Critical Square Admissions Consulting Reviews
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    Average Rating:       (5.0/5)
Packages
Critical Square Strategic Package [10]
    
Critical Square Comprehensive Package [7]
    
Critical Square Hourly Services [6]
    
Critical Square Tactical Package [3]
    
Critical Square Interview Prep [2]
    
Critical Square Discovery Package [1]
    
Critical Square Essay Editing [1]
    
Critical Square Resume Editing [1]
    
Critical Square Launch Critical [1]
    
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Critical Square is a firm founded on one simple principle: each candidate is unique. In an increasingly competitive environment, the way we go about helping clients hasn’t changed one bit and that’s because our process delivers results. We’re more than just admissions consultants. We’re mentors and friends as well and that’s at the heart of everything we do. Your goals and passions are what make you unique and we work with you to put together the perfect application that conveys that. We don’t write your essays for you or give you materials to leverage, because that isn’t fair and that isn’t you. But we stand by you every step of the way to make sure you’re prepared to navigate a complex and important process.

2 out of 2 people found the following review helpful
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     By Engr2012 2613 1124

It all started back in June 2015 when I gave my 2nd GMAT. I scored a 690 and knew I had blown away my chance of getting into a top 10 MBA school. I come from an overly represented group of applicants. Thus, a GMAT score less than school averages will not cut it for me. Even though I knew what will the consultants be saying about my profile with my current GMAT score, I posted my profile for evaluation on GMATCLUB. I got replies from many distinguished admission consulting firms. Of note, were 5 replies that caught my attention by the depth and clarity of their replies. This then created my shortlist. Now I had to select that 1 and postponed this decision to after my final GMAT attempt. I scheduled my next GMAT for August and was hoping to close GMAT for good then. Luckily, I was able to get the desired score and posted the update to my already-replied-to post on GMATCLUB. The next day onward I scheduled 30 minute free consultations with 6 admissions consultancies over the course of next 1-1.5 weeks. I vetted out major consultants and zeroed in on critical square based on the depth of their responses on my profile evaluation post on GC, clarity and process as explained to me by my would be client manager. The following points made my decision for me:

1. One question that clinched for me was the answer to "based on my profile etc, what are the chances to these (my list of 5 schools).". Response from Critical Square's client manager was the most honest and straightforward one. I didnt want to work with a company that will give me false hopes, only to come crashing down later. I understood the process on the very first call, that led to a better clarity on what was expected to get in a really great application package. The call lasted 1.5 hour instead of the scheduled 30 minutes and the client manager made sure that all my doubts were answered.
2. When I told the client manager during our free consultation call that I another ABC firm is offering with 40% discounts on their regular pricing, I was told that Critical square is aware and confident of its methods and thus there wont be any discounts. This only showed to me that these people do not waste anyone's time and as a paying customer, I went in with their 4 school package.
3. Pricing structure is very easy to follow and does not have the hidden costs, very transparent with addition of schools (1 price that does not change with number of schools added and when in the process!) and they do not have a "rush hour" pricing unlike other competitors (more on this later in the review).
4. The client manager did not try to talk me out of the choice of my schools but made sure that we will have a good method of attack for whatever schools I want to apply to.

As mentioned before, I come from an overly represented group and as I was very interested in doing everything I can in getting that admit, weaving my past experience of an engineer in aerospace industry to go into a consulting role post MBA would play a massive role in how good a candidate adcoms will consider me. As an aerospace engineer, I was leading geographically, culturally and functionally diverse teams of engineers on multiple projects. This provided a good platform in talking about how will MBA help me in achieving my goals. I had the major variables already in place, it was just a matter of coming up with a coherent application story that will provide confidence to the adcoms of my success post MBA.

Now to the crux of this review, Critical square's process.
Once I decided on Critical Square, I was assigned the same client manager with whom I had