If you’re applying or reapplying to business school, you’ve likely considered working with an MBA admissions consultant. But you may be wondering what you can expect from their services, and if they are worth the cost.
Before exploring the benefits—and limitations—of working with an MBA application advisor, let’s get one thing out of the way right from the beginning: no one needs to work with a consultant.
Every year, candidates are accepted into competitive MBA programs, including schools like Harvard, Stanford, and Wharton, without professional help.
However, applying on your own is unlikely to maximize your chances of success. And with your future career prospects in the balance, many applicants want to do whatever it takes to develop a strong, competitive application. Hiring an MBA admissions consultant can be the first step toward achieving this goal.
What are the misconceptions about consultants?
While an admissions consultant can maximize your chance of acceptance, they can’t take someone with almost no chance of acceptance and get them into a top MBA program.
If an applicant has bad grades, bad test scores, poor quality work experience, and unrealistic career goals, a consultant will not be able to help them.
This is not to say that you have to be a “perfect” applicant. At Menlo Coaching, we have worked successfully with candidates who were unemployed or had low GPAs or GMATs, and even some with criminal convictions. But in every one of these cases, the applicant also had numerous positive factors to counterbalance the negative factors.
Similarly, consultants don’t have access to secret advice, even if they served on an admissions committee. Don’t expect to hear about “that one weird trick that admissions committees love!”
If a consultant pitches themself in this way, it should raise alarm bells. Buyer beware!
What do admissions consultants offer?
If your profile meets the baseline qualifications for top MBA programs, a good advisor can be the difference between acceptance and rejection.
A skilled MBA admissions advisor might turn an application with a 20% chance into one with a 50% chance, or one with a 40% chance into one with an 80% chance.
MBA advisors are able to increase chances in this way because they are specialists—experts in MBA admissions. Think about it this way: why do people hire business consultants? Or investment bankers? Or personal accountants? Shouldn’t any businessperson already know a little bit about strategy, negotiation, and accounting?
The reason people choose to enlist these kinds of professionals is because the job or task at hand is complicated and needs to be done right.
There’s no reason you couldn’t file your own taxes, but if you want to save all the time it would take to bring yourself up to date on the tax code—and if you want to save as much money as possible while avoiding an audit—you will see that hiring an accountant is a wise course of action.
The same holds for MBA consulting. You could find some of the information on your MBA applications online, for free. But it would take you hundreds of hours to find it all, and then to sort out the parts that are true from the parts that are mainly marketing spin.
And as an MBA applicant with a demanding job, you will be busy taking the GMAT and networking and brainstorming essay topics, all on top of your normal duties at home and in the office.
It would be a more efficient and more effective use of your limited time to rely on the expertise of an MBA advisor, rather than trying to recreate their knowledge through your own research.
Further, no matter how much research you conduct on MBA admissions, you’ll never be able to match the experience of an admissions consultant, especially a consultant who has been in the industry for many years.
For example, at Menlo Coaching we have seen thousands of applications and their outcomes. No matter how much an applicant searches on their own, they will never be able to recreate this experience.
What's the return on investment?
Applying for an MBA is a major time investment, and an MBA admissions consultant can help you free up for the important work of preparing your application. But the MBA is also a monetary investment, and despite the up-front cost of a consultant, many applicants come to realize that they will receive a better outcome by working with a consultant.
Consider why you are getting an MBA in the first place: the degree will significantly boost your career prospects. This is true not only in the jump from a pre-to-post MBA position but also throughout your career. Put simply, an MBA will help you get promoted faster.
And because going to a higher-ranked—and more competitive—school often gives you disproportionately more value than going to a lower ranked school, having an expert guide you through the admissions process will improve your chances of admission and later financial gain.
In a way, signing up for consulting services comes down to some basic calculations. Getting into a better MBA program can mean hundreds of thousands of dollars in compensation down the line, and in the short-term, a strong application increases your chances of earning a scholarship.
Compare these numbers with the average admissions consulting fee, and you will realize that the higher chance of admission thanks to a stronger application makes the initial investment well worth your while.
So what can you expect from working with an admissions consultant?
You can expect to save time during the application process, to be confident in your career goals and interviewing skills, and to improve your chances of admission (with a scholarship) to a top MBA program. You can expect a strong return on your investment!
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