If estimates are to be believed about half of all applicants who apply to the top schools like Harvard, Stanford and Wharton make use of the services of MBA admission consultants. That makes the tough competition tougher for deserving candidates. The severely skewed demand-supply equation of MBA applicants to MBA seats makes it a fertile ground for many applicants to try out unethical approaches.
It also is a business opportunity for self proclaimed admissions consultants who appear out of nowhere and claim to be experts with ‘insider information’ about how the MBA admissions consulting process works. Most of this insider info is nothing more than essays copied and pasted from other websites, popular books or freely downloaded essay samples.
Fortune magazine recently published an article by John Byrne (founder of Poets and Quants) that focused on this disturbing trend that’s causing sleepless night for admission directors and deans of MBA programs. The top business schools are taking a tough stand on this issue. Rather than confronting MBA applicants who’ve submitted plagiarized content, they are simply rejecting them. In the first 2 admission rounds, UCLA rejected 52 applications (12 in R1, 40 in R2).
If you’ve used a small quote by a known personality or snippets from a poem and attributed it to the source, you’d be ok. The trouble is when candidates or their consultants (out of laziness, incompetence or just plain desperation) take the easy way out by using content that has worked for somebody else and passing it off as their own.
The Admissions Officers of the top business schools are increasingly using plagiarism detection software to sniff out the culprits and take them out of the game. So don’t assume you can get away with it.
In one of our very first posts on the MBA Crystal Ball blog, we had written about the ethics involved in MBA admissions consulting. We had mentioned about the code of conduct and the ethical guidelines laid down by the Association of International Graduate Admissions Consultants (AIGAC).
Since then, we interviewed 3 of the office bearers (co-founders, directors) of AIGAC – Graham Richmond, Linda Abraham and Stacy Blackman – on what MBA applicants should and shouldn’t do in their applications. We’ve also interviewed Admission Officers of top schools (like Darden, Ivey, NUS Singapore, and yes, UCLA Anderson as well) to give you an idea of what they are looking for in strong applicants.
Tuck Business School has been writing a whole series of articles on our site, focussed on Indian and international applicants.
Even if you’ve read those posts earlier, it won’t hurt to review them so the basic principles are clear in your mind as you start working on your MBA applications.
The best option is for you to manage the application by yourself, as you can then be absolutely sure that the content that goes in to the essays is your original work and bring out your true potential.
If you do decide to approach any consulting team, your best bet is to go with word-of-mouth recommendations. If that’s not possible, do a thorough background check on the credentials of the team – how long have they been in business, get an insight into their line of thinking (read their responses on discussion forums). Talk to them to see if you are getting just a sales pitch for their services or a genuine desire to help you.
Whether you are working on your own or engaging admission consultants to mentor you, ensure that you fight hard and you fight clean.