A Brave Supplicant asked us to recommend a “good” admissions consultant awhile ago. This post isn’t exactly doing that, but it’s in that realm.
Obviously the most important factor in choosing an admissions consultant is feeling confident in their knowledge. You should be able to trust that they know what they’re talking about, that they understand the differences between the different bschools and that they know what those schools are looking for in their applicants. This goes without saying. They should also know the details of the admissions process at the major schools, e.g., which schools require three recommendations, which schools allow a recommendation from a peer, etc.* These are very basic and very standard elements to admissions consulting that your consultant should know cold.
Beyond that, how do you know if they’re going to add real value to your process?
According to our Columbia risk vs luck guy, YOU SHOULD FOCUS ON EXACTLY THAT: THE PROCESS.
Here’s what he said about it:
So what constitutes skill in a field where probability dominates? The key is to have a good process. In all probabilistic fields, the best performers dwell on process. This is true for great value investors, great poker players, or great sports team managers. It’s all process stuff. It’s hard to do psychologically, emotionally, organizationally, but that is how you get paid.
For our purposes, change that last bit to “that is how you get in.”
Developing your bschool strategy, defining your career goals, articulating all of that well through your essays… this comes down to PROCESS, my friend. You need to have a process to take the raggedy muggledymuck of your thoughts and hopes and dreams about bschool, and your accomplishments and failures and wins of the past, and corral and cajole all of that into something resembling an essay (and then another one, and then another one) and make all the pieces fit together into what is interesting and compelling and bschool relevant.
Truly, it’s all about process. If your wanna-be admissions consultant doesn’t have a PROCESS to speak of, then they’re likely all “wanna-be” and not much “consultant” (and even less likely “admissions”).
*For the record: Only HBS and Stanford require three letters of recommendation; some schools like Duke will accept a third one but they only require two. All your recommendations should be from people in a supervisory position over you, with the one exception that Stanford wants the third recommendation to be from a peer. They are the only school that wants this. For all other schools (including all three HBS recs) you should choose someone who’s been in a position to evaluate your work product, who’s given you feedback, who’s even offered you a correction along the way.
If your potential admissions consultant doesn’t know stuff like this, run. Run fast. This is bare-bones info that anyone in this field would have embedded into the fiber of their being.