The Value of MBA Admissions Consultants

“Do MBA admissions consultants open doors?” is the question posed in a recent article in Canada’s Globe and Mail, which features my thoughts on the topic. I think you can already guess my answer, which is: absolutely! After all, since launching Stacy Blackman Consulting in 2001, my company has helped thousands of MBA applicants reach their business school goals.

Aimee Steen‘s article gives a good overview of what the consulting process looks like, including the different services available—from comprehensive, to hourly, to editing only—depending on the particular applicant’s needs. As I point out, the consultancy process can take anywhere from several weeks to several years. Our comprehensive package typically takes 25 to 100 hours.

Hiring an MBA consultant is not a magic bullet, however. If you don’t have the test scores, undergrad GPA, work experience or compelling personal characteristics to gain a seat at Harvard, no amount of coaching from my team is going to change that fact. I can recommend you take a class to improve a skill, or suggest a way to deepen your community involvement to improve your extracurriculars, but the candidate needs to put in the grunt work.

Part of our job is managing expectations, and my consultants “get real” with applicants when it comes to school selection, encouraging a broader look within the top 15, rather than top 5, for example. Using a consultant is like getting advice before a job interview. Just because someone gets extra coaching doesn’t mean they aren’t qualified for the job.

Steen makes the point that applicants using consultants should be wary of pitfalls, such as when prospective students use the same consultant and apply to the same school. She also quotes the director of admissions at Harvard Business School, Dee Leopold, who notes that “Our role is to select the most interesting class. If everyone did the same thing, that would defeat the entire process.”

I can only speak for my firm, but I know this isn’t a problem for our clients. I’ve created a huge stockpile of client case studies to illustrate exactly how we approach each individual applicant’s strengths and potential problem areas. We aren’t in the market of creating carbon copy applicants; we’re drawing out the unique characteristics of the person we want to introduce to the admissions committee.

There may be some skepticism among a few admissions teams, but I can assure you that the vast majority view us as partners and work closely with us to keep us informed about their programs and admissions process so that we can direct the best students their way.

In fact, I’ve just returned from France, where I was a guest of HEC Paris for this very reason. They were introducing me to their school and their admissions process. I was extremely impressed by the school and their faculty, curriculum, facilities and career management process.  Interestingly, every Friday at HEC is career management day, where students work on skills that will help them secure their dream jobs.  The resources and support that they provide are similar to what we provide at SBC – the very type of support with which the school representatives in the article take issue.

In the end, it’s up to the individual to decide whether consulting services are the way to go. If you’d like to learn more about what it would be like to work with us, we would love the opportunity to get to know you! I invite you to get in touch for a free consultation to find out more about who we are and how we work to help clients achieve their most ambitious b-school dreams.




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