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Hiring an MBA Admissions Consultant

Are you thinking about hiring an MBA admissions consulting firm to help you with your b-school application?

Wondering how to hire the right MBA admissions consultant for you?

We’ve created a detailed guide to help you answer these questions along with a five-step system you can use to hire an MBA admissions consultant to support you through your MBA application process.

Our focus in this guide is to answer three main questions related to choosing the right MBA admissions consultant:

– What are the benefits of working with an MBA admissions consultant?

– When should you considering hiring an MBA admissions consultant?

– How do you go about hiring an MBA admissions consultant?

So, let’s get started.

Four Benefits of Hiring an MBA Admissions Consultant

To hire or not to hire, that’s the question. Before answering that question, however, you have to be clear on what an MBA admissions consultant can actually do for you and what he/she can’t.

An MBA admissions consultant can’t guarantee you admission to any business school.

Be wary of any admissions consultant that offers you a guarantee ticket into b-school.

Even with twenty years of work experience in the industry having served on the admissions board at Harvard Business School and Carnegie Mellon University, I always tell our clients that:

no one can guarantee an admissions offer, but we can help them put their best foot forward.

And frankly, that’s what an admissions consultant’s job is: helping you to stand out amidst your competition.

Here are four benefits of working with an MBA admissions consultant:

MBA Admissions Knowledge and Insight

An admissions consultant should be knowledgeable about the admission process, understand what the adcom wants and help you to avoid making application mistakes.

Be skeptical of consultants that promise to write your application for you. Chances are that the application they assemble for you will come across as fake and will lead the adcom to reject you.

Dedication

Admissions consultants, who are genuinely passionate about what they do, will always go the extra mile to help you succeed and their positive support for you can be empowering.

They should be able to also help you to hone your story and present it to the adcom in the most positive and powerful way.

Organization

Another value of admissions consultants is that they can help you to be better organized and to tackle the application in the most streamlined way possible.

This helps applicants to avoid wasting time by focusing on the critical aspects of the application process.

Good consultants also help applicants keep pace throughout the entire process, ensuring that their clients meet the application deadlines without allowing work and other obligations to derail their MBA application plans.

Such support can often help applicants to better handle the stress that is involved with applying to business school.

Honesty and Objective Feedback

Your consultant’s job is to remain objective throughout the process. To listen to you, understand your goals and help you execute your application.

He/she should provide you with honest feedback about youradmission goals and how you come across through each aspect of the application.

Your consultant should never sugar-coat the truth. A good admissions consultant tells their clients the truth even when they are reluctant to hear it.

Six Reasons to Consider Hiring an MBA Admissions Consultant

Are you considering whether to hire an admissions consultant to help you with your b-school application?

You’re not alone.

According to a survey conducted by Association of Admissions Consultants (AIGAC), nearly 45% of applicants who participated in that survey reported using a consultant to help them with their MBA application.

But the reasons MBA applicants hire MBA admissions consultant vary.

For some applicants their reason is based on their desire to have someone working alongside them to achieve this objective.

For other applicants, their reasons are based upon their concerns about particular weaknesses or challenges in their profile or background.

And for others, their reasons can simply be focused on how to stand out when they are competing in a pool of candidates that is highly competitive or overly represented.

Here are six reasons why you might need an MBA admissions consultant:

You’re Pressed for Time

Some applicants work very long hours and have a very heavy travel and work schedule.

Some applicants in this situation opt to use consultants to help manage the competing schedules to ensure that they complete their application on time and present the strongest application possible.

You Don’t Know How to Position Yourself

For instance, a large population of the applicant pool is comprised of investment bankers and private equity professionals.

Because b-schools value diversity, they can’t admit all the well-qualified bankers and private equity professionals in the pool and many will be denied admission to their dream schools.

An MBA admissions consultant can help you differentiate yourself from other talented candidates from similar backgrounds.

You’re a Non-Traditional Applicant

Let’s say you are a non-traditional applicant whos working in a field where few people pursue an MBA. your challenge will be convincing the adcom that you’re MBA material despite having a non-traditional background.

