Wharts and All: Blogging the Full-Time MBA Program at the Wharton School

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Bloggers Beware: Adcom's Watching You [Edit 1]

As suggested in my post on how to write an MBA blog, I believe that the admissions committees and alumni interviewers of various schools are reading our blogs. Not only reading! Judging, perhaps. Weighing the merits of. Jotting notes on applications because of.

What evidence have I? Well, the secret society of MBA Bloggers were sitting in the tomb the other day and sharing some information about their logfiles when one of them looked up from the Indian skull he was drinking from and noted the following (small details changed to protect privacy):

i clicked on my stats counter to check out where my hits were coming from etc, .... it was sheer luck of timing but i saw that there was one access from [Selective Business School (SBS)] this morning. But, what was interesting is where exactly it was from. the 'sent from' link says that the hit came from [Top Dawg's] exchange server inbox! [Top Dawg] is the admissions top gun at [SBS]. The link also had part of the subject of the email and it reads: "Fw: [items of interest]".

That's pretty good evidence right there. Remember too that Alex Brown (Wharton adcom) is known to leave comments on many of the blogs, so it's no secret that he certainly reads them.

Therefore, I share the following thoughts with those who would blog about their MBA admissions experiences:

  • Admissions committee members at schools that you are applying to can and will read your blog at some point.
  • If you give enough detail (a GMAT score, your sex, your geographic location, and perhaps your alma mater) your identity can be discovered. (This is not to say that they're out there trying to actively figure out who the bloggers are, merely that it would not take much effort to do so.)
  • Readers will take a favorable or unfavorable opinion of you based on what you write.
  • Combine the second and third items above and it's feasible that admissions committee members (or alumni interviewers) might allow their judgment to be influenced by something you wrote in your blog. This can be good or bad. If you apply ED to Columbia and write in your blog, "LOLZ Columbia's my safety school. I applied ED just to have security going into my Harvard app" I can imagine that Columbia--as concerned as they reputedly are about yield--might be particularly motivated to figure out who you are and ding you.
  • Your blog's edit button will not save you. For example, one blogger wrote an emotional response to her Stanford interview that made her sound (frankly) like an entitled bitch rather than the overconfident but harmless 20-something she really is. Here are some quotes from the initial post (dated December 12th) prior to her edits. You won't find these quotes anywhere in the post-edit version, yet I still have them thanks to the wonders of RSS.
    I expected great things from a Stanford person. I expected him to be warm, friendly, charming, intelligent of course, but I expected more of a fuzzy, comforting feeling from Stanford people.
    The blogger implies that her interviewer was not warm, friendly, charming or intelligent when really all she meant to say was that the person was not warm.
    [The interviewer] made me drive to his office rather than meet me at a location I suggested which would have been much more convenient for me.
    The blogger implies that she was put out by having to come to the interviewer--the nerve of that guy to request that SHE drive to HIM! The horror! There's more where that came from, but the point should be obvious now: once you click "publish" you must assume it's out there for good and that the target of your blogging affections will read it in the worst possible light.
  • Conceal your identity. For many of the current crop of bloggers, it's too late (unless you want to scuttle your blogs and re-emerge under a new identity). To get personal for a moment: I may or may not actually live in NYC (though I know enough of the city to write about it). I may or may not even be male. I'm blogging as an everyman where only a few things are certain: (1) I'm a R1 Wharton admit, (2) I'm going to be at Wharton this fall, (3) I'm desperately horny. (I'll make a separate post on "how to remain anonymous as an MBA Blogger".)

In sum, I'd suggest that if you want to share interesting observations on your MBA life as it happens, you need to be specific and honest. If you want to be specific and honest, you need to be anonymous. If you want to be anonymous, you need to be paranoid. Therefore, interesting = paranoid. Q.E.D.

Comedians, critics, pundits and shock jocks are exempt from this rule because they (unlike you and I) are not lowly peons to be crushed when a Person in Power takes umbrage at something they say or write.

And though I hate to write disclaimers, I should say that I believe most adcoms would respond to this along these lines, "In order to give every applicant a fair chance, we evaluate only the materials submitted via the official application. We cannot allow ourselves to be biased by other materials, and we certainly do not Google applicants to learn about them. Your application will be judged on the merits of what you submit and nothing more." However, I guarantee that if your name were splashed across the front page of the WSJ tomorrow, they'd take note of it and it would influence your application one way or the other.

