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Admission Consultant vs. Campus Visits (Where to spend $$$?)

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Admission Consultant vs. Campus Visits (Where to spend $$$?) [#permalink] New post 28 Jun 2012, 20:06
Hi all, I'm contemplating whether to hire an admission consultant (eg Veritas Prep or Stacy Blackman or MBA Mission).

If you had to choose, would you rather invest money on one of those, or spend on quite a few (say, 5-8) campus visits across the country?

Here's my thinking: a consultant will probably cost like $5-7k and I may well get my money's worth! But I also wonder if I could simply rely on the wisdom of others and use, say, half that amount toward visits where I can build up a credible roster of on-campus experiences to draw upon in my essays (vs essays that, while professionally edited, draw upon tidbits sourced online, via emails with students, etc.).

Thank you in advance!
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Re: Admission Consultant vs. Campus Visits (Where to spend $$$?) [#permalink] New post 08 Jul 2012, 07:32
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alphabear1 wrote:
Hello,
I did both school visits and the consultant. The school visits pointed out things I didn't like about schools more than things I did like. But that's pretty useless for the application where you want to talk about what you do like but it did help me re-evaluate my order of pref. My no. 1 & no. 2 still stayed in place however.

The consultant was very useful. (I used Sandy). He basically told me what it is about MY specific profile that my no. 1 school would like, which is what made all the difference in my apps. Frankly, I found that more useful, than visiting the school and trying to extrapolate what they like based on what I saw.

Also worth noting, you can visit the schools after an admit and then decide. Personally, I felt that with the web, there are so many resources available that school visits aren't always necessary.

I agree with you that school visits won't make or break your candidacy, I think you're only speaking of visits from the perspective of what the adcom thinks. Personally, I didn't use school visits so I could impress an adcom or have something to write about in my essays. The visits were for me to see if I liked the school and wanted to actually be there.

I know people who got into schools they never visited and hated it when they went to admit weekends. In some cases it was their only option. I'd hate to have to choose between going to a school I dislike and reapplying to other places next year. I don't know about you but I didn't find the process of applying to schools to be very pleasant. In fact I thought it sucked and wouldn't wish for anyone to have to repeat it. The web simply does not compare to an in person visit. I loved Stern via the web and alums I spoke to. In person, not so much...actually not even a little not even at all. Knowing that up front stopped me from applying to a very good school that wasn't a good school for me. You mentioned gleaning school info from posts like the "Impressions of 16 US Bschools." Now even though I didn't like Stern I met other applicants who loved it upon visiting. If someone simply based their opinions off of my feelings they could be missing out. There really isn't a substitute for school visits (when feasible).

I do think that a consultant can add tremendous value to an applicant, especially if that person doesn't have a personal network to help guide them through the process. Actually I think that school visits and consultants tackle two completely different yet equally important pieces of the admissions puzzle. Visits affect the internal part of the process while consultants help the external/presentation piece. I think it's up to each individual to determine where they need the most help.

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Re: Admission Consultant vs. Campus Visits (Where to spend $$$?) [#permalink] New post 05 Jul 2012, 23:12
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I think the poster should rephrase this question for International Students and North American Students.

This scenario is for a person going to a US School
If I were in America, I think it would definitely make sense to go around campuses seeing where I want to go to school. As an international student, its a whole different story. You would be blowing 3000 to 4000 dollars on travel alone. It doesn't give the right ROI as compared to using a combination of Consultants and coffee chats locally.

The ROI calculations are totally different for International students vs. North American students, especially if you are going to a US School. So, again this whole question really depends on where you want to study and where you are based out of.

My few cents worth.
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Re: Admission Consultant vs. Campus Visits (Where to spend $$$?) [#permalink] New post 10 Jul 2012, 05:43
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Doing your own school research, crafting your own life and career goals stories, reaching out for informational interviews, preparing yourself for your own interviews, and managing your own application strategy seems to be very similar to....

The skills you'll need to land a job.

I would spend money on campus visits, using your application process as a 2 for 1 special that hones your future job hunt skills.

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Re: Admission Consultant vs. Campus Visits (Where to spend $$$?) [#permalink] New post 08 Jul 2012, 10:19
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As others have stated, it depends.

The number of people who use consulting services at top business schools is suprisingly high. Speaking with a few Tuck alums, they did an informal poll with a number of their classmates and found that roughly 50% of the admitted students used some form of consulting services. I imagine many of those who did not had insight from friends/peers as to the admissions process and what works well.

I think campus visits are an absolute must to find the schools that are good fits for you. I also think a good consultant can help ensure that you are telling your best story possible at the schools you want to apply to. If I had to do the admissions process over again, I would have used a consultant. I have no doubt my acceptance rate would have been higher and I likely would not have applied to certain schools.
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Re: Admission Consultant vs. Campus Visits (Where to spend $$$?) [#permalink] New post 28 Jun 2012, 20:53
Fair question, but do tell us a little more about yourself and situation. So we can give you a better response.

