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Who Should Work with an MBA Consultant?

by Stacy Blackman Consulting, Jun 3, 2024

Summer is here, and that means SBC is experiencing the usual annual surge of B-school aspirants looking to get matched with an MBA consultant and start their months-long application journeys. Savvy applicants realize they can lay the groundwork for their applications long before the forms are released. Plus, a seasoned MBA consultant can guide you toward improving your candidacy before you get down to business for round one deadlines.

While not every applicant needs to work with an MBA consultant to succeed, partnering with us can significantly strengthen any applicant's materials. In our B-Schooled podcast episode #51, we delve into where we add the most significant value. Over our more than two decades in business, we've identified nine types of MBA candidates who can benefit the most from our services. Let's explore them:

The Procrastinator

If you're applying for an MBA, it's time to get honest about your strengths and weaknesses. Even if you're someone who thrives off last-minute stress, know it's a rare candidate who can pull off a winning MBA application package at the eleventh hour. The sad truth is that your procrastinating tendencies will likely do you in.

Huge problems can arise for those who are overconfident in their test-taking ability. Such people often don't leave enough time to retake the GMAT or GRE before submission if they score lower than they hoped on practice tests. Other procrastinators stumble by dragging their feet getting their recommendation letters in order. Or they fail to reformat their resume in time to make it MBA-ready. They may keep putting off their essay writing and underperform on this crucial application component.

Creating a standout application requires time and introspection that can't be rushed. If you anticipate needing assistance to meet your targeted round deadlines, an MBA consultant can play a crucial role. They can guide you through the process, ensuring you stay on track and meet all the necessary requirements.

The Overwhelmed

The second type of MBA applicant that admissions consultants can help are those who feel overwhelmed by the process. These people aren't necessarily procrastinators—they might be OK with deadlines and stay on top of things—but they have a lot on their plates. Perhaps they travel a lot for work or are in the middle of a big and demanding project or deal. These applicants need someone to light a fire under them, keep them on track, or break down the process into manageable tasks. An MBA consultant can be that guiding light, providing a sense of relief and reassurance in the midst of a hectic application process.

Even if you're not particularly busy, you may still feel stressed by all the different moving parts, timelines, and requirements of the process. If you get a sinking feeling about how you will pull it all off, that's a sign that an MBA consultant can help.

Your admissions consultant can help you get everything done promptly and less stressfully. They can also help distinguish you from the pack and help you enjoy the process.

The Ultra-Determined

The third type of applicant who should strongly consider working with an MBA admissions consultant is one who is absolutely determined to join the next admitted class. Most applicants want to be admitted in the year they are applying. We're talking about when it's imperative to someone that they go back that fall.

It is so vital to them that it may mean attending a school that isn't their dream program or one they initially weren't excited about. It may also mean casting a wider net of where they apply, even if they must move somewhere that hadn't been on their radar.

We've worked with candidates in this situation who were downright miserable in their jobs or careers. They knew that an MBA was the most strategic way to pivot out. It could be an older candidate who knows they will soon age out of the running and wants to start their degree as quickly as possible. Or it might be someone who knows they want to start a family in a few years and is committed to earning their degree first.

There are many reasons why someone might have this heightened sense of urgency. Early preparation is key for these ultra-determined applicants. An MBA consultant can help them stay motivated and driven, ensuring they make the most of their application process.

If you know you're in that boat, then now is the time to pull out all the stops and position yourself as best you can for success. That way, you don't have any regrets at the end of the process.

The Non-Writer

The fourth type of applicant that MBA consultants can help is those who feel they are not strong writers. Folks in this bucket can range from applicants for whom English is not their first language to those who have only ever spoken English but don't feel like they communicate well through writing.

It could also include people who are confident in spelling and grammar but whose careers, hobbies, and activities outside of work have not provided them with opportunities to write anything beyond bullet points, short emails, or PowerPoint slides.

So, when it comes to pulling together a narrative that grabs the reader from the admissions committee, they want some help.

The Overrepresented Demographic

The fifth group of applicants that MBA admissions consultants can help are people from the most competitive buckets. That typically means applicants coming from consulting or financial services. However, male Indian applicants with engineering degrees are another demographic bucket with fierce competition.

MBA consultants are objective experts who can help you determine what differentiates your candidacy most. That way, you can distinguish yourself from the enormous pack of candidates you're up against who have seemingly similar profiles.

The "Unremarkable"

Next, we have applicants who feel like their profile lacks something that really stands out. Either they haven't done anything awe-inspiring at work, or they've been so wrapped up in their work that they don't have much to point to as an achievement outside of the office. However, an MBA consultant can help these applicants see the potential in their experiences and guide them in highlighting their unique qualities, instilling a sense of hope and optimism in their application journey.

When MBA consultants work with any candidate, they thoroughly investigate that person's life, background, education, and career to ensure they fully understand how to best position the applicant. This process is even more essential for candidates who feel like they have nothing special that differentiates them.

"This is one of my favorite parts of the job," says B-Schooled host Erika. "I just love helping people connect those dots that maybe they haven't really been able to think about before."
You don't have to have done something extraordinary in your life or your career to get into a top business school. But you do have to figure out what makes you tick and what you bring to the table and then tell your story in a compelling way.