Edit 1: Minor grammatical fixes


Blogger Classy said...

I have to completely agree with you here. My stats counter definitely showed some intersting results (IE. one school going back and forth between two of my school visit reviews the day before the decisions were given out) and I am not annon. An adcom member from that school completely called me out as "Classy" because I "look exactly like (he) thought (I) would."

My advice: Stay annon. Everyone at school will know everything about me next year. I'll still "keep it real" as oldman does, however...

2/02/2005 08:41:00 AM  
Blogger OnlineMusing said...

Good points about maintaining anonymity, especially during the application process. (Or need to be careful about what one writes on his/her blog).

2/02/2005 09:56:00 AM  
Blogger Dirty_Martini said...

I agree with your comments on maintaining critical data points secret while being an applicant blogger. I think I made a mistake by giving away too many critical data points, such as alma mater, industry, etc, however, I do feel that becuase I did devulge a lot about myself that more people wanted to read my blog, as they felt like they "actually knew me" and could possibly identify me. However, I wish I had revealed more of these data points after being accepted. But, what's done is done, and I'm glad I did it. :)

Also note, that now it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out who I am if you are attending CBS, or meet me.

I would highly recc. all future people to remain anonymous as possible as an applicant, and maybe get more personal after being accepted, becuase you never know who reads your blog!! But not too personal... we don't need any intimate details. hehe. I like to keep my personal life personal. :)

2/02/2005 10:07:00 AM  
Blogger badmash007 said...

But everyone here got in. Didn't they?

I agree with the argument about being careful. Not so much about being anonymous.

2/02/2005 10:29:00 AM  
Blogger bskewl said...

Careful is boring. I challenge you to list a "careful" blog that actually gives an opinion or explores conflict in the least.

I'd rather not write at all than remove all specificity and color from my writing. I'm here to write a blog, not a blahg.

2/02/2005 10:41:00 AM  
Blogger Atta Girl said...

Worse, if the blogger turns out to be the only waitlisted candidate from her country then the school knows her for sure. Too late to realize now!

2/02/2005 10:46:00 AM  
Blogger britchick said...

My view has always been that I don't share anything that I'm not happy for people to a. know and b. associate with me (in application or fleshy form). Whether that makes what I say boring isn't for me to judge. I think what it's 'right' for anyone to share will depend on why they blog, which differs from person to person.

As for honesty and specificity, I've said before (possibly to you) that I think these can be diminished by not having the context which (potentially identifying) further information could provide.

Anyway, is there any point in trying to play 'who is bskewl' at Winter Welcome?

2/02/2005 11:33:00 AM  
Blogger MBA Boy said...

I strongly agree with your approach, brit-chick. Anonymity in the internet age may not be dead, but it is certainly coughing like an asthmatic with tuberculosis. I have enough data on my blog that any adcom could probably figure out who I am (assuming that I'm not simply copying the stats/info of an acquaintance and local applicant to mislead the powers that be), but as you say, there is nothing that I am particularly ashamed of in my essays (other than the occasional dangling modifier and flubbed transition). On the downside, I don't take as many risks as my buddy 'Zach' here does.

2/02/2005 12:46:00 PM  
Blogger Redwolf056 said...

It's really just common sense. Don't write shit you think will come and bite you in the ass if you've given up enough info to identify yourself. Likewise, don't write personal stuff you'd be embarrassed by because, once you post what school you're going to, someone is going to try to identify you and then you'll automatically develop a rep and people will read. I started blogging relatively late in the game and have yet to see any adcom hits, but had I sent my feed to the Wharton blog back in October I have no doubt I would have by now. But once you're in somewhere, is the school really going to withdraw the offer if it finds out you're you? I suppose if you say something bad enough about it, but why the hell are you going there if you have such a negative opinion in the first place?

2/02/2005 01:16:00 PM  
Blogger Dirty_Martini said...

Brit-Chick.. I completely agree with you! Which is why I really don't care that people can put 2 and 2 together and find out who I am.

My blog represents me, 100%, and I took care in not putting anything too personal or anything that didn't represent me accurately. Which is probably why I have no problem meeting up with those who have emailed me. :)

cheers, DM

2/02/2005 03:20:00 PM  
Blogger Brad said...

No real attempt is made though to match up a blog to an application (at least this is my understanding here at Wharton).

