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Admissions consultant - Stacy or Sandy?

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Re: Admissions consultant - Stacy or Sandy? [#permalink] New post 27 Dec 2010, 14:28
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Stacy Blackman Representative
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Re: Admissions consultant - Stacy or Sandy? [#permalink] New post 29 Mar 2011, 22:32
Wow. I am really upset to read these posts and certainly apologize to those of you who did not have a positive experience working with my company. It’s my goal to help each and every client be successful, and to also have a great experience working with us. I certainly take any and all feedback to heart and am constantly working to improve the quality of the service that we provide. I would like to say that each and every client has my contact information and is encouraged from day one to be in touch – that’s one of the first emails they receive. I return emails within 24 hours and my door is always open. When a client does let me know that there is an issue, resolving that becomes my number one priority, and I do what it takes, whether that is switching to a new consultant, providing an additional layer of consultant support, or reviewing materials myself.

I started this company, and have run it for more than ten years, because I truly do care. I love helping our clients achieve success and truly consider it a privilege to learn more about them and assist with such an important process. Taking people’s money and running off with it, while they struggle with applications, is simply not part of the plan. With regards to the comments on my ethics – I really pride myself on being ethical, caring and having my clients’ best interests at heart. I aim for everyone on my team to be direct as well as compassionate. We all know what a challenging process it is, and only want to make it easier. Again, I apologize if there was a misunderstanding or poor communication that would lead anyone to feel differently.

For those of you that have completed your work with me but not told me personally about your experience, I welcome contact now. Please email me directly as I would certainly like to know more and understand the details of what went wrong.

For the record, I would also like to correct a few details, as I feel that aspects of my service have been misrepresented here:
1) My company does offer partial refunds on some of our comprehensive packages.
2) All packages come with a seven day grace period, during which you can evaluate and decide to cancel for refund.
3) Any client is welcome to start working with us for just two hours, evaluate and then move on – no pressure to invest a lot without trying it out first.
4) We do not accept payment from any client unless we have a great consultant for them. The client must approve the consultant, which may include a phone conversation, review of their bio, etc…. before moving forward. You will never be surprised by being paired with a random consultant.
5) Many of my consultants have gone to great b-schools, but this is not a criterion for being on my team. Being an awesome consultant is the main credential – I invite anyone to review bios, speak to us and learn more about us.

Thanks,
Stacy Blackman
_________________

Stacy Blackman | Stacy Blackman Consulting Inc | http://www.StacyBlackman.com | +1 323.934.3936
MBA blogger, US News and Author, The MBA Application Roadmap

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Re: Admissions consultant - Stacy or Sandy? [#permalink] New post 31 Mar 2011, 09:02
Hi Stacy, I signed up for a free consulting session with your organization out of curiousity more than anything. I am wondering what competitive advantage your organization offers relative to others? I am a non-traditional military applicant and don't know much about the process relative to peers in other fields where MBAs are more common.

It seems as though until ADCOMs formally endorse or otherwise do away with the stigma associated with consultants there is going to remain a lot of skepticisim regarding the merits of individual companies. In other words, it's a highly inefficient market because it's still seen as somewhat under the table despite ADCOMs saying things like "if authors get to have professional editors then so do you." As I was telling someone else, "I don't think Guy X is the best at this, but I think he's good and there really isn't a mechanism in place for determing who is best because this industry seems prone to reporting bias. If you used a consultant and got in do you freely admit that? Probably not. However, if you employed a consultant and didn't get in do you have an ax to grind? I think so." I think I speak for a lot of us when I say that we are highly skeptical of the field to begin with. To be honest, I'm somewhat nervous about larger organizations such as yours because I get the feeling that I'm just a "data collection point". After all, one unsatisfied customer isn't going to bring you down.
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Re: Admissions consultant - Stacy or Sandy? [#permalink] New post 31 Mar 2011, 09:52
balboa wrote:
Not sure about Sandy but definitely not Stacy Blackman.

