Strategic Essay Reviews

Individual feedback
to help ensure your essays are as strong as possible.

You might leverage the same stories across your applications for multiple schools, but HOW you tell those stories will differ for each program.
Get feedback on your essays to make sure you’re on-point for your target program!
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We'll wear our "Ad-Com" hats
to review your essays!

    • “Do my essays match this school’s brand?”
    • “Are my stories compelling?”
    • “Are my examples ‘leadershippy’ enough?”
    • “Am I missing anything?”
Get your questions answered in a personal feedback session.
We’ll review your essays (and any short answers) to give you feedback on the stories you’ve chosen, how well they match the school’s “brand,” and help you identify any gaps that you might want to address while you still have the chance to!
In each session, we can review your essays and short answers for ONE program. We’ll provide you with video feedback and suggestions on how to make your essays as strong as possible.

What is the Process?

    1. AFTER completing a Sanity Check, you’ll receive a link to book and schedule your Strategic Essay Review(s) with either Carin or Maria.
    2. Instructions on where (and when) to send your materials to us will be included in your confirmation email.
    3. The day of your session, we’ll review your essays and record video feedback and suggestions for you.
    4. Within~12 hours of your scheduled session (usually sooner, but when we actually review your materials on a given day depends on a number of factors), you’ll receive a link to view your video feedback that you can watch (and re-watch) on your own schedule.

Benefits of a Video Review vs. a Phone Call


You don’t need to ask us to slow down or to repeat what we said and you don’t need to be frantically jotting notes- you can pause and replay as much as you want!


You don’t have to coordinate schedules/ deal with last-minute re-schedules, since you don’t need to be there.


The most useful feedback is honest feedback. It’s easier for us to be blunt if you’re not “live”.

What People Say

Maria has developed a unique blended learning approach, mixing interactive online exercises with videos, notes, and in person 'conversations' [via video recordings]...

...This allows her to deliver much better service than other consultants at a fraction of the price.

Re-applicant, Accepted to Columbia with Fellowship

Carin - A big thank you for taking the extra effort to go through my applications... your review was so valuable in finalizing my application and I appreciate every bit of your video review 🙂

...I am happy to inform you that I have been accepted into the HEC MBA programme and a lot of the credit goes to Applicantlab!

HEC Admit

...when it was time for her to [give feedback], she was able to do so quickly, using a video to let me know exactly what she thought and saving time. She is so efficient when giving me feedback on my resume, essay...

...If I were to apply to MBA again, I would choose Maria’s service even if it was three times the price. Thank you, Maria!

Stanford GSB & HBS Admit

There is also Sanity check and essay help which I highly recommend to sign up for as they are very much affordable and extremely valuable and I wish I took more advantage of them! The last-minute sanity check that I did, was just completely path changing as Carin saw stories in my essays that I thought are not important but were!

Received Interview Invites from Columbia, Wharton, and Sloan

The Team


Chicago Booth MBA, 2008
Northwestern, BA, 2003

Carin has multiple years of experience reviewing materials for MBA applicants. She joined the Lab in early 2018 and has been personally trained by Maria.

With 15 years of experience in marketing and client management roles at companies like Bain, McKinsey, and Mattersight (a SaaS analytics company based in Chicago), Carin is a strong storyteller and strategist with an eye for detail.


Harvard MBA, 2005
Princeton, BSE, 1998

​Despite being swamped with all other facets of building & running the Lab, our founder Maria is available for limited consultations.

​Starting as a volunteer with the admissions office at HBS, Maria has been giving admissions advice since 2003.

Strategic Essay Review (1 School)
with Carin:
Strategic Essay Review (1 School)
with Maria:
Booking links will be provided with your Sanity Check booking!


Who is this service for?

This is for people who have gone through all of the advice in the Lab, written their essays and now want an “expert opinion” on their essays before finalizing them and submitting their applications.

Those who want to book Strategic Essay Reviews will need to book a Sanity Check FIRST – we’ve found that making sure your “foundation” is strong is the the key element in putting together a strong application. Jumping into school-specific essays could be a waste of time if your general plan and vision still need work.

Wait, what? How does this work??

You book a session with us using the link provided to you with your Sanity Check booking. Your booking confirmation will contain instructions on where (and when) to send us your draft essays and any short answers that you’d like us to review along with any specific questions/concerns that you might have.
On the day of your review we’ll:
  • Open your documents and review any questions you’ve sent over
  • Jot notes on our thoughts – often directly on your document with Word’s “track changes” functionality.
  • Hit “Record” on our screen so you get a video where you both hear our feedback as we go through your materials just like an AdCom would and can see exactly what we’re looking at as we talk through/show you things.
  • Send you a link to access your video review as well as the marked-up version of your materials.

I don’t need/want a review of my resume/career vision. Can I just book an essay review?

No. In our experience we’ve found that if your “foundation” is weak, then its not a good use of time (ours or yours) to get into the details of your individual essays – especially when your career vision will carry over into nearly every school’s application.

