Routine activities have evolved over the years. Advances in technology have not only brought us close, but they have also enabled us to get to know each other better. Today, we can not only connect with friends from all over the world, but we can also get a better idea of who they are from what they post and tag on social platforms. Technology has enabled transparency, and there is less information asymmetry. In a connected world, nothing is as ‘hidden’ as it was in the past, and for the most part, what you see is what you get!
Keeping up with the times is probably a B-School agenda! The current generation of millennial MBA applicants is very different from applicants even as recent as ten years back. Not so long ago, HBS asked for five essays as part of its application. Now it asks for only one, and that too starts with, ‘what more would you like us to know…’. Schools now have more creative requirements such as presentations and pictures. Some require video essays, and there are others that allow the applicant an open hand to present what they want to in any medium of choice. Chicago Booth provides you this open canvas. Kellogg, MIT, Rotman and Insead have video essay requirements, and NYU wants to learn about you through pictures that best represent you.
So what are the admissions committees hoping to achieve with these new requirements. To cut the answer short – the new generation is better at expressing themselves with a free hand, the number of platforms to communicate ideas has increased, and the new platforms are more ‘transparent.’ The admissions committees want to get to know you, and hence, with these new requirements, they are giving you more opportunity to present your true self, and they are doing so by pushing you into mediums that more authenticate your profile.
One less talked about fact is that traditional application requirements are now becoming boring. It does not take a lot of intelligence for the AdComs to realize that majority of the recommendations have been gamed – LORs are often long, full of praise, and frequently capture more detail about the candidate than asked for or required. There is no surprise that the ISB has reduced its LOR requirement to one. Similar is the rationale behind limiting the number of essays. Consultants are making essays faultless to the extent that admissions committees are not finding them to be thought provoking anymore. The essays often come across as so unoriginal that reading them becomes a lackluster exercise for the committee members who have to evaluate thousands of applications. Having said that, even if all the essays were interesting and real, I don’t see how four essays can do the job one essay can’t – and AdComs have realized that the incremental benefit of having additional essays is low. With four to five years of average work experience, not all students have gone through journeys that allow them to paint interesting stories for all the questions. And schools know that such traditional application requirements give advantage to some candidates, and disadvantage to others.
Another less admitted fact is that schools are now placing more weight on the measurable and credible elements of your application. In no way am I saying that the essay is becoming outdated. The essay is here to stay. All I’m saying is that schools are moving away from traditional essay requirements to methods that (a) provide creative freedom, and (b) are more likely to ‘validate’ the candidate’s story. The open-ended essay is an example of a medium that provides creative freedom, and the video essay is an example of a medium that validates the candidate’s profile.
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