Should You Hire An MBA Admissions Coach?
Maria |
April 27, 2023

In today’s episode, we’re exploring a topic that many MBA applicants have likely pondered: should you hire an MBA admissions coach?

Navigating the MBA application process can be daunting, and it’s no secret that admission to a top business school is highly competitive. So, it’s not surprising that some applicants turn to admissions consultants for guidance and support. But is it worth the investment?

Together, we’ll explore the benefits and drawbacks of working with an admissions coach, how to choose the right one, and whether or not it’s necessary for a successful MBA application. So, whether you’re considering hiring an admissions coach or simply curious about the process, this episode is for you. Let’s dive in!

Episode Transcript

[00:00:07.210] – John

Well, hello, everyone. This is John Byrne with poets and fonts with my co hosts Maria Wich Vila and Caroline Diarte Edwards. We are here for our weekly podcast. As you know it. It’s called business casual. We recently published our 7th annual list of the most favorably reviewed admission consultants for MBA candidates. You can have a look at it. We actually listed 37 different admission consultants on this, and I think it’s a good occasion to sit back and say, well, who should really hire an admissions consultant? Is it really worth it? What can you expect if you spend the money to get one? What are the likely outcomes? How do you get the most from it? And after all, we have two superb coaches here who have different approaches. No doubt in part because Maria created this sort of a do it yourself style of applicant help through a series of videos that help you navigate the journey. But she also does handholding the same way that Caroline and her staff at Fortuna does. So why don’t we just ask a question? Who should benefit most from hiring an MBA admissions consultant. Caroline?

[00:01:27.120] – Caroline

I think anyone can benefit. So if you’ve got a common profile so if you are in one of the overrepresented pools, applying to business school. So, for example, if you’re a management consultant or you’re an engineer or perhaps an investment banker, so one of those pools where there are a lot of candidates applying with that pool, you’re going to face stiff competition then it can be very helpful because a coach can help you figure out what differentiates you. And of course, coaches have often worked with many clients like you before, and so they understand how other candidates may be presenting themselves and therefore what stands out. It may be difficult for you to understand as an individual, what are your particular strengths compared to other similar candidates in the pool. And so I think often the benefit of working with a coach is that broader perspective. And of course, at Fortuna, most of our coaches have worked in admissions committees and so have that experience of reading for the schools and have that depth of knowledge of the pools. So that context can be very useful for candidates who are looking to differentiate themselves in a very competitive environment.

[00:02:41.830] – Caroline

And then also candidates who perhaps have an unusual profile. We often work with candidates who are concerned that they perhaps have an A typical profile and they’re applying to business school, and they’re looking to communicate their relevance to the business school classroom and their career goals and show clearly. To the school, why they want to go to business school, how they’re going to leverage that experience and how they’re going to make the most of that and how they’re going to build their career going forward. And so I think there’s a lot of different scenarios where having a coach can be useful. There are different reasons why people come to us sometimes people come to us because they’re concerned about a particular element of their profile. So it may be that they’re concerned about some element of their undergraduate track record, or perhaps they haven’t got a brilliant GMAT score GRE, they’re not a great test taker, or perhaps they got laid off and they’re concerned about how that will look and how they best communicate that to business school. So that’s also quite a common scenario that a candidate may have some concern about some element of their profile and are not sure how to best present that and put their best foot forward.

[00:03:57.900] – Caroline

And when I was director of admissions at In Seattle, would sometimes see candidates who obviously had that concern, but kind of hoped that we wouldn’t notice and there would be a gap in their resume and they would sort of skate over it and clearly hoping that we wouldn’t notice and sort of would sweep it under their car, under the carpet, so to speak, in their application. And of course, the file reader will notice. And so it can be a good investment to get some good advice on how to address things, how to put your best foot forward. There may be things that you don’t need to address. Right? So just figuring out what to communicate and how to best communicate, I think that is often money well invested for candidates who are then going to go on, of course, to spend often hundreds of thousands of dollars on their MBA experience. And so even though it may seem like a big investment upfront in the coaching support, at the end of the day, it’s not a big part of the overall expenditure in the grand scheme of things for going to business school.

