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Anyone use admission consultants?

This topic has 1 expert reply and 96 member replies
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billybishop Newbie | Next Rank: 10 Posts Default Avatar
29 May 2014
3 messages
Post Thu May 29, 2014 7:39 pm
My experience with Stratus Prep was overwhelmingly positive. My position as a reviewer is unique because I am a re-applicant and had previously used a different admission consultant my first time around. This allows me to evaluate Stratus Prep’s capabilities and differentiating factors, compared to other admissions consultants on the market.

I worked mostly with Vanessa Gil and a bit with Shawn O’Connor - these guys are truly the best at what they do. Here are some highlights from my experience with Stratus Prep and examples of what they do differently (and what they do extremely well):

Getting to know you

In my previous experience, we dove right into brainstorming topics. It was just my second meeting and we were already throwing around essay ideas. With Stratus Prep, during my entire first month, we did nothing but go over my background. Shawn and Vanessa felt it was best to understand my experiences and personality first. This was extremely useful because not only did it force me to remember and think harder about things I’ve done, but it also allowed Vanessa to get a feel about me, as a candidate, so any advice was extremely relevant and personal.


These guys are hard workers. I remember their ability to give well thought-out feedback with exceptional turnaround times (we’re talking 12-24 hours!) Due to my schedule, sometimes we would schedule meetings for Saturday morning or Friday night. Shawn and Vanessa never complained about odd meeting times and their dedication shows just how committed they are to seeing their candidates succeed.


Shawn and Vanessa are both experts in the application game. They think logically, but are also aligned with how the school’s adcom thinks. Their suggestions are always on target and at the end of the day, it’s what the school’s perception that counts. When they originally quoted that 60% of their applicants gets accepted at HBS, I thought the number must be overstated. However, after working with Vanessa, I’m surprised it’s not higher!

Detailed and Thoughtful

Their processes are super detailed and structured. As an example, each essay goes thought 5-7 rounds of critique first. Afterwards another consultant reads it and makes comments, and then a third consultant checks for grammar and sentence structure. Lastly, Shawn reads it and makes some final comments. When it’s all over, 4 different pairs of well-trained eyes would have read your essay. This is truly remarkable and their attention to detail is a key differentiating factor.

In the end, I was admitted to Chicago Booth, my dream school. Admittedly, I did not stand a chance without Shawn and Vanessa’s help. If you want to be successful - go with these guys. I only wish I could have done my applications with Shawn and Vanessa my first time around.

Vanessa/Shawn - thanks again for all your help, it was a memorable experience working with you.

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gwang Newbie | Next Rank: 10 Posts Default Avatar
30 May 2014
1 messages
Post Fri May 30, 2014 8:11 pm
Hi Everyone -

I saw the request for a review from a client of Stratus Prep and thought I would also chime in as a happy client. I first heard about the company actually through my cofounder who happened to be in Shawn's study group when they attended HBS.

In terms of my specific situation, I had already applied a year ago to HBS and GSB but unfortunately did not get into either so I wanted to get some help as a re-applicant. Last year, I had the chance to work with Shawn and Vanessa at Stratus Prep last year on three applications, Wharton, HBS, and GSB. My GMAT was 730. I worked two years in consulting at McKinsey and then launched and worked on my own company for three years prior to business school (two years at the time of my application).

Overall, I was extremely satisfied with my experience with Stratus Prep. Since I was a reapplicant, I can attest to the dramatic difference Shawn and Vanessa made in getting me into HBS. More specifically the things I found helpful were:

* Shawn and Vanessa's experience in understanding which stories are both most unique to you but also resonate well with admissions counselors. Vanessa in particular had a great feel for how admissions counselors might read an essay. Shawn was terrific at structuring my whole package to ensure all my strengths (and potential questions) are addressed through my resume, essays, application, and recommendation letters.

