So you’ve decided to apply for an MBA.
Step 1: DONE. Great!
But as you start digging into the requirements, you realize just how much there is to do. You seek advice from those who have been-there-done-that — friends, co-workers, strangers online — and you notice a trend: admissions consulting.
Working with a great consultancy will give you a leg up in the MBA application process. Guidance on post-MBA goals, feedback on resume structure, or even just having someone by your side urging you to get all this stuff done, can be insaaaanely helpful.
But how do you choose the right team?
Here are some things to keep in mind when researching MBA admissions consulting firms:
Who will I be working with?
Consulting is, at heart, a tutoring experience, so who you’ll be learning from is crucial. What’s their pedigree? How much experience do they have with admissions consulting? Did they go to your dream school? Have they worked in your current or future industry? Are they wickedly cool and motivational?
Generally, you’ll want a consultant who comes closest not to who you are NOW, but to who you hope to become after your MBA.
For international applicants to U.S. or European programs, it’s especially important that your admissions consultant has experience in the West outside their MBA program (i.e. undergrad or work experience, and a solid cultural understanding). This perspective will help give you a sense of how competitive your profile is in these environments and how to showcase your accomplishments to make you stand out.
How will I be working with them?
The key factor here is access. Skype? Phone? Email? In-person or remote? A few extra phone calls and a quick email response time can make your application strategy more efficient. Working with your consultant virtually can save time on scheduling and transportation, and allows for more instant access via phone or email.
There may be different pros and cons depending on your personal preferences for in-person versus remote, but let’s be honest, when we have a choice between commuting to meetings or Skyping in our PJs, we’re all for the latter.
What do you really need help with?
Make sure the firm can address your core needs.
Some folks have a great resume, but need help with writing—they’ll want a package that includes help from expert editors.
Other folks have the writing part handled, but are struggling to convey fit with their target schools—a consultant with years of broad experience will be crucial.
The application process may also reveal weaknesses you didn’t realize you had (happens to the best of us!). A company with a wide range of services may be better positioned to help you fill those unexpected gaps.
Are you anticipating a possible change in plans? Look for a company that gives you options to customize services, and to slow down or speed up your application process. Plans DO change, so know how much flexibility you have before signing on the dotted line.
What’s the process?
Make sure you probe the timeline and process the firm uses. A solid process involves a number of rounds on all work: you submit work, the consultant reviews it, you review the consultant’s notes and submit a new draft. Ideally, this process repeats 4-5 times.
While significant improvements can be made in a shorter time, applications (and particularly, application essays) are like a fine wine: they get better with age.
Bonus sub-question: Who is involved in this process?
Just because you chose your main consultant, doesn’t mean that other experts can’t be involved. Some individual consultants try to tackle everything on their own: school choice, resume, application forms, essays, etc. It’s rare that one person can be good at aaallll of these things.
A good team will have multiple experts involved at various stages of the process.
Is this in my budget?
It’s no secret that MBA admissions consulting comes with a hefty price tag, but if you work with the right firm, the investment now can yield a huge reward later on.
Start by making an initial budget. Be as realistic as possible, researching the cost of similar services at various firms. The go out and ask all these questions.
If you can swing it, the expert team might be worth the extra cash.
Final Tip: Due Diligence
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with casting multiple lines, even if you’re just trying to catch that one big fish. Take your time; ask your friends, family, co-workers; read online reviews from former clients; and dig deep into what makes firm A better for you than firm B.
Some red flags to keep in mind:
• 100% guarantees. The MBA admissions process is just too volatile and random to ever be 100% sure of your chances.
• Super speedy service. A full application in 24-hours? Get outta here! Good applications take time — multiple rounds of revisions, months-long profile development, building and revising strategy.
• Ghostwritten essays. Yikes! Adcoms are always on alert for dishonesty in applications. Avoid any potentially serious consequences and get help crafting your overall narrative, not your every word.
Admissions consulting can be a big expense, but if you know what to look for, you’ll end up with a team that more than returns your investment.
Finally, (and trust us, the LAST thing we want to do is toot our own horn) if you’re looking to get this MBA process started, our guys and gals are geared up and ready to rumble.
Hop on over and take your first step toward rocking those MBA applications.