Yesterday’s Boston Globe featured an article "Wrangling Over Applications," which has since apparently been picked up by AP, on MBA admissions consultants. I am quoted:
"Our value is in helping the applicant match himself or herself to a school," Linda Abraham, president of Accepted.com, a Los Angeles-based consulting firm, told the Globe. "We’re not creating a generic application, and we’re not fitting to a generic application."
While I am always happy to be quoted correctly as above, I am disappointed at the quotes and views attributed to Brit Dewey, admissions director of Harvard Business School, and Derrick Bolton, admissions director of Stanford Graduate School of Business. They have never asked me or apparently many of my colleagues what we do and how we work, and yet they feel free to share their ignorance of an industry that is growing and of growing importance in admissions.
I would like to share the perspective of two people who know the business inside and out because they are both experienced consultants. Accepted.com editors Sonia Michaels and Tanis Kmetyk both wrote letters to the editor in response to the Globe article. Here are a couple of excerpts, first from Sonia’s letter:
To the Editor:
I have been working with the Accepted.com team as a professional admissions consultant for nearly six years, and I’d like to respond to a couple of the comments published in yesterday’s Globe article, “Wrangling over applications.” In that piece, Stanford’s Derrick Bolton claims that admissions consultants “rob students of a chance to learn about themselves, to reflect on their values.” This is absolute nonsense. My job is not to “rob” my clients of anything, but to encourage them to gain some insight into who they are and what they have to offer these schools, and then to provide guidance as they create interesting and engaging essays about themselves based on this insight.
In fact, it seems to me that many of our clients at Accepted.com actually start learning about themselves and reflecting on who they are as we work together through the application process. I do my best to help people dig down past technical and business jargon, past meaningless platitudes, and past “one-size-fits-any-school” sentences, to say something real about who they are and what they want to do with their lives. This introspection does not always come easy (many of my clients over the years have referred to our work together as “something like therapy”!), but the more deeply people delve into themselves and examine their goals, the more accurately their essays will reflect their potential to excel within the programs they’re applying to—and isn’t that exactly what Mr. Bolton, Ms. Dewey and their colleagues need to know?
Here is an excerpt from Tanis’ letter:
I am one of the international consultants you mentioned as working with accepted.com. I live in Paris , France and for 7 1/2 years now I have been helping to guide MBA candidates from around the world through the process of identifying the right business schools for them and applying to them. It is, from where I stand, an enormously gratifying job that pays off in … the sincere and heartfelt thanks of a candidate who gets a shot at what s/he generally consider to be an onramp to the American Dream. They get this shot, not because I sell them a pre-packaged essay, nor because I make up a formulaic essay that prevents them from expressing their real selves, nor because I make them spout the words that the schools want to hear, nor because I am lurking on websites ready to ensnare them into my nefarious trap, nor because I sell my knowledge of what strings to pull to effectively manipulate an employee of one of the world’s most recognized institutions of education in strategic and human management skills.
No, they get there because I help them to present who they are in a way in which they cannot effectively do on their own. As I often tell my clients, everyone has his or her areas of expertise…and I cannot run a company.
We live in a world driven by snapshot images, by shorthand words and by neatly packaged messages. How does a young woman from Kuwait or a young man from Siberia access that world without guidance? How does a young business student from a small town in Texas begin to know what someone in the Ivy Towers would find interesting about him? How does the young immigrant in Los Angeles find the right words to write about a background that she is trying to rise up from?
How does anyone get anywhere? By asking directions. Some ask their guidance counselors, some ask their mentors, some ask their family connections and others ask professionals such as me…
The emails that flowed through Accepted Editors’ Mailing List reflected similar views, and in all cases, the people who actually do the work are shocked at the misinformation spread generously by the adcom leaders. Current MBA applicants, Kilgore Trout and Dave present more balanced and realistic views of the admissions scene and the consultants’ role than do these adcom directors.
It’s really time for the few business school deans and adcom members who condemn educational advisors to open their eyes and ears, educate themselves, and stop lashing out and bashing all private consultants. After all, we perform the same functions as Fulbright offices, ML4T , undergrad advising offices, writing centers, professors, and assistant deans. If is ethical and legitimate for these entities to provide these services, it is equally ethical for private individuals and businesses to provide the same service to applicants to business school.
We play both a constructive and significant role in admissions. To any adcom members reading this post, learn about us. Read our websites. Come to the GMAC session on consultants with Graham Richmond of Clear Admit, Ricardo Betti of MBA Empresarial, Maxx Duffy of Maxx Associates, and myself. Help us do our job even better, as Tuck did by hosting a conference for International Educational Consultants and as many of your colleagues do by simply communicating with us. Finally, realize that we work hard so that you can make informed decisions and do your job: creating diverse classes of talented, thoughtful, ethical, future leaders.