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MBA Admissions Consultants: How the best business schools view them

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).

But how do business schools view candidates who have hired MBA admission consultants?

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.

Top B-schools use MBA Crystal Ball to connect with international applicants

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.

How MBA Crystal Ball approaches MBA admissions consulting

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?

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Sameer Kamat
About Sameer Kamat
Founder of MBA Crystal Ball. Author of Beyond The MBA Hype & Business Doctors. Here's more about me. Follow me on: Instagram | Linkedin | Youtube

37 thoughts on “MBA Admissions Consultants: How the best business schools view them”

  1. i am in confuse 2 join mba.
    i have finish bbm in my degree
    is any job oppertunities for this
    plz help how i can approach future

  2. Kartheek,

    Your query is a little off topic for this post. But here are some points for you to think about.

    If you have just completed your BBM, you won’t be considered for international MBA programs as they need several years of pre-MBA work experience before you can apply.

    Your best bet at this stage is to use your college resources (if any) and reach out to companies directly to identify jobs for freshers. Also check the online job portals to see if there are any interesting opportunities.

  3. i have finished my mbbs , now want to study mba in any of the top universities in united states , could u please help me how should i go about

  4. Thanks your blog is very informative about top MBA colleges in India. I am very interested for doing MBA. Keep up the great achievement!

  5. Sameer, As mentioned by you in your article, I m certain that the ethical approach of business will bring long term benefits for sure. There has been a conventional saying in our tradition that business can not be run without being unethical. I m sure entrepreneurs like you will break this mind set !! I can see the impact of your articles in google searches already and it is just the beginning. The ethical approach does earn blessings from every one. Keep it up !!

  6. I have completed my ssc if I do hsc in local college what is the eligibility for doing engineering massachusetts institute of technology and can you help to get admission in that case

  7. i want to do mba in any best b school or college in pune so please sudjest me plz sir i need ur help, hurry …

  8. @Ravi: We help with Masters programs, primarily MBA and occasionally with the SoP aspects for MS, Phd, Mphil programs. If you are thinking about undergrad programs abroad we aren’t the right team.

    @Atul: We can’t help with CAT based MBA in India. The only suggestion is – Don’t rush. Haste makes waste, my friend.

  9. Hi Sameer,

    I am currently in the preparatory stages of my GMAT re-take(1st attempt: 600. Q 48 V 27). I am planning to take the GMAT in the 2nd week of September, 2013. Based on my previous experience, I am not hurrying on scheduling a date, rather I have decided to take the actual test only when I hit 38+ on the Verbal section in Mocks.

    Well that said, I am planning my application for the 2nd Round of US admission cycle. My target schools are Chicago Booth, NYU Stern, NW Kellogg, INSEAD and ISB. I believe I can consider UCLA, Cornell and NUS Singapore as reach schools. However, that said I understand the competition out there, and I also understand the need to invest(both money and time) on the application process rather than on the actual GMAT. Please provide more details on the services that you provide so that I may avail your help for the current admission cycle. I am also looking at an honest assessment of my target and reach schools before starting the actual application process. Thanks for your time!


  10. Dear Sameer, Could you guide me as to who the most accomplished consultant in india especially in Hyderabad who could guide my niece for her admission into the ivy league schools or the Stanford for an undergrad program in economics. She has secured 2200 superscore in SAT and an expected score of 45/45 in IB.

  11. I’m little bit confused whether to take an MIM course now itself or to take MBA program in abroad after having few years of work experience suggest me the best idea.

  12. Hi,

    I have completed my BBA and also I have an experience of 2 years in sales.
    I want to do MBA from abroad. I also want to take admission through GRE.

  13. hi ,
    i have completed by and presently working in an software firm since four months. i want to do an mba in sports management. whats your thought about it and chances that i have.

  14. Dear friends,
    it is wonderful to be here , as one my child want to pursue MBA, pl inform me where this mbacrystalbll office for i would like to visit to know more, thanks

  15. @vineesh: My thoughts on your choice and specialisation don’t matter. It’s your call. However, I will say that with 4 months experience, it’s too early for an international MBA

    @easwaran: We work on a virtual model, the same way that most international consulting teams do. If that doesn’t change your mind, drop us a note on: info at mbacrystalball dot com

  16. I am from hyderabad i am doing my 2nd year.After completing my i want to do MBA in ISB college.i want to knw what rank i should get for it? Or what is managment fees.
    . please help me i really want to know all the details.

  17. Hi Sameer
    I have completed my and have 2 yrs of experience and the GMAT score is700. My question is that my experience is of a bpo company. Will the top bschools be impressed by it? And is 2 yrs of experience enough for the top tier schools?

  18. @Zehra: Check out the ISB website for eligibility criteria. Get some work experience before aiming for such MBA programs in India or abroad.

    @Mathew: Going only by GMAT score and number of years experience isn’t sufficient to form a perception about your profile. What you’ve done at the BPO company is also important. Keep in mind that the average experience in most top bschools in the world hovers at around 5 years.

