As I was left with zero admits in 2017, I was scared, nervous and pretty distraught. Insecurity is a funny thing – it totally destroys your self-confidence and makes your do things you would never do if your self-esteem were intact. I was also having a terrible time in my relationship, so all in all, I was a ball of depression. Impressed by their efforts in marketing themselves, I reached out to a big admission consulting firm. I spend thousands of hard-currency-converted-dollars and it was, to say the least, the most uninspiring experience in admission consulting. I was getting really varsity inputs on my essays, and there was no strategic push (I had signed up for only two schools). Also there was only one call involved and most of the stuff were on emails, which is pretty useful, but at same time leaves much to be desired for a real conversation. The thing with big consulting firms is that it can always be a hit or a miss. You might get an incredible consultant who really likes your story and wants to help you more strategically, or, like mine, your experience could be vanilla. This consultant was [i]very[/i] prompt, super nice and cordial, but when it came to the meat of their work – the protein just wasn’t there. Anyway, I was not super happy and was looking for a better experience. (Also, just FYI, I was dinged at the both the schools I used this consulting company for, despite getting interviews and admits in higher ranked schools without their help).
I was just randomly getting into calls with other consultants at the same time (hello! I was applying to 10 schools remember? I also did not have money to throw away, but I saved everything from the previous year to make sure I am financially capable of utilizing every opportunity I can possibly get). A few interesting, and a few downright obnoxious calls later, I found Maria. Maria is the founder of ApplicantLab and let me just go ahead and say it – Maria saved my 2016-all-dings-butt this year. At the risk of sounding like a promotion, I would just go on to list the things she did for me.
1. I first used the Career Vision module. If you have not seen it before, it gives you some ideas about whether your goal will stick. I realized my original goal was crap when I watched her video on super-common goals. For example, I was applying with a consulting goal and I have not had any formal consulting experience at all. For some reason, that did not seem strange to me (or my former consultant) at all last year 9 The career vision module will also [b]force you[/b] to explain your transition and push you to think about whether your goal logically stem from what you have been doing pre MBA or is it a far-fetched idea that your parents (and your neighbours) want you to do.
2. Once my career goal moved away from plain-vanilla consulting, I thought more about what I really enjoyed about my current work. My present job was at the confluence of education and tech and I was bootstrapping an EdTech project to scale our organizational impact. I had really enjoyed the work I did, but for some reason (well, I know the reason – it was peer pressure and preconceived notions of what business schools were supposed to be all about) I chose to ignore it. I rehashed my goal to joining an EdTech firm and I could write about my own expertise and long-term vision much more effortlessly than talking about leading a practice at a consulting firm without any experience in consulting (go figure…)
3. Once the foundation of our goal was set, I used the lab to figure out how to classify my stories according to several brand traits. ApplicantLab has many brand traits with explanations (both text and video for all you folks with different learning styles). The lab will force you to reflect and write stories from your past that would fit certain brand traits. This was incredible, because once I had 12-15 stories set up, the skeleton for almost all my essays, interviews and even short answer questions were pretty much set. DO NOT AVOID THIS STEP. A lot of folks write random stuff to move on to the essays. BAD IDEA. DO NOT DO IT. DO NOT. DON’T. STOP IT.
4. After figuring out my stories, I moved on to the essays. ApplicantLab has detailed explanations (and videos) of how to frame each essay and also which brand traits to focus for which essays. It was amazing because it is directly mapped (the aptly named section is called Mapping), to the stories I have created before so it takes the brainstorm part of writing essays out of the equation. Maria also hashes out extremely detailed explanations in her essay advice – from big picture stuff to even things like where to find what on the school website which, I guess, must have taken her hundreds or thousands of hours – well it did end up saving hundreds of hours of mine.
5. Lastly, in the interview module, she handles 15 most popular interview questions which are framed generically enough to overlap with almost the entire spectrum of business school interviews. Each section has a video from Maria where she goes on excruciating details about how to answer each question, how not to answer each question, and most importantly, how different answers make you sound/look. Brilliant stuff.
6. Also, I purchased a few additional hours for her to review my essays because I was insecure af, and needless to say they were amazing.
Could I be more resounding in narrating my experience with ApplicantLab? Probably not. But it is worth the praise it receives. Anyway, another point to note which was [i]bigly[/i] important to me is that Maria cannot function without humor. So every video she makes or paragraphs she writes she can’t help but throw in a joke which always makes me chuckle. In all the stress and depression, I have been in back in September, the laughs took the edge off.