We used to do Career Vision Checks, Resume Reviews, and Essay Reviews all in one session, but are now taking the approach to split them up into two parts in the hopes of helping people get squared away on the foundational elements earlier on in the process!

If you skipped the “Part 1” step and have already written your essays, it’s not the end of the world, but you’ll need to book a Sanity Check before you can book a Strategic Essay Review.

Is this a good option for getting *EDITS* on my essays?

No. Our focus in reviewing your essays is on the CONTENT.

Why is this not a good option for EDITS? For the same reason that you don’t need a dental surgeon for a simple tooth-cleaning. 🙂

Our quest is to make world-class admissions advice accessible at lower price points. If we (at ApplicantLab) did all of the editing ourselves, first of all, we wouldn’t have time to help as many people, and more importantly, it would end up being too cost-prohibitive for you.
By dividing the labor, we are able to keep your costs down.

If you’re set on the content front and want someone to help you with word choice/polishing/wordsmithing, then you’ll want to check out Admissionado’s Editing Services.

When will I receive my feedback?

You’ll usually receive your feedback video and notes within about 4 – 6 hours of your scheduled “time” but please allow up to 12 hours following your session “time” – we use “time slot” appointments to help ensure we don’t get overbooked for any given day, but WHEN we actually do your review on a given day depends on a number of factors. If it’s been more than 12 hours since your session “time,” then feel free to drop us a note, but otherwise, please be patient!

NOTE: since our feedback is high-level, you SHOULD NOT be scheduling sessions with us at the last minute – you’ll want to leave yourself time to further refine your essays after receiving our feedback!

What is the cancellation/refund policy?

Any sessions cancelled prior to 48 hrs before the scheduled time can be refunded (ie, if you’re booked for 3 pm on a Wednesday, you can cancel up to 3 pm on a Monday with no penalty); please email us and we’ll get you squared away!

Cancellations or reschedules requested within 48 of your scheduled time will not be refunded. Please understand that this is because your session could have been utilized by someone else – we had to institute this to place a “penalty” for poor planning!

Do I even need this?

Maybe not!

If you’ve gone through all of the advice in the Lab, including watching the videos, reading the advice, etc., then you may not need additional guidance here at all.

After all, the mission is for the advice in the Lab to be so comprehensive that you don’t feel the need to go elsewhere!

That having been said, running things past a trained admissions consultant could very well be a worthwhile investment, to ensure you’re on the right track with your content.

But! Here are some suggestions for ways to check your own work first:

First, go back to the “Pre-Writing” module. Show the pre-writing mini-questions to a friend while they read the essay. Ideally, a friend who does not work with you / work in your field. Why? Because they will be better able to spot jargon that is second-nature to you but utterly confusing to an AdCom.

Ask your friend:

  • Does this essay answer most / all of the pre-writing mini-questions?
  • Does this essay “sound” the way I talk? (please no Big Fancy Academic words: ugh)
  • Are my interpersonal skills highlighted?
  • Can you “picture” me in action (or is the wording way too generic / vague)?
  • Is there any jargon in here that someone with an HR / recruiting background might not understand?

Do I need to book my strategic essay review(s) with the same person that did my Sanity Check?

Ideally yes, as it’s easier for us to review your essays when we’re already familiar with your “story” but we understand that availability may prevent this on occasion.

Our PREFERENCE would be that you book any Strategic Essay Reviews with the person who did your Sanity Check, but you’ll have the option to book Essay Reviews with anyone who is available.

But... I want to TALK to someone, on the phone!

As with a LOT of what the Lab stands for, this is yet another way in which we differ from others in the field.

Phone calls, while “feeling” better because of the back-and-forth dialog aspect, are actually sub-optimal to video reviews in the following ways:

  • In a phone call, you need to take a million notes and you might need to ask us to repeat ourselves. With a video recording, you only need to rewind.
  • Since (most!) of us have been socialized to be “people pleasers”, someone speaking live to you on the phone might hold back on a critique, for fear of hurting your feelings. A video recording helps provide more “distance”, which (Maria has found) helps with candor.
  • MOST IMPORTANTLY: when the Admissions Officer reads your materials, YOU WILL NOT BE ON THE PHONE WITH THEM in that moment. So, if you’re getting feedback from someone on the phone, they might say: “Huh, this makes no sense”… well, on the phone you can jump in and say: “Ah, but this is what I mean” … but the Admissions Officer won’t have that background. This video review system most mimics the experience of a “stranger” looking at your materials, with no background, and with a critical eye. This is why it is, overall, the most impactful type of advice you can get.
If you have specific questions, please include them when you send over your resume and we’ll address them with our feedback.
This really does maximize your time — no wasted minutes on introductions / small talk!

Help! I need a review and there's no availability!

Sorry. We hate to say “we told you so” but well, we did. And an emergency on your part doesn’t constitute one on ours. While we try to work with as many people as we can, there are only so many hours in a day.

Keep checking back – cancellations do happen and occasionally we add availability as life schedules change!

Have a question we haven’t answered? Drop us a note at [email protected] or use the chat box down in the lower right of your browser.