The Un- or Ill-Informed

The next type of MBA applicant that admissions consultants can help are those who feel like they don't have any objective people around them to bounce their ideas off. If you know (or strongly suspect) that your parents, siblings, friends, or coworkers aren't going to be straight with you about your essay ideas, you might lack confidence about how you're positioning yourself.

Everybody needs to have someone who's a straight shooter in their life. But beyond that, there's huge value in having someone in your corner with a high-level view of the MBA application process. Ideally, that person knows what does and doesn't work in essays, short-answer responses, and career goal statements.

The fact is, some themes and essay stories are way overdone. If we've seen it too much, then the admissions committee member reading your application will glaze over if you're the 900th essay they've read about that topic.

For example, one excessively overplayed narrative is about parents or grandparents who immigrated to the US and struggled to provide for their family. We're not saying that these types of stories can't ever work. However, many applicants have no idea how commonplace some of these narratives are. If you want to figure out what is unique and differentiating about you, guidance from that objective MBA consultant with a higher-level overarching view is the way to go.

Another example is something like saying you want to go into private equity after you're getting your MBA when you haven't been in the industry before. Now, we're not blanketly saying that that's an automatic no-no. However, it can make the admissions committee concerned that you won't get an offer at graduation.

If that happens, their employment statistics will suffer because private equity is notoriously hard to break into if you don't have prior experience—even with an MBA. So, just having an objective person who can help steer you away from overused narratives and risky career goals can help people who don't have anybody else to turn to for that kind of insight.

The Over-Confident

The issue with this eighth type of applicant is that they will likely never realize they need help. Being overconfident can lead to having sky-high, unrealistic expectations about how the MBA process might play out. For example, it's exceedingly rare for someone to get into Harvard, Stanford, and Wharton.

Yet many MBA hopefuls set those expectations for themselves at the beginning of this process. If they get into one of those programs—a huge accomplishment—they're still upset because they didn't get into all of them. It's mind-boggling!

One thing overconfident applicants have in common is that they think their stats alone will get them into their chosen programs. They believe having a high GMAT, having gone to an Ivy League or otherwise highly respected university, and having a high GPA are all it takes. They also put too much weight on their connections from years ago. Admissions committees are sensitive about being perceived as playing favorites based on connections.

Applicants also base expectations about their own MBA fates on what happened to other people they know who they assume had similar profiles. Maybe they went to school with them or worked with them. Another problematic theme with overconfident candidates is that because they're banking on their pedigrees and stats and connections, they tend to be lacking in the community service, extracurricular, and volunteer activities front.

But those candidacy elements are critically important. A trusted MBA consultant can redirect these applicants' attention to what really matters to the admissions committee.

The M7 Aspirants

The final type of applicant an MBA consultant can help is those applying to an M7 or "Magnificent Seven" school. The schools in that exclusive club are:

  • Harvard Business School
  • Stanford GSB
  • Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania
  • Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University
  • Booth School of Business at the University of Chicago
  • Columbia Business School
  • MIT's Sloan School of Management

Now, M7 has become a mythical term in MBA circles. Yet some schools, like UC Berkeley Haas, are more challenging to get into than others on that list. We encourage everyone to understand the acceptance rates and yields at any school they're applying to before starting the application process.

Do you have your heart set on getting into one of the world's most prestigious and competitive business schools? In that case, you need to be realistic about the fact that up to 10,000 other Type-A overachievers from across the globe will be vying against you for a spot. Now may not be the time to go at it alone.

The Real Value of Working with an MBA Consultant

Hiring an MBA consultant for business school applications can be invaluable. When you work with an expert, that person will dig deep into your candidacy and background to help you create the strategy required to position yourself best. If you're working with an established and respected admissions consulting firm like Stacy Blackman Consulting, there is no situation we haven't seen before and helped applicants through.

Plus, we offer unique services like the SBC Flight Test, where we take an applicant's nearly final set of materials for a specific school and then run them through a simulated admissions committee review by someone on our staff who used to be an admissions officer at a top program.

These professionals offer insider knowledge, strategic guidance, and personalized support throughout the rigorous admissions process. Their expertise can help applicants craft compelling essays, refine resumes, and ace interviews, effectively showcasing their unique strengths and experiences.

Additionally, MBA consultants provide:

  • Valuable insights into selecting target schools.
  • Help to navigate complex application requirements.
  • Guidance to understand the nuances of each institution's culture and values.

With their assistance, applicants can maximize their chances of acceptance to their dream MBA programs.

"Obviously I feel strongly about a job I've been doing for over a decade," says B-Schooled host Erika. "But it's because every single round I see the first drafts of essays and data forms and resumes that applicant sent to me before we really got to work, and then I can compare them to what they finally submitted to schools. And I know that I've really helped them put together their personal best set of materials."

Without a doubt, that's how everybody on the Stacy Blackman Consulting team feels.

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Stacy Blackman Consulting is the only MBA admissions firm with a complete panel of former Admissions Officers from every M7 program and the elite European MBA programs. We offer multiple services to meet your MBA application needs, from our All-In Partnership to hourly help with essay editing, interview prep, and MBA resume review. Contact us today for a free 15-minute advising session to talk strategy with a Principal SBC consultant.