[00:05:10.020] – John

I’ve always kind of thought that if you are already in an MBA environment, and primarily here, I’m thinking you’re an analyst at a consulting firm and you’re surrounded by other MBAs, newly minted and otherwise, or you’re at an investment bank or a company that directly employs and makes up a key part of the MBA employment game, you can often just turn to them and get help for your application and advice for free. On the other hand, there are so many of those applicants in the pool that little things can tip them one way or the other. Maria, do you agree?

[00:05:48.000] – Maria

I completely agree. I think, as Caroline said, if you’re from an overrepresented group, it becomes that much more difficult to stand out in a way, because your resume is going to look almost identical to everyone else’s resume.

[00:05:59.240] – Caroline


[00:05:59.490] – Maria

Everyone who’s worked on an IPO as an analyst at an investment bank has a very similar bullet point. The size of the IPO might be different, the company might be different, but at the end of the day, the things that you’ve done are probably pretty similar to what everyone else has done. And the other thing I would say this goes not only for people who are working in environments that are full of MBAs, but just even if you have a friend or if you stumble upon someone online who happens to have an MBA who has put out a Shingle as an admissions consultant. I would just be very careful that simply because somebody attended a top business school does not mean that they necessarily know how to get into a top business school. They might have gotten in despite a terrible application. Right. There are many cases where I think people just truly have incredible accomplishments and the admissions reader is able to see through what is otherwise a terrible application to identify those diamonds in the rough and let them in anyway. And so somebody, if they are relatively inexperienced, they are not going to know if they got in because their application was stellar or because or despite the application.

[00:07:02.790] – Maria

So I would caution anyone, whether it’s someone you know or whether it’s someone who is for hire and they’re saying, oh, I’m only $20 an hour versus $400. Well, sometimes you get what you pay for. So I would be cautious of that.

[00:07:17.630] – John

And let’s face it, if you’re one of the 6% who got into Stanford, you don’t really know what separated you from the 94% who didn’t. You just don’t. There’s no way to know because you don’t know who you were compared against. You don’t know at that given moment what the mood of the admissions director of the committee was, how many previous people were already admitted who have similar qualifications as you do or are in the same profession. There are just so many unknowable things that it’s impossible for an MBA who is at Harvard or Stanford or Wharton or any school to know exactly why they were picked out of a pool where so many were denied. It’s just a reality. Maria, do you have advice in terms of how do you select an admissions consultant? All the firms do free consultations and there are different ways to go at this. And one way is your way where you’ve created an incredible platform of amazing videos, where it is cheaper to do that than have your handheld throughout the entire process by a consultant. But how do you make that choice and how do you search for one?

[00:08:32.070] – Maria

I think, as with all things in this process, self awareness is really key. So if you are someone who is self disciplined and has pretty good critical thinking skills and is a self starter, then a more DIY option like Applicant Lab might be a good choice. However, if you know that you respond better to having another person to speak with in real time and to follow up with you and to be available on the phone on a fairly regular.

[00:08:59.810] – John

Basis and to nudge you.

[00:09:02.830] – Maria

Exactly. To nudge you and to make sure, hey, just a reminder that the deadlines are coming up I mean, there can be like automated. You can always set up your own reminders in your own calendar system to remind you of certain deadlines and things, milestones that you should be reaching in your application process. But I think that just some people it’s the same thing. It’s very similar. One of the analogies I’ve been using is it’s similar to people who use a workout app versus someone who hires a personal trainer. Right. Some people can just get the workout app. I have the peloton app. It’s, I think $13 a month. I absolutely love it and it works for me. But other people respond much better to having a personal trainer that meets with them one on one, that motivates them and gets to know them at a very in depth level. So I really think that you just need to know yourself and know what you will respond to best and what your priorities are.

[00:09:56.050] – John

Well, the other point though is in many cases good candidates, solid candidates for a highly selected business school are incredibly busy. They’re typically working 50, 60, even more hours a week at a consulting firm or a bank. They can be traveling a lot, they got a lot going on in their social life. They’re young. So having someone to just remind you and push you along and keep you on a schedule probably is also very helpful, I would think.

[00:10:26.280] – Maria

Now I would just say to that though, that also the admissions consultants might not be available at the same time.

[00:10:32.350] – John

That you’re available oh, that’s true.

[00:10:34.560] – Maria

Versus a tool like mine, which is if you get off of that client site at 11:30 p.m. At night and you just want to try to do a little work on your application, an online tool that’s available 24/7 might also be a good option for you. Or a hybrid where you use a combination of tools and coaches at your disposal.

