Category Archives: SBC Scoop: Client Case Studies
April 21, 2014
This post originally appeared on Stacy’s “Strictly Business” MBA Blog on U.S.News.com With acceptance rates at the most elite business schools ranging from 6.8 to 21.6 percent, a growing number of MBA hopefuls are relying on the …
This post originally appeared on Stacy’s “Strictly Business” MBA Blog on U.S.News.com
With acceptance rates at the most elite business schools ranging from 6.8 to 21.6 percent, a growing number of MBA hopefuls are relying on the services of admissions consultants to help them market their candidacy and stand out amid a sea of equally amazing applicants.
The Graduate Management Admission Council, which administers the GMAT exam, reports that one in five applicants worldwide uses consultants—but a 2013 survey by the Association of International Graduate Admissions Consultants reports that 57 percent of prospective MBAs used an admissions consultant. The majority sought assistance with their essays, resume evaluation and interview preparation. But it is important to recognize some of the pros and cons of working with an MBA admissions consultant, as it might not be the right move for everyone.
[Avoid these three surprising mistakes MBA applicants make.]
I believe a consultant can nearly always help, whether you are a first-time or a repeat business school applicant, whether you are in the dark or more knowledgeable about the admissions process. After all, both beginning athletes and Olympians have coaches.
The one caveat to this situation would be if the admissions committee at the school to which you are applying is heavily focused on numbers, in which case you may not need a consultant to help flesh out things like your essays or interviews.
On the pro side, a consultant offers a trained second pair of eyes to review your material, help steer strategy and provide a sanity check. Many admissions consultants have years of MBA admissions and marketing experience.
Working with a respected consulting team gives you the ability to leverage the database of knowledge of a collected group of experts who together have experience with thousands of clients in programs across the globe. Input from one friend who applied, or even someone who attended the school, provides only a limited snapshot.
A firm with years in the business has perspective on what has worked – and what hasn’t – over time. Any questions or concerns you have about a particular program can be answered in-house, saving you tons of time researching online or trolling business school forums.
There is a lot of information about the MBA admissions process readily available online for free. Blogs like mine offer application advice, school-specific essay tips, and more.
While you can and should take advantage of free online information about the MBA admissions process, some people feel overwhelmed by the sheer amount out there, and the information is not always correct. I believe applicants can do their own research and still benefit from personalized guidance and coaching.
Detractors might argue that if you’re a strong MBA candidate, consulting services will provide little added value because your stats and profile speak for themselves. I disagree, and have seen many cases of stellar candidates who were shocked when they were denied admission to programs that seemed like sure things.
For example, we worked with one Cornell University graduate who had three years of experience in a top investment bank, a high GPA, a high GMAT score, phenomenal extracurriculars and competent writing skills. However, when he came to us he had zero introspection and was unable to look inward to mine his unique and interesting strengths. He definitely belonged in a top program, but the guidance he gained in how to market himself took his application package from generic to compelling.
Cost is the obvious potential drawback of working with an MBA admissions consultant. Fees run anywhere from a few hundred dollars for a la carte editing services to several thousand dollars for comprehensive packages targeting multiple schools.
If you’re not committed to completing the process, it is a huge waste of money. Make sure you’re ready to follow through, and find out if the firm offers any type of financial guarantees if you’re not successful.
One danger of hiring a consultant is that you might rely too much on their expertise, losing your voice and story in the process. Make certain that you’re prepared to partner with the consultant while not letting them take on the whole journey.
Another complaint of applicants is that their consultant doesn’t devote enough time to them. Before you hire a consultant, ask about usual turnaround times and how many clients get taken on at once. A full-time consultant may be juggling you with 20 other clients, all vying for the same deadline, so ask these questions before you commit.
Some potential clients think hiring a business school consultant means they don’t have to do any work. A good consultant is not an essay-writing service, won’t do the work for you and is not there to agree with whatever the client says.
This type of relationship won’t work for personality types that have difficulty accepting criticism, coaching and input from others. Only invest in a consultant if you’re ready for a true partnership – not if you want a ghostwriter.
Consultants can push you, point out errors and opportunities and help you submit your very best application. But they still need you on the team.
December 23, 2013
There are only a few weeks to go until many top MBA program’s Round 2 deadline, so we’re reposting this client case study for those who are struggling with the agonizing question: Is it worth putting together a last-minute application?
