October 4, 1999

By Joshua Jampol

You want to market yourself to a business school. Do you go it alone, or seek professional help? MBA wannabes can now shop from a growing range of (mainly American) education, marketing and admissions consultants who help students into schools of their choice.

These services range from editing application essays to high-priced, customized counseling. They claim to be better than how-to books or software.

“Professionals who constantly monitor business schools on changing priorities and opportunities for admissions bring a value-added alternative,” says MBA Exchange (www.mbaexchange.com), a consulting resource for school selection, credentials review, application strategy, essay and interview planning, course choices and job evaluation.

It calls itself “your strategic partner in competing against thousands of highly qualified applicants for limited spaces at the world’s top MBA programmes”. Your “strategic partner” will cost you … for personalised attention from Harvard graduates and licensed psychologists.

Satisfied customers recount that such assistance furnishes analyses and information to tackle applications more wisely. A common mistake that candidates make is thinking that brains alone will get them in.

Sally Lannin, of MBA Strategies ($150 per hour) counsels: “A high GMAT (Graduate Management Admissions Test) alone will not do it.

“Last year Kellogg rejected half its applicants with perfect scores of 800.” She advises getting solid work experience. Such advice may make the difference between a place and a rejection slip.

Although schools help to prepare their graduates for job interviews, they seem shy of such services when they themselves are targeted. The Rotterdam School of Management’s admissions director, Connie Tai, says that none of her applicants use such support. “On the one hand, you could interpret that candidates take their applications seriously by seeking help.

“On the other, it could reflect deficiencies, such as weak essay-writing skills, low self-confidence or little interest in putting their own efforts into the application process.”