BW has published an informative and lengthy interview with Stanford’s Director of Admissions Derrick Bolton. If you are a Stanford applicant either preparing for a R1 interview or drafting and editing your R2 essays, this really is a must-read.
At the same time, while I strongly recommend this interview to Stanford applicants and find much of the advice to be spot on, I vehemently disagree with a few points:
Derrick argues that applicants should not try to stand out because they will end up sounding like all the other applicants trying to do the exact same thing. I completely agree with him that the kernel of an individualistic, unique essay lies within you; unearthing that kernel requires introspection, reflection, and sincerity. Having advised applicants to top business schools for over a decade, I am convinced that most applicants will reveal that unique kernel only when consciously choosing writing techniques and wording that will distinguish them. For more on this topic, please see:
Derrick’s response to BW’s question about admissions consultants is simply inaccurate and misleading. He says "This is a process that already is expensive and high-stress. In a lot of ways, [the admissions consulting] industry feeds on those two things, and it makes it more expensive and more stressful in a lot of cases."
Give me a break. The schools contribute to the stress and raise tuition annually.
It is specious to isolate the cost of the application process from the overall cost of an MBA because the financial benefits of an MBA justify both the much larger investment in a graduate business education as well as a smaller investment in GMAT prep or admissions consulting. The two biggest costs of pursuing an MBA are tuition and the opportunity cost of leaving the work force. Either one of these factors dwarfs any fees paid to admissions consultants. In the words of an Accepted client, "Your fees are a rounding error in the cost of my MBA." Tuition paid to the schools is certainly the largest out-of-pocket expense.
The stress that Derrick laments comes from the intense competition to gain acceptance to schools like Stanford. In fairness, the competition and consequent stress stem primarily from the higher ranked programs’ reputation for educational quality and the significantly higher average starting salary earned by their graduates. I certainly don’t believe that Derrick wants to reduce educational quality or damage Stanford’s reputation to lower applicants’ stress levels. But the schools are not innocent bystanders when it comes to the stress of the MBA application process: They nurture that competition to enhance their reputations and brand and to ensure the widest pool of candidates to pick from.