We should probably do one of these posts every single year as a public service measure — admittedly a very self serving one, but one we feel is IMPORTANT.
Every year starting in late October, we begin getting inquiries from applicants who have found out their Round 1 apps won’t be moving forward. How can we get inquiries that early? It’s because many schools issue interviews quite soon after their Round 1 deadlines. Those begin to hit in early September, and then about a month later, schools like Harvard will be deciding who they want to meet for the interview, and by definition that means who they do not want to meet. They therefore “release” those applicants they won’t be moving forward with. So, if you apply to a school like Harvard or Wharton or Booth in Round 1, then by the time the first of November rolls around, you’ll pretty much know your status: You’ll either be sitting pretty with an interview in progress, or you’ll be washed up on the beach, looking around and wondering what happened*.
When BSers reach out to us at that time for a Post Mortem rejected app review, it’s really discouraging to read through the app and see the mistakes made when those mistakes could have been avoided. We call those “unforced errors” and they are common. However what’s most discouraging is when we read through and see mistakes that the applicant was advised to make from some prior admissions consultant that they worked with.
So, while we cannot prevent people from making mistakes nor can we hope to fix the MBA admissions consulting industry so that there are only well-qualified people charging you folks for advice, what we can do is issue warnings to all of you now who are shopping for a consultant to help you with those all-important Round 1 applications.
We did this a few years ago when we saw some truly egregious advice being tossed about by so-called consultants, and we’ll do a new edition today (that first one is still worth reading though).
As a starting point, when you’re speaking with an admissions consultant, one simple thing to watch for is:
How well versed are they in the policies and requirements of the schools you’re interested in applying to?
We remain gobsmacked by so-called “top” admissions consultants who do not know, for example, Tuck will interview anyone who wants to. If you’re able to get your butt up to Hanover, then you can go through the admissions interview there. It’s not a by-invitation interview process; they will interview everybody. If you decide not to travel to campus in advance of applying, then if they like you then they will invite you to interview remotely, usually done via Skype. Anyone who’s admitted has been interviewed, and anyone who applies has the option to interview. It’s similar to how it works at Kellogg too.
If your admissions consultant is unaware of this then that’s a major red flag. (Unfortunately we encountered an actual example of this quite recently, where a leading consultant interviewed an admissions director and displayed their ignorance of the school’s policies in the interview.)
Of course, this means that YOU must know the schools’ policies in order to know if the consultant knows them…. which sorta defeats the purpose of having a consultant!! Gah, this stuff is difficult to navigate!!!
It comes down to that whole caveat emptor thing. Yes you need to be quite familiar with the MBA admissions landscape to be successful in this process; you cannot outsource all of it to the consultant and expect the consult to tell you what to do or educate you on every last policy. But at the same time, you need to be a discerning consumer and vet your advisor properly before signing on board. You only will go through this process ONCE — or ideally it will only be once! So it’s very tough to evaluate the quality of the advice that you’re getting when you’re new to everything.
Here’s another way to approach it though:
What values is the consultant displaying to you through your interactions with them?
The schools all emphasize values and school fit, that they want to see authenticity in their applicants. How does the admissions consultant incorporate values in their process?
The easiest test for this is, what’s the consultant’s advice to you if you want to apply to a binding Early Decision school as an insurance policy? Do they encourage you to also apply to H/S/W in Round 1 along with Columbia ED? How do they suggest you navigate that if Columbia accepts you and you still have active apps in play elsewhere? Do they say, “Just ditch out on Columbia” and go full speed ahead with Wharton or whomever?
If you’re OK with those unethical strategies, then by all means, please go work with that consultant! And while you’re at it, please also cancel your blahg membership (you can do so here) and be on your way. As you know, that’s not how EssaySnark rolls and we’re not actually interested in supporting applicants who are so loose with the ethical considerations in life.
We know how stressful this whole process is, and figuring out who to trust is a major big deal. If anybody has questions about how EssaySnark operates or why we do this or how you can benefit from working with us — and how much work it will be!! — then please check out our Help FAQ and our About pages and please feel free to drop a question to us here if you have more that we can answer. We always want you to be familiar with us before you dive in! We’re not the ‘Snarks for everybody and we encourage you to go out kicking tires in the industry and see what’s available and who might be able to assist you. We hold our BSers to high standards because we know you can meet them and we hold ourselves to standards equally high. If you’re ready to work on your behalf to get where you want to go — and you want a trusted advisor who’s done the work already to give you actionable advice you can rely on — then hit us up! And if not then ask lots of questions for those you choose to work with instead, and we wish you the best of all luck in this process!
*Or you could potentially be in a Deferred Decision status, which is a kind of waitlist stage, which is not awful but not so great.