For many people, writing essays is the most feared part of the admissions process. It can serve as a huge barrier to entry to those less skilled at writing, or as an unnecessary time-consuming hurdle for those without the time or energy to write them. Other applicants thrive on the essay section. For those applicants, essays are the perfect chance to express who you are at the core, to talk more deeply about your accomplishments and reflections, and to convey your hopes and dreams to the admissions team.
Schools tend to agree with the latter perspective, especially MBA programs. But because writing a good set of essays for multiple schools often feels like a herculean task, applicants have tended to recycle essay material across multiple applications in hopes to create some economies of scale. Sources indicate that some applicants even take it further by using online materials and old applicant essays to supplement their own. It looks like schools may finally have the chance to confront this challenge.
Just today, I stumbled across a quick article that suggests MBA Admissions teams will soon have the opportunity to tighten up the essay writing process. It suggests that the day is near where applicants will no longer be able to submit the same essays to Kellogg, Harvard, Wharton, Chicago, and Stanford, and in fact, maybe not even submit “similar” essays. Further—and more importantly in my opinion—applicants will also not be able to steal ideas or rip-off information from online sources, as this new “Big Brother” tool will also compare an applicant’s essays to online sources and past application essays.
I see merit to both sides of the debate. In some sense, this service is going pretty far out of the way just to ensure that students can’t take a line or two from online sources that are usually highly irrelevant to your personal story and pretty scarce anyways. But on the other hand, today’s business school applicants are usually pretty resourceful, and with enough Googling or Binging, most of them can navigate the web’s darkest cracks and corners to uncover the hidden treasure they might be looking for. And so this service may be a good incentive not to do that.
In the end, I think that most schools aren’t out to punish applicants per se. Instead, I think they really just want to hear the applicant’s voice – the way they talk about values, reflect on past leadership experiences, and inspire others with their dreams and their compelling stories. After all, conventional wisdom says that good leaders are also good storytellers. Stanford Business School takes a similar approach to essays. Admissions Director Derrick Bolton has long-advised that applicants strive to write authentic essays and not perfect ones. On the website he says “Truly, the most impressive essays are those that do not begin with the goal of impressing us. This is the time to think carefully about your values, your passions, your hopes and dreams. In your short answer responses, we learn more about the experiences that have shaped your attitudes, behaviors, and aspirations.” I personally think he has an interesting point.
Title: Crackdown on Plagarims in Admissions Essays
Author: Louis Lavelle
How can I optimize my academic experience in the JD-MBA program? That’s a question many of us here at Northwestern think about tpretty often given our limited time at both Kellogg and Northwestern Law. The general answer seems to be take more classes we enjoy, take less required courses, and enroll in more classes that will help jumpstart our careers. But that’s easier said than done given the steep course requirements at the law school, not to mention the foundational courses needed at the business school. But hopefully that won’t stop a few of us from being able to lighten up our required b-school course load this semester and make our transition to Kellogg more exciting this fall.
Just this week, the JD-MBA group finally received the results of the waiver petitions we submitted a few weeks ago. Many of us hoped that Kellogg would help us lighten our b-school core by giving us credit for relevant college courses. A number of JD-MBAs got classes waived, including Accounting, Finance, and Statistics, while many others did not receive any waivers. A third group of students have been out of school for just long enough, that although they may have deserved waivers, Kellogg decided not to give them credit because of the time. For the second and third groups who ended up without waivers in some classes, we’ve decided to take Kellogg’s waiver exams to try to waive courses. The first exam is tomorrow morning 9am sharp, less than 7 hours from now. And it’s for Decision Sciences (DECS) 433.
DECS is really just a fancy title for Business Statistics, which is a class where you apply statistical mathematics to business topics such as “inventory management, supply and demand, principal-agent models, herd behavior, selection bias, rare events, real options, and risk.” Although it sounds pretty interesting now, tomorrow morning at 9am, a group of us are going to do the best we can to pass out. Me and one of my classmates have never taken statistics before, so it should be interesting to see how it turns out for the two of us. We just started learning most of the coursework last night, and we’re quite thankful for two amazing classmates who stayed at the school late on a Friday night just to give us a crash course.
Turns out one of our classmates is a stats guru, and the other is a pretty gifted teacher who taught LSAT, GMAT, and SATs for a while before Northwestern. We’re both pretty thankful they offered to stay around to help, and we’re both feeling pretty good about the test now. But no matter how the test ends, I suspect we’ll both be pretty happy. Either we’ll be excited to pass out of the class and to take an extra elective course at Kellogg or we’ll take a stats class that sounds pretty interesting and learn all about business statistics. So it that sense, it’s a win-win situation.
In the end, we all just really want to optimize our time in the shortened program, and that not only includes taking as many new courses as possible but also learning all the things we need to learn while here, including stats if need be. And no matter how the class plays out, its always a lot of fun spending time with our JD-MA classmates and learning about the new and interesting experiences everyone has had. In fact, it oftens turns out that these end up being some of of the best experiences. Hopefully we’ll all pass the test together in the morning. I’ll keep you posted.
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