[00:10:54.220] – John

True. Now, what if you want to hire a full time consultant? There are people who work by the hour, there are people who work by the package. Most people work by package where it’s souped to nuts and you buy a three school package and they help you with three applications. How do you decide who to hire? I mean, it’s a wilderness out there. We have over 560 MBA admission consultants in our directory and I’m sure we don’t have all of them in the world. If I had to guess how many we didn’t have, maybe there’s another hundred out there who haven’t gone on our directory. That’s a lot of people for a relatively small pool of candidates. And I wonder, how do you figure out which fish to fry?

[00:11:41.650] – Caroline

Caroline well, I think those reviews that you publish are very useful and as you mentioned in your article, John, that you published yesterday, you do vet those reviews, right? So they are genuine time doing it. Yes. And so I think those are very useful to prospective candidates. I think that’s a great source of information for people who are looking for coaches. And then I would say scan the market. Look at I would encourage people to look at who is well established, who has good credentials. Who seems to have substantial experience in this business and then speak to different coaches and different firms and see who seems to be a good fit. Right. As you mentioned, all of the firms offer free consultations. That’s a great opportunity to speak with different coaches and get some probably useful free advice along the way. You can do a lot of research online and check out the websites of the firms and the BIOS of the coaches and see what experience they’ve got and read the reviews. But I think it’s also important to speak with someone and get a sense for your personal fit with an individual, because that chemistry is important.

[00:13:07.580] – Caroline

You’ll often be working with a coach over several months. I would say on average, we probably work with clients over it varies a lot, but probably on average, something like three or four months. And we get to know each other very well during that time. And it’s a very close relationship and the trust that you build up is very important. And so you want to make sure that you feel comfortable in opening up to that person and that their style of working suits you. And as Maria said, make sure that their availability works for you, that their communication style will work for you. If they’re in a different time zone, is that going to work for when you want them to be available? So definitely think about how you want the process to flow. Different people have different communication preferences and different styles of working, and discuss that openly with your prospective coach before you make a commitment.

[00:14:06.740] – John

Maria, if you were looking for a coach, what are the three most important questions to ask?

[00:14:11.410] – Maria

Can I ask the same question three times? Is that a lack of because oftentimes.

[00:14:16.830] – John

Journalists do that because they don’t get the answer they want the first time.

[00:14:22.210] – Maria

Look, I think as Caroline alluded to, I think experience there is no substitute for experience. I think after I certainly get better and better at this with every year that I do it. I think after you’ve spent after the first ten years or so, I think you start to develop a really keen sense for pattern matching, and you start to really start to develop that intuition for, okay, I’ve worked with people like you before, or I’ve seen people like you apply in the past, and here are the mistakes that I think they made, or here’s what I wish they would have done differently or even like. Recently, I was working with a young woman from Southeast Asia who was applying to schools that I thought were a bit too safe. And I said, look, why don’t you? I’ve seen people like you get into HBS before. Just I can’t guarantee you anything, obviously, but just throw in an application and just see what happens. And thankfully she got accepted. And I don’t do that very often. As I said, most people dramatically overestimate, but every while I encounter someone who underestimates their competitiveness. So anyway, I think working with someone who has a lot of experience just matters so much.

[00:15:29.050] – Maria

I also think that I do think that simply attending a top business school by itself is not sufficient. But I do think that it helps tremendously in terms of giving you that perspective. I mean, just having lived through that business school experience and having friends who have lived through it and knowing even all these years later, I look at what my friends and acquaintances and contacts have done with their careers and how they’ve used the MBA. And so if we’re sitting together and we’re working on okay, here’s how I think you should talk about your career plan for the MBA. Those of us who have gone through an MBA have a wealth of just first hand knowledge of what do those career paths actually look like and how hard is it to get that hedge fund job, hey, maybe you’re not going to get it, things of that nature. So I would say that those are my two things, but I multiply each one by one and a half. Yeah, that’s my three questions.

[00:16:24.570] – John

I didn’t really think of experience, although that’s so obvious because when I went to a cataract surgeon and they told me that they’ve done twelve before I ran out of the office.

[00:16:38.430] – Maria

Good thing you could while you could still see the exit.