* The quick turnaround provided for essay reviews. This was extremely valuable and important for my interview at HBS as I had a final essay that was due within 24 hours of the interview. Given I interviewed during Hurricane Sandy, it was pretty incredible Shawn and Vanessa could still support me from NYC.

* The marked improvement in the quality of my essays through iterations with Vanessa. She is a terrific writer and having access to someone like helped me craft essays that retained my voice but allowed me to convey my stories with more clarity.

I would recommend Stratus Prep to anyone who is looking to apply for business school. If I had to put a number to it, I would say working with Stratus Prep probably doubled my chances of acceptance.

Best of luck everyone!

akhiller Newbie | Next Rank: 10 Posts
16 Jun 2014
2 messages
Post Mon Jun 16, 2014 6:39 pm
Hi--I used Stratus Prep Round 2 for deferred admission. I went to a large public school. My engagement with Stratus Prep started with a special powerpoint fill-in document in which I had to dig deep into my history to find themes, stories, and details that helped me lay out what I wanted to write about in the essays. It was a really good way to assess before writing, and Stratus's template was really good at helping me begin the brainstorming process. My consultant at Stratus was awesome.

Last edited by akhiller on Sat Jul 05, 2014 10:42 am; edited 1 time in total

CAMEL Newbie | Next Rank: 10 Posts Default Avatar
26 May 2012
3 messages
Post Wed Jun 18, 2014 8:21 am
With the invaluable help of the admissions advisors at Stratus Prep, I was admitted to the school of my choice, the Stanford GSB. Given the extremely competitive business school admissions environment and my generic profile, as a white male working at a large investment bank, I quickly realized the importance of having the strong and capable admissions consultants in place to provide counseling and support with the crafting and framing of my story to the various schools. The advice I received from Shawn and other counselors was what I believe to be critical in distinguishing me from other candidates applying to b-school. Working with the team at Stratus Prep gave me a variety of perspectives, which were crucial in navigating the application process. Without their help my chances of getting into Stanford would have been significantly decreased. I certainly believe I had the raw goods critical for admissions (grades, test scores, etc.) but many applicants applying to the top schools (S/W/H) have similar credentials, so differentiation is very important and Stratus was monumental in assisting me with that.

Izomer Newbie | Next Rank: 10 Posts
10 Feb 2013
5 messages
Post Wed Aug 27, 2014 3:22 am
If you were more attentive, you could notice that you are wrong. If you want, pm me. I can sign under every word I wrote there.

cyberbg Newbie | Next Rank: 10 Posts
09 Oct 2014
5 messages
Post Fri Jan 23, 2015 10:40 am
Yes, and I can tell you, you should go with Vanessa Gil who isn't at Stratus Prep anymore but is the best in the industry!

Here is how I came to work with her. After interviewing Stacey Blackman, Clear Admit and Stratus Prep for MBA admissions counseling, Shawn O’Connor, the founder of Stratus Prep, convinced me to use his firm.

I had obtained a 720 on my GMAT which was good, but below average for the 2 schools I had targeted: Stanford GSB and Harvard Business School.

Knowing those were the schools I wanted to apply to, Shawn placed me with a counselor who was an alum from both schools (NOT VANESSA).

And here I was… getting into the annoying process of business school applications. The first deadline was HBS in early September (Round 1). The counselor and I spent 3 months working on positioning, outlines and essays for Harvard. However, she and I didn’t have the same perspectives at times. Every time I came up with a creative idea for my essays, I got turned down. I felt my application was going to be pretty standardized. Another thing she would do was coming back to me with edits within 10 minutes of me sending my drafts. This annoyed me as I had paid a pretty big amount to get her advice, and I felt I wasn’t getting the level of attention I deserved. I was disappointed and thought I would ask Shawn for another counselor. However, I had less than 2 weeks left before submitting HBS and I thought I wouldn’t that risk so close to the deadline so I decided to stick with her and apply to HBS.

