Thoughtful Blog Post About Admissions Consultants

The Wharton Adcom Blog’s most recent post, "MBA Admissions Essential #4: Thoughts on Consultants & Coaching," is a thoughtful piece on the pros and cons of using an admissions consultant. I would like to expand on the pros and respond to the perceived cons. Although the original post focuses on MBA admissions, the arguments really apply to all admissions consulting.

Consultants  bring to the table enormous experience in admissions that you probably don’t have. And don’t want to have. According to the Wharton blog post, that expertise is the chief advantage of using an admissions consultant or coach. I certainly agree that expertise and experience represent a major strength of consultants, but it is not the only one.

The Wharton blog post perceives the chief disadvantages of using consultants as a sameness and possible lack of authenticity  to your essays. After reading essays previously untouched by consultants’ eyes, I can assure you that blandness and lack of personality or voice are rampant — before any consultant makes any suggestions. At, our editors and consultants push our clients to bring out their personalities and be authentic in the essays. In fact, achieving authenticity, individuality, and distinctiveness is one of the advantages of using a consultant.

I can’t tell you how many times I have read essays of friends’ children, applicants whom I know well, and the authors are entirely absent from the essay. I don’t see them at all in the essay. I also review our clients’ essays, the first drafts and the final drafts. The clients’ personality and voice is absent from the first drafts and present in the latter drafts.

Story time: Several years ago I was checking references for an editor I was considering hiring. She gave me the name of a former client, a student at Wharton, and I called him and started asking about the prospective editor’s work. He told me that after she edited his essays, he decided to show his original essay, let’s call it Essay A, and the edited version, Essay B, to his wife and not tell her which one had been edited. His wife read both and holding Essay A said, "Of course this is the one that was edited. It doesn’t sound at all like you."  His wife thought the edited version sounded more like her husband than the original.  Tanis Kmetyk has been working for ever since.

End of story time and back to the Wharton adcom blog post. 

The blog poster correctly notes that essays that have been reviewed by your fifty closest friends start to sound muddled and "may read like they were written by multiple authors." That result stems not from showing it to one experienced consultant who writes well, has taken the time to get to know you, and knows MBA admissions. It occurs when you show your essays to everyone and his brother and then you willy-nilly attempt to incorporate this congress of viewpoints and opinions into your no-longer-personal statement or application essay.

The blog poster points out that consultants can be expensive. How expensive depends on how you use us and how you view us. At you have many options that keep your costs down. And if the education you want to obtain is worth the tuition, it is also worth our fees, which are a tiny fraction of the total cost of any degree program even for those clients who use our most comprehensive services. One of our clients, accepted at all the schools he applied to, called his investment in "a "rounding error" in the context of the total cost of an MBA education.  Additionally, some schools give merit aid based on your application and essays. It is possible that better essays can result in scholarships that will far exceed the cost of an admissions consultant.

The blog post encourages applicants to use the resources provided by Wharton, which are excellent — really a gold standard that other schools emulate — and other sources to research the programs in depth. also encourages that research and helps guide students to admissions information for particular fields as well as school-specific information through this blog and our b-school zones. In fact, many admissions consultants, like or Clear Admit, provide a wealth of resources.

The blog post closes with " Spend less time on “impression management” and more time on letting us adcoms get to know the true you." is dedicated to helping you write your best and thereby letting the adcoms get to know you.

Haas Chat Tomorrow Oct. 18

Just a quick reminder that Haas co-directors of admission Pete Johnson and Jett Pihakis will be available to answer your questions along with Abby Scott, Berkeley’s Director of Career Services. The chat will take place Oct. 18 at 10:00 AM PT/1:00 PM ET/6:00 PM GMT in the chat room.

Personal Statement and Application Essay Tip: Tightening Language

Would you like to know what I look for when I read an essay that tells a good story, but is 20-30% over the essay guideline or word limit? It needs editing, not major surgery. I don’t really want to cut content, but I must cut verbiage.  I look for clues, signs of lazy writing. These quirky writing tics tell me I can edit without taking away from the story line or changing  the writer’s voice.

  1. Passive voice. I harp on this a lot, but flipping a sentence from passive to active cuts words and usually creates more readable, active sentences. And you want to be active in your application essays! For example:


The project was completed by my team. (7 words)


My team completed the project. (5 words.

