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MBA Preparation, Services

Look Behind the Curtain When Choosing an Admissions Consulting Firm

October 24 2017 By The MBA Exchange
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MBA applicants seeking an admissions consultant can be quickly overwhelmed by the enthusiastic, sometimes exaggerated, claims of various firms competing for their business. So, it’s essential to look behind the curtain to discover and compare the substance that determines which provider is really best for you.

Here are 6 key criteria that future MBAs can use as a punch list when choosing their ideal partner:

1. Responsiveness to clients
Most MBA applicants have demanding day (and often night) jobs that consume their waking hours, Monday through Friday. So, weekends and holidays tend to be the only times available to work on an admissions campaign and engage with a consultant. We’ve built our service model with that reality in mind. If a firm’s website doesn’t promise clients “replies within 24 hours, 7 days per week” then keep searching for a firm that does!2. Scope, scale and duration of experience
A firm whose advisory team features more consultants from more schools with more extensive experience is the ideal choice for MBA applicants. Why? Because understanding which admissions strategies and tactics prove most effective for numerous applicants to multiple schools over time is the best way to validate and customize those strategies and tactics. With 70+ consultants from 18 business schools, and having served nearly 5000 admissions clients since 1996, The MBA Exchange is the industry leader. Our roots and pedigree are in MBA admissions. For instance, we didn’t start as a test-prep firm that decided, years later, to add admissions consulting as a side line.

3. Credibility of expertise

Nearly all firms have admissions consultants who are MBA grads. A smaller number of firms also have some former MBA admissions committee members on their team. Even fewer of firms have ex-MBA admissions professionals. And only a handful have ex-adcoms from the most selective schools. At The MBA Exchange, we proudly feature 14 ex-adcoms who provide valuable insights that help us refine our service model for clients. In fact, we currently have more former MBA admissions professionals from more top-10 MBA programs (including HBS, Stanford, Wharton, MIT, Columbia, Kellogg and Haas) than any other firm. Do the math! More is more.

4. Verification of results
Consulting firms that lack “third-party verification” of their admissions track record typically avoid that topic when presenting their services. Working with a firm that has independently documented admissions success is a wise choice. The MBA Exchange is the first and only major firm to offer results verified by an independent, Certified Public Accounting (CPA) firm.

5. Singular focus on applications

MBA admissions officers can easily spot – and deny – any application that lacks clarity, consistency and authenticity. The risk is increased when an application is influenced by multiple advisors who lack in-depth knowledge of the underlying candidacy and accountability for the outcome. Choosing a firm that uses a “committee approach” for application development – with a head consultant, so-called school specialists, reviewers, etc. – can result in conflicting viewpoints, compromises in content, and a forced-fit of communication styles that will raise a big, red flag for adcoms. As confirmed by our verified, industry-leading admissions success and client satisfaction, the best results come from working directly with one consultant who knows you and your candidacy intimately, advising you on how to refine your positioning and messaging for each targeted school. Otherwise, your candidacy can become fragmented and unfocused as your application is shuffled among support staff. At The MBAExchange your consultant has open access to other colleagues as needed, anytime he or she believes a second opinion would be beneficial to your candidacy.

6. School-specific information
Some consulting firms promote guidebooks that allegedly provide the school-specific information that applicants need. The fallacy is that such books ignore the uniqueness of your background and goals. Each applicant who features overused, generic data in his or her application looks the same to the adcom. Business schools expect an applicant to do their homework, identify the source of their info, and feature only those offerings that relate to his or her candidacy. That’s why The MBA Exchange teaches our clients how to efficiently and credibly choose what to feature about each target school.

MBA applicants should shop carefully and thoughtfully when comparing admissions consulting firms. The significance is much too great for you to pick one that sounds good but falls short. A smart way to get started is to find out what each firm thinks of your candidacy with a free, expert evaluation.