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

July 18, 2012

Some Modest Proposals for Future MBA Applicant Evaluation

If you are looking for one of my useful blog posts that will contribute to your MBA admissions success, this is not it. Below I have tried, I hope not without some success, in making a number of modest proposals for ways that future applicants to MBA programs might be evaluated.  While Mr. Jonathan Swift, inspired this effort, it would be correct to say that he has no direct responsibility for it. In fact, I never had the chance to meet him. Still, his own Modest Proposal, has been with me all the way.

While this year has seen a significant decrease in the size of essays, nothing truly radical has emerged except for the HBS non-essay from hell,  where applicants are given the chance to blow it on paper after doing so in the flesh.  This stands to reason,  as aside from such minor considerations as length, format, and topic, what else can one do with an essay?  The form itself is so literate.  Why not go post-literate? That would be more in tune with the kids anyway.  And who really has the time to read essays?

Eliminate all subjective considerations from the application process. Fire all the admissions staff and retain the services of a quant who can simply come up with a set of standardized categories that can be employed to select candidates to form the perfect class.  Advantages:  Applicants could apply quickly and easily to a large number of programs.  Applicants who were rejected would simply understand that they did not measure up and that their lives were effectively over.  Schools could save on the cost of hiring admissions staff.  Disadvantages: Adam would be out of work. The less functional admissions officers would find themselves homeless.  The application process while becoming fair in a certain way would become cold and inhuman. Did I mention that Adam would be out of work?

Make applicants dance if they want to get admitted.  Alternative forms of expression should be embraced. Why limit ourselves to words, what about the motion of the human body itself?  The range of possibilities is endless. Diversity would be easily guaranteed by only accepting so many dancers of a particular type. Advantages: Literacy would no longer have a central place in the admissions process, but both highly disciplined and highly creative behavior would be at the center of the process. Dance instructors would find more work. Dance shoe and outfit companies would be able to serve a new market. Businesses would flourish. Disadvantages: The physically awkward, the shy, and those who were raised in cultures that did not regularly engage in dance would be at a great disadvantage in the application process. Those who had little time to practice because of demanding jobs would find admission to top programs beyond their reach.  Adam would be out of work.

Make applicants either sing or speak their application contents in audio files. I know UCLA did this on a limited basis when it employed an audio based essay question, but that was a mere half-measure. In order to allow admissions officers to review applicant files while they drive, run, walk, eat, etc., eliminating the need for reading would be immensely helpful.  Of course, any admissions officer who had a hearing disability could be provided with a transcript.  Schools might first try out with just speaking, but I think singing an entire application would be of immense value.  There might be some controversy over the use of Pro Tools, musical accompaniment, and back-up singers, but I am sure clear and easy to follow procedures could be developed. Advantages: Admissions staff could be engaged in two jobs at once, which would allow the schools to save on the cost of landscaping, janitorial services, security, cafeteria staff, etc. It would be much easier to find and eliminate dull speakers, the completely English challenged, and anyone who likes Euro Pop from the process. Disadvantages: It would necessarily involve a great deal of written work to write-up assessments of applicants files. If singing were mandatory, Adam would be out of work.

Select Applicants Randomly. Since admissions officers say all the time that the vast majority of applicants are actually qualified, why don't we just go on that assumption?  A random selection of admits is likely to be somewhat representative.  Advantages: All applicants who apply would have the same chance to get admitted.  Disadvantages: Certain population groups would be overly represented in the program, while others would rarely if ever appear. Diversity would exist at an abstract level, but not in terms of actual practice. Wait, that last sentence seems to apply to somewhere already. Where is it?  Also, Adam would be out of work.

Let applicants select each other. Given the importance of peers, it would seem only natural to allow the applicants to select who they would want to have in their class.  All applicants to a particular program would meet all the other applicants and rank them. Kind of think of it as speed dating, but involving a significantly larger number of potential partners. Advantages: The process would be democratic. Adam would have a job helping applicants figure out how to be liked by the other applicants.   Disadvantages: The process would be somewhat time intensive and logistically complex.

I hope the above suggestions will get the appropriate level of consideration.  I would be happy to further elaborate on any of the above. Alternatively, I would be happy to ignore the above and elaborate on something else.  In either case, I elaborate therefore I am.

-Mada Sukram
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