No matter how this crisis ends, it’s safe to say that COVID-19 has produced one of the most profound tragedies and transformational events in our lifetimes. As the husband and brother of two physicians, the son of aging parents, and the father of two children, I have certainly felt the angst that this has caused, and I consider myself fortunate that all of my loved ones are so far safe from it. More than anything, this is my deepest and most genuine takeaway from this crisis.
Nonetheless, I’m also a business owner who
has, for 15 years, helped MBA applicants take an important step forward in
their careers by earning admission into the school of their dreams. Before the
crisis hit, we at Gurufi / FourthWrite had scripted out a video series, hired production
crews, and were prepared to film a multi-part YouTube series on MBA personal
statement writing. Shelter-in-place has made that impossible, but in this hard
time, I still wanted to say a few words to people who are at various stages of
applying to business schools.
Here are three
1. Uncertainty rules. For both students who have been accepted into business
schools and people who intend to apply in the coming year, we just don’t know
what will happen. I will try to give my best guess as to what I think, but the
fact is we don’t know if schools will start on time in the fall, if the timing
of the admissions season will be altered, and if schools do open if a second
wave of COVID-19 in the fall/winter will again grind the global system to a
halt, including universities. The short answer is to “what will happen?” is,
unfortunately, “wait and see.” Schools are planning for multiple contingencies,
ranging from altered calendars, to exclusive online learning, to cancelation,
Things can induce as much anxiety as
uncertainty, but the one thing that gives me some comfort is that everyone
appreciates the scope of the crisis and most people and institutions will take
a proactive, flexible, and humane approach to making sure every applicant and
student is treated as best and as fairly as possible.
2. What if I’m
applying to business school in the next year? Though
there is conflicting opinion on this, but I think that business school
applications are about to become more competitive. Business school applications
have declined the last several years, meaning that the intense fight for slots
at select schools was even tougher. I think that this trend will reverse, in
large part because during economic downturns many people will view graduate and
professional schools as a good place to wait out the storm and acquire new
skills until the economy rebounds.
It’s not a perfect analogy, but in 2007
applications to business school and law schools had been declining for several
years, but from 2008-2010 they skyrocketed as the economy tanked. Then, as the
economy stabilized, the numbers of applicants to business and law schools began
a decline that lasted several years.
This economic disruption likely means fewer
lucrative job offers for early-stage professionals, fewer promotions and
raises, etc. This means that people who want to continue their professional
ascent will need to augment their skill set by earning graduate degrees.
3. If you’re under
stay-at-home orders, now is a great time to do some initial work… with an
There are two schools of thought for how to
deal with the stay-at-home isolation that has with the coronavirus outbreak,
either of which can be completely acceptable, depending on the person.
Approach One: You’re forced to be indoors, so
you use the time to be productive. If this is something you can do,
then do it. Use the time to better yourself, prepare your application
materials, investigate schools for fit and likelihood of admission, and study
for your GMAT if you need to. This way, you’ll emerge from this crisis prepared
to move assertively on your applications.
Approach Two: If you’re finding this period
highly stressful or if the realities of your life (kids, job, parents,
finances, etc.) make it impossible to do the kind of work that an application
requires, then focus on your health and wellness and worry about applications
later. These “if you don’t come out of this crisis with X, it’s not because you
didn’t have time, it’s because you didn’t have the will” memes are wrong and,
frankly, cruel to people for whom this crisis has placed extraordinary burdens.
If you do have the bandwidth to work on your
application, here are my suggestions
- Work on tasks that don’t necessarily require a lot of
mental engagement. Everyone is distracted and drained, so do things like
read about various programs, make lists prioritizing what you want in a
business school, or make detailed timelines for yourself so that you
spread the work out over time.
- Brainstorming is a fantastic way to generate content
for your eventual personal statement AND to de-stress. There are lots of
ways to brainstorm, but my favorite is the 12-minute timed write. It works
like this: 1) clear a comfortable place for yourself to write. Ideally, it
should be quiet and distraction-free. If you like writing with snacks or
music, then, by all means, have those things. 2) Get a notebook if you
can. There are some good studies talking about how handwriting -as opposed
to typing- is better for spurring creativity. 3) Set a timer for 12
minutes. 4) The rules are: no matter what, you keep writing. If you feel a
pause coming, have a phrase or mantra that you write over and over so that
your hands don’t stop. Some people like affirmations like “I have an
interesting story to tell!” and others like “A quick brown fox jumped over
the lazy dog” because it uses every letter in the alphabet. But whatever
your fallback phrase is, try to get back to writing relevant content
quickly. Importantly, do NOT JUDGE what you’re writing, erase or scribble
anything out. The purpose of brainstorming isn’t to generate refined
elegant prose that is tightly organized and ready to present; it’s to
start generating ideas and content, and to explore your thinking on a topic.
5) Commit to doing 3 days of brainstorming. Each day, select a different
one of these topics:
- Why am I a great candidate?
- What will my life be life after business school?
- What moments am I most proud of?
By committing just 12 minutes per day for 3 days,
you will create many pages of content that you can use as the “bricks” for the
building you intend to create.
In future posts, I’ll have some additional
steps that you can take to maximize your time in social isolation. The most
important “tip,” though is obviously to take care of yourself, focus on your
health and wellness, and find ways to demonstrate appreciation to loved ones,
particularly people who may be physically isolated or alone.
Brian Fobi is the CEO
of FourthWrite / Gurufi. Gurufi and FourthWrite offer admissions writing
consulting. If you have a draft that you’re not sure about, have our experts revise
and advise by going to Gurufi.com. If you don’t have a draft or if you need
more comprehensive services, check us out at FourthWrite.com/graduate
If you have questions,
contact Brian at email@example.com