They are too expensive and the work is mediocre because of the sheer volume of applicants that go there. After 15 iterations of my essay, I still saw little grammatical issues here and there. Besides, my consultant barely remembered my story in my essays and failed to give me good ideas to make my essay stronger. Overall, they charge too much money and do not guarantee any kind of refund whether you are applying to 1 school or using their help to apply to 5 schools ( $5000+).

I used essay critique this year for one of my schools and thought the service was much better and affordable.


Balboa,

What an atrocious experience and thanks for sharing this on the forum. I was vaguely aware that some bad admissions consultants count on applicants' insecurities, overpromise and underdeliver. Your consultant just piles applications high and doesn't provide a bespoke service to your need. Hence zero success after expensive fee ( $5000+) and frustrating process, this really adds insult to injury. You should claim a refund! I think it is extremely difficult to ensure you still receive a good service after you paid your fee as you became only a cash cow/data point for consultant. I concur that larger franchises with many consultants don't automatically provide a value added service. The lesson seems to avoid marketing hype and do your due diligence before signing up.
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Re: Admissions consultant - Stacy or Sandy? [#permalink] New post 02 Apr 2011, 15:27
gclub wrote:
balboa wrote:
Not sure about Sandy but definitely not Stacy Blackman.

They are too expensive and the work is mediocre because of the sheer volume of applicants that go there. After 15 iterations of my essay, I still saw little grammatical issues here and there. Besides, my consultant barely remembered my story in my essays and failed to give me good ideas to make my essay stronger. Overall, they charge too much money and do not guarantee any kind of refund whether you are applying to 1 school or using their help to apply to 5 schools ( $5000+).

I used essay critique this year for one of my schools and thought the service was much better and affordable.



I agree - Stacy B seemed great during the "trial" consultation before paying, but then has been below my expectations ever since. What was particularly disappointing was receiving one essay back with a new sentence suggested that was about some other candidate that my consultant was working with from a totally different background. :shock: nice. if you know someone who got a top mba within the past 5 years, have them review your essays instead.


Balboa's experience really is not very different than a silent majority of candidates who try these consulting service. I used a consulting service and paid them a bit more than what baboa did for his schools. In the end, I was completely unsatisfied with the level of service or value-add.

I used a consulting service because the the amount of information, negative impact of a dinged application, and on the surface somewhat arbitrary decision making by adcom in some cases, is usually enough to make normal people insecure. However, I did not find that even the most well known of admin consulting services did anything to alleviate such concern. On the contrary, one of the most renowned consulting firm's consultant appeared to amplify these concerns as it led to him or her using me as their cash source. If you know what you are doing then consultant is not going to be of much value. Fundamentally, consultant has a conflict of interest in advising you if your profile is strong enough to begin with. Not surprisingly, the best of candidates do not really need a consultant.

A bad consultant or a bad consulting experience can ruin any chance you may otherwise have of getting in by yourself. So, as someone already said here, doing your due diligence is absolutely vital.
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Re: Admissions consultant - Stacy or Sandy? [#permalink] New post 03 Apr 2011, 07:27
There are two aspects in the business model that leads to the current situation.
1) Create uncertainty and angst and offer consulting solution, a bit like insurance firms selling policies
2) All applicants are one off customers only as they move on. No repeat customers, hence little incentive to reach customer satisfaction. Just market to next year's applicants. Equivalent of tourist joints selling food to one off customers
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Schools: Harvard (R2 Ding w/interview), Stanford (R2 Ding w/o interview), Wharton/Lauder R2 (accepted, $$$$)
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Re: Admissions consultant - Stacy or Sandy? [#permalink] New post 04 Apr 2011, 05:10
brp4h wrote:
I'm trying to decide between Stacy Blackman and Sandy for help with my application. Any recommendations?



I actually used both. I used Stacy Blackman for the 'comprehensive' and Sandy for my HBS interview. I used SB because of previous client feedback, but I still used Sandy because he probably has the greatest number of 'data points' for the HBS interview than any other service- and my SB consultant admitted their HBS interview 'intel' wasn't very current. SB did help me with my Wharton behavioral interview prep and I felt it worked out well.