2. "To be" verbs. The verb "to be" has a very legitimate place in written English, but it is frequently abused. Whenever I see a "to be" verb ("is," "are," "was," "were," "being"), my delete finger gets itchy. I start looking for ways to condense.

3. This is the X that did Y. For example:

"This was the strategy that we pursued." (7 words)

"We pursued this strategy (4 words).

4. Using noun forms of roots when you can use verbs. For example:

"I came to the conclusion …" (5 words)  "I made the decision …" (4 words)

"I concluded…" (2 words)                             "I decided…" (2 words)

5. I am able to cut when I cut "am able to."

"I was able to run the marathon…" (7 words)

"I ran the marathon." (4 words).

6. Lots of independent and simple clauses. You can  frequently combine them and shorten the text. For example:

"My mom is a fantastic cook and has lots of event planning experience. She helped me prepare for the fundraiser." (20 words)

My mom, a fantastic cook and experienced event planner, helped me prepare for the fundraiser. (15 words).

When I see these lazy writing fingerprints, bulbs go off in my brain that connect straight to my pinkie, which is poised over the delete key. With those lights flashing, I check if making these edits distorts the essay’s meaning. If not, it’s DELETE time.  These are just a few of the writing patterns that keep my DELETE key in shape. They should help you exercise yours too.

If you want a professional editing job that saves you time and cleans up your writing while maintaining your voice and content, please check out’s personal statement and application essay editing


Yale SOM Essay Tips and Deadlines

I’ve been slow posting my comments for Yale’s essay questions. It’s been busy! Yale’s text is in black. My comments are in red.

Yale SOM 2007 Deadlines

Round 1:    October 25, 2006

Round 2:    January 10, 2007 

Round 3:    March 14, 2007

Yale Essay Questions

1. why an mba?
Please describe your short- and long-term goals and how your previous experience and an MBA will help you to achieve these goals. 500 words maximum

You’ve seen this before — a classic goals question. What do you want to do after your MBA short-term and long-term and how will an MBA help you achieve that goal.

Now this question does not ask specifically about Yale, but it is here that you can really show fit with the program. Yale has just inaugurated a new curriculum that emphasizes the integration of business functions. In your essays discuss how an integrated, general management approach is important to the achievement of your goals. How will a highly structured, but innovative program, with a required international project help you achieve your goals.  That program just happens to be Yale’s.

2. personal statement
Please develop a question/topic of your choice and answer it in essay form. Please state the question/topic at the beginning of your essay. 500 words maximum
Some example questions/topics include:
• Describe a situation in which your leadership and/or teamwork had a significant impact.
• What personal achievement are you most proud of and why?
• What activities/interests do you enjoy outside the office and/or classroom and how would you integrate these activities/
interests into the Yale SOM community?
• What is the most difficult feedback that you have received and how did you address it?
• Where is the most exciting place you have ever been and what did you learn from being there?
• Describe a situation where you questioned your values and/or beliefs.
• What does accountability mean to you?
• If you are reapplying: How has your candidacy changed since your last application?

Yale is being really nice and making your life easy. It gives you a wide choice of topics. Choose one that will allow you to write revealingly and easily about yourself and go for it! This essay should complement Essay 1 and should not be duplicated by the Optional Essay.  Choose the topic that will allow you to present yourself at your best.

optional essay
If any aspect of your candidacy needs further explanation, please provide any additional information that you would like the
Admissions Committee to consider. 200 words maximum

Why isn’t your current supervisor writing your rec? Why did your grades dip during the first semester of your senior year? Why is their a six-month gap on your resume? What are you doing now while working for a family business after having left a prestigious  investment bank and why did you make the change? Answering any of those questions (but not all) could  be the topic of your optional essay. And of course an infinite number of similar subjects could be worthwhile discussing in the optional essay.

If you would like help with your Yale SOM MBA application, please consider’s MBA essay editing and admissions consulting or a Yale SOM Comprehensive Package, which includes essay editing, interview coaching, consultation, and a resume edit for the Yale SOM MBA application.

MBA Admissions Chats This Week: Chicago and Haas

This week’s MBA Admissions chats include:

  • Chicago GSB chat with Rose Martinelli and Chicago GSB students TODAY at 10:00 AM PT/1:00 PM ET/6:00 PM UK. 
  • Berkeley Haas chat with Pete Johnson and Jett Pihakis, Co-Directors of MBA Admissions on Wednesday at  10:00 AM PT/1:00 PM ET/6:00 PM UK

Both chats take place in the chat room.

