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Friday, November 19, 2010

The MBA Admissions Consulting Season in Review

About 7 posts or 2 months ago, I had threatened to hibernate due to the upcoming MBA admission consulting season. Round 1 deadlines have long ended and most applicants have some idea of their fate or at least the fate of their MBA applications.

Here is what I can share about the 2010 admissions seasons in review:
  • Clients are asking a lot more questions: I could no longer pass myself off as all knowing and all wise merely because I had successfully applied to business school during an era when AOL email addresses still had significant market share. Clients questioned my lack of focus on the importance of grammar or why one of their stories showed personality while another was just pontificating like a Harper's essay. While I would prefer that clients think I was wise and all knowing, I gave them a lot of credit for some of their questions. Since I was always very deliberate with my feedback, I usually satisfied them. For anyone considering working with an admissions consultant, I would invite questioning and scrutiny of the consultant's analysis up until a few days before the deadline. However, once you are that close to the deadline, the scrutiny looks like resistance to submit. There is also greater risk of rewriting your drafts in a late night flash of apparent brilliance that does not look as good in the morning light.
  • Admissions really has a holistic approach: Clients who work in more technical areas have projects where every line of code or test scenario matters . The admissions process is much more of a big picture with broad brush strokes. That's why grammar doesn't really matter since the admissions review won't get at that level of detail. Admissions truly uses an 80/20 review process where they glean 80% of the necessary information from 20% of the application. However, what that 20% of the application includes will always vary based on the applicant so there is no formula to capture it. Main takeaway is to focus on larger themes in essays and not ponder punctuation.
  • I now know how recommendations do not matter: In my previous posts, I have classified the recommendations as the most useless part of the application. Writers and applicants spend a disproportionate amount of time based on the value that they contribute. I would climb up on my bully pulpit (aka this blog) to urge schools to reduce the amount of effort it takes to complete them. However, from reviewing some recommendations, I now understand their role. They are supplementary to themes in the essay. Recommendations can really bring some of your characteristics to life and help admissions really see what an applicant is truly like. However, they will not add anything that's not already in the essay or they won't be be believed. They're basically like the movie version of the book. The book is always better and if the movie doesn't follow the book, we just assume excessive artistic license.

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