Having an MBA admissions consultant alongside you can help you focus your story effectively and draw the right attention to the aspects of your b-school application that make you unique and interesting while helping you to make a strong case on why you need the MBA.

Your Resume Lacks Blue-Chip Names

Some applicants worry that they don’t have work experience or academic backgrounds from blue chip firms and competitive universities.

While those backgrounds are not necessary for admission, the reality, however, is that you’ll need to do more selling of your experience if you come from a non-branded background.

An MBA admissions consultant can help you articulate your experiences and achievements in a way that resonates with the adcom so that your non-branded background is positioned as a positive instead of a negative when evaluating your candidacy.

You’ve Got Application Weaknesses

One of the most common reasons MBA applicants retain MBA admissions consultants is concern over application weaknesses such as low standardized test score, weak undergraduate transcript, gaps in the resume, not enough work experience and so forth.

Hiring an MBA admissions consultant – especially one with experience helping clients overcome such weaknesses – can boost MBA applicants’ admissions chances.

You Need More Than Just Friendly Advice

And last, but not least, some applicants opt to hire MBA admissions consultants despite not having any glaring weaknesses nor concerns about their profile.

For such applicants, their decision to hire an admissions consultant often centers on their desire to have an objective sounding board.

Friends who have gone to b-school can be helpful to some extent when it comes to reviewing multiple versions of your application essay, drafting your resume, and coming up with an application strategy.

But at the same time friends can also muddy the water by giving you conflicting suggestions that can lead you to submit a disjointed application that is a hodgepodge of different people’s viewpoints.

If one or more of the abovementioned points applies to you, you’ll need an MBA admissions consultant to help you overcome these challenges.

Hiring an MBA Admissions Consultant: A Five-Step System

In the first part of this guide you leaned about the four benefits of working with an MBA admissions consultant.

In the second part, we gave you six reasons to consider hiring an MBA admissions consultant to help you with your MBA application.

By now, if you’ve decided to retain an MBA admissions consultant, then your next step is to go through this five-step system to make sure that you choose the right admissions consultant – one that suits your temperament and with whom you connect.

Here’s the five-step system for hiring an MBA admission consultant:

Step 1: Develop a Big Picture View

You’ll want to spend some time getting to know who provides MBA admissions consulting services and what types of firms are you drawn to the most.

You’ll find that there’s all types of MBA admissions consulting firms from large firms vs. boutique firms, US-based vs international firms, specialists (i.e. MBA only) vs generalists (MBA, College, Law, etc).

Visit sites like AIGAC, GMAT Club, Beat the GMAT, and other sites to get the background on MBA admissions firms and identify what types of firms would be the best fit for you.

Step 2: Focus on a Smaller Subset of Firms

Now that you know a bit about the industry and the different types of MBA admissions consulting firms available, choose a smaller subset of firms to focus your research on.

You can identify this smaller subset through your initial research as well as through conversations with friends and checking out online forums like GMAT Club, Beat the GMAT Admissions411 and others.

Step 3: Compare Your Firms

Since you’ve narrowed down your search to a few firms, visit their websites and find answers to the following questions:

Who are the principals/founders of the organization?

Be sure to find out exactly what their experience is comprised of:

Have they actually evaluated MBA applicants?

Have they conducted MBA interviews?

Have they seen the inside operations and dynamics of the admissions committee?

Are they privy to how decisions are made and the hot buttons or red flags that the adcom look out for?

The answers to these questions will give you a good sense of whether the MBA admissions consultant has enough experience.

How up to date are they with the changes in the admissions industry?

It’s important to examine whether the founders are still involved in the admissions process.

The MBA admissions world is constantly changing so having the founders of the company still engaged and invested in growing and learning about the changes in the industry is key to ensuring that you will benefit from discovering the latest trends/changes that affect admissions.

Who are their consultants and how are they trained?

You should find out who the consultants are and their admissions experiences.

A good admissions company can have individuals who consult full-time as well as those who are part time consultants.

Regardless of whether the consultants are full time or not, they should be dedicated and committed to their clients.

