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Wharts and All: Blogging the Full-Time MBA Program at the Wharton School
Bskewl's new home is www.bskewl.com.
No time to do a full post as I'm rather overcommitted at the moment.
I found the following article describing my old friend, Overcommitment, and felt the immediate need to share it with you, my Overachieving (and frequently overcommitting) old friends.
If your appointment book runneth over, it could mean one of two things: Either you are enviably popular or you make the same faulty assumptions about the future as everyone else. Psychological research points to the latter explanation. Research by two business-school professors reveals that people over-commit because we expect to have more time in the future than we have in the present. Of course, when tomorrow turns into today, we discover that we are too busy to do everything we promised. (source)
Many applicants to graduate schools of business lie to improve their chances of admission. They stretch dates of employment to cover embarrassing gaps. They lie about how much they make. They lie about what they do. And irony of ironies, they even lie about the time they had to deal with an ethical dilemma (who'd have thought that merely asking applicants to describe an ethical dilemma would itself generate more ethical breaches?). They do it all to gain an edge in the hyper-competitive business school admissions race.
Until recently, however, there were no systematic means of either deterring or catching dishonest applicants.
Wharton is leading the change. The school's S2S discussion forum features a thread entitled "Busted--Lying on Application" in which a Wharton student (presumably class of 2002) encourages applicants to be truthful lest they end up like one of his classmates who was kicked out of the school just months before he would have graduated. His crime? Lying on his Wharton application.
As a result of that fiasco, Wharton instituted background checks for all matriculating students. These checks are conducted by Kroll, the company whose forensic prowess uncovered millions of dollars that Saddam Hussein had siphoned from his country and stashed throughout the world. Kroll has also helped crack cases involving international kidnapping, Enron, and the Texas A&M University Bonfire Tragedy, which is to say that they'd likely have no difficulty verifying a few facts on a business school application.
As a result of Wharton's policy change, some interesting behavioral changes are occuring in the applicant population as evinced by S2S forum traffic. Wharton's mere publication of the fact that all applicants receive a background check seems to be sufficient to cow most liars into honesty. I get the sense that oft-fabricated details (like dates of employment and salary history) are now being recorded accurately by would-be liars scared into compliance by Wharton wielding the Kroll club.
Occasionally, though, some poor, unethical bastard doesn't learn about the existence of these background checks until after he has submitted his application. He panics and makes a public fool of himself. Thus I bring you this gem of a post made to S2S at 8.13 AM this morning [edit: post has since been deleted, this is the only record of it now]:
I put down on my resume that I started at my current company 6 month prior than the correct date. I was terminated at my previous job and I was a little worried about having to talk about that. I had 2 other personal failures in my life (average GPA and droping out of grad school) that I expalined in my essay and I guess I was worried about having to talk about a 3rd one. I learned from these mistakes and done well since then. I got a master degree from a great school with great GPA. I did really well at my new company and was promoted a few times. The only explanation I have for my action is fear. I now really see how I could really have talked aobut what I learned from getting fired. I received a request for an interview and think that I need to come clean. I feel terrible about this. What would be the best approach for me here? I fear that I have no chance at getting into school. I would really appreciate any advice on this matter.
S2S has become a cyber-confessional! Ethically challenged applicants are reading the thread, freaking out about their fibs, and then confessing right out there on the internets! This is pretty fabulous stuff. I doubt it ever happened prior to the Kroll verification requirement. (And you can bet that for every confession on Wharton's public forums there are five applicants coming clean in private missives to the admissions committee.)
Though they probably hate that they have to do these checks, Wharton's policy pays big benefits. By verifying every application, and by changing the depth of the background check every year, Wharton keeps applicants guessing. The class of 2006 needed to verify the employment information they provided on their most recent three jobs. In addition, I believe that 100% of their recommendations were verified. Wharton's class of 2007 is having the most recent two employers verified, and only a random sample of the class is having its recommendations verified. Wharton's class of 2008 will likely undergo a different version of the verification. By changing verification details every year, and by being vague and evasive when answering repeated questions about what information is going to be verified, Wharton makes honesty the only viable application strategy. That's how it should be.Here are some examples of typical question-and-response patterns from the S2S forums on the topic of verification:
I'll conclude with another confession I enjoyed tremendously, also from the same thread:
Dear Alex Brown,
I am writing you to clarify a few particular elements of my application that, while not fraudulent or misleading in any way, may be a little ambiguous. In my efforts to portray myself in the truest light possible, I felt a letter clarifying the ambiguous elements in my application was in order.
In my work history, where I list my experience as a Fighter Pilot for the United States Navy, what I really meant to say was that I was an avid "Afterburner" player as a child. I feel this experience of "Virtual Combat in an F-14 Tomcat" instilled in me all of the same attributes and qualities of courage, leadership and teamwork that I conveyed in my essays.
Secondly, when I discuss my experience as a all-star player for the NBA, I am referring to my time in the Norwalk (CT) Basketball Association. This was the name of my YMCA league team, where I was a short, fat and slow shooting guard who wore Converse All-Star sneakers, and in no way should be confused with playing in the National Basketball Association at an All-Star level. Again, my essays about competition and teamwork still apply Also intact is my plan to give back to the Wharton community by discussing my basketball exploits with the inner city youths of Philadelphia, where I will teach them to say no to drugs and stay in school while they stare in awe at the prowess of my two-handed set shot.
