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You can find a better version of my blog at http://www.adammarkus.com/blog/.

Be sure to read my Key Posts on the admissions process. Topics include essay analysis, resumes, recommendations, rankings, and more.

April 18, 2011

Reflections on the 2010-2011 Admissions Season

"Ninety percent of life is just showing up."
-Woody Allen

"The other ten percent is what differentiates the successful from the merely hardworking."
-Adam Markus

Well, except for some third round and waitlist admissions that I am hoping for some of my clients, the 2010-2011 admissions season is done.  As a group, my clients did very well this year:

MBA Comprehensive Service Client Select Results 2009-2011
School2011 (In progress)2010 2009Total
Columbia 3 5210
Cornell Johnson2114
Chicago Booth44412
Michigan (2Y, not GMBA)3216
Stanford GSB3216
UC Berkeley Haas1113
Clients also admitted to Stanford Sloan, MIT Sloan Masters, NYU, Yale, and other top programs for 2010. 

Results above do not include interview-only clients who were admitted to HBS (2), Stanford (2), Chicago, Haas, and too many other schools to mention.

For the season that is soon to end, I had more clients admitted to Stanford and INSEAD than I have ever before. Each year has its high points and its lows. In the 2009-2010 season, I had 6 admitted for MIT, this year only two.  There are always such fluctuations. The above numbers don't include the number of applicants who made the interview round, but could not pass or have become waitlisted.  My clients interviewed by HBS, Stanford, Booth, MIT, and Wharton were significantly more than the number admitted.  That is the nature of the process at top schools.  

Still one thing has not changed, this is a process that typically rewards hard work. If you look at my individual client results for 2011, you can better understand what is involved.  It did not matter whether it was an MBA client admitted to HBS/Wharton/Kellogg or my only LL.M. client this year, who only applied to and was admitted by Columbia Law School, the clients who consistently did the best were those who focused intensively on the process.  For MBA admission to multiple top programs this can be a completely grueling process: Months of  GMAT / GRE / TOEFL / IELTS test preparation; research and networking to learn about schools; preparing the essays, resume, and other application components; securing recommendations; and then preparing for and having interviews.  The more schools, the more intense the process.  You can be absolutely sure that my clients like the one admitted to ”Cambridge Judge, Cornell Johnson, IMD, Michigan Ross (2Y, not GMBA) and Oxford Said” are people with close to superhuman fortitude. 

Woody Allen's famous 90% rule applies to the admissions process.  I have, every year, worked with applicants who had tremendous potential, but did have the time or energy to devote to the process: They really did not show up.  Professional and personal demands got in the way.  The results for such applicants varied from good to bad, but the reality is that poor time management will greatly reduce the ability of any applicant to succeed.

For me, the most frustrating thing I experience is when I have a great applicant with lousy time management skills who does last minute applications.  This is just not the basis for essay excellence. While I am great "ER doctor" who has been known to do an initial and final review of an essay hours before it was due, such a process does not make for the best overall outcomes.

The other 10%, that combination of  good luck, intelligence, personality, experience and really effective school selection ultimately is the part that differentiates hard workers from those that get the best results.  Intelligence, personality, and experience obviously play a major role here, but luck and school selection are two factors that are worth considering.

Luck is a factor, if anyone tells you otherwise, they are delusional. We can try to control for both white and black swans, but the reality is that life is filled with randomness. If you are the right person in the right place at the right time, the result can be great. The opposite is also true.  Every year, I have clients who have bad interview experiences, which are, at least partially the result of the luck of who they interviewed with. Other times, bad luck comes in the form of having a bad day. Everybody has bad days.  Some people just have such bad days when they need to interview.  If they can recover and learn from such experiences for subsequent interviews, the ultimate result can still be great.  I think of a couple applicants this year who really struggled with interviews at various times, but really learned from their bad experiences and  had sufficient good interview days to get great results.

School selection also really matters.  For example, this year I had an MBA client with a very low GPA who obtained very solid European MBA program results both in terms of admissions and invites, but had a horrible time with US schools.  The reality is that for someone with a GPA significantly below 3.0, the barriers to top US school entry are very high, while the barriers to European entry are relatively low if the candidate is otherwise strong.  This client had an intelligent school selection strategy because it minimized the risk associated US schools, which he or she still wanted to try.  The result is that the client will be attending a top European program.   

I have also worked with clients this year whose school selection was not effective, in terms of the specific programs applied to and/or in terms of the number of programs applied to and/or in terms of the timing of applications.  Almost every client applying to top US MBA programs gets dings.  Even "perfect applicants" usually do.  Since 2002-2003, my second season as an admissions consultant, even my clients admitted to Stanford and HBS were usually dinged somewhere.  While I don't think applicants should attend programs that don't want to go to, a certain amount of self-knowledge and humility is required to make an effective strategy.   While I try to guide clients to make effective school selection choices, my clients don't always listen to me. They are adults and have to make their own decisions.   When I agree to work with someone, I give them an initial assessment of their school selection strategy.  I don't dwell on it because I think taking risks is a good idea, but certainly tell my clients whether I think their school selection strategy is high, medium, or low risk. 

Finally, I just wanted to mention how lucky I feel to have the opportunity to work with so many great people. I also appreciate the many kind remarks that my blog readers have made.  I am sorry that my level of posting so far has been low this year, but I hope to make it up over the next four months.

For 2011-2012, I have already started working with a few applicants.  If you are interested in my services, please see http://adammarkus.com/ for detailed information.  Price and service structure information can be found at http://adammarkus.com/services.html.  Results and client testimonials can be found at http://adammarkus.com/results.html. 

-Adam Markus
 アダム マーカス

If you would like to arrange an initial consultation, please complete my intake form, which is publicly available on google docs here, and then send your completed form to adammarkus@gmail.com.  You can also send me your resume if it is convenient for you.  Please don't email me any essays, other admissions consultant's intake forms, your life story, or any long email asking for a written profile assessment. The only profiles I assess are those with people who I offer initial consultations to.  See here for why.

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