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Re: Admission Consultant vs. Campus Visits (Where to spend $$$?) [#permalink] New post 28 Jun 2012, 21:24
Easily campus visits.

You also need to know what you're getting yourself into for two years. Plus, some schools all but require you to visit if they're going to take your application seriously.

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Re: Admission Consultant vs. Campus Visits (Where to spend $$$?) [#permalink] New post 28 Jun 2012, 21:40
If you already have a lot of resources for application guidance/assistance (i.e. friends or family who are current students or recent alums) and they are willing to be on your team, I think you can forgo the consultant or minimize the services you purchase in favor of school visits. School visits are so important in helping you to decide where to apply and in getting to know the school.

You can always purchase consulting services a la carte as you need them. Also many consultants publish a lot of free advice online. Take advantage of those resources before you spend the money. They may be enough.

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Re: Admission Consultant vs. Campus Visits (Where to spend $$$?) [#permalink] New post 02 Jul 2012, 01:56
Campus visits without a doubt.

Nothing will help you understand a school as well as a campus visit will. Apart from the standard info provided during a campus visit, which in any case is useful, the real gems will come out from your interactions with current students. These finer points will really help you craft your applications better.

Besides, the feel of the school that you get from a campus visit will help you develop a lot of clarity as to whether or not you would like to join that school if offered an admission. Having this clarity before applying is much better than getting accepted to a school and then having the dilemma of whether to attend the school or not.

Working with an admissions consultant will not help you in any of these things. If you're confident of the content of your essays and are only apprehensive about the grammatical quality, you could easily hire an essay editing service that will cost you far far lesser than a consultant would.

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Re: Admission Consultant vs. Campus Visits (Where to spend $$$?) [#permalink] New post 02 Jul 2012, 10:55
My personal take: campus visits.

I still find the exorbitant costs of admissions consulting hard to swallow. There are many free resources (the internetz, blogs, peers) and cheaper alternatives (admission guide books). Let's say you get admitted to a top school. The consultant will take all the credit (and your $2000-$4000), when that $ could have been spent on a number of highly valuable resources such as campus visits, a new laptop, or future expenses towards housing costs.
I don't doubt that admissions consultants are experts in their fields but I think for prospective students who can be proactive in their research and leverage any existing contacts that are b-school alums or current students, then it is difficult to justify such price tags. If, however, there existed some payment structure, wherein if you do not get accepted into any schools then you receive a size-able discount, then I would probably reconsider. After all, aren't these consulting groups aiming to help you target a realistic range of schools?
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Re: Admission Consultant vs. Campus Visits (Where to spend $$$?) [#permalink] New post 02 Jul 2012, 13:04
I spent about 2 weeks total on campus visits, and it really changed how I ranked schools. Meeting students at each school gave a really solid feel to what kind of opportunities they have, how enthusiastic they are about said opportunities, and how much the school supported them.
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Re: Admission Consultant vs. Campus Visits (Where to spend $$$?) [#permalink] New post 05 Jul 2012, 10:02
As someone who's spent money on both (in separate years), I'd recommend campus visits. As folks before me have said, it helps to prioritize your personal rankings, and crystalize the programs and initiatives that you are particularly interested in. But aside from that, the value that I saw in hiring the consultant, (who I personally liked), was to have someone be honest with you, who had been through the process, and had an objective eye. However, I had 2-3 other people in my circle who volunteered to do this for free, just as thoroughly as my consultant did. I also got the sense that my consultant knew 3-4 schools REALLY well, but didn't take the pains to find out about the other schools I was applying to, nor did he encourage me to find out more on my own. (I was being dumb, and didn't think to do this.) The next time around, when I spent that money on campus visits, I discovered so much more about my target schools that I was able to save myself by nixing a few, and really speak to specifics - certain professors who I met/whose classes I visited, students I'd met, club heads I'd talked to, etc. - that it made my essays a hell of a lot easier. PLUS - traveling is fun, and you'll find great things to do in each location. I liked Ann Arbor just as much as I'd liked Chicago, just as much as I'd liked Raleigh/Durham. It also helped that I had people to visit in each of those places, but I'm sure you can hook up with your fellow GMATClubbers and get a group together whenever you're visiting a particular school.

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Re: Admission Consultant vs. Campus Visits (Where to spend $$$?) [#permalink] New post 05 Jul 2012, 10:30
This is piling on, but I would definitely recommend campus visits. I'll add some value by recommending that you thoroughly research the school and come prepared with thoughtful questions for the tour. Talk to students, observe a class, pick up a copy of the school newspaper, and take plenty of notes. This is all great material for your essays. I went on several tours and very few people actually do any of this stuff. To the extent there were questions other than mine, people asked about stupid stuff like grade nondisclosure.

You may also come away with a totally different impression of a school than you had before. I crossed a very highly ranked school off my list after visiting because I just really didn't like anything I saw there.