[00:16:40.920] – John

Yes. So obviously if you’ve done hundreds of these or dozens or whatever over a number of years, you should be much better at it than someone who’s relatively new and has only been at this for a few years. That makes sense to me. Caroline, what are other questions I would be applicants should ask an admissions consultant that they are considering hiring.

[00:17:04.170] – Caroline

Yeah. So that they’re experienced. You may want to look at their credentials. You might want to ask about their success right. With different profiles or different schools. You might want to ask about their workload, how many clients they work with per round. Because you don’t want to be one of dozens and dozens of clients that they’re juggling. And then they can’t sort of remember who it was who did the exchange program to Costa Rica, and they get everything confused. Unfortunately, that does happen at some firms where people juggling very large workloads. So I would keep that in mind, and then otherwise I think that personal connection is important to establish. I would encourage you to speak to the coach that you’re considering working with and get a sense for what it would be like to work with them. Read the reviews about their former clients have written about them.

[00:18:07.450] – John

And I would think that if I have a background in, let’s say, private equity and I was able to get that job despite coming from a second tier undergraduate institution, I might ask the consultant, hey, have you had candidates like me and how did you help them and what were the outcomes? I think that that would be an obvious question. And Caroline, I wonder, what’s the most awkward question you’ve been asked during a free consultation by a would be client?

[00:18:41.190] – Caroline

Well, sometimes people ask if they’ll get a refund if they don’t get in. Unfortunately, we can’t guarantee outcomes.

[00:18:50.880] – Maria


[00:18:51.200] – Caroline

We do not control the process.

[00:18:53.370] – John

No, exactly.

[00:18:55.400] – Caroline

So even with the best will in the world, and even if we have great confidence in our clients and their chances, we do also do our best to be upfront with people about their chances when they come to us for those free consultations. We have no interest in pulling the wool over people’s eyes and giving them any false confidence about their chance of getting into the top schools if we don’t believe in it, because that’s setting them up for failure. And we care a lot about our reputation, so we’re very upfront with people about how we think they will fare in the process. But even if we think they’ve got a great chance, as you said, John, nobody knows who else is applying. At the same time, nobody knows what the pool will look like. Even if we have insights into how the poll looked last year or historically, it’s a fresh poll that’s coming through, and there is an element of chance for absolutely every candidate. And so for sure, we cannot offer any guarantees.

[00:20:04.530] – Maria

When I get asked a similar question. To continue the analogy of the personal training app or hiring a trainer, let’s say you decide that you want to run a Five K race, and you’re like, I’m going to get in shape for this race. And you either do an online app that’s couched to Five K that teaches you, or you hire someone to be your running coach. And you say to that, Coach, can you guarantee that I’m going to win this race? No one can guarantee that because you don’t know if it’s going to be raining that day or if it’s going to be 120 degrees. You don’t know who else is going to be in the race. Maybe all of these previous marathon winners and Olympic athletes have all decided to enter the race at the same time as you. But the one thing that we can all guarantee you is that you will do better if you prepare with actual professional help than you would have done otherwise. And I think that’s the one guarantee I think any one of us in this field who has a depth of experience can absolutely offer.

[00:20:57.860] – John

Yeah, that’s a good analogy. It makes total sense to me how much can you expect to pay? What does it cost to hire someone at Fortune?

[00:21:06.730] – Caroline

Well, it depends what you want to sign up for. I would say I think about two thirds of our clients sign up for the all inclusive packages that you mentioned, John, as you said, the soup to nuts. And it also depends on who you work with. So, as you’d highlighted Emma, who is top of your ranking? So, for example, to work with Emma or to work with one of our other senior coaches for three schools, which is a common choice, it’s about $10,000.10 and a half, $1,000. Often clients will start working with us on one or two schools and then decide if they want to add on more schools later on. Sometimes people will start working with us on an hourly basis to give it a try and then decide if they want to upgrade to a full school package. We try to be very flexible. We don’t penalize people for starting on a smaller package and then upgrading later. It’s very flexible.

[00:22:02.830] – John

And what do you get for paying for a full package? What are the kinds of advice, what are the kinds of areas that you help someone with?