  19. Hi,

    I am a B.Tech graduate and have 2+ years of experience in Project management in a big four firm. I also have a part time small scale trading business. My GMAT score is 590 and I am looking for B-schools offering a course in Global Trade.

    Could you please suggest a few B schools per my eligibility? (I am looking to attend college in Jan 2015)

    Thank you!

  20. Hi Sameer,

    i just have my GMAT today…. My score is 580(Q49,V21)… i have a 12+ experience in Auto sector, i am in the process of applying to EMBA programs in India. i just require your guidance.. will my score put a big no from the admission team on the Top indian institues for EMBA

  21. Hii Sameer,

    I am presently working in a private company as an Assistant Manager in Finance & Accounts department and having a total work experience of more than 5 years, however my relevant work experience is of 3.5 years.

    As far as my academics are concerned I am a qualified Cost Accountant (CMA) and also have bachelor degree in commerce.I also have Advance diploma in Management Accounting from CIMA, United Kingdom.

    At present I am looking for an MBA degree from International B-Schools which I am planning to get enrolled from next year.

    So please suggest me what are the necessities which will be required to get an admission in International B schools & how can I make my application strong.

    Please also suggest what are the options for me as per my experience & education.

  22. Hi,

    I’ve done B.Tech(CS) 2013 batch and i dont have any experience.
    I want to do MBA in US, what is the process and the approx. fee structure.

  23. Sir, I have a 3 years work Exp as Engineer, my btech % is 68, 10+2 is 74%, but my gmat is 380, awa 3.0.
    Can you suggest me a good consultant in hyderabad who can help me to process my application.
    And can you suggest names of b school whose deadlines are in Nov & Dec 2014. Please advise.

  24. Hii Sameer,
    I am Raja Viswanath, pursuing final year of 5-year dual degree Integrated course in Electronics and Communication Engineering at GITAM University,Visakhapatnam. I am interested in pursuing a management course in the future. So I have been preparing for GMAT and I am going to take the GMAT exam on 15th december,2015. I am interested to apply for Early Entry Option for MBA at schools like HBS,Stanford,Yale,IESE and ISB or for Masters in Management courses provided by top European schools. I want to know how you guys deal with me if I join u.

  25. Hi, iam prdeep I have completed my mba in Indian in 2010,working in voice process and I’m looking to join mba in USA.So please guide me about this don’t have any idea.

  26. @Sharma: More than a good MBA admissions consultant, you’d be better off spending money on good GMAT course. With the current score, all good schools are out of reach.

    @Raja: We will ‘deal with you’ the same way we deal with others who associate with us…with tender love and affection 🙂

  27. I have done in civil stream and i have complete my 16 years in education. so now i want to do mba from U.S. but big and only a single querry for me is that “is there any need of work experience for doing mba from U.S.”…..??????

  28. Hi am Heena from india mumbai am bcom garduate with 2 yrs of banking experience looking for mba at harvard is der any possibilty if can apply for harvard.

  29. I have a Bachelor of Science and a Master of Science in Electrical Engineering from SUNY-buffalo and have worked in corporate America for the last ten years. I am currently in Canada and am thinking about applying to Queens University or York University for my MBA. I have canadian permanent residency and do not require visa sponsorship.

    I would like to transition into management consulting or investment banking in Canada after graduation if possible. I am concerned if this change would me possible at this stage in my career. I have worked for about ten years as an electrical engineer and more recently as a project manager at a large chemical manufacturing facility and just not excited about my career any more. At present, I intend to stay in Canada only.

  30. Hi, I’m a young entrepreneur from India, I am 23 years old and I recently scored a 600 on the Gmat. I had got a 650 consistently on my prep but then my quant score pulled me down on the D-day. I am a biotech undergrad from a south indian institution which is high on the top education institutes charts in India. 4 of my collegemates and I created true blue, a startup that helps other labs in India analyze DNA strains, gather data on expression data etc.
    we recently moved into a huge office space and are on the verge of getting bigger clients. to say that true blue funded all our college expenses would be a huge understatement. true blue crossed a turnover of 80 lakhs in 2014.
    Not only have we been able to achieve this from a college dormitory but also concentrated on our academic performance. I have international experience in the form of a one-year internship in the field of developmental biology from a US university.I have also volunteered in remote places in Aila hit villages in Kolkata helping them connect with companies offering saline resistant crops. I honestly believe that Stanford MBA will make all the difference in taking my company to the next level, get bigger clients and more funding. Do you think I have a chance to be selected in the top MBA programs? I agree that I have poor quant and test taking skills in general. Taking the gmat again and again is very distracting when I am already in the middle of a running business. Is there any hope for me?

  31. Dear Sameer,

    I have done B.Tech in Mechanical Engg (U P Technical Univ) and have changed 5 jobs in total 4+ years of sales experience in industrial products.
    I am keen for an MBA degree from any of top 5 US B Schools. I will appear for GMAT exam in November 2015.
    Does mentioning my actual job changes on CV would reduce the chances of selection ?



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