Matching Your MBA Candidacy & Your Admissions Consultant

If you’re among the thousands of business school applicants each year who engage the services of a professional admissions consulting firm, working with the right advisor is essential. From our 20 years of experience at The MBA Exchange with more than 4,000 clients, here are 4 attributes to emphasize before accepting a match with an admissions consultant:


• Common ground professionally, personally and/or academically.

Do you and the consultant share some background or experience that will provide an immediate starting point for your dialogue? Don’t expect to find a clone, but it’s comforting to work with someone with whom you can relate on day one. And, more importantly, the consultant’s first-hand knowledge of your background can help you explain and differentiate it in your applications with greater confidence and authenticity.

• Understanding of your native culture.
If you’re an international applicant, it can be very beneficial to work with an advisor who has lived or worked in your native country – or at least who has worked successfully with previous MBA applicants from there. The nuances and subtleties of your heritage and perspective can enrich your candidacy in important ways. So, working with a consultant who has familiarity with your roots can help you identify and emphasize the most meaningful aspects in your applications and interviews.

• Capacity and accessibility.
Applying to b-school is stressful, so it’s essential that your advisor be focused and available throughout your admissions campaign. Having to wait longer than 24 hours for a reply — including weekends, evenings and holidays – is not acceptable, especially as application deadlines approach. So confirm that he or she will be there for you when needed.

• Support by an established, reputable organization.

No matter how positive you feel about a 1-on-1 match, you need to have a “Plan B” just in case that consultant has an unexpected issue (e.g., family, health, etc.) that arises during your collaboration. There must be equally qualified and motivated colleagues ready to step in to pick up the engagement, promptly and seamlessly, if that should ever become necessary. And there’s always a small chance that, despite good intentions, the original match won’t work. So, confirm that there is a formal process for prompt resolution and seamless reassignment if/when necessary.

So, now that you know what to look for in a match, how do you ensure that you’ll get paired with a consultant who can deliver on those criteria? Here are 5 action steps to take:

1. Present your candidacy to the consulting firm and get a free evaluation to confirm that they understand your background and goals.

2. Request a “short list” of 5-10 consultant profiles so you can compare various options.

3. Narrow that “short list” to the 2-3 profiles that you like most. Don’t “settle” just because the firm has a limited roster of consultants.

4. Confirm the fit between applicant and consultant with a “chemistry chat” so you can get a feel for each other’s listening and speaking style, energy, etc.

5. Trust your gut. If you feel like this is someone you can trust to be candid, caring and insightful, then you’ve found the best match.

A positive and productive partnership between applicant and advisor is critical to achieving MBA admission. So, investing sufficient time and thought in choosing the very best partner for your candidacy will pay big dividends throughout your campaign and, if successful, for the rest of your life.