You should find out what the checks and balances are in place to ensure that consultants are delivering high quality service?

What is their approach and does it fit well for you?

There are so many different types of admissions consulting companies out there.

Take advantage of their free assessment to get a taste of how they work.

And be sure to ask them precisely how they work.

Do trust your  gut!!

For example, there are companies that are primarily an essay editing-focused firm.

Others are more strategy and essay editing.

If you need to help developing a strategy then choosing an editing focused firm would be a misfit.

I recall a client of ours who signed up with us after having previously worked with another admissions consulting firm.

She had applied to Wharton and had been rejected.

We reviewed her essays and they were beautifully polished and well written.

But there was no brand to her story—she was not memorable. It was clear that the firm had focused on doing a great job with writing and polishing her essay.

That was her first mistake. As a non-native writer, any adcom could see through her application that it wasn’t her authentic self.

So you know what?

We put her through our personal branding process.

And to our surprise loads of interesting aspects came out about her brand.

She focused her application on these brand themes when she reapplied.

Her essays weren’t written in perfect English but who she was came through clearly and with concrete examples.

She was admitted to Wharton on her second try.

What’s your budget?

Retaining a good admissions consultant is not cheap.

But I encourage you to consider the value of the service over price.

In the grand scheme of achieving your MBA admissions goals a few thousand dollars compared to admission to your dream school can be well worth the investment.

And if you have gone through a firm that focuses on significant introspection, you will find that you can take the insight you gain about yourself throughout your life.

Be careful when choosing an admissions consultant.

Avoid making this decision solely on price.

Applying the steps outlined in this blog will help you select the right service that will help you present your best application possible.

Step 4: Contact Your Firms

Now that you’ve done some background research on a few firms, choose a few that you’d like to contact before making your final decision.

Whether you contact your firms via email, phone or in person, you should find out the answers to these six questions:

How much time will be devoted to your application (if a package)?

Make sure that there isn’t a cut off on the amount of time. The correct answer is as long as it takes.

How will you and your consultant work together?

Most consulting engagement are done via phone, email, and video calls such as Skype, Facetime and Google Hangout.

Confirm that this would work for you.

Some applicants want the face to face and you should confirm whether this is available if it’s important to you.

When is your consultant available to speak with you?

Make sure that there wouldn’t be an issue with time zones when it comes to setting up calls.

Find out if there is flexibility to speak in the evenings and weekends to suit your schedule.

What is the typical turnaround time to receive feedback?

You don’t want to work with a consultant who is not responsive. Make sure that you are clear about their turnaround time.

A reasonable expectation is 24 hours (latest 48 hours) with flexibility to jump on an impromptu call during an emergency.

What exactly will be reviewed and how many times will it be reviewed?

These are important questions to ask as they apply to comprehensive packages and not hourly services.

How are consultants trained and what checks and balances are in place to ensure client satisfaction?

Step 5: Make Your Decision

Take some time to review the responses you received from your interactions with the firms you’re considering.

How did you feel about the interactions?

What did you like/dislike about each firm?

What is each firm’s track record of success?

Between your online research and your contact with each firm, you have enough info to decide which firm is the best fit for you, given pricing, location, track record, etc.

If you have friends who’ve used these firms, they can also weigh in and give you their opinions.

Ultimately, you’ll need to make a decision based on which firm is the best fit for you, given your requirements.

Conclusion

Choosing the right admissions consultant is a very important decision which shouldn’t be left to chance.

And applying to business school can be a very stressful process.

A good admissions consultant will help you manage the stress and keep you focused to deliver your best work.

In this guide you learned four benefits b-school applicants should expect from their admissions consultant.

You also learned six reasons you may want to hire an MBA admissions consultant.

Finally, you learned about the five-step system you can use to hire an MBA admissions consultant.

If you’re ready to hire an MBA admissions consultant, you can start with visiting AIGAC for a list of professional and ethical consultants in the industry.

You can also visit our website, learn more about us, and sign up for a free MBA application assessment to figure out if we are right for you.

We wish you success in your b-school application and look forward to hearing from you.

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