[00:22:12.170] – Caroline

Well, so it is designed to cover everything that you need to cover from start to finish. And so that will depend somewhat according to which school you’re applying to. But we always start with a strategy development process, so that includes a deep dive into your background, so everything that might possibly be relevant to your business school application. So all of your academic experience, your professional experience, all of your extracurriculars, your career goals, your values, your dreams, everything that could possibly be relevant so that we can start to figure out what may be the strengths that you would want to showcase in your application and what may be the interesting stories that you have to tell and also what may be the weaknesses that the school might be concerned about. And then we start to think about how could you be proactive in mitigating those and then also part of that strategy development process. We’ll look at your recommender strategy and who are your options for your recommendations and how can you effectively mobilize your recommenders. And then there’s an iterative process of developing the various elements of the application. And so, for example, we’ll brainstorm with you on the essays, and it’s always up to the client to do the writing right?

[00:23:42.310] – Caroline

We are not a firm that will do writing for you, but we definitely give you feedback and help you along the way and make sure that you get to the point where you’ve really put your best foot forward in the process. And then, as I said, different schools have different requirements. So some schools have video elements to the application, and so we will help you prepare for those. We have a resume doctor on the team who will work with you on refining your resume. We will spend quite a bit of time on reviewing the data form, the application form itself, because you’d be surprised at how many of those forms I read as an admissions director where people have made silly mistakes, putting today’s date as their date of birth or something ridiculous. And then of course, interview prep is very important, right? I mean, interviewing is a skill. It’s something you can practice, you can get better at it. And so putting you through your paces for the vast majority of candidates is a very useful preparation. And different schools have different formats for the interviews, as we’ve discussed on the podcast before. So we will brief you on what to expect and help you prepare for that.

[00:24:58.430] – Caroline

And then if at the end of the day you get, for example, say you get waitlisted at school, then we will advise you on what you can do to maximize your chance of getting off the waitlist and what you should do and what you should not do. Right. There are things that you should not do to annoy the admissions office. It’s designed to sort of accompany you through the entire process and hopefully get you to the point of getting into your dream score.

[00:25:29.220] – John

And then if you are lucky enough to get multiple acceptances, you will advise on how to make the decision, right?

[00:25:37.840] – Caroline

Yes. And sometimes people in a situation where they have an offer of a scholarship from one school but not from another school, and then how do they make that decision? And so, yes, there’s offered that sort of decision management at the end and how do they make those trade offs for sure.

[00:25:57.490] – John

Maria, you have something to add on this?

[00:26:01.250] – Maria

No, I think Caroline pretty much covered the soup to nuts aspect of it. And in the lab, I’ve got lessons for all of those things as well. So however you want to get your advice, there’s an option for you.

[00:26:14.950] – John

And I’m imagining too, that let’s face it, when you’re working that closely with someone over something that is that important to them, you become more than a coach, you become a cheerleader, you become a mentor, you even become a shrink at times. Is that true, Maria?

[00:26:35.230] – Maria

Yeah, absolutely. And I think one sometimes a stereotype that people have of Applicant Lab that you never like, I’m manning the support inbox pretty much every day. So it’s not like you just sign up and then you never talk to a real person.

[00:26:48.450] – John

We know how obsessive and intense you are.

[00:26:52.630] – Maria

I’m going to take that as a compliment. I’m going to interpret that in a positive way. Thank you very much. But yeah, no, absolutely. Look, sometimes people we could do several podcast episodes just devoted to some of the sometimes people I think get super nervous about, let’s say off the top of my head, an interview went really badly because she sneezed at the moment when I was talking about that. People read so much into the interview sometimes, and sometimes they’re right. Sometimes the interview did go really badly and they’re like, should I email 100 people at the school to tell them how? And I’m like, no, don’t do that. Right. Or sometimes the interview actually didn’t go that badly and they think it did, but it really didn’t. And so it’s my job to be like, look, you did your best and I don’t think it’s that big of a deal, but let’s keep moving. Or sometimes people get really obsessed with rankings as we talk about we talk about rankings all the time here. And I’ll say to them, look, you can achieve amazing goals from all sorts of good schools. I’m not just saying that as fluff to make you feel better.

[00:27:56.310] – Maria

I legitimately mean it. Let’s look at the career reports. Let’s look at the employers who come to campus. You’re going to be fine. This is not a make or break, a make or break thing. So I do try to provide that sort of support and also that tough love and anything in between whenever needed.

[00:28:13.710] – John

Yes, I wonder how often assignments break. And this is what I mean. You sign up with a particular consultant and you’re into the process for a few weeks and you just realize the fit isn’t there, the chemistry is not right. Does that happen? In what percentage of cases does that happen?

