Friday, April 17, 2009

Frenemy Advice

"Frenemy" (sometimes spelled "frienemy") - Noun - a portmanteau of "friend" and "enemy" which can refer to either an enemy disguised as a friend or to a partner who is simultaneously a competitor

While my definition isn't exactly the same as Wikipedia's above, I do appreciate the term. It is a fitting description of someone in my life who I will refer to here as AF. I met AF through a mutual friend a few years ago. I have always found AF to be arrogant, aggressive, and completely lacking self-awareness. When I ran into AF at a Stanford GSB info session last fall, I was immediately accosted - "Are you applying R1?" "Where else are you applying?" "It's gonna be tough this year, you know..."

I have managed to avoid AF until recently when we ran into each other walking around town. We exchanged quick pleasantries and I learned from AF that she did not get into any schools. Later that day AF send me an email asking if I could offer feedback on her applications. I agreed and read through all of AF's materials.

Now I have to meet her to deliver my verdict, er, I mean opinion. AF's apps are fine, nothing stellar, but nothing terrible either. To use a phrase from GSB Admissions Director of Outreach Eric Abrams, her apps were not among the few "Oh, Honey..." applications Stanford gets every year, which are presumably tossed into the round file. How do I tell AF that I just don't think she will ever get into his target schools? And is it my place to tell her? Having gone through the process exactly once, I am no expert. I do have a general feel for how things shake out in the application process after lurking on various forums and blogs and watching friends and colleagues go through the process; based on that feeling, I don't think AF is going to make it. Do I tell her to target other schools or just suggest ways she could improve her current profile?


Anonymous said...

I think brutal honesty is best reserved for close friends. If you tell her to target other schools, she's likely to interpret that sort of feedback as arrogance on your part, effectively telling her that she'll never be as accomplished as you.

She probably needs to target other schools, but she doesn't need to hear that from you. I would give her some simple suggestions to improve her profile and move on.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the above poster. You can say she needs to look for a big project at work or in the community, improve her GMAT, take classes to account for a low undergrad GPA, or use more details/concrete goals in her essays, but you shouldn't be too honest if she's a frenemy.

Encourage her to apply to a couple of other schools that are a rung below Stanford but are still good schools in line with her career goals. If she only applies to top schools in her second year applying, she's not being very smart and it's her loss.

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