Alternatives to Consulting

Introduction

Of course, many applicants are accepted to a top MBA every year without the benefit of admissions consulting services. In our experience however, this fortunate group tend to:

Be highly qualified, with few or no major profile “weaknesses” to overcome
Have started early, particularly with their research of both suitable schools and the ins-and-outs of the application process itself (thus avoiding the cardinal error of underestimating the task)
Have taken a highly disciplined “project management” approach from the beginning of the application process
Have spent a great deal of time overall on their applications, particularly their essays
Have relied heavily on books and MBA friends for advice at several stages of the application process

While we encourage every applicant to use every resource available, there are some important reasons why reliance on MBA friends and books alone may not offer the kind of comprehensive insurance policy many applicants seek.

Relying on friends

Advantages

There are several advantages of having MBA friends or relatives help you through the application process:

Because they know you, they can be an invaluable sounding board every step of the way, from school selection through how you present yourself in your essays
If they have an MBA themselves, or are senior enough in business to have hiring authority (particularly of MBAs), they can offer strong insight into the characteristics of successful applicants

Disadvantages

However, relying on friends has some key disadvantages:

Limited experience. Their application experience is typically limited to themselves. Especially if your profile/background is different to theirs, they may not know how to best position your experience and personal qualities, and may not recognize profile-specific pitfalls. In contrast, we have been first-hand witnesses of what works consistently for the full range of applicant profiles.

Inadequate or inappropriate guidance. Even if they correctly identify areas of weakness in your application, it is unlikely they will know for certain how to prioritize them, or have the most effective suggestions to mitigate them. There are few things more frustrating than being told “Don’t do what you did, but I don’t know what you should do.” In contrast, doing this skillfully is our bread-and-butter.
Unwillingness to be candid. Because they know you (!), they may not be completely candid about raising issues about your candidacy in general or your essays in particular. In contrast, as we don’t know you and are compensated specifically for our advice, we are duty-bound to call out issues the moment we see them.
Too busy. Unfortunately, the very friends who could help the most are often the least likely to have the time to do so comprehensively. More than likely you will have to be satisfied with a snippet of assistance here or there, or jump from one friend to the next. In contrast, we are dedicated to working with you from start to finish, enabling an ideal, holistic approach to shaping your presentation.

Relying on books

We highly recommend you consider getting a leg up on other candidates by understanding the application process better. Books can be a great way to do that. Below we look at the advantages and disadvantages of relying on books alone:

Advantages

Great self-help way to de-mystify admissions process.
There are some good books (see our recommendations here).
They cost little.
You can absorb the information anywhere, anytime, at your own pace.

Disadvantages

There are many poor quality ones (again, see our recommendations here to avoid this problem).
They take considerable time to read, and no single book contains all the best ideas. In contrast, we have not only read all the best books, but have absorbed — and in many cases gone beyond — their best ideas.
Given the commercial necessity of their focus on the widest possible applicant audience, books are necessarily limited to higher-level guidance applicable to a broad set of profiles. However, putting that high-level guidance into practice for your particular objectives, profile, and personality is another task entirely. You could think of the best books together as representing the best application “theory”, whereas our service works out the theory’s best application to you.