Updated: May 6, 2021
If you are just starting to think about business school, or are already preparing to apply, you know that there is more than enough free and detailed information online for prospective B-school applicants.
Articles, videos, interviews, and blogs dive deep into every aspect of a business school search and MBA application process. They are valuable resources - but only if you have the time or patience to sift through it all.
Where do you start? Can you do this on your own? Should you hire help?
Why Consider An MBA Consultant?
Many MBA hopefuls turn to MBA admissions consultants because while information is bountiful, it can also be overwhelming. Prospective applicants seeking a personal MBA coach turn to admissions consultants to help them not only create a plan to apply to their target schools but to do so with the strongest application possible.
An MBA consultant sometimes can even play the greatest role in managing your application timelines, as well as helping you select the schools that would be your best overall fit.
No matter where you plan to apply or when, the road to hitting submit begins with a deep self-reflection of what you want to achieve, what you have already conquered, the areas in which you want to grow and change, and what you can offer a school community.
It can be tempting to skip this crucial step and not put these thoughts to paper. If hiring an MBA consultant for a full package of work, this is where you can expect your consultant to really put in the time to get to know you.
Expect to talk a length about your life while they digest your past and future goals and begin to take note of what your most compelling and authentic story will be. These are the building blocks to eventually building your essays, and an overall winning application.
The daunting task of writing essays can actually become an enjoyable experience in which you produce an application you’re proud of once this reflection work between you and your personal MBA coach is done.
Imagine a beautifully outlined personal history with highlights from which your essays will just seem to flow. This is all with the help of your consultant - a personal MBA coach and partner.
Most MBA consultants offer full support packages. Others can assist with only certain parts of the application process at more affordable à la carte pricing. MBA consultants can be the support you need when it comes to editing and refining your essays or personal statements.
While a good consultant will have you write your story in your personal tone and voice, their expertise for editing and refining, while keeping your piece authentic, is an invaluable service - one that goes beyond the viewpoint of colleagues or family.
Other parts of the application are also fair game for an MBA consultant’s expertise. They will help as you strategize who your recommenders should be and prepare them before they sit down to write their letters.
They will be your guide in proofing and refining the many standards and school-specific open-ended application questions and short answer essays.
Top MBA consultants also work with you on your target list of schools, balancing where you see yourself with ideas for schools you may not have considered and challenging you to think about stretch schools.
Each school requires its own unique application and MBA consultants will work with you to tailor those applications.
With all of this comes an honest approach honoring the network, inside knowledge, and information they have about what each school looks for and the type of candidate that generally succeeds in gaining admission there.
This is the championing from your personal MBA coach that proves invaluable as you make one of the biggest investments in your career and life.
A great MBA consultant will be your true partner and advocate, and quite frankly your biggest cheerleader.
In a time-consuming and all-encompassing period of your life, an unbiased partner will be honest and guide you to understanding what areas of your candidacy need strengthened, and building a plan to do that.
With information and data on school acceptance rates, for example, they can help you make such decisions as getting a new letter of recommendation or retaking your GMAT, for example.
They can also help you strategize ways to balance out less impressive aspects of your candidacy based on what they know of your target schools.
For example, you can’t change your GPA, but you can work with a consultant on ways to authentically highlight your academic strength showing you do in fact have the propensity to succeed in a given MBA program.
Of course, after you hit submit, your application hurdles are not quite done. If you are invited to an interview, your consultant will be a great help in complimenting a strong application by preparing you to shine in the face-to-face interview opportunity.
Should You Hire an MBA Consultant?
One of the first things to ask yourself is whether or not you have the time and stamina to go it alone. If you think your best application, and overall most positive experience, would be more likely with a trusted partner and you can afford to invest in yourself, it's time for you to strongly consider an MBA consultant.
MBA admissions consultants are generally alumni who have proven successful in the MBA application process or former admissions administrators who have spent time reviewing thousands of applications. Both have unique perspectives that are quite valuable.
Former admissions professionals have read thousands upon thousands of applications and know what kept great candidates on paper from being accepted. They also rarely spent the entirety of their jobs evaluating applications.
Most would have been building recruiting strategies, creating communication plans and building marketing campaigns, managing yield data, or traveling the globe selling their respective programs.
Alumni bring proven success in crafting their own story, as well as a deep connection to schools and a vast MBA network.
MBA consultants all share relationships with MBA programs across the country. There was a period when the first MBA consultants emerged that business schools did not appreciate this service available to applicants.
Now MBA programs across the country have embraced the idea and work with MBA consultants to make sure that they deeply understand their programs and can share information accordingly, understanding the influence they have on where their clients apply.
In the end, everyone wants candidates in the right program that will be a mutual fit creating a lasting relationship.
Many MBA applicants have a network of colleagues and friends who have successfully applied to business school who they feel can serve as valuable resources.
Do you have insider information or access to MBA insiders to help you?
At the end of the day, you have to know whether or not you need a partner, and how much you can comfortably invest in this service, as the guiding light to the answer of whether to hire or not hire an MBA consultant.
When Should I Hire an MBA Consultant?
The question of when to hire an MBA consultant comes down to your timeline. If you are on a short timeline and planning for deadlines less than three months away, do so sooner rather than later.
If you are looking for holistic help in the application process and want to take your time, you can consider beginning working with a consultant from one to one and a half years in advance, depending upon what services you are seeking.
Consider also your job and the likelihood that you will go through periods of a more demanding work schedule, thereby not giving you enough free time for your MBA applications.
There is a great benefit in having a partner to manage the milestones to completing your applications on time if you know your own dedicated MBA application time will ebb and flow.
Finally, are you feeling overwhelmed by the process for any reason, mostly your current job’s regular work or travel load? This would be a strong consideration to invest in your own sanity.
What Should I Ask My MBA Consultant Before Hiring?
Think about the kind of help you want from an MBA consultant and the kind of relationship you want to have. To get clear about their overall approach, it’s fair to ask how they will manage your relationship and your application process timeline.
Applying to business school requires hard work, time, and money so prepare yourself for honest feedback and suggestions from your consultant.
You’ll want to understand upfront what the cost is and what exact services are associated. Given the investment, it’s fair game to ask for references of past clients, and even for the successful admit rates per school.
It can be interesting to know what they began consulting and what they do in addition to MBA consulting. Their own career and industry knowledge will be beneficial for you and you can gauge what else they have on their plate to determine what they can dedicate to you.
If they are former admissions professionals, ask about the schools they worked for and what their job entailed.
This will give you a great indication of why they enjoy this work and what their strengths will be to you. If they are former students, ask about their MBA experience and pre and post-MBA careers.
In the end, you are looking for a great match for yourself! You and your MBA consultant will have many in-depth talks and with any hope, build a lasting relationship, so make sure you like your consultant and will enjoy the time you will soon spend together.
Are MBA Consultants Worth It?
If you choose to work with a consultant, consider a few things to ensure a strong and open relationship.
Consultants can help you match your goals to the schools that will appreciate your background, as well as work with you on the parts of your application that need strengthening.
In the end, the investment will always be worth it if you enjoyed the process, learned something new, and have gained admission to a school you are proud to attend!
If you make the decision to hire an MBA consultant, know that they care what happens to you and will in fact be your biggest champion to getting you where to want to go.