Q&A: Do you really need an admissions consultant?

POSTED ON NOVEMBER 1

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Whether you are at the start of your MBA application journey or somewhere in the thick of it, we assume you’ll have questions about the strength that comes with having an MBA admissions consultant (especially if you’ve been going through this process alone). We’ve taken the top questions we get from MBA candidates that are researching using a consultant and provided an answer to help guide you in your journey.

Rejected in R1: Can a consultant help me select new schools and realign my story for R2?

Yes. By analyzing your background, goals and previous applications, a professional consultant can identify some likely reasons why you were denied admission. These could be based on something you included or excluded in the applications or perhaps a vulnerability in the underlying candidacy. The key is to start with a free, objective evaluation.

When is the best time to engage an admissions consultant?

As soon as you have decided that you will be applying to business school — whether that is weeks, months or even years in advance — is the “best” time to get started. Time is your ally! Why not put it to work for your benefit.

How does a consultant really get to know the candidacy?

There are two keys to understanding an applicant’s past, present and future. First is having proven frameworks than serve to organize and prioritize the various elements of the candidacy in a way that will align with the selection criteria at the targeted schools. The second key is asking probing, insightful questions — from the perspective of an admissions officer — that go beyond the superficiality of a resume or transcript.

Can I leverage a consultant’s advice on one application for additional apps?

Absolutely. Just as there are advantages (i.e., less time and effort) to repurposing content from prior schools, there are also risks. Adcoms are never impressed when they see content that obviously came from the applications of other schools. The objectivity and experience of a professional admissions consultant will help ensure that you gain efficiency without harming effectiveness.

Would a consultant tell me that I should not apply to top-10 b-schools?

Yes, an ethical consultant always informs an applicant if he or she is unqualified for serious consideration at a highly selective MBA program.

Will b-schools know if I’m working with a consultant?

In the case of The MBA Exchange, the confidentiality and privacy of our client engagements are safeguarded without exception. Furthermore, in our consulting and editing process, we make sure never to commandeer the candidacy. The authentic story, perspective and voice of the applicant must shine through.

What background is “best” for an admissions consultant?

Excellent consultants come from a variety of backgrounds. Our team features former MBA admissions professionals, ex-admissions committee members, and alumni who worked in admissions during b-school or as alumni interviewers after graduation. And when considering a consultant, don’t underestimate the value of working with someone from your industry, as that can add value in explaining or differentiating your professional background.

Do consultants customize services to fit an applicant’s cultural background?

Yes, a professional consultant understands and considers the cultural aspects of a candidacy. Diversity is a priority at top b-schools, so presenting and leveraging your uniqueness is a benefit. When selecting a consultant, you’ll want someone who has either experienced your culture directly or has worked effectively with others who share that background.

What’s the best way to match an MBA applicant to an admissions consultant?

We consider professional, academic and personal backgrounds when preparing a short list of potential matches for an applicant. We can also arrange a “chemistry chat” so both parties can confirm the fit. The key is to be an active participant in the matching process. Identify and express your priorities when discussing various potential consultants.

Can an admissions consultant help me overcome “average” academic credentials and GMAT?

Yes. Most applicants know their limitations but are less aware of the latent strengths and advantages that can help them explain and mitigate the constraints. In this case, providing solid examples of success in solving complex problems in the workplace can help neutralize a soft academic profile. Or earning an “A” in a well-chosen extension course can show adcoms that your undergrad record is an aberration. Again, a free evaluation of your candidacy will identify whether your definition of “average” aligns with the selection criteria at your targeted school.