***Update on this “series”: I think I will end up with around 11 or 12 posts detailing the application process as I experienced it. I know that a lot of people are in the midst of the application process even as I type, so my goal is to get a post up every other day or so until I get through these. I hope that these posts give you some insight into how I approached each part of the process, particularly as it pertains to the GSB, and go over some best practices that I would suggest for future applicants. As I mentioned in the “introduction” post, please take everything I write with a very large grain of salt- these are just my uneducated opinions.***
On to those pesky consultants .
I know very little about business school consultants. What I can tell you is that they’re out there, they can probably increase your chances of getting into the schools you apply to, and they’re expensive.
There are a couple of dozen consulting firms. If you google it the most popular ones should be easy to find. Some of them even specialize- I have a friend from Japan who worked with a consultant who focuses on getting Japanese applicants into top-5 US business schools. That’s pretty darn targeted.
My guess is that using a consultant will greatly expedite the application process. My previous post detailed all of the effort you need to put into creating a good list of schools. A decent consultant could probably give you that same list during your first hour of discussion. This is because they know all about all of the schools. I’ve only been through the process once and I feel like I know a ton of information. Imagine getting help from someone who has gone through the process fifty times every year for the last twenty-five years. They know which schools will help you reach your goals and they know which schools you can get into.
On that note, I wouldn’t be surprised if a consultant could help borderline candidates get into schools that they couldn’t have gotten into on their own. The consultants have insider knowledge and they have volume. A lot of them once worked in admissions so they know what admissions committees are looking for. They also get to help with dozens of applications a year so they see the raw pieces that make up a candidate, they see how that can all be packaged together, and they see the decisions from the adcoms. Simply put, they know what works. If you try to do it on your own there’s a lot of guessing involved.
Up to this point consultants sound like a wonderful idea. So why don’t all applicants use them? Because they’re expensive!!!! Hundreds of dollars an hour. Thousands of dollars for help with applying to just one school. If those numbers don’t make you flinch then you should definitely go for it and hire the best one you can find. If they do make you flinch then you have some soul searching to do. If you’ve already decided to shell out close to a quarter of a million dollars in tuition payments and two years without a salary then what’s another $1,000? Or for that matter, another $5,000? It’s a small price to pay if it means you go to HBS instead of a community program. On the other hand, it’s still a ton of money.
As for me, I didn’t use a consultant. This wasn’t a conscious decisions so much as the result of my ignorance. I wasn’t really aware that consultants existed. I decided to apply to business school because I knew it would help me with my future goals. So I talked to some friends, read through official websites for schools I thought I might be interested in, picked some schools, and sat down and put together the applications. Start to finish, including studying for and taking the GMAT, the whole process took less than 10 weeks.
Obviously I got lucky. But at the same time, I wonder if one of the reasons I did so well on my applications (I got interview invites at all 4 schools I applied to and 3 of them are widely recognized as being among the top 5 bschools in the U.S.) was because I presented myself honestly and candidly. I didn’t have anyone whispering in my ear that I should write this or do that. I just told the schools who I was and what I wanted to do in my own way.
If I had to do it again would I try a consultant? Perhaps. If my time was limited and I wanted to expedite the process. Or if my first approach had failed and I was applying for the second time. In the end, it’s up to each individual to decide what’s best for him/her.