[00:28:34.690] – Caroline

Caroline it is very rare because we do our best to make sure that there is a good fit up front, but occasionally it might happen and then we will work with the client to figure out a good solution for them. And it does occasionally happen that we’ll match them with a different coach. So we want it to be a successful and positive experience for them. And also I would say that we’re trying to make it a positive experience, not just in terms of the outcome of them getting into business school, but hopefully it’s also a useful learning journey and a useful process of reflection for them. And what we often hear from clients when they get to business school is that they feel that all of that coaching and that reflection that they went through in the admissions process has helped them to clarify their goals and figure out what is it that they really want to get out of the MBA when they’re there. And they are much more focused in using their time and they feel more confident about choosing their electives and figuring out which companies to apply to because of the coaching that they went through and that sort of reflective process that we went through with them.

[00:29:48.480] – Caroline

So hopefully there are multiple benefits to it and therefore the relationship is very important and that’s something that we do care deeply about. So we will do our best to make sure that it is positive experience, not just. In terms of the final outcome, but the experience and the process along the way.

[00:30:09.830] – John

Is there any proof that if you employ an admissions consultant, you may be more likely to get scholarship aid?

[00:30:15.870] – Caroline

Well, I don’t know if there are any studies that show it’s difficult to control for, but I mean, certainly we do see our clients getting generous sponsorship and scholarship support. So I would speculate that because they’re well prepared candidates and they are submitting strong applications, then they are in a better position to benefit from financial aid.

[00:30:43.390] – John

Obviously, that well more than offsets the cost of the fees. Although we just did a story on one MBA admissions coach who is now charging $20,000 for a three school package, which a pretty hefty sum that’s almost double what Emma Bond you mentioned earlier would get. Is $20,000 too much for an admission coach for three schools?

[00:31:11.830] – Caroline

Well, I don’t know. It’s a lot of money.

[00:31:16.940] – John

You’re on the spot, aren’t?

[00:31:20.390] – Caroline

Well, look, I guess she has a lot of people who want to work with her, and it’s a case of supply and demand, right? So if she has enough people who want to work with her and who are willing to pay that, then that’s the law of the market. Right?

[00:31:37.580] – John

Indeed. Said like a true MBA. Now, Maria, your option, the bargain option, is a lot cheaper, but as you point out, you have to have self discipline and do it. How much does your service cost?

[00:31:55.010] – Maria

So I have used the average hourly rate of other admissions results of my caliber as the benchmark for what to charge for all of Applicant Lab. So as of right now, the fee is 349. And that gives you one year access to all of my lessons and all of my interactive exercises. That includes the interview, the resume, the essays, the recommendation, all of that stuff. And then there’s also the ability you can work with people. You mentioned before that sometimes we become quasi therapists, but we also become friends sometimes with our clients. And in fact, I have many former clients who went through the Applicant Lab process, went to business school and now help out. They’ve been trained by me. They know the system, they know my advice, and so they also can help as well. And the one thing we do say, though, is that you have to go through the lab lessons first before you contact us because we charge less, but with the understanding that it’s a team effort and that the client has done a lot of heavy lifting already. Right. If you send us a resume that has a huge summary of qualifications at the top, that takes up half the page.

[00:32:59.590] – Maria

I know you haven’t read my advice, and so then we actually are like, you need to reschedule this session because we’re not going to waste our time. So it’s a different model. But like I said, it’s similar to personal training. Or online tax. You can hire an accountant to do your complicated taxes for you, or you can use software to help you. I mean, there’s something for everyone. And actually, several people have contacted me to say that they’ve used Applicant Lab in conjunction with a high touch concierge consultant. Maybe they do the concierge consultant for a few hours and then use the lab to supplement that. Or they might do a three school package with a consultant and then apply to schools four through seven with I mean, there’s all kinds of different ways to do it.

[00:33:43.100] – John

Yeah, that’s really true. So, last words on this, and I’m going to assume that Maria, you got into Harvard, and Caroline, you got into INSEAD without the help of an admissions consultant. If you were doing it all over again, would you hire a coach?