Again, my apologies if there was any confusion as to these areas of my application. They were clearly not "material misrepresentations" and my intent is merely to clarify somewhat ambiguous areas of the application. I look forward to receiving your acceptance letter soon.
Edit 1: Bunches of small edits. No real content difference.
While traveling through the outback of Ohio on business, I stopped into a small-town barbershop to have some of the jungle atop my head trimmed back, just a little. First mistake.
My thrice-repeated instructions to "leave the length alone, just even it out" apparently never registered with the geriatric who wielded the clippers. Before I could stop him, he cut a swath right through the middle of my manly mane. I yelped, but he didn't even turn off the clippers as I voiced my displeasure in words that would make a Brooklyn cabbie blush. Second mistake.
Let me tell you something I learned: no matter how much swearing you do, you will not look tough when you've got a gown around you and a big patch of scalp showing through on one side of your head. Should you ever find yourself in this situation, just let it go. Let it go, or the old men and rednecks who tend to hang in and around barber shops will have a very merry chuckle at your expense.
I guess he thought I was some kind of sissy and that he was doing me a favor by imposing an extreme buzz cut on me. He probably believed he was saving me from a life of faggoting and gallivanting about in my Sodom to the Northeast.
What does this have to do with business school? I could spin this into a parable about the customer always being right (except when he's wrong). I could talk about educators who—like the barber—believe they know what's best for us and who sometimes impose their will on us to our detriment.
But what this really represents is a loss of youth and an important transition. My hair was a visible "fuck you" to the business establishment because it wasn't the norm. It was my rebel signature. Now, however, I look like every other cookie-cutter corporate sonofabitch when I put on my suit and tie for work.
Unsavory choices from here. Do I attempt to wear my identity on my sleeve via some other visual (Tattoos? Versace? Nose piercing?) Or do I just let it go, and acknowledge the fact that I've inched that much closer to the demographic that people my age were once warned never to trust?
Next thing you know, I'll propose to a girl. Or turn 30! Or both. All of this on top of a corporate job and an MBA from Wharton might be too much for my rebellious heart to take. I feel like I've fallen asleep on a moving conveyor belt that's steadily bringing me closer and closer to violent, malevolently glinting machines that will chop me up, melt me down and pour me out into a Wharton-shaped mold. The conveyor belt will then carry me past Dean Harker's station and he'll pop me out of the mold, brush me off, slap an "inspected by PTH" sticker on my ass, and shove me out the door. I won't be a new man. I'll be a new old man.
Edit 1: redid last paragraph to make it less sucky
Edit 2: minor words added and removed
I have to get this one out of the way because the title worried a few people. Just to set those of you who emailed me at ease: no, the Lauder program's MA in International Studies is definitely and emphatically not a useless degree (but I find your lack of faith unnerving). There are number of uses for this degree, including (but not limited to):
Of course I'm being facetious. I got the title for this post verbatim from a PowerPoint slide that displayed on the big screen at the Follies show during the Winter Welcome Weekend event. It said, "Lauder: $22,000 for a Useless Degree?" I'm not going to try to answer that question now, but I do have some opinions formed of the program.
Lauder is for people who speak a foreign language better than the average American (not saying much) but not well enough to use it in business. It's not that a MA in International studies unlocks more lucrative careers, it merely grants the bearer better access to more internationally-flavored jobs. This is important because it lifts the Lauder graduate above the average American MBA student when it comes to competing for these sorts of jobs. Less competition for similar jobs should mean more job offers for Lauder students.
I don't know if the data bear this out. Does Wharton publish statistics on the placement rates for Lauder program participants versus the rest of the MBA program population?
One final note: it's been suggested a few times on the forums where the general rabble carry on that applying Lauder affords one a better chance of admission at Wharton (the same advantage, they say, that applicants who declare intent to major in Healthcare Management get). I don't know if that's true, but I'd imagine that it does help differentiate an applicant versus the rest of the pool. I've certainly seen no qualitative difference between the general MBA admits and the Lauder admits. (But what do I know? As the class admissions mistake, I'm in no position to assess.)
Question: Is it pronounced "louder, please, I can't hear you!" or "lawder"?
Edit 1: Erroneously stated that LBS's career center might be broken when, in fact, the linked-to blog was complaining about USC Marshall's career center. Oops.
Just a quickie before I post my Friday wrap-up. I got a kick out of this comment. I'm feeling the love, but I'm a little worried about my identity being exposed. How did this person know I'm a masochist? There's nothing more I enjoy than being tied down and kicked in delicate places.
BSKewl needs to be tied near the huntsman gate, and kicked in the ribs by every passerby.. for luck of course!! Also, he can also be used as spit-can by tobbaco chewers!! (source)
This comment was made after a certain blogger wrote "I don't give a rat's tail what other's think of my blog" after spending 335 words reacting to what others think of his blog. It's a relief that he doesn't care, or we might have been treated to somewhat more than 335 words, right? Whew. Looks like I dodged a bullet there, huh?
Either way, I'm not trying to be l'enfant terrible of the b-school blogging world, but it's inevitable that more than a little of what I'll write here (or elsewhere) will rub someone, somewhere, the wrong way. This is inevitable: "To avoid criticism do nothing, say nothing, be nothing." (Elbert Hubbard)