The day after I submitted HBS, however, I asked Shawn to reassign me with a different counselor for my Stanford app which was due 3 weeks later (early October, Round 1). By doing so, I also thought I would diversify and increase my odds of getting into at least one of the two.

Shawn understood my concerns and paired me with Vanessa Gil. And here comes Vanessa. I didn’t know it at the time, but working with Vanessa was the best thing that could have happened to me. Vanessa and I got along immediately. I told her about my concerns with my former counselor and she gave me the ability to be my true self in my applications. She and I spent hours on the phone discussing the most detailed items of my application from positioning, wording, approach, what works and what doesn’t to what Stanford specifically likes in candidates. Literally everything. She was so accessible, nice, competent and open-minded. It was night and day.

Vanessa and I worked hard in those 3 weeks I worked on my GSB application. I found out later on that she had a lot more clients than I thought. Yet I felt like I was the only one she was working with. The level of attention she gave me was unparalleled. She understood who I was as a person, what I stood for, and what I wanted to convey in my applications like no one else. Her perspective was invaluable.
Vanessa and I finally submitted Stanford early October.

Mid-October, I found out I got declined from HBS, without an interview.
Early November, I got notice that I got an interview with the GSB. Vanessa and I prepped for it in a rigorous manner with 3 mock interviews and detailed question by question feedback. I went into the interview feeling confident, and aced it.

Mid-December: I found out I got into my dream school, the Stanford GSB

The bottom line is that none of this would have been possible without Vanessa. Her trusted advice, intelligence and amazing personality made this stressful process an enjoyable experience. When you think about it, Vanessa only helped me with one business school, and it turns out that the school is actually the hardest one to get into. With Vanessa, my hit rate was 100%. I know, “impressive” you would say. However, the minute you meet her, you will realize it’s not all that surprising. Vanessa is an unbelievable person who simply gets it. If you’re driven, focused and dedicated, she will get you into your dream school. That’s what she does, and she does it better than anyone else in the industry.

le9229 Newbie | Next Rank: 10 Posts Default Avatar
15 Apr 2015
1 messages
Post Wed Apr 15, 2015 9:39 am
Overall, Stratus is a very strong MBA consultancy with very experienced consultants; however, as with most everything in life, you only get out of Stratus as much as you put in. Shawn's guidance was absolutely invaluable throughout the entire process. I highly recommend getting him involved in the process as much as possible, even if it means paying a little extra for his services and essay editing.

In addition to consulting, I found their MBA tutoring to be extremely helpful. I jumped from a 600 -> 690 -> 750, which ultimately helped me get off the waitlist at Columbia with a very sizeable scholarship.

The introspection exercises are lengthy and are very intense - don't get too bogged down on filling everything out, but it did help get my strategy straight so I can dive into writing my essays. Once I wrote my outline for my essays and reviewed them with Shawn and Shaifali, the essay writing process was very smooth. They provide clear feedback, direction, and pitfalls to avoid. That was one area I could've really failed throughout the process - Shawn and Shaifali helped me avoid major pitfalls. You're applying against thousands of equally qualified applicants, so one slip up can really cost you your seat. I can't emphasize enough how important it is to make sure you're communicating your story effectively and efficiently to the admissions team. Stratus helps make sure you do that.

My only feedback to Stratus would be for them to develop a deeper, personal relationship with their clients. Or that might've just been my experience with Shaifali. I was more often than not the one reaching out to ask questions and move the process along. She also was pretty unsympathetic when I told her I was waitlisted at my top choice program. Shaifali was almost too professional - I would've like to have developed a closer relationship with her. Overall though, Stratus helped me develop a clear strategy in applying to school and made my essays really sing and dance. They helped me stand out as an exceptional individual in a VERY competitive pool of applicants.