Finally, my personal opinion would be to spend your money on a trip to Vegas before giving it to an admissions consultant.
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Re: Admission Consultant vs. Campus Visits (Where to spend $$$?) [#permalink] New post 05 Jul 2012, 11:33
Hello,

I created an account just to answer this question!

So my answer: well it depends. If you have a number one school that you HAVE to get into, then I would say spend the money on a consultant. Particularly, if that school is Harvard or Stanford (assuming you have the type of profile they like). If you have a list of schools that are mid-tier and you aren't sure which ones you like then I'd say the school visits. A lot of schools like Columbia and Haas are concerned about their yield, so they want to admit students who are very keen and show some understanding about that school's peculiarities (i.e. profs, classes, etc.). H+S don't care about that stuff so much since their yield is high already. However, if you can find alumni to talk to or you do enough web research, you can skip the visits. This website recently had a thread on impressions after school visits that was very detailed (sorry, I don't know how to link threads).

I did both school visits and the consultant. The school visits pointed out things I didn't like about schools more than things I did like. But that's pretty useless for the application where you want to talk about what you do like but it did help me re-evaluate my order of pref. My no. 1 & no. 2 still stayed in place however.

The consultant was very useful. (I used Sandy). He basically told me what it is about MY specific profile that my no. 1 school would like, which is what made all the difference in my apps. Frankly, I found that more useful, than visiting the school and trying to extrapolate what they like based on what I saw.

Also worth noting, you can visit the schools after an admit and then decide. Personally, I felt that with the web, there are so many resources available that school visits aren't always necessary. A nice to do maybe but they won't make or break you. A GOOD consultant, on the other hand, can guide you if you don't have a lot of MBA-types around you that can help.
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Re: Admission Consultant vs. Campus Visits (Where to spend $$$?) [#permalink] New post 08 Jul 2012, 07:14
alphabear1 wrote:
Hello,

I created an account just to answer this question!

So my answer: well it depends. If you have a number one school that you HAVE to get into, then I would say spend the money on a consultant. Particularly, if that school is Harvard or Stanford
............. nice to do maybe but they won't make or break you. A GOOD consultant, on the other hand, can guide you if you don't have a lot of MBA-types around you that can help.


I would agree more with alphabear who takes more a devil's advocate approach. Also, I'm an international student but am combining a trip the firm is paying for to the US, taking a break after, and paying for my domestic travel/hotel myself (I know that doesn't help most international students out, but it took a lot of maneuvering!)

I'm in the exact same position right now, deciding on consultants VS visits. Some insights I've gleaned from a friend in Wharton and 4 alumni I've spoken to within McKinsey & Co. regarding this topic:
1) 2 out of 5 used consultants - HOWEVER, the one's that did not had very strong peer review support. And by that I mean peers/family in the industry who could spend quality time editing those essays. I personally do not have that. On the contrary, a Haas alumni mentioned that schools can "smell tailored essays from a mile away", just to keep that in mind.

2) Get one done - My plan since I have very low savings: Get one (MAXIMUM 2) essays paid for, even that's a ton. Save the rest for campus visits.

3) Free half hour consult - Both StacyBlackman and Precission Essay have free half hour consults. Register and speak to a consultant and have very specific questions to ask them. I did both. Ask for that consultant again if you really liked them and decide to pay.

4) Reference for discount - Not so important, but every $ counts, get referred by a friend who's used that service, I'm getting 15% off. I know, on like $3000 not exactly big savings, but why not..

The Wharton fellow paid for 5 schools with Stacy Blackman, that's a crazy $15K I think. I don't have that kind of cash, but he said it was definitely worth it as they really helped him crack essential points to better understand his essays where as his prior effort was shallow.

Good luck my friend, I'm beginning the campus visits in September and will apply in R2 to all my schools. Would love to know any body else's insights on this topic and if they would like to connect in the US, message me!

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Re: Admission Consultant vs. Campus Visits (Where to spend $$$?) [#permalink] New post 08 Jul 2012, 10:53
Look - at the end of the day, every person will have different opinions on this.

You need to evaluate how strong of a candidate you are and how confident you are in your abilities.

No one proofread my essays, and I had one friend briefly look over my resume. If I used a consultant would I have gotten into ALL the schools I applied to? Maybe, maybe not. I had friends who used consultants and still didn't get into certain schools.

The visits for me were more worthwhile because I was able to connect to the school on a different level and narrow down what I personally wanted.

If you're the type that needs more handholding/structure/storytelling advice in crafting your applications, go for the consultants. If you think you can figure it out on your own, save your money.

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Re: Admission Consultant vs. Campus Visits (Where to spend $$$?) [#permalink] New post 27 Jun 2014, 00:42
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Re: Admission Consultant vs. Campus Visits (Where to spend $$$?)   [#permalink] 27 Jun 2014, 00:42
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