The Reign of the MBA Admissions Consultant

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In late July an article in Bloomberg Businessweek posed the question: Are MBA admissions consultants harming the application process? Mainly, are MBA admissions consultants—most of whom have served on admissions committees themselves— spoon-feeding clients insider information or even filling out portions of the applications for them?

The Role of MBA Admissions Consultants

According to the article, 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.” Those in opposition 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 slope 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’s background is a one tenth 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 of getting into Stanford now.”

It seems like in everyone’s mind there is someone else who has an unfair advantage (even under unfair circumstances). But admissions expert, Tom Kania suggests “By the time a person decides to apply to business school, approximately 50% of their admissions score 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 Admission Consultant Can’t Guarantee Acceptance

An applicant should not forgo celebrating 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 are more rare. 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 the same pond. Their challenges and goals 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 according to Businessweek, is really a pittance 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 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.

Manhattan Elite Prep is a multi-national test prep, Graduate School, Law School, College Admission Advisors, and a Career Training provider with a focus on the GMAT, MBA, TOEFL, GRE, LSAT, SAT/ACT, MCAT.
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