2/02/2005 03:26:00 PM  
Blogger bskewl said...

Wow good comments. I suppose I believe that the line between "too personal" and "comfortable" is one we've each got to draw for ourselves. I know that the best books and blogs I've ever read tend to be those that are most personal. As I think I noted in an earlier entry, Snapshots from Hell was interesting because it was personal and specific.

Various responses:

DM said, "My blog represents me, 100%"

I say that it only represents 10% of you. You're a far more interesting person than will ever come out in your blog. We only get a taste of it through text. Now compare/contrast to ... There's a blogger that's clearly drawn the dividing line way over on the right-hand side of the paper.

As for Redwolf056's suggestion that an AdCom might yank an offer of admission if you wrote something particularly vile... That's interesting as a thought experiment, but unlikely to happen. If some admit suddenly became well known as the creator of a neo-nazi site, I bet they'd consider whether "diversity" necessarily includes outspoken nazism. But again, that's not likely.

And finally, "is there any point in trying to play 'who is bskewl' at Winter Welcome?" No, no point. Bskewl won't be at Winter Welcome. The creator of the personna generally known as bskewl may, however, be there. Then again, he/she may not.

2/02/2005 03:47:00 PM  
Blogger tiy said...

Gosh. We're at the stage where we're paranoid now about our blogs? This is a really helpful post, bskewl. Information being what it is--where more is generally considered better--I would agree that some folks might get caught up if an adcom were to take out a few minutes to procrastinate more endless essay reading to take a peek at what we're saying.

2/02/2005 07:26:00 PM  
Blogger Hawkeye said...

I think if the admit decision is a 50-50 call or they have decided to admit a person they would definetly (a) google the person (b) see if he matches any of the blogs they have currently "blackmarked".

I would do this. A google costs no time. I would do this as part of my 2 hr application & essay review itself.

I do not write anything B School specific in my blog. I dont know how your people do it. I deliberately avoided writing anything even remotely Bschool'ish in my blog. Writing the app essays has corroded whatever "essayist" (or) short story writer -- ambitions I had. If I maintained any sort of real world sanity in the last 6 months was through my blogs. Blog gives me the much needed other non-bschool dimension because everything else I did was just bschool bschool. I guess you people are okay with throwing away your blog after you finish MBA or the application process. I dont intend to do so.

I thought i'd slip up and say something about Bschool I am surprised I maintained it.

2/02/2005 08:25:00 PM  
Blogger Happy Ending said...

Check this out:

I think you are right that Adcoms may read blogs, but the intent is not to identify the author to exact some sort of retribution and ding them. In this day and age, as Ogily would say, you have to take a 360 degree outlook across all client touch points to monitor what people are saying about you. Blogs are an informal client touch point for these schools. And some schools are finally getting the fact that they must be customer friendly - especially with all the talented internationals staying home and people foregoing MBAs. Some schools have even figured out how to use blogs to help their cause and add tranparency to the admission process and increase the dialogue with applicants.

Can they ding you for a negative blog entry? Probably not (though that would be some lawsuit). In fact, if you publicy came out with a criticism of the school and stood by it with concrete reasons, they might appreciate it. It would help them improve. If you said Wharton sucks because of X,Y,Z. Think how many people read that and believe you. Do people believe what they read in the glossy marketing materials from the school and the adverts in WSJ? Yes, but peer-to-peer referral is a more powerful motivator and influencer for people who don't seek out alternative sources or references to make decisions. And a lot of us are sheep when it comes to informed decisions! Here is a potential example of this

Jeez, if you can't be honest, and express yourself in your own blog, you are a sad individual. Grow some balls and stand up for your convictions and opinions. Isn't that what most of the university mission statements say ad nauseum. You are there to think broadly and critically and develop your own ideas. Sometimes you can go over the line (wink, wink) and your ideas may conflict with others. I have had similar hits on my site. But I find an environemnt in which you can't make yourself heard quite stifling, undemocratic, and out of touch with the real world. And who wants to live in that kind of world?

2/02/2005 08:38:00 PM  
Blogger Hawkeye said...

There wasn't any apt place to put this coment ( its taken out of various sources) so here goes..

