If you’ve been exploring your MBA options for a while, you’ve probably ran into a number of admissions consulting firms. Why would someone use such a service?
While it is true that many business schools have excellent admissions teams that are very approachable and helpful, it is also beneficial to seek additional professional help to create your best MBA application.
A good analogy would be working with a real estate agent. If you’d like to sell your house, would you hire your own representative to help you present your assets in the best possible way, or would you work directly with the buyers’ agent who has their best interests in mind?
The difference between speaking with an admissions officer from a business school and speaking with an admissions consultant is the diversity of information you’ll be getting out of the conversation. An admissions officer is focused solely on his or her program – and rightfully so!
They know their programs inside out and their goal is to attract as many candidates as possible. On the other hand, admissions consultants have more in-depth knowledge of many MBA programs, can give you a rundown of multiple business schools, and will discuss your potential fit.
Does this really make a difference?
Working with an admissions consultant is especially worthwhile if he or she has worked for a business school prior to joining the admissions consulting firm. There is simply no substitute for that practical experience of reviewing real MBA applications, interviewing candidates, and making real admissions decisions.
This real business school background, combined with experience interacting with a large volume of candidates and tackling many MBA applications, will allow your admissions consultant to make the best recommendations for you personally, whereas the recommendations from the admissions officer at a business school would be around his or her school. As a candidate, you deserve to have options!
How could an Admissions Consultant help me?
As a good coach, an Admissions Consultant will gain a deep understanding of your personal story, will provide honest feedback into your strengths and weaknesses, and will help you position yourself in the best possible way.
Demonstrating fit is one of the toughest part of the application process. Whether you want to switch your career or simply enhance it, you must demonstrate the “fit” with the business school’s strengths and values.
We’ll be talking a lot more about “fit” in future blog posts, but here’s a small preview:
There are two types of fit: functional and cultural. A functional fit is all about your career goals and what the school has to offer. A cultural fit is more about your personality and your soft skills such as team work, open mindset etc. Working with an admissions consultant will help you understand different schools’ cultures, determine the ones that would be the best match for your aspirations, and showcase your skills to the admissions committee.
What if I’m not sure what I want to do?
Working with an admissions consultant is especially helpful if you are not yet sure what type of school or program to pick. MBA or Master’s degrees at top business schools are a large investment of time and money. Making the wrong decision could cost you dearly.
For this reason, every Admissions Consulting engagement begins with a strategy session. Your admissions consultant will outline the advantages and disadvantages of certain programs in different business schools around the world and will make recommendations that are aligned with your career goals.
Approaching your school selection in a strategic way is especially important now because business schools, regardless of the strengths of their programs, are working hard at attracting diverse candidates. A school may be offering a very finance heavy program, but a candidate with a nontraditional professional background could still be very attractive, because he or she will bring different perspectives to the MBA program.
As you already may know, by now, learning in the MBA programs is based as much, if not more, on peer learning, as it is on academics. If you’re targeting top business schools, your admissions consultant will not only help you make smart school selection decisions, but could help you highlight your “non-traditional” skills that could put your application on top of the pile.
Is there anything else I’ll gain?
The other bonus for working with an admissions consultant is getting access to “insider” tips. This is especially true if your consultant worked at a top tier business school prior to becoming a consultant. He or she can make recommendations on how you could best position yourself based on what kinds of candidates the business school may be looking for at that moment.
The other area where candidates need a lot of help is references. You might be thinking that you have no control over this part of the application. While it is true that your recommenders must write the recommendation letters themselves, you could still influence the process by selecting recommenders that know you from the perspective of skills you need to highlight on your application, and then coaching them to discuss these skills on the recommendation letters.
What are some of the biggest mistakes candidates make?
Many candidates apply to multiple schools. One of the biggest mistakes you could make is to create one application and simply change the name of the school. While all business schools look for similar qualities from candidates, each school is unique. Your job as a candidate is to find how you fit with the school’s offerings and tailor your application to differentiate yourself from the competition. Your admissions consultant has exposure to many business programs, will help you make your research easier, and will ensure that your applications are targeted to each of the schools you apply to.
What is the biggest factor that influences admission decisions?
Last but not least is the admissions interview preparation. It’s been said many times that the interview is often a make it a break it part of the application. Ace the interview, and you could not only gain admission, but also become a top candidate for a large entrance scholarship. Bomb it – and you could kiss your admission chances good bye, even though your application may have been stellar!
If there’s one area where you can’t take your chances it is interview preparation. We’ve seen candidates land “full ride” scholarships and an admission decision made the next day after an outstanding interview. A professional admissions consultant with experience interviewing thousands of candidates while working at admission offices at top tier business schools will thoroughly prepare you for the admission interview, will coach you on how to present your best self, will conduct mock interviews, and will provide you with instant feedback at the end of each interview. A small investment in interview prep almost always makes a huge difference for your chances of getting in – often with a scholarship.
The ever changing game of admissions
Admissions to top business schools are more competitive than ever; schools come up with many creative ways to select the best candidates: video essays, reflection questions, timed essays, unique creative essays, the list goes on…
If you want to maximize your chances of getting into the best schools on the best terms, and have no regrets later, make a small investment in working with an MBA Admissions Consultant – it will prove to be one of the best investments you’ve made in your career.
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