Ambiguity equals opportunity the story of the new hbs application


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Ambiguity equals opportunity the story of the new hbs application

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Ambiguity equals opportunity the story of the new hbs application

  1. 1. Equals Opportunity:The Story of the New HBS Application
  2. 2. By the Amerasia Consulting Group,Boutique MBA Admissions ConsultingAmbiguity Equals Opportunity:The Story of the New HBS ApplicationMBA Admissions Consultant |
  3. 3. Today we are going to talk about the new HBS application andwhat it means for applicants. Weve already gone on recordwith our thoughts on how something like "this" (a schooleliminating required essays) might impact our work asconsultants, so this post is going to break down what thismeans for applicants. First though, we are going to providesome context, to properly frame expectations.This is unique to HBS. There are many people who are seeingthis move from HBS and also seeing reductions to the numberor word count of essays and they are trying to link everythingtogether as some sort of "state of the industry." Its importantfor everyone involved to avoid this instinct as much aspossible.MBA Admissions Consultant |
  4. 4. Sure, all these schools are connected by their presence in theMBA community, but they operate as individual entities.Another MBA program will always prioritize the needs of itsown constituents (board, university president, business schooldean, faculty, alumni, students, etc.) over "what Harvard isdoing."Yet outsiders always assume that the top dog will sendeveryone racing to react, which is generally not at all true. Wehave a motto here that goes "HBS doesnt set trends, it setsmyths.“ When HBS went young and then other businessschools started getting younger, the myth became "schools aretrying to get younger.“MBA Admissions Consultant |
  5. 5. This was true of HBS (based on all stated evidence), but nottrue of most other schools (that were getting younger simplybecause the applicant pool was getting younger). Whatpeople assumed to be a trend was indeed just a myth. Thesame will be true here - people will speak of a potential trendin the essays when in reality it is a myth.WHY is it unique to HBS? The reality is that HBS can afford toexperiment more with its application than most other schools.Stanford is the only other American business school with ayield (the percentage of admitted students who enroll) highenough to truly do whatever it wants. Its clear that for now atleast, Stanford likes its essay set and wants to continue on thatpath.MBA Admissions Consultant |
  6. 6. And for a program that believes in class building to the degreeof alchemy, it stands to reason that they will want essay-basedinformation for a long, long time.Outside of HBS and Stanford, it is hard to see another schoolout there that is so sure in its yield that it could remove theessays. Why is this? Well, because we live in an applicant-centric world, the assumption is always that the essays existsolely to share with a school who an applicant is.This is part of the reason, surely, but they also exist to sharewith a school what kind of fit that person might be with theirspecific program.MBA Admissions Consultant |
  7. 7. In some cases, the essays are also read like tea leaves, toproject who might actually attend.Places like Tuck, Stern, Ross, and Hass will basically tell you justthat - they want to see a demonstration of specific interest,such that you arent just sending out application seven ofseven and treating their program like another dart at adartboard.Without essays, schools lose a tremendous amount of insightinto the question of "will this person attend?" - and withoutthat insight, yield because even more difficult to project. HBSis very unique in knowing that it will always get a 90% yieldbasically no matter what.MBA Admissions Consultant |
  8. 8. If nearly every admitted student will attend, why pressuredoes HBS feel to read those tea leaves? None.What are HBS reasons for doing this? This is for HBS to sayand were not really the conspiracy theory types, but just toframe this properly, there are a lot of reasons it *could* be:1. increasing the number of applications (either for revenue or forstatistics) by removing the most laborious part of submitting anapp,2. reducing the power of "helpers" (consultants, alumni, familyfriends, and other people that can guide an applicant),MBA Admissions Consultant |
  9. 9. 3. putting more emphasis on the interview (this is the stated reason,but it seems to be the most suspect, given that only a fraction ofthe applicant pool gets an interview), 4) measuring certainqualities.4. We tend to focus on this fourth element because it is in keepingwith things HBS has been doing for years and it is the only one ofthese four theories that actually puts the onus back on theapplicant. Rather than just complaining about this or accusingHBS of some nefarious intent, lets focus on taking action andusing the opportunity set before us. Which leads to...Approaching the new HBS application. Weve now come fullcircle to the idea of "ambiguity equals opportunity." This isone of my favorite phrases and it completely applies here.MBA Admissions Consultant |
  10. 10. HBS did not *remove* the essay from its application (as manyhave reported), they simply made it optional and open-ended.What that does is create a tremendous amount of ambiguity.Guess what else features a tremendous amount of ambiguity?Life! Business! Leading people! We live in a time wherethings are constantly in flux, new information is constantlybecoming available, and decisions have to be made withouthaving everything laid out in front of us.If you dont believe me, go watch Zero Dark Thirty, which isbasically entirely about navigating ambiguity to make a(massive) decision.MBA Admissions Consultant |
  11. 11. Go read about the state of venture capital in 2013, which isalmost entirely about making sound and confident decisions itthe center of massive doubt.Go back and read the stories on Netflix when they chancedtheir entire company on the idea of streaming content. If youwant to be a leader in our modern world, you have to be ableto deal with some unease and some uncertainty and someambiguity.HBS wants to see how you handle this. So step up and attackthe grey area with confidence! Not only does this show self-possession, but it also directly address two of the "big three"things that weve been instructing clients on for years.MBA Admissions Consultant |
  12. 12. When our clients apply to HBS, we tell them to keep threethings paramount:1. Display leadership (not just instances of leadership, but "born withit" leadership skills and capacity)2. Display maturity (a self-assuredness that belies your years)3. Indicate a real desire to attend HBS (beyond just "its HBS")Centering the previously required essays, application shortanswers (especially Why an MBA), and then the interview onthese three pillars allowed our clients to, frankly, dominate theHBS application in a way that is not at all consistent withoverall acceptance rates.MBA Admissions Consultant |
  13. 13. This is because the large majority of applicants were notfocusing on these three things, instead just trying to show offtheir "best" accomplishment while mitigating their failures andreally never addressing what HBS really is.Why did HBS change to this open-ended assignment?Probably because they were tired of reading the same essaysover and over and over. In the past, we had to force ourclients to almost re-word the essay prompts. Now, we donthave to do that, but we will have to challenge them to takeinventory and determine the ways in which those "big three"ideas are already reflected and how they need to becrystalized in the new essay portion.MBA Admissions Consultant |
  14. 14. The more things change, the more they stay the same.The exciting thing is that this year, such affirmed, clear, andstrong portrayals should be even more readily rewarded,considering that the vast majority of candidates will flounder.Ambiguity equals difficulty, but most of all it equalsopportunity. Those who step up and deliver with confidenceare going to dominate.MBA Admissions Consultant |
  15. 15. If you are interested in a free initial consultation, please boutique approach pairs you with a consultant capable of walking youthrough the above steps and perfecting your application.