BSkewl Said (in his previous blog):

//* The world is lucky that you deign to acknowledge it. Please, bless us with your unvarnished pearls of wisdom, as nobody has ever written anything on the subject of MBA admissions ever, and it's about time someone wrote the definitive guide to the Stanford, Wharton and Harvard interview process. You! You are the Ron Jeremy of the B-school blog world. You fill a gaping hole in the community *//

The previous comment had this:
//*Yes, but peer-to-peer referral is a more powerful motivator and influencer for people who don't seek out alternative sources or references to make decisions. *//

This is from Tony Pierce's blog

//* 15. dont be afraid if you think something has been said before. it has. and better. big whoop. say it anyway using your own words as honestly as you can. just let it out. *//

What you said got me thinking at a personal level. I seriously thought about why I used to write GRE tips and M.S application tips many years before and why other people found that interesting. Why Megami or Brit-chic write GMAT suggestions and why people seek that out as opposed to the published books.

I think people love first hand experience. If its written by someone whom (dont get me on.. "who" and "whom".. I dunno.. i give up) people perceive as similar to themselves then they go for it. Thats why blogging about GMAt/application strategies is important. Its shows evolving technology ...where instead of going for books we can go for blogs by people who have been really successfull. When books on MBA admissions become outdated 3 - 5 years from now and blogs become popular you will know what I am saying.

2/02/2005 10:05:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Alex only posts on women blogger's site..encouraging them to apply to Wharton. What a cheeseball!! Power corrupts.... a-hole!!

2/02/2005 10:10:00 PM  
Blogger Dirty_Martini said...

I guess I wasn't clear when I said it represents me 100%, what I meant was... everything I post on my blog is factual and is reflective of my true personality and identity. I haven't sugar coated anything, or tried to be extra PC, I've just been myself. Whether of not I chose to disclose certain facts is a whole other story.....

2/02/2005 10:44:00 PM  
Blogger bskewl said...

Barath: You're right that the cost to Google a name is virtually nil. The benefit of doing so is also frequently nil... I can see why an alumni interviewer might want to do this, though, since they get so little information about us. Many applicants search for information on their interviewers prior to the interview; why wouldn't interviewers do the same?

Happy: I agree that their primary interest in reading our blogs is simply keeping up with brand perception in the minds of their target audience. Knowing what the e-influentials are saying can help them adjust their messages. You wrote, "Jeez, if you can't be honest, and express yourself in your own blog, you are a sad individual. Grow some balls and stand up for your convictions and opinions. Isn't that what most of the university mission statements say ad nauseum." I think that business school students in particular are deathly afraid of offending someone, because they tend to take a utilitarian view of every human being. "How can this person serve me? What is the future value of this relationship?" That sort of thinking generally squashes the desire to voice anything that could offend anyone.

Barath: You're right. I agree.

DM: At what point do you disclose so little that the external profile you've built stops representing you? You've heard the parable of the blind men and the elephant. If you're only showing the world (through your blog) your shapely gams, then we (the blind men) might conclude that Dirty Martini is built very much like a tree. Right?

2/03/2005 06:20:00 AM  
Blogger Dirty_Martini said...

Well, if you actually read my blog you would know that I don't disclose "very little", nor do I only display my triumphs and not my failures. I have both written about failure, success, the good, the bad, and the ugly. I'm not saying I've written my life story, but what I have disclosed is factual, accurate and as honest of a reflection of me as I can possibly convey on a blog. does that make sense?

2/03/2005 11:30:00 AM  
Blogger bskewl said...

I've been reading your blog for a while. What you say does make sense and is true.

HOWEVER, that's still only the elephant's leg. =)

2/03/2005 12:14:00 PM  
Blogger itheabsolute said...

GodIdIgo was paranoid about being anonymous. he was busted. he shut his blog. has he reappeared as bskewl?
1. godidigo is R1 wharton admit. bskewl too.
2. godidigo was irreverent. bskewl too.
3. godidigo was rejected by columbia. bskewl dislikes columbia
4. Bskewl is paranoid about being anonymous too.

Does not matter. Anonymous is indeed interesting. if your anonymity brings such fantastic blogs, we wont mind.

2/04/2005 08:47:00 AM  
Blogger bskewl said...

Thank you for the compliment. Interesting list of similarities you've brought up. In my limited experience, though, you could name a bunch of other people who share those same characteristics.

Perhaps I did inherit some of my paranoia from the previous generation of bloggers (Gododigo, Adam Stein, StanfordMBA, etc) who learned the hard way that nothing shuts down insightful writing like a little publicity.

2/04/2005 10:46:00 AM  

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