Monday, December 03, 2012

Think First, Ask Never

Last February I wrote a post venting my frustration at some of the posters on MBA forums (check out Etiquette 101).  While some people agreed with my assessment there were others who didn't take to kindly to my words.  Meh, oh well. You can't please everyone.  Alas, I am once again feeling the need to offer some candid advice to this year's crop of applicants (and actually applicants in perpetuity).  However, in the name of personal growth I am going to try my best to avoid name calling and keep the curse words to a minimum.

Lately I have noticed two distinct trends on GMAT Club and Beat the GMAT.  The first is an inexplicable tendency to ignore the obvious.  The second is a desire to be spoon fed information.  Actually I think the two often overlap.  What do I mean?  Here is an example.
"Does anyone know if Wharton/Booth/HBS/etc extends interview invites after the mid decision deadline?"

"Does anyone know when Wharton/Booth/ect starts sending interview invites."

So what is the issue with questions like these?  The school already answered them.  I can't figure out whether some people just don't read the communications a school sends or they don't believe what the school is telling them.  I will admit that some schools' admissions processes are rather opaque (I am looking at you Stanford).  However, more and more schools are extremely transparent.  Not only do they tell you when you will hear back from them, they also tell you what information they will be telling you.
When a school says, "All interview decisions will be announced on October 31.  You will either be invited to interview or released," that's what it means. There are no additional occurrences outside of these.  There will be no invite on November 5.  There will be no waitlist without interview (unless the school specifically states it may do this).  I promise that there isn't some secret message embedded which applicants must figure out in order to be admitted.
That brings me to another point.  Please trust the schools to which you are applying.  I notice that a lot of applicants feel the need to remind the school that they exist.  They freak out if their application status hasn't updated after an interview or clearly state that it's being reviewed.  Even worse is when these freakouts lead to calls to the admissions office. I really do understand the stress involved with applying to business school.  However, schools have been doing this for years.  They know how to collect interview feedback from your interviewers.  You do not need to help the process along.  In fact it could reflect badly on you if you pester admissions (or your interviewer) about every little thing. If the school has not told you to specifically be on the lookout for some type of notification that means that it's not important and you shouldn't worry about it. Schools communicate what you need to know.  Outside of those things, I implore you to not add more stress to the already simmering pot.
Why? Because this stress is often unleashed upon everyone else and is never helpful.  All it does is unnecessarily stress out your fellow applicants and make the people who want to help (current students, alums, consultants, admissions officers, etc.) roll their eyes and groan.  It also gives the perception that you're lazy (right or wrong) when you ask questions that are easy to answer on your own.  The internet isn't as anonymous as it seems and you don't want to make people dread being your classmate before you've even been accepted to school.
So from now on can we all agree to first read the communications the schools send and then believe it before typing another post asking if December 18 is really the date by which you will be notified if you've been admitted.

The second tendency that I see from applicants is even more insidious and problematic than the first.  It is the desire to be spoon fed.  What does this look like?

"Hello everyone.  I have 5 years work experience and a 720 GMAT.  What schools should I apply to?"

"Hi! Can anyone tell me which MBA programs are the best ones. I want to do healthcare."

Since starting school I have stuck around the MBA Forums to help the next crop of applicants. I got a ton out of the forums and I'm a firm believer in paying things forward.  However, posts like the ones above make me turn and run.  Even if I have advice for these people I have no interest in giving it.  Why? Because they have shown absolutely no effort to help themselves. These here interwebs are a trove of information and this little website called Google helps you find where the information you're looking for is.  Schools have websites  with more information than a person can possibly read.  To simply throw out a GMAT score and years of work experience and expect people to tell you your options (which they can't possibly do with such little information) comes across as very passive.  It's actually borderline obnoxious because it gives the perception that you won't put forth the effort for yourself but expect others to do so on your behalf.  If after doing your own research you still have specific questions or want a gut check on whether you'd be a viable applicant to certain schools then people will be happy to help you out.  They'll tell you that you could brush up on your leadership experience or retake the GMAT.  They'll be more inclined to tell you everything they know because you have shown that applying to business school is important enough to you to do some legwork on your own.
More importantly it is best to get into the habit of figuring things out for yourself now.  Business school is definitely a place where you learn a tremendous amount from your classmates.  However, your classmates will not teach you that which you are not willing to try and learn on your own.  You will quickly become the person that no one wants in their study group if you show up expecting everyone else to give you the answers.  It's one thing to get stuck in the middle of figuring out a problem, but it is something else entirely to not even try.  Posts asking to be spoon fed information that you can easily find on your own is a sign that you are a person who does not even try.  Better to reverse this tendency before starting school, and MBA application research is a good place to start.

The summary of the past 1000 words is simple.  Don't be that person.  Nobody likes that person.  Everybody judges that person.  If I have not convinced you that there is a problem with being that person then the following message is for you:


Sassafras said...

Haha, unleash the beast, and watch as all the trolls come out to bash you for not pandering to their helplessness.

you should be paid for all the great advice you give on GMAT club and no one can say otherwise. :)

str1der said...

Well said. Love the graphic - I am happy to contribute for that chair :)

Alison (mrsjonstewart) said...

Oh, I love this post! This topic makes me want to go on a rant that would make Lewis Black blush, it would be so ragey and curse-laden.

It is part of a bigger problem that I see mostly in youngsters but occasionally with my generation, this idea that you can't make one decision or glean one piece of information without crowd-sourcing it. I've always blamed Twitter, because I see that kind of nonsense there ALL the time:"My Delta flight was canceled due to snow -- does anyone know what will happen with my ticket?" Why, WHY would you ask STRANGERS that question?? Why don't you ASK THE AIRLINE YOU BUBBLEHEAD??

I also blame Twitter for being a safe space for people to announce their stupidity (with such gems like "I didn't know Titanic was real?!?" and "Um, who is Rodney King?"), which speaks to your second point.

And what used to be contained on Twitter has spilled out everywhere, including MBA forums frequented by seemingly intelligent people.

I take some small amount of hope in the fact that you're calling out MBA candidates on this nonsense and not your fellow b-school maybe the application process does filter out some of the worst offenders?

Pru said...

My two cents, but I think culture has a major part to do with that kind of questioning. There are 'education systems' where you are spoon fed answers. No applying your mind, no creative thinking. After you regurgitate it onto your exam, you get a score (which is all that counts), you take it to an 'expert' and ask them to take a decision on your life. Sounds ludicrous, but it's true.
When you grow up in that spoon feeding system, doing independent research, even if it is a simple Google is not possible

Michael said...

I agree Pru, I think these types of questions arise due to culture. I respect ambition, and many people asking these types of questions have it in droves. I think independence and self reflection are skills that can be learned, and a good MBA program will definitely help in that.

Anonymous said...

I am a teacher/guidance counsellor in high school and I so wish you could come speak, not to the students who are applying to universities, but to the parents. I am re-living many a conversation with my students dealing with very similar topics you just wrote about and I know they are simply repeating their parent's inability to either believe their child or their desire to become a doctor/lawyer/engineer THROUGH their child (their LSAT, GMAT etc. scores were not high enough)... I laughed out-loud many times throughout this post and will now be following your musings. Thank you for a Sunday morning smile and a reminder not to take some of those "Do you think I will get a scholarship; my average is 72%?", questions as a failure on my part for not providing enough information. ~anonymous~ sharing my name=professional