For some background, I had a 3.5 from a "public ivy," a 690, background in finance and healthcare, and was accepted to Haas and waitlisted at CBS early decision. I was ultimately accepted to Columbia once I got a 750 - they told me I was conditionally accepted as long as I raised my GMAT score. To Stratus' credit, they said they loved my background, story, and profile as an individual. I was rejected at HBS and LBS, but those were not my top choices.

In response to the post before me, Vanessa Gil was GREAT at reviewing my essays and providing feedback and she even offered to review an essay one more time than she needed to to make sure it was perfect. Shaifali had also done the same more than once. Overall, I would highly would recommend Stratus for MBA consulting.

fxMBAconsulting (Leah) Senior | Next Rank: 100 Posts
19 Apr 2015
35 messages
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Post Fri Apr 24, 2015 7:12 am
I've just produced a 15 minute video available here http://fxmbaconsulting.com/find-best-mba-admissions-consultants-firms-due-diligence/
It gives candidates a lot of insight into how Admissions consultants and firms operate and will provide you with the tools you need to perform your own due diligence before you buy a package. Find out what things to look for and what questions to ask your consultant.
Good Luck!

Leah Derus
MIT Sloan MBA 2010
Independent MBA Admissions Consultant

MBA Admissions Consultants & Firms - How to Hire a Great One

calvinh Newbie | Next Rank: 10 Posts Default Avatar
06 May 2015
1 messages
Post Wed May 06, 2015 2:09 pm
message deleted

Last edited by calvinh on Thu May 07, 2015 12:56 pm; edited 1 time in total

mbaperson2017 Newbie | Next Rank: 10 Posts
07 May 2015
1 messages
Post Thu May 07, 2015 11:19 am
I used Stratus Prep admissions consulting for my MBA applications and overall, I had a very positive experience with them. Initially, I was paired up with a consultant who was in the process of leaving the firm and was not very responsive so I was a bit apprehensive. However, Stratus was fully appreciative of this and quickly re-paired me up with Salma, who was amazing! She definitely took time to walk through all the necessary components to putting together a strong application and was very involved in the process. She was extremely responsive and was willing to help up to the last minute during a busy holiday period. The essay help was invaluable, although I would I felt that there was more focus towards one of the schools I was applying to compared to the other. Eventually, I did get accepted into my top choice (HBS) but expected a bit more on that front. In terms of mock interview prep, it was really really helpful! They initially provided a bunch of interview que stion / scenarios to think through and then I had separate mock interviews with Salma and Shawn. All these tools were extremely invaluable before my actual interview! I would recommend Stratus Prep!

luckyduck87 Newbie | Next Rank: 10 Posts Default Avatar
07 May 2015
1 messages
Post Thu May 07, 2015 12:56 pm
I signed up for Stratus Prep after meeting Shawn Oconnor at a local MBA event in San Francisco. Overall, I had a very positive experience! 

I was originally paired with Jessica (who no longer provides consulting services) who helped me throughout the introspection process and with school selection. She was incredibly supportive, positive, and gave me valuable feedback. She helped me put a fantastic application together for Fuqua's Round 1 application and I got in with a huge scholarship! 

Jessica left Stratus shortly after R1 and I was quickly reassigned to Salma Quarnain. She was FANTASTIC! If you are thinking about stratus at all, I highly recommend requesting Salma as your counselor. Not only was she super encouraging, she actually gave me extremely valuable constructive feedback and worked through multiple iterations of my essays until they were perfect. She even worked with my recommenders who told me that they were extremely impressed with the feedback she gave them. I received interviews at 2/3 of my Round 2 schools (Haas and Kellogg) and Salma worked with me on mock interviews so that I felt prepared going in. While I didn't get into Stanford, I was waitlisted at Haas and got into my top choice, Kellogg. I'm so excited to be going there in the fall and I could not have done it without Salma. THANK YOU SALMA!

w1180945 Newbie | Next Rank: 10 Posts Default Avatar
22 Apr 2012
1 messages
Post Mon Jun 15, 2015 6:42 am
I used Stratus Prep for counseling services and wanted to share my positive experience.