[00:34:04.810] – Caroline

Caroline yeah, I didn’t even know that such a thing existed when I applied back in 2002, which is kind of embarrassing, but I don’t think that there was much it was a long time ago also, when I applied, there wasn’t the sort of overwhelming amount of information online that is out there now. And I think that that adds more stress to candidates because there’s so much more to navigate through now than there was when I applied. It’s a blessing and a curse, the Internet, right? I mean, if you know what you’re looking for and you know how to find it, it can be great. But if you’re coming to the world of MBA admissions for the first time, it can be very difficult to know what are the good sources of information and what do you need to know, what don’t you need to know, and how do you navigate through all of that overwhelming deluge of information out there. And that’s something that I think a coach or platform like Applicant Lab can help with making sure that you get the right information and you’re not wasting your time. And as you said, John, often MBA candidates have very demanding day jobs and they just don’t have the time to be barking up the wrong tree.

[00:35:32.610] – Caroline

And they want to be very efficient in how they use their time when they are doing their research and when they’re working on their application. So in today’s world, yeah, I would definitely hire a coach. I think that there’s a lot of value to gain. And looking back, of course, I can see all of the mistakes that I made in my own application and thank God they let me in anyway. I was probably one of those diamonds, maybe not even a diamond, but something in the rough, as Maria says.

[00:36:08.310] – John

Maria, would you hire a coach if you had to do it over again?

[00:36:11.670] – Maria

If I were applying now, I think I would, because as Caroline was saying, the applicant pool has become infinitely more sophisticated and more savvy with each year that goes by. And so I was also applying in 2002, and there was the Business Week message boards, for example, that’s someone I know, someone that I’ve heard of, may have been working at Business Week at the time, but I mean, really, it was like one message board pretty much, and that was kind of it. And so we didn’t know what we didn’t know. I also agree that I look back sometimes on some of the stuff I submitted and I cringe, right? So when I say something like, just because somebody got into business school doesn’t automatically make them it, I’m speaking about myself. My own essays have some pretty bad stuff in them that I wish I could redo. I think my one parting thought would be I think the reason why the services that people like Fortuna and Caroline and that I and all the others, the reason why we provide, why there’s so much demand for it, and why we do genuinely provide value is that applying to business school is an exercise unlike any other you’ve ever done.

[00:37:24.930] – Maria

It’s not like applying to college. They are not looking for the same things that college admissions officers are looking for. It’s not like applying for a job. They are not interested in your ability to do a job tomorrow the way a hiring manager is. They are more interested in looking at your broader leadership potential over the next 20 years, 30 years, and hoping that you will become an alumnus or an alumna that will go out and make the school proud, et cetera, et cetera. So because it’s such a unique marketing exercise, just because someone has been successful in, say, the college admissions process or they’ve been successful in getting a highly competitive job, it’s not the same process. And that’s why I think people are always when you read the reviews online, when people express really heartfelt and genuine gratitude to their admissions consultants, it’s because of this. It’s because we unlock for them. Here’s how it’s different from anything you’ve ever done before, and we’re going to guide you on what to do and what not to do to maximize your chances of getting in.

[00:38:22.610] – John

Great point. Okay, for all of you out there who have an interest in hiring a consultant, do look over our list. Not necessarily to pick someone from the list, but to get an idea who’s out there. There are many different firms, many different consultants, many different styles. We have a directory where you could say, hey, I want to have a consultant who used to work at McKinsey or Goldman Sachs or Microsoft, or I want a consultant with ten plus years, or I want a consultant who’s going to guide me into London Business School in particular, or Harvard or Stanford. You can get a wealth of knowledge out of the directory and talk to three. Ask the questions that both Maria and Caroline suggested that you ask before you make your choice, and know that you’re going to have your hand held, you’re going to be nudged at the right time. And there’s no doubt in my mind that you’re going to submit a better application and present yourself in a more professional way if you do. All right, Caroline and Maria, thanks so much for your insights and help. This is John Byrne with Poets and Quants. You’ve been listening to Business Casual.

Should You Hire An MBA Admissions Coach?
Maria |
April 27, 2023


New around here? I’m an HBS graduate and a proud member (and former Board Member) of AIGAC. I considered opening a high-end boutique admissions consulting firm, but I wanted to make high-quality admissions advice accessible to all, so I “scaled myself” by creating ApplicantLab. ApplicantLab provides the SAME advice as high-end consultants at a much more affordable price. Read our rave reviews on GMATClub, and check out our free trial (no credit card required) today!