I was extremely satisfied with my SB experience. I was a nontraditional applicant and everything I knew about the app process was what I had read in MBA admissions books. I needed a fair amount of help with essay editing/crafting a coherent and compelling themes/recommender advice for my schools. My consultant helped me go through several dozen drafts of each school, with real criticism and wasn't afraid to tell me when something was just plain bad.

That being said, I also interviewed several consultants WITHIN SB before picking the one I wanted to work with. I think if I hadn't done this, my experience would have been very different and I might have had a much less positive experience. Keep in mind SB employs many consultants, some on more or less a part-time basis, so you have to make sure you know the kind of consultant style you work best with, and which type might make you strangle them. I asked several very direct questions to my prospective consultants regarding their 'track record' and what type of time commitment they were willing to put into the process.

Sandy, as mentioned before, does hundreds of HBS interview preps and a former client/HBS R3 admit recommended him to me. 95% of the questions he asked me in the mock interview were the same ones that were asked of me in the real one. I felt VERY prepared as a result of his services. I can't comment on his comprehensive but I will recommend his interview service.

So key takeaways:
Wide disparity between consultants within particular firms- do your due dilligence
Think about the particular strengths/focus of the consulting group and how that fits into your school plans
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Re: Admissions consultant - Stacy or Sandy? [#permalink] New post 12 Apr 2011, 14:22
Gryphon wrote:
Hi Stacy, I signed up for a free consulting session with your organization out of curiousity more than anything. I am wondering what competitive advantage your organization offers relative to others? I am a non-traditional military applicant and don't know much about the process relative to peers in other fields where MBAs are more common.

It seems as though until ADCOMs formally endorse or otherwise do away with the stigma associated with consultants there is going to remain a lot of skepticisim regarding the merits of individual companies. In other words, it's a highly inefficient market because it's still seen as somewhat under the table despite ADCOMs saying things like "if authors get to have professional editors then so do you." As I was telling someone else, "I don't think Guy X is the best at this, but I think he's good and there really isn't a mechanism in place for determing who is best because this industry seems prone to reporting bias. If you used a consultant and got in do you freely admit that? Probably not. However, if you employed a consultant and didn't get in do you have an ax to grind? I think so." I think I speak for a lot of us when I say that we are highly skeptical of the field to begin with. To be honest, I'm somewhat nervous about larger organizations such as yours because I get the feeling that I'm just a "data collection point". After all, one unsatisfied customer isn't going to bring you down.


Hi Gryphon,
Thanks for your post. With regards to how we compare to others, did you already have your consultation? If so, that is a reasonable question to ask, though it’s hard for us to discuss how we compare to others because we have not worked with others. We focus on what we can do to best help our clients and can tell you all about our approach. My suggestion is for you to have similar conversations with other companies and through those calls develop an understanding of how our approaches differ, and also decide with whom you feel most comfortable, which is key when you work so closely for so long.

I understand what you mean about not having the benefit of an office full of MBAs to learn from. However, we have worked with many military clients through the years and I can tell you that military experience is very well received by MBA programs as it highlights great leadership and teamwork experiences.

With regards to the rest of your post, I totally get what you are saying and appreciate your honesty and reason. I won’t try too hard to convince you otherwise but I will say the following:

