How many MBA applicants take the help of MBA admission consultants while applying to the top schools. If estimates from the survey conducted by Poets & Quants (P&Q), a leading & highly-respectable MBA portal, are to be believed, the numbers are astounding. Up to one third of the applicants to the top 10 MBA programs hire MBA admissions consultants. For the top 3 (Harvard, Stanford, Wharton), this number goes up to 50%.
It’s tough to really validate these estimates as most MBA admissions consultants don’t reveal data about their clients, for privacy and confidentiality reasons. But, it’s a big number, nevertheless.
The proportion of Indians taking up MBA admissions consulting (for top desi schools like ISB Hyderabad or the pardesi variety) may be insignificant to their international competitors. Two deterrents – pricing and overall perception of value derived from the investment.
Indian applicants tend to be more open to paying for test preparation services (i.e. GMAT coaching), but most manage the application process on their own. In contrast, their international MBA applicants shell out between $5,000 to $10,000 for multi-school essay reviewing and editing packages to make a strong application even stronger. The belief is that the overall impact matters much more than just GMAT scores.
This attitude has been changing over the last few years as Indian MBA applicants realise that the odds are stacked heavily against them (Read this post –> Indians more likely to be rejected from top b-schools).
Around 2011, Harvard Business School invited 50 consulting teams (read related post: best MBA admissions consultants in the world) to its campus. The agenda included more than just a tour around the beautiful campus. These MBA consultants also had the opportunity to interact with Dee Leopold (Admissions director, Harvard) and Steve Nelson (executive director of Harvard MBA). This was part of a 3-day conference organized by Association of International Graduate Admissions Consultants (AIGAC). Other bschools that interacted openly with the MBA admissions consultants were INSEAD, Columbia, New York University (Stern), MIT, Fuqua (Duke), Tuck (Dartmouth), Ross (Michigan).
This is a huge attitude change. Earlier business schools were sceptical about the use of MBA Admission Consultants as there were big concerns about whether they were evaluating the work of a candidate or someone else who was acting as a proxy. According to P&Q, “Those concerns have largely fallen by the wayside”. Business schools are still cautious about applicants who try to cross the line and use unfair means of gaining an advantage (read our earlier post about MBA applicants rejected for ethical MBA essay writing practices).
But top bschools are increasingly looking at the reputed and best MBA admissions consultants to be a partner in the candidate selection process. The reach of MBA admissions consultants (through websites and discussions forums) is huge and they can act as the first level of filter in the selection process. They can also educate applicants about the whole MBA experience so there’s a lesser disconnect later.
MBA Crystal Ball has a very small team of MBA consultants. Unlike the bigger teams our capacity is limited and we haven’t allowed money to be the primary driver for growth. But over the years our website has become very popular among the international MBA applicant community. And the top bschools recognise and appreciate what we’ve been doing.
We have published interviews with the Admissions Officers and Directors of several of the most competitive business schools in USA, Canada and Asia – like MIT Sloan MBA, Darden, Georgetown MBA, Richard Ivey, NUS Singapore, Harvard, Wharton.
Several more MBA Admission officers from the top bschools have expressed an interested in being featured on our blog. During the in-person meetings, they’ve shared concerns about what they see in Indian applications and also suggestions on what they’d like to see. You’ll see more official views from admission committee representatives on the MBA Crystal Ball site. So stay tuned.
The Director of the Cambridge MBA, Dr Jochen Runde, recently invited me over for a 1-on-1 chat about our MBA admissions consulting venture and the process we follow. Like several other bschool representatives we’ve interacted with, Dr Runde shared the latest changes he was introducing to the program structure and curriculum, his take on rankings and several other topics that help us understand the current and evolving priorities that go way beyond what the official websites reveal. I was pleasantly surprised when he asked me for a signed copy of my MBA book (the bookshelves of the Cambridge MBA library now have a copy too!).
These experiences give us a sense of déjà vu, as there are overlaps with the bigger meeting organised by the AIGAC with bschool representatives in the U.S. Bschools are becoming increasingly open to the role played by the MBA consultants and in drawing the line between the good ones and the not-so-good ones.
When MBA candidates approach us and express an interest in working with us, we put in extra effort to ensure that their expectations and career goals are aligned before we sign them up for bschool specific applications help. When we aren’t convinced about certain applicants and their expectations from us e.g. when someone expects us to write their essays or falsify their credentials (and we’ve got our share of such requests), we are upfront about our inability to help them. In the short term, this is not the best strategy for a for-profit business, but we hope it’ll pay off for us in the long run.
Despite all our interactions with bschool Admission officers and our understanding of what bschools expect in their incoming class, we are also transparent with our clients about the fact that we can’t guarantee success and we have no commercial partnerships with any bschool (unlike many study abroad consultants in India who have huge monetary incentives to push their clients into certain schools). This independence allows us to work in the interest of MBA applicants and offer unbiased advice.
If you find our philosophy and approach appealing and if you think we can work together, drop us a note on: info [at] mbacrystalball [dot] com
Read this related article:
– Is hiring an MBA admissions consultant worth it?
– MBA admissions consulting ranking
– International MBA admissions consultant in India or abroad?