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Powerpointless

Picked this up from Chris' blog last week: Apparently, the Chicago GSB has introduced a compulsory 4-slide Powerpoint presentation as part of the application. Chris thinks its a good idea. So apparently does this person. Seth Godin is not unimpressed either. So naturally, in the finest Chicago tradition of challenging everything, I'll say I think they're missing an important point. I'm not thrilled about this at all. In fact, I'll go as far as to say I think this might prove to be a terrible idea. I could be completely wrong....yet again:)...though time will tell.

The main argument for this move seems to be that it will allow applicants to showcase their "creativity." Because clearly, Powerpoint as a form of creative expression is unparalleled in our times! This post and the comments go on to make the "creativity needs constraints" argument. I'm not disputing either of these points. Creativity is possible using Powerpoint, but (since we're on the whole creativity thing) a artist needs to know his/her tools well.

All MBA applicants aren't equal. If you're a consultant or a banker or in marketing before school, you've used Powerpoint regularly. If you're doing anything else (like a large percentage of applicants), your concept of a Powerpoint slide is limited to a heading with bullets underneath. I remember just being blown away by what was possible with Powerpoint, when I first saw how others were using it. The MBA application process already has biases built in. This will just add another. Just as English proficiency is (understandably) a requirement for admission, will Powerpoint competence be added as well?

I have quite a few friends who served on the admissions committee last year, and I know they were a pretty smart bunch. Maybe their successors will take this difference in applicant starting points into consideration while reviewing the slides, but even they're not perfect. (Besides, while my friends who were on the admissions committee were all pretty awesome, I thought there were some complete tools on the committee as well. This'll just give one more opportunity to the more incompetent/careless/time-pressed admissions GAs to screw up. Yeah, can you tell I've graduated now?:))

Also, I'm not a big fan of adding more work for students to do to apply. The MBA application process is a big enough time sink already. I enjoyed writing Chicago's quirky essays (and thrilled that they got me in), but I think this Powerpoint thing would make an already tense process worse. Applications will probably be (relatively) down this year, though I'm sure thats part of the plan. They only want to interview those, that really want to be at Chicago. I've always believed that just admit the "best" of everyone who says they want to come here. Don't care if you're not their "top" choice. Because the ways to convince you that they really want to come (visits, recommendations from friends, statements to that effect, etc.) are easy to game, and MBAs really shouldn't be encouraged to BS even more.

The "this is a professional skill they'll need to pick up anyway" argument for introducing PPT into the application process makes sense...only until you think about it for a second. Oh, and isn't Seth Godin's suggestion to "release all the first-year slides" a complete non-starter because of privacy issues?

Aah...its fun to rant again.

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