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Do you need an MBA admissions consultant?

Katie Schenk - October 24, 2019

Do you want an MBA admissions consultant

A couple hundred thousand people apply to MBA programmes annually. To service the fraction of students that are admitted (and accept placements), there needs to be a lot of business schools. And, there are.

But, MBA applications aren’t a walk in the park - even for top candidates. And, it's tough to get in. Top business schools, such as the Stanford Graduate School of Business have acceptance rates as low as 6.7%. Other top business schools in the US have acceptances rates between 11% and 19%. 

It’s little wonder that there are plenty of MBA admissions consultants available to help applicants get into the business schools they’ve always dreamed of. 

And, it appears that their services are becoming more popular; a growing number of MBA hopefuls are using admissions consultants - recent reports suggest as many as 45% of applicants hire an admissions coach

What do MBA admissions consultants do?

If you’re looking for acceptance at one of the top schools, you need to stand to stand out from the many equally accomplished and interesting, but competing applicants.

While the internet has facilitated information sharing, it’s difficult to wade through these waters to determine your best strategy and presentation. Admissions consultants bring your personality into the picture while highlighting the aspects of your work they know ad comms want to see.

Many consultants do more than simply review and suggest – they help to focus you as a candidate. They help you to consider the substance that’s already in you, rather than pushing you towards a window dressing version of yourself.

Admissions consultants vary, however. Some cater to specific schools or just top tier schools. Others work only with international applicants or just local ones. There are those that have worked to become powerhouses in the industry and plenty that focus on bespoke services. Each one approaches their consulting practice from a slightly different perspective.

But, you should not expect them to write your application for you. 

Admissions consultants provide tailored and expert guidance around crafting your narrative but they will not do it all for you. They’re not a silver bullet for anyone to get into business school. You have to want it and be prepared to put in the hard yards.

Are MBA admissions consultants successful?

Using an admissions consultant doesn’t guarantee you a placement. Only you, putting in the hard work and your best self forward, can get you admitted. Admission consultants are experts that provide knowledge collated from experience with thousands of candidates across the world.

So, it’s a guessing game as to how successful admissions consultants are. When they report a 97% success rate, we don’t know whether that means 97% of their clients were accepted into any school or if it was their top choice school. And, even if we did know what one consultant measures, that doesn’t mean it’s the same for all of them.

What we do know is that top schools are incredibly selective and that admissions consultants can swing the odds in your favour.

Deciding which elements and dynamics to present in an application is a difficult process. Consultancies like Fortuna Admissions have many years of MBA admissions and marketing experience with customised strategies and tactics to differentiate and distinguish you from your competitors.

What should you expect from an MBA admissions consultant?

Some applicants turn to a consultant for essay assistance or for ensuring that every I is dotted and T is crossed. Others turn to these professionals because they know a lot about each programme, what they are looking for, and how best to tailor applications accordingly.

Given the number of MBA programmes and applicants, you should expect diversity in the services of admissions consultants as well. 

Full-service admissions packages usually include resume reviews and direction on recommenders. They offer interview prep assistance and a complete look over your entire application. Depending on the package you take, you might also find these services

Business school information

When you’re narrowing down your school choices, admissions consultant websites are often a great place to start. 

Many of the consultants maintain their own school profiles and guides. There are some that offer small dossiers of information, including the type of applicants that would be a good fit for these programmes.

Tips to get high GMAT scores

You’ll find a lot of tips for taking the GMAT (and the score you should get for many schools) on just about every consultant’s website. You’ll also find solid recommendations for GMAT tutors or test-prep companies. 

If you like what you see on an admissions consultant’s website, you can probably trust their tutor recommendations.

MBA admissions essay help

Not every admissions consultant offers their observations on essay questions for free, but you will find them. 

Along with tips, explanations of popular essays can focus your thoughts and transform your efforts.

General MBA admissions tips

Then, you’ve got to portray yourself convincingly and confidently, which is where an admissions consultant can nearly always help. 

A consultant is an experienced set of eyes to review your material, understand synergies across topics and ensure a coherent and compelling story is woven together.

Should you work with an admissions consultant?

Many factors will influence your decision to work with an admissions consultant, including price, compatibility, and your confidence levels.

Some candidates may want to consider a consultant strongly.

If you’re applying to an international school, then there are likely to be some norms and idiosyncrasies that you might miss in the application. Without someone who understands these unspoken rules, you could develop insecurities that come through in your application.

And, if you’ve got a special case, such as a low GMAT score, it’s also worth considering the assistance, especially if you want to get into a top level MBA programme.

Now, that’s not to say you need it if you fall into those categories. And, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t turn to a consultant just because you don’t fit into these groups either. An extra set of eyes on anything as important as your future is obviously beneficial.

The catch, however, is the cost of using such a service. MBA admissions consultants aren’t exactly cheap. Of course, you can look at it as an investment (just like the cost of MBA programmes themselves), and that’s what many potential candidates do.

Choosing to work with an admissions consultant is up to you – and your MBA goals. If you do decide to work with a consultant, remember that you’ll need to spend time selecting the right one for you.

Start with a business school consultation

Developing an MBA shortlist together is one of the best ways to determine whether an admissions consultant is right for you. It provides an indication of your skills and theirs. 

In addition to the schools that everyone knows like Harvard Business School and INSEAD, there are schools such as Chicago Booth and Virginia Darden which offer a better chance of admission, but you may not have considered

Successful admissions consultants can tell you where you are likely to be accepted, where you are a great fit, and even where you could stretch some to attend… within a 30 minute or one hour consultation. For some MBA hopefuls, this information is infinitely more useful than editing assistance.

What if you don’t want an MBA admissions consultant?

Everyone has a different view of admissions consultants. Some applicants are happy to do it themselves and have the time to do so. Others go the whole hog and begin considering consultants before schools. And then there are those that prefer to do most of the work, bringing in experts only when they need a little extra polish.

Even if you decide to do it yourself, there's a reason to pretend that you’ll hire an admissions consultant; they've got resources you want. Each one has a wealth of information and most are willing to share at least a portion of it. You’ll find plenty of these available online and completely free.

In addition, some firms offer a free preliminary evaluation up front. You can still walk away after an initial conversation with an admission consultant and could be a solid start to calm the nerves.

Even if you don’t plan to hire a consultant, considering them as if you would will help you understand the variety of resources available to you. 

And, you never know, you might just stumble on a consultant that completely understands your needs. When you do, it’s absolutely worth it to take the free consultation offer (if there is one); you might just discover something that changes your application completely.

Once you get in, we can help you out.

Prodigy Finance offers student loans for international MBAs attending the world's top universities. Online applications only take 30 minutes. No co-signer needed.

Prodigy Finance Ltd is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority.

Post updated for accuracy and freshness on October 22, 2019. Originally published on April 21, 2017.

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