So you have taken the GMAT. Assessed your profile (or had it assessed). Narrowed down to a list of schools that you want to target. And are now ready to begin your MBA applications.
At this stage, a number of applicants (especially those applying to top schools) decide to take the help of MBA admissions consultants. With a plethora of options out there, from large, established companies, to small, boutique options, how does one go about choosing the right consultant to work with?
A small number of applicants will say that going alone is the best option. This post is not meant to assess the merits of going with MBA admissions consultants v/s doing your applications yourself. The bottom line is that each applicant should suit himself or herself – there are cases where admissions consultants will make a world of difference to your chances of getting through the school(s) of your choice. There are also cases where they will not add much value. That apart, now that you have decided to go with an MBA applications consultant, how do you decide the right one to choose?
Here are some general points that we think are worth going over before you decide:
Before you begin, figure out if your MBA admissions consultant is for real: Is your consultant promising to get you into Harvard with a GMAT score of 600? Are you being told that you can get into MIT Sloan with just a year’s work experience? If you are being told this or something similar, then you need to consider some other consultant – fast! Every consultant must be real first, and efficient later. First find someone you can trust.
Look at the ‘who’ first: Before deciding to go with consultant A or consultant B, ask who you will be working with. Will you be working with someone who knows your school inside out and is well-versed with what it takes to get in? Or will you be working with someone who is willing to sign you up just for the sake of doing so? Try and speak to the particular person who will be working with you. Determine if this person fits your own requirements or is following a generalist approach that you are not comfortable with.
Next, look at the ‘what’: One key distinguishing factor that separates the best consultants from the rest is what they are willing to spell out. What does ‘MBA applications consulting’ really mean after all? Are they going to give you detailed advice, recommendations, and strategies to get into the school you are targeting? Or are they merely going to brush over your app while looking at the clock and then charge you by the hour? Don’t get us wrong – charging by the hour is not a bad thing at all – but it should only be done when the consultant can make every minute count.
Next, look at the price – but not just: Like most other service providers, MBA application consultants too come in different flavours and prices. Some require you to pay the world to get into a top B-school. Others will charge substantially less, but that is no guarantee that you are getting better services. Balance price with the quality you receive before you decide. You should decide to go with consultant X because he or she gives you the best services possible, not because he or she is 10% cheaper than the next consultant. Similarly, don’t assume that consultant Y will give you a better shot at getting in because he or she is charging 25% more. Ultimately, it is the quality of the application that is delivered that matters.
Buffet or á la carte?: Is your consultant willing to give you that extra support you need? Or are you being given a deadline of 15 days within which you must avail all services being offered? Are you getting the right help to craft your essays? Or are you being told to follow a template and then smoothen the edges? Your application must be yours and yours alone – make sure that you are getting the freedom to tell the admissions committee YOUR story.
It’s not just about the essays: Finally, realize that an MBA application is not just about the essays you create. It is about your entire story. Make sure you steer clear of anyone who tells you that they will ‘touch up your essays’ because that is all there is to it. Unless you have a great story to tell, don’t bother to let the admissions committees hear from you. A great consultant will always take care of your entire app, not just the essays part. A great consultant will always help you to bring out your best face so you can show the folks at B-school what you are really made of. A great consultant will never ask you to state untrue facts, but help you to bring out those facts that can help improve your application. A great consultant will help you to do better than you will be able to do alone.