Column: True hacks

By Chris Kozak

March is a great month because of holidays like official and unofficial St. Patrick’s Day, Spring Break and Easter. The first day of spring also falls in March, and on that day we can be happy that the long, brutal winter is behind us (hopefully) and a nice, hot summer is just around the corner.

March can also be a particularly stressful time for those applying to college and graduate school. Many students have already heard back from universities they’ve applied to, but for many, the wait continues into April and sometimes beyond.

Just last week, a number of applicants to some of the top business schools in the country decided they just couldn’t handle the pressure of waiting any longer. Aided by a computer hacker who gained access to records at Harvard, Stanford, MIT and a number of other schools, prospective students were able to learn whether they had been accepted or rejected weeks before receiving official notification from the schools.

What these supposedly bright individuals failed to realize is that each school has the power to see which applications were accessed. And because each applicant had access to only his or her application, it would appear as if the offenders have been caught red-handed.

Oops. They didn’t test for that on the GMAT, did they?

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The schools that were victimized by the security breach aren’t exactly laughing either. Steve Nelson, the executive director of the MBA program at Harvard Business School stated, “hacking into a system in this manner is unethical and also contrary to the behavior we expect of leaders we aspire to develop.”

Officials at other universities have also implied that those who tried to hack into their Web sites should expect to receive rejection letters. This is the least they can do. Individuals displaying pathetically low-caliber character traits such as this certainly don’t deserve to be educated by the nation’s top-tier universities. Some would argue that they aren’t even deserving of any type of graduate education anywhere.

If these people are willing to hack into secure Web sites today, who’s to say they won’t think twice about cooking the books once they achieve a position of power in a large corporation tomorrow? The last thing we need is another Kenneth Lay or Bernie Ebbers running around.

However, I’m also someone who believes in second chances and I don’t think it would be right to completely screw these people over by denying them admission everywhere. Yet, they do need to be punished, and an instant rejection letter from each school to each person who hacked its Web site would be a good start. Admission to the top business schools is extremely competitive, and it shouldn’t be difficult to find other, more worthy candidates.

Patience is oftentimes needed to thrive in the business world, too. Jeff Bezos, the founder and CEO of, waited nearly 10 years for his company to post its first profit and Amazon is now one of the leading e-commerce companies in the world.

In the early 1990s, Donald Trump was almost a billion dollars in debt and nearly bankrupt. In 1990, while walking down New York’s Fifth Avenue with a friend, he saw a man peddling for change in front of Tiffany & Company. He turned to his friend and said, “You know, right now, that man is worth $900 million more than I am.” Trump doesn’t seem to be doing too poorly today.

Similar advice can also apply to those waiting to hear back from schools. Yeah, it’s nerve-wracking, but will another few weeks really kill you? Is it really worth jeopardizing your education just to get inside information that will be readily available in due time anyway? Those who have already answered “yes” to each of those questions now have time to contemplate the consequences of their actions.

Patience is a virtue, but curiosity kills the cat.