1) I would argue that most MBA programs are officially OK with the ethical admissions consulting services. I have served on the board of AIGAC (Association of International Graduate Admissions Consultants) and I can tell you that the schools have definitely embraced the organization, even hosting us at their schools and collaborating on our annual conference. I personally receive multiple emails from MBA programs every day, because they know that I can help direct the right applicants their way and can also educate applicants about their programs.
2) Does this mean that you should tell the schools that you used a consultant? I don’t think so. Just as when you go on a job interview, you don’t preface it by discussing your career counselor. Just as CEOs don’t discuss the executive and life coaching that they receive – it’s a tool for you to use, and there is no need to publicize it.
3) And yes, it is true that the many people that work with us and are successful (the silent majority) are off celebrating and not taking the time to post here. So the reviews are unbalanced.
4) I will add that I do not think it would be possible to remain in business and grow for the past decade if I really was just after the money, if I did not care about clients and about their results. Even taking a purely capitalistic view, I just plain prefer to have happy clients. And I work very, very hard to make that happen.
5) Every consultant on my team takes on a very limited number of clients. I would guess that each one of them actually takes on fewer clients than does someone who is running their own shop, and I can assure you that they also care a lot about their clients and take this process very personally. I truly feel they go above and beyond, they celebrate the successes and mourn the failures. We all live and breathe this process every year, with every client.
6) When I started this company, there was no industry, there was just me doing something that I really enjoyed and was good at. In some ways that has not changed. I love what I do, I care about my clients, and despite the rumors, skepticism and other negative things that have cropped up, the essence of the work has not changed for me. Precisely why I keep my head down, do my work and have a hard time answering the question you started your post with!

Best of luck to you!
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Stacy Blackman | Stacy Blackman Consulting Inc | http://www.StacyBlackman.com | +1 323.934.3936
MBA blogger, US News and Author, The MBA Application Roadmap

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Re: Admissions consultant - Stacy or Sandy? [#permalink] New post 12 Apr 2011, 20:21
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Using SB before was a very costly mistake. Their essay editing services appeared good, but that was it. Interview services were sub-par and there was no evaluation of your entire application as a whole. Like others here, although they evaluated the school selection, they offered no constructive feedback or indication that the application process wouldn't be successful. In fact, they had the audacity to suggest that everything else was perfect and that I had screwed up my interviews - and let me say, you usually know when you've screwed up an interview and I knew that I hadn't. Obviously, no refunds whatsoever - although I'd love to be proven wrong here. And yes, you have the opportunity to interview your consultant before you choose them.. but how well do you really know a person after a 30 min conversation...?

Not using any consultant has been a much better experience. Got into 3 of the top 5 b-schools (with scholarships) and some were re-apps (which would appear to be harder than applying the first time around).

Anyway, if you do use a consultant, I'd just advise you to take their advice with caution. If I could go back, I'd definitely not use SB or any consultant again. I know it may feel like additional chance of success in the application process - but a good friend or colleague can be just as effective. And there's tons of great advice in these forums and online that has been very useful in evaluating key areas in essays and practicing for interviews. Also, trust your own judgment. If you don't feel like your essay is right, even if your consultant says it's great, trust yourself. They don't necessarily know best.
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Re: Admissions consultant - Stacy or Sandy? [#permalink] New post 14 Apr 2011, 09:53
Hi Sratzi,
I am sorry to hear of your experience with us. I am really surprised by many of the things that you have said. Of course we never know for sure if a candidate will be admitted, but we do try to be very honest in our up front assessments. We do begin our process with a strategic assessment and plan, and then various steps in our process, such as our Flight Test, reinforce and check in on the strategy. We also offer partial refunds on some of our packages. I do not know the context in which you worked with us, but I would be happy to discuss if you want to email me or schedule a call. Your experience sounds so off that I would be very interested in gathering more information to make sure that it does not happen again.

I am very proud of our success rate, and the terrific and committed team that I have assembled. Given the breadth of experience on my team, I would hope that there is a great match for every client. If the match does not seem to be working, we rematch. I am truly sorry that we could not find a great solution for you.

Of course it is great to hear that you have been successful and were able to leverage the support of friends. Congratulations and good luck, and again, if you wish to discuss live to provide more details I absolutely always have an open door.

Best,
Stacy
_________________

Stacy Blackman | Stacy Blackman Consulting Inc | http://www.StacyBlackman.com | +1 323.934.3936
MBA blogger, US News and Author, The MBA Application Roadmap

Re: Admissions consultant - Stacy or Sandy?   [#permalink] 14 Apr 2011, 09:53
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