Are MBA admissions consultants harming the application process? Mainly, are MBA admissions -most of whom have served on admissions committees themselves- spoon-feeding clients insider information or even filling out portions of the applications for them?
MBA admissions consultants estimate "that 30 percent to 50 percent of domestic applicants to top schools, and as many as 80 percent of international applicants, employ their services." Vocal adversaries surmise they would prefer to get in on their own merits and not with the boost of an admissions consultant. Is this to say that those who prepare their applications with an admissions consultant are somehow less deserving of that big, padded envelope?
This is a slippery topic because there is no definitive answer to whether Johnny who has an admissions counselor deserves to get into HBS less than Gary whose older brother proofread his essay. I once overheard a conversion between two students that went something like, "It's so unfair! Katie is a 10th Latino now she will definitely get into UCLA over me." The student's friend replied, "Talk about unfair, James grew up in a trailer park. I have no chance at getting into Stanford now."
It seems like in everyone's mind there is someone else who has an unfair advantage. But the admissions expert at Manhattan Elite Prep believe that by the time a person decides to apply to business school, approximately 50% of their admissions store is already decided - with college grades, work histories, extracurricular/community activities already decided. This is to say a dud candidate cannot simply pay lots of money to have an admissions consultant turn their application from a pig's hoof into a silk purse. An applicant should not be granted to celebrate an acceptance victory simply because he or she invested in a consultant.
That is not to say a victory will not taste momentarily sweeter if an applicant gets accepted to a top school without the help of a consultant, but the truth is those cases a more rare. And it is also possible that the quality of life of a student who does not use a consultant may have been improved upon investing in an admissions service. The momentary taste of "hooray I did it by myself "will fade. Once school begins and tuition expenses pile up, students who used admissions consultants and those who did not will become the same type of fish in a single pond. Their challenges and goals are similar if not the same.
As long as you are ethical and honest in your pursuits, the help of an admissions consultant should not hinder your sense of accomplishment. While the economics of admissions consulting may make it feel like an unfair leg up for privileged kids, in reality consulting which can cost $4,000 per school package at its worst, is really a minute fraction when you consider the overall investment of $168,307 for a top two year program.
Sure $4,000 is nothing to scoff at, but there are also a la carte services like essay review available at more affordable rates and payment plans available to those in need. The time spent investing on application assistance may also free up time to work more hours, apply for grants, and make the most of your time before business school begins.