Businessweek B-School Rankings 2006

Businessweek has published its bi-annual b-school rankings.

The Top 10 US schools

  1. Chicago
  2. Wharton
  3. Kellogg
  4. Harvard
  5. Michigan
  6. Stanford
  7. MIT Sloan
  8. UC Berkeley (Haas)
  9. Duke (Fuqua)
  10. Columbia  

Businessweek prides itself on presenting a ranking of customer satisfaction. The "customers" are MBA students and recruiters, who are surveyed for this report.  To use Businessweek’s data, please first review BW’s methodology.

If you would like to learn more about BW’s #1 program, Chicago, please join us for a chat with Chicago’s Associate Dean of Student Recruitment and Admissions, Rose Martinelli, and other members of the Chicago family on Monday October 16 at 10:00 AM PT/1:00 PM ET/6:00 PM UK for an online chat focused on this Chicago’s MBA program. The chat will take place in the chat room.

The Top 10 Programs from Canada and Europe

  1. Queen’s
  2. Western Ontario
  3. Toronto
  4. IMD
  5. London Business School
  7. ESADE
  8. IESE
  9. York
  10. HEC Montreal

Changes at Top European Business Schools

The Financial Times reports that IMD’s dean, Peter Lorange, will retire in June after leading IMD since July 1993. The school has experienced growth in revenue and prestige under Dr. Lorange’s leadership.

Dr. Lorange is the third dean of a major European business school to announce his retirement this year. Insead’s Gabriel Hawawini was replaced by Frank Brown this summer.  Dr. Laura Tyson, dean of London Business School, has announced that she will leave LBS this year also.

MBA Admissions Podcasts: Stanford, Haas, and MBA Essays

Over the last month several excellent podcasts have been produced on MBA admissions:

  1. From MBA Podcaster: Your Application Essays: Strategic Recommendations for Writing Your Essays. I admit that I am interviewed extensively for this podcast, along with Thomas Caleel, Director of Admissions at Wharton, and Graham Richmond of Clear Admit. With little objectivity and less humility, I must say that we provide excellent advice on approaching your application essays.  I am only embarrassed that it took me this long to recommend it.
  2. "Dean Joss & Prof. Saloner, Stanford Graduate School of Business, are interviewed in this podcast from the iinovate blog. While it is kind of cool to hear what Drs. Joss and Saloner say is most important to them and why, the true value in this podcast lies in the discussion of Stanford’s new curriculum and of the qualities and ideas Stanford values. Critical information for Stanford applicants.
  3. "Leading Through Innovation" by Dr. Richard K. Lyons, Executive Associate Dean at the Haas School of Business. Probably the most over used term in MBA admissions literature is "leadership." Among the top 5 is "innovation." These are classic "umbrella words", as Maxx Duffy calls them (See MBA BlastOff: 45 Terrific Tips to Launch Your MBA Application to Acceptance for more details) in MBA admissions circles. Broad terms, abused and tired, that have many meanings to different people. Dean Lyons breaks them down into their component parts at Berkeley.

The first podcast serves as an excellent introduction or review of MBA essay writing principles. The second and third podcasts clarify values and concepts that are important to Stanford and Berkeley respectively.  If you are applying to those two schools you really must  listen to these podcasts. They will show you the qualities and values these schools hold dear and allow you to demonstrate those attributes through your essays.

Please note that I didn’t write "mimic the words spoken in the podcasts"; I wrote "demonstrate the qualities."  That’s the key to showing fit at the schools of your choice.

College Admissions Consultants Profiled

Businessweek has published an excellent article with a terrible title about admissions consultants: "How to Buy Your Way Into College." The title would be more appropriate for sections of The Price of Admissions, the book I am currently reading. This article points out that most consultants strive to match their clients to the best schools for them and do so while charging reasonable fees that don’t grab headlines.  It is also accompanied by a slide show profiling several college admissions consultants who have fit and their clients’ happiness as their ultimate goal — not Ivy bragging rights.

IRS: Great Tax Experience and Reasonable Hours

The Wall St. Journal explores the pros and cons of working for the IRS as a law school grad in "It’s Taxing to Recruit Fresh Law School Graduates."

The pros:

  • Great tax experience.
  • Reasonable hours
  • Courtroom exposure and significant responsibility early in your career.

The cons:

  • Significantly lower pay.
  • Later recruiting and hiring.
  • A recruiting process that is still a work in progress.