. Caroline, I’m sure you must love this ranking is nowhere to be seen in.

[00:33:10.530] – Caroline

It many year love affair with rankings.

[00:33:13.160] – Maria

Yes. For.

[00:33:16.030] – Caroline

You know, I think it’s wonderful that the world is reduced to just the you know, the rest of the world does not exist in this ranking like some of the other rankings we’ve discussed.

[00:33:26.600] – John

This is like Trump’s world.

[00:33:28.360] – Maria

It’s right.

[00:33:29.080] – Caroline

Yeah. It’s just perfect. The rest of the world exists beyond the borders of the US. How comforting is that?

[00:33:36.290] – John

Trump’s World ranking.

[00:33:38.550] – Maria

You know, many people are saying that my MBA program is the best. That’s? What? I don’t know. Many people are saying that I don’t have any data to back it up.

[00:33:50.650] – Caroline

It’s bizarre. It’s poor quality journalism.

[00:33:56.590] – Maria


[00:33:57.020] – Caroline

So I think some city editors told some poor junior journalists to throw something together and they didn’t have much budget to do it, so they’ve just rehashed the data that they already had and pulled some publicly available data. As you said, John, I mean, a lot of it is just data that anyone could pull from the school websites and put it really got no value add as far as I can see.

[00:34:26.490] – John

Yeah. And it’s a shame. Fortune has long been a major media business brand and so same thing with The Economist. You don’t want to see a great brand put out inferior things like this that really erode the credibility and the authority of the brand when they do a lot of other really good work. And that’s what bothers me a lot as a business journalist who has long respected Fortune as a magazine and a brand, even though I’ve been at their competition, mainly Business Week and Forbes. But you just don’t want to see dumb things like this know, for entertainment value. If you’re interested, you can look up that Fortune ranking. And if you’re at hey, pop the cork off the champagne bottle. You’re ahead of Kellogg, Columbia, Chicago, Booth at MIT for the first time. Hey, bask in the glory of that, right? And so for all of you out there who are aiming for round one, all of us are wishing you the best of luck. We hope you’re able to have devoted enough time to the process to actually get some benefit out of it, as opposed to making it part of the ordeal of having to apply to a highly selective business school.

[00:35:52.720] – John

And we do know it’s a marathon. It does require a lot of work. I think you really should have that glass of wine and feel good about yourself for having done it. This is John Byrne with Poets and Quants. You’ve been listening to Business Casual.

Countdown To R1: Finessing Your MBA Application Before You Hit Send
Maria |
September 8, 2023


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