Vipul came to us with this very dilemma. He had originally planned to apply earlier, but he had to re-take the GMAT after a disappointing 660 on his first attempt. He improved his score significantly, and with a 700 GMAT score, 3.6 GPA and career progression on his resume, he felt ready to try for admission to UT McCombs School of Business, CMU Tepper School of Business and Michigan Ross School of Business.
In our first conversation with Vipul we gave him the honest feedback that three weeks to complete three entire MBA applications would be unlikely to result in the best outcome. Typically, we work with clients for several months honing essays and ensuring recommenders are engaged in the process.
Vipul was confident that the timing was right for him, and he had already done the necessary soul searching on his future career goals, school selection, and recommenders. Most importantly, Vipul was willing to re-apply the next year if necessary because he enjoyed his job and knew he could continue his career there.
We decided that the hourly service would be the best option to assist Vipul. With limited time to devote to his essays and recommendations, Vipul first contacted all of his recommenders and asked them if they were able to submit by his deadline.
After a quick brainstorming session to determine his essay topics, Vipul got to work on his essay drafts. We focused on the key content Vipul needed to make his case for submission and he was able to quickly turnaround his drafts of the essays. Three iterations of his essays later we felt good about his final product and he was ready to submit after only three weeks of work.
Vipul’s dedication paid off and he was admitted to McCombs.
Rushing to make a deadline isn’t always the right course of action, though. For example, our client Michael made the decision to postpone to the next round in order to strengthen his application. If you’re wondering which course of action is right for you, sign up for a free consultation today.
*Please note that no client details are ever shared in SBC Scoop or otherwise without complete sign off from client.
August 6, 2013
Lydia was confused about the various options available to her as she started researching for her MBA application. As an African-American applicant she realized that her profile was underrepresented in the MBA application pool, and …
Lydia was confused about the various options available to her as she started researching for her MBA application. As an African-American applicant she realized that her profile was underrepresented in the MBA application pool, and was both encouraged by her admissions chances and discouraged by the application process.
When she approached Stacy Blackman Consulting seeking advice, we suggested looking into several programs aimed directly at her. With her Stacy Blackman consultant Lydia researched Management Leadership for Tomorrow, The Robert Toigo Foundation, the Consortium and all of the diversity programs at her target schools (HBS, Stanford, Darden, Haas and Yale).
After discussion with her consultant, Lydia decided to apply through the Consortium for her applications to Darden, Haas and Yale while adding Cornell (HBS and Stanford are not Consortium member schools). This streamlined her application process and gave her the opportunity to apply to more schools, but also required her to demonstrate to the Consortium that she was involved in activities to promote their mission.
Luckily, along with her impressive career trajectory in technology and a strong undergraduate record in engineering, Lydia had also been a student leader in the African-American community on campus at Virginia Tech and remained involved as an alumna.
Lydia and her consultant put together a compelling application demonstrating Lydia’s continued involvement and support for her community along with her career success and ambitious goals. Lydia’s application to the Consortium and her MBA programs were highly successful, resulting in acceptances from Yale, Stanford, Haas and Cornell.
Considering your own application through the Consortium? Contact us to learn more about how to position yourself for application success.
July 9, 2013
When Ali started working with Stacy Blackman Consulting he had stellar undergraduate grades, an impressive GMAT score and consistently growing work experience at a prestigious investment bank. What Ali did not have was any significant …
When Ali started working with Stacy Blackman Consulting he had stellar undergraduate grades, an impressive GMAT score and consistently growing work experience at a prestigious investment bank. What Ali did not have was any significant extracurricular or community service experience since college. Though his consultant assured Ali that most investment bankers scarcely had time for extensive community service, she did believe it was worth his time to take on a leadership role that demonstrated his interest in helping others.
Ali and his consultant mined his background for relevant activities that would not seem abrupt if he became involved six months before his MBA applications. Other family members did have ties to several non-profit organizations, so Ali spoke with his father and sister about some of the work they had been involved in. After those discussions Ali decided to work on a fundraiser for an education non-profit his sister was passionate about. She was focused on helping girls in the Middle East obtain educational opportunities, and Ali felt passionate about the cause as well.
Together, they came up with an idea to have young professionals in New York sponsor a high school aged girl in a Middle Eastern country and mentor her in terms of possible career paths after her education. This idea helped Ali have significant involvement while leveraging his sister’s ties with the non-profit. Ali enlisted his friends and colleagues to recruit mentors, and launched the first year of the endeavor in early Spring before his applications.
