I have been thinking for several weeks that it is time for me to write a post about MBA admissions consulting. I have seen blog and forum posts heatedly discussing the pros and cons of admissions consulting and what makes a good consultant. I admit to fairly strong opinions on the subject. While my objectivity may be questionable, I have been advising applicants for the last sixteen years and speak from deep, long experience.
The immediate trigger for my post is an excellent, thoughtful piece by UCLA Anderson’s Asst. Dean and Director of MBA Admissions & Financial Aid, Mae Jennifer Shores on the MBA Insider’s blog entitled “Thoughts on MBA Coaches and Consultants.” For your convenience I am going to excerpt main points and then provide my thoughts on her thoughts.
1. “On the plus side, there’s the general knowledge that consultants have of MBA programs.”
Completely agree. We have tremendous knowledge of the programs and the options out there.
2. “On the downside, consultants can so finely tune your essays that your own personal voice is lost. Or, even worse, your essays may read like they were written by multiple authors.”
The downside is more of a risk when you show your essays to multiple amateurs — to your mom, your dad, your cousin who got an MBA two years ago from a school you are not applying to, your significant other, your friends on Facebook, and the list goes on and on. Consistently using one advisor/editor/mentor who has taken the time to get to know you, your goals, your reasons for wanting an MBA and who also has insight into the specific schools will help you sharpen your message and maintain your voice.
3. “While a consultant may seem like a quicker route to your MBA destination, he or she can be expensive and not without possible pitfalls. So, if you are to use a consultant, use him or her in an advisory capacity only – as a sounding board and someone with whom to discuss your thoughts and ideas.”
Yes a good MBA admissions consultant requires an investment. And it comes as no surprise to me when Forbes ROI rankings’ top 10 schools correlate closely to the schools our clients tend to apply to. Using an admissions consultant could enable your acceptance to a “better” school than you would gain acceptance to on your own. “Better” implies more professional opportunity, increased earnings, and an educational experience more to your liking. Just looking at dollars and cents, “better” potentially represents tens of thousands of dollars in your pocket during your career. Considering that your MBA can easily cost over $200K (including out-of-pocket and opportunity costs) and the potential benefits of using a consultant, the cost of an admissions consultants, as a client once told me, is a “rounding error.”
Furthermore, writers need editors. Professional writers have editors because their writing benefits from a knowledgeable, critical, objective eye. The same is true for non-professionals. In fact, it’s more true.
4. “All the resources you need to present the best application you can are readily available.” Mae Jennifer Shores then encourages applicants to take advantage of the many valuable online resources including school websites, mba.com, and student blogs as well as offline options like school visits, forums and receptions.
I completely agree that applicants need to take advantage of these resources and learn as much as possible about their target programs. We here at Accepted constantly encourage applicants to take advantage of school visit programs and to attend receptions and school-sponsored events. I personally have hosted hundreds of chats so that applicants can learn more about the schools. Accepted.com has dedicated pages to many of the top MBA programs. We are proud that www.accepted.com has become a major free information resource for MBA applicants.
However, there is a HUGE difference between information and mentorship. Information is static. Consulting is dynamic. Gathering data is a one-way street. Consulting is two-way. Information is for most, the crowd, the general. Advising is personal, individual, and specific to you and your target programs.
5. “At the end of the day, most MBA programs select the best applicants rather than the best applications. Spend less time on “impression management” and more time on letting us get to know the true you.”
Accepted.com’s MBA experienced admissions consultants aim to help you do just that by guiding you to present the best of the true you.