We already laid out our case to Derrick Bolton of why the Stanford GSB should please soften its stance on “no admissions consultants.” But we’re never a ‘Snark who’s at a loss for words or suffers from scarcity of opinion on things, and there’s one more reason we want to add to the argument.
The deal is this:
Applying to bschool is stressful.
Applying to STANFORD is, like, really stressful.
We know that Stanford cares a lot about what we will call “the customer experience” – in other words, they care about their applicants. They really do. They do not do anything intentionally to cause stress in the process. When you call them up, they are friendly and kind. They do not rush you when you have an interaction with them. They answer all your questions as if they’ve never answered them before – even though they’ve probably answered those same questions ten times already today and it’s only 9:25 in the morning. (And even though the answers are clearly spelled out on their website.)
The Stanford admissions people recognize that, while for them, answering a question from an applicant is just a ho-hum trivial everyday activity, nothing they’re going to remember past the veggie wrap they’re going to eat at lunchtime, for you the Brave Supplicant, this is a momentous moment. For you there are nerves involved. For you it’s an interaction that you will make notes on, and remember, and perhaps even dwell upon for the rest of your day. For you it could seem like your whole future is riding on this one phone call.
Stanford knows this. They try to be gracious and understanding, and appreciate where you’re coming from when you contact them for help.
Why, then, when Stanford cares about the experience that applicants have with them, do they create a whole new dimension of anxiety for applicants around this “no admissions consultants” thing?
OK OK OK to be fair, they never come straight out and say, “No, you can’t (or shouldn’t) use an admissions consultant when you apply.” But the language on their website about what’s appropriate feedback or not sure does imply that that’s the case.
Other schools are more direct about it: They come right out and ask you in the application if you’ve used a consultant. HOWEVER, in the cases that we’ve seen, they’re asking for their own purposes, so that they can better understand the MBA admissions ecosystem and see which third-party players – admissions consultants, GMAT test prep companies, applicant forums – which are adding value and helping. It’s more of a market research question from the schools’ perspective.
For Stanford, they have these warnings and prohibitary language that tends to freak people out.
It’s like your parents telling you that you can’t have sex until you’re married. Yeah right. Like you’re not going to do it anyway and just feel guilty about it??? And try to hide it, and worry about what might happen if you get caught?
That’s the deal with Stanford warning people about admissions consultants. It just causes stress. It does NOT change behavior.
Like sex and teenagers, admissions consultants and applicants are simply part of life these days. This is ESPECIALLY true of Stanford. Do you really think that someone who’s serious about getting into the most exclusive, coveted, difficult-to-crack MBA program – who’s had advisors and coaches and guidance at every other stage of her life to build up the success portfolio of achievements that will actually give her a chance at Stanford – is NOT going to avail herself of some guidance and advice at this stage?
We totally agree, there are appropriate and inappropriate levels of “feedback” with an applicant, to Stanford or to any school (we covered that in our previous post and have harped on it continuously throughout the life of this blahg; it’s called “ethics” and we get it). It’s not like the warning on the Stanford site specifically precludes you from using a consultant:
Appropriate feedback occurs when others review your completed application — perhaps once or twice — and apprise you of omissions, errors, or inaccuracies that you later correct or address.
But it sure does imply that consultants are out of bounds. Consultants review stuff more than “once or twice.” They don’t write the essays for their clients (at least, any good consultant never would) but they certainly give input into tone, messaging, and content. These are just abstract ideas when written out like that. It may be hard for some to reconcile against the explicit warning that the GSB lays out. However we can assure you, at the end of OUR process at least, clients applying to Stanford are still presenting essays that contain only their own ideas and thoughts.
And they’re feeling MUCH more confident in their approach.
Until they read that warning and they go, “Oh crap.” And it adds to the stress, and makes them feel like they’ve done something wrong. Sometimes they even ask us, “What if my interviewer asks if I’ve used a consultant?” Because they’re so stressed about it.
If Stanford really cared about minimizing the stress of the process, they would not be ADDING TO IT in this way.
Maybe we’ve just got selective memory but we don’t recall ever seeing Harvard be so heavy-handed in its admonitions. Sure, HBS doesn’t like admissions consultants either, but they’ve dealt with reality and faced the facts. They’re not necessarily going to go out and buy condoms for their kids but at least they’re not laying a mental trip on them that will twist them into knots.
Stanford. We’ve seen you introduce more direct language on your site this year. Thank you for that! Now can you please look at this part, too? There’s gotta be a way for you to communicate this important message about ethics and appropriateness without doing a number on your BSers.
It’s 2015. Can we get real about this?