In his MBA applications Ali was able to show that he raised a meaningful amount of money and recruited mentors for the program, which started its inaugural year with 6 mentor/mentee pairs. This activity, while low in time commitment for Ali, was high in impact and assisted him in his successful applications to Columbia, Duke, and HBS.
Contact us to learn more about how to round out your own MBA application story.
June 4, 2013
Anita was a college senior at Northwestern and was weighing her postgraduate options. She thought Harvard Business School’s 2+2 program was perfect for her, as she would get two years of real-world work experience before …
Anita was a college senior at Northwestern and was weighing her postgraduate options. She thought Harvard Business School’s 2+2 program was perfect for her, as she would get two years of real-world work experience before returning for a two year program. Anita worked with her Stacy Blackman consultant to make sure she presented herself in the best light, as she thought she might not look like the best fit for this relatively new program on paper.
What worried Anita the most was that she was actually a natural fit for an MBA program. With a strong academic resume, a good GMAT score and a soon-to-be-complete degree in economics, she would be a strong candidate for any traditional MBA program after gaining a few years of work experience. However, Anita was concerned that the HBS 2+2 program was focused on attracting non-traditional MBA students, such as science and mathematics majors, or students who would normally pursue other types of postgraduate degrees. Anita’s consultant directed her to look at some of the program’s recent admission statistics: while the current class was nearly two-thirds students with a STEM background, almost twenty percent came from more traditional economics and business backgrounds. The program’s website also specifically mentioned that students from all undergraduate majors were now encouraged to apply.
Anita knew that she would be competing with other students with great numbers as well, so she and her consultant chose to emphasize her leadership experiences. Anita enjoyed long-distance running, and in college had gathered a casual group that would work out on weekends. Anita had convinced them to raise money for charity by entering various events, and after several successful runs joined up as a local chapter of a national charity running organization. In addition, Anita and her consultant found a narrative through her background of “leading younger people” that ran from Anita’s time as a Girl Scout leader, through her Big Sister mentorship, to her Resident Advisor and Orientation Leader positions as a junior and senior. While they emphasized the “business” qualities of Anita’s charitable marathon group, including fundraising and organization, her other leadership experiences testified to her character as well.
By combining Anita’s leadership qualities with her more traditionally MBA-style background, and touching on how the HBS 2+2 program would help shape Anita’s future in the business world, she and her consultant felt confident in her application. Anita is working for a tech startup now and looking forward to the second half of her 2+2.
Are you applying to the HBS 2+2 program? We have experience positioning applicants like you for success ”“ contact us to discuss further.
May 7, 2013
Doug enlisted the help of his Stacy Blackman consultant when he started researching schools and realized very few successful MBA applicants had a similar legal background to his. Doug had attended a top law school …
Doug enlisted the help of his Stacy Blackman consultant when he started researching schools and realized very few successful MBA applicants had a similar legal background to his. Doug had attended a top law school immediately after graduation from a large state school. He was academically talented and had a strong GPA and great LSAT score. After law school he had worked at a large firm and became interested in mergers and acquisitions after working on several deals over the two years he practiced law. He decided to pursue an MBA to transition to the business side of the transactions, and was preparing for the GMAT when he started working with us.
Doug’s consultant took a close look at his undergrad transcript and advised Doug to take two or three quantitative classes to balance his political science major with pre-MBA prep. Doug found calculus, statistics and microeconomics classes online that he could balance with his demanding work schedule. The classes doubled as excellent preparation for the GMAT, and Doug was able to pull off a 710 in the first try.
With his academics in order, Doug and his consultant focused on the essays and recommendations. One concern about JDs, and anyone with advanced post-graduate degrees, is that the applicant is simply collecting credentials rather than focusing on accomplishment in the real world. In Doug’s case he had already done significant research and talked to successful M&A professionals both at large banks and in corporate finance positions at large companies. He determined that while a JD was extremely helpful to him, knowing the fundamentals of business and finance were crucial to accomplish his future goals. Doug and his consultant crafted a convincing narrative about his aspirations, and coached his recommenders to emphasize the utility of the MBA in Doug’s specific situation.
After all of his hard work, Doug was thrilled at acceptances from Columbia, Wharton and Duke.
Contact us to learn how your unique background can be an asset in the MBA application process.