In his ubiquitous hit song, "I Heard It Through the Grapevine," Marvin Gaye sang, "Believe maybe half of what you see and some to none of what you hear." I think this lyric should be modified for MBA applicants who frequent b-school forums. "Believe maybe half of what you see and some to none of what you read." I've been an active participant on the GMAT Club forums for almost a year and if the site is representative of the applicant pool then I guess 90% of applicants have 740+ GMAT scores, 3.7 GPAs from top 10 schools, and all have stellar work experience. It's easy to feel intimidated by the number of outstanding competition. However, I'm starting to think that maybe some of those scary good competitors are of the boogie man under your bed variety. They do not really exist.
What do I mean? I think Brad Paisley said it best,
I work down at the Pizza Pit
And I drive an old Hyundai
I still live with my mom and dad
I'm 5 foot 3 and overweight
I'm a scifi fanatic
A mild asthmatic
And I've never been to second base
But there's whole ‘nother me
That you need to see
Go checkout MySpace
'Cause online I'm out in Hollywood
I'm 6 foot 5 and I look damn good
I drive a Maserati
I'm a black-belt in karate
And I love a good glass of wine
It turns girls on that I’m mysterious
I tell them I don't want nothing serious
'Cause even on a slow day
I could have a three way
Chat with two women at one time
I’m so much cooler online
So much cooler online
I'm not saying that neither the 6 foot 5, good looking, Maserati driving black-belt doesn't exist any more than I'm saying that the 740+ GMAT, 3.7 GPA from top 10 school doesn't exist. They definitely do, but that doesn't mean everyone who claims it is it. The anonymity of the internet lets people be whoever they want. Why lie? I don't know. People have all types of reasons. Some just want to fit in with what they perceive to be the norm. Others just get a kick out of making other people squirm. To them our anxiety about business school is amusing and they do whatever they can to turn up the dial. They want real applicants (no matter the stats) to feel insecure. They claim false employment, GMAT scores, interview invites, acceptances just to laugh when someone says, "Wow! I totally can't compete with that. I'll never get in." Basically, they're drawn to drama and the MBA process and its accompanying forums are rife with it.
My thoughts were only confirmed by a post on Ross' Admissions Director Soojin Kwon Koh's blog (http://rossblogs.typepad.com/admissions/2012/01/the-bane-of-admissions-officers.html). When Round 1 admissions decisions came out in January a certain poster on GMAT club claimed that he/she had been rejected from Ross without interview. This candidate felt entitled to at least an interview because of his/her 780 GMAT score and near perfect GPA from MIT. HBS had come knocking so of course Ross should too. Other applicants (both admitted and WL) tried to lift this person's spirits by suggesting maybe Ross knew he/she was "too good" for them and passed to protect their yield. Turns out that this "much deserved" interview could not be because according to Soojin NO ONE with this profile even applied to Ross in Round 1.
This isn't the first nor will it be the last time that something like this will happen. Every year there's a new crop of candidates eager to learn about getting into business school and to share their experiences with other applicants. The internet has given us several places where people from around the world can gather to talk all things MBA all day everyday (cause honestly, no one else wants to hear us). It would suck to doubt the validity of everyone on these sites. Also, it's not necessary. Most of the screen names you see are attached to real people who are honest about their candidacy. Unfortunately there are some people who are either too insecure to be themselves or are just plain jerks. It's probably best to take what you see and hear with a grain of salt. That person who comes out of nowhere claiming to have run the board at HBS, Stanford, Wharton, Sloan, Tuck, Kellogg, Booth, and CBS in Round 1 may be telling tall tales. The person who claims to know that they got into a school 1 month before the actual decision day may only be imagining that feat. These people can make solid applicants doubt their chances of getting in anywhere. But I'm thinking that these online personae are only a persona and that if you take a page from your parents' book and shine a flashlight under the bed you'll find there's actually nothing there.