After spending the the fall trying to improve my GMAT score (and ultimately only achieving a 690), I knew the odds of me getting into an elite school were low, especially with my other 'stats' - 3.4 GPA, predominately white male working in finance, etc. With only 6 weeks before R2 apps due and little work done on my apps, I hired Stratus, hoping that they could help me create a more compelling application to overcome my less compelling 'stats.'

I was paired with Michael Ruderman and he was truly fantastic. He helped me frame my unique story for my apps, incorporating my personal, professional, and leadership experiences, he helped me write outstanding essays, and he was almost always available during the last couple weeks in December during crunch time (i.e. the holidays, when most people are on vacation). He also was insightful in terms of interview prep after the written application phase.

Ultimately I got into a few of the schools I applied to (2 out of 6, all of which are top 12 schools), one of which was at the top of my list - Kellogg, where I'll be going in the fall of 2015. I can say with a high degree of confidence that I would not have gotten into the schools I got into without Stratus' and Michael's help. I also commend Stratus and Michael for helping me formulate my story and create strong essays in such a short time frame. They made my application process much less stressful than it would have been otherwise.

Overall, highly recommended.

karimtajdin Newbie | Next Rank: 10 Posts Default Avatar
19 May 2013
1 messages
Post Tue Jun 16, 2015 11:30 am
I used Stratus Prep. Stratus Prep helped me with my MBA school applications. I got into my top choice (INSEAD) despite not having the best possible GMAT score.

I think that the part that helped me most was the introspection one. Stratus Prep helped me "find myself", and refine where I see myself going. This exercise not only helped me get into INSEAD, but also helped me shape my post-MBA career. It's always good to have a plan when you enter an MBA School (even though that plan may change multiple times while in school Smile).

I also liked how Stratus Prep helped with the essays. Having 3 different knowledgeable people look over the essay definitely helps!

expathealthcare Newbie | Next Rank: 10 Posts
20 Jun 2015
1 messages
Post Sat Jun 20, 2015 11:41 am
Hey everyone,

I used Stratus Prep this past round of applications, and wanted to post about my fantastic experience, which ultimately led to me getting into my dream school.

Stratus Prep did a fantastic job of pairing me up with Salma Qarnain, after my initial conversations with Shawn O'Connor, the head of Stratus. I cannot recommend Salma highly enough! She paid very close attention to the story that we were conveying, and was able to firmly guide me in the direction needed for each application. I was the type of applicant that had a lot of big ideas for each essay, and Salma provided the solid guidance that I sought.

From other friends that used Stratus - and also got into their schools - Stratus can provide smaller packages and be more hands off if you desire. For me, however, the deep dive into my background with their robust Stratus templates provided a very personal consulting experience, and ultimately helped identify what Salma saw as the most compelling aspects of my story. The interview prep once I got into the schools was also VERY helpful.

Extremely responsive, friendly but firm, and very high quality work. The full package - from picking the schools that fit, to the interview. Salma was amazing, and I would recommend her to anyone!

harishm Newbie | Next Rank: 10 Posts Default Avatar
25 Jun 2014
1 messages
Post Thu Jun 25, 2015 9:58 am
I used stratus prep last year and i am very satisfied with their service. I am an older applicant in an overly represented category (Indian IT Male). Though my GMAT (740) and GPA (3.9) were good, i felt that my chance of acceptance was very low and my essays needed to be strong. I applied to Kellogg, Columbia, Wharton and MIT during the first round. I got accepted into Columbia and Kellogg, and interviewed at Wharton.

My consultant was amazing and she was completely invested in my application process. She had genuine desire to see me succeed. I learned quite a bit from her during this time, as she was very accomplished HBS graduate. She was thorough in her feedback and didn't let even a single word or mistake slide by. Overall a great experience and positive outcome.

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