Short answer: No. Except in perhaps one very limited case.
Long answer: Keep reading.
There are lots of admissions consultants out there who advertise themselves as former admissions officers, as if this is some massive advantage to you as their potential client.
We actually believe that in some cases – like when the admissions consultant is in their first or second year serving clients – that this could actually be a liability. After all, just because they know how admissions works at ONE school does not give them any special expertise on any other. That comes only from years of working with applicants to those specific schools. Bschool admissions policies are all specific to their school.
And, even if it might be an advantage to work with someone who last year served on the admissions committee at your target school, that advantage will fade quite dramatically the more time goes by. Things change at all the schools. Policies adapt, preferences shift, the trends in incoming applicants morph, and the priorities of a new dean at the school or in admissions take precedent over old ways. There’s one key situation where it would be helpful, and that’s if you have a specific one-off question (like what we describe here with GRE vs GMAT scores) about how things work in the depths of the admissions process at the one school they worked at. Of course, you could also pick up the phone and ask your question directly to the current admissions staff at that school, and see what they tell you. Most admissions offices are trying to be more transparent.
Another important consideration if you’re teasing apart these marketing claims: When someone says they “worked in” admissions, what exactly does that mean?
Were they a student who conducted interviews?
Were they an outside consultant who was brought in for helping with app reviews? (Many of the schools that get larger volumes of applications have seasonal help who work on a consulting basis and are first-line reviewers but not final decision-makers.)
Were they actually on the committee that makes the decisions on who to admit?
Was it for a couple months? A season? Many years?
There’s lots of variation and levels of takeaway knowledge and insights you can expect from each of these.
The biggest issue we have with former admissions people touting some specialized advantage to the marketplace of Brave Supplicants is that reading an application and knowing that it’s good and that you want to accept someone, or that it’s bad and you will reject them, is not the same as helping someone to strategize and develop how to create an application that’s good, that some admissions person will want to accept.
It’s like reading a novel and writing one.
You’ve probably done the former.
Have you ever attempted the latter?
What about helping some other writer figure out what’s good and bad, what should be kept and what should be tossed, in the novel that they’re writing?
These are all very separate skills.
We’re not trying to toot our own horn here (well maybe a little) but we do have years and years of experience working with BSers of all flavors and stripes, to bschools of every sort you can name. We’ve seen how different schools respond to different profiles. We’ve seen the mistakes that people make – and we can help you not to make them.
The only thing that will give someone any advantage in helping you with your apps is if they’ve done exactly that before. If they’ve helped OTHER PEOPLE – not just one, but multitudes – with successful apps TO THE SCHOOLS YOU’RE TRYING TO CRACK.
You can get good at a skill only by doing it.
A coach usually needs to have played the sport in order to be any good at coaching it.
The “sport” of MBA admissions and training to be good at applying comes not from judging the apps from on high but from writing MBA essays – or helping others to write them in a way that showcases their talents and helps them stand out from the pack of the other gazillion strivers.
Not something you learn by watching. This is a contact sport. Has the MBA admissions consultant you’ve talked to been out on the field and getting muddy? Or have they just been watching from the air conditioned luxury box with the open bar and a chauffeur waiting at the end of the night?
(Any admissions directors reading this now are laughing. Yes, EssaySnark knows there are no chauffeurs waiting at the curb for you. Not for us either. Let us indulge in our elaborate little metaphor. We are not actually criticizing the admissions directors; we know plenty of them who are miffed when a colleague leaves for the dark side of admissions consulting! Hope no offense was taken here.)
We even know of at least one case of an admissions director who transitioned into admissions consulting — and only lasted one season before bailing and going back to the sanity of the school admissions’ office again. Coaching candidates on making their message work is so totally different than bestowing a yes or a no on them after that work is done.
This post is merely to say, evaluate any potential consultant with clear thinking and logic — EssaySnark included. What are their qualifications? What are they claiming to be the advantage they will offer you? Think through any such assertions and consider the way they’re marketing themselves, just like you (hopefully) would with any other purchase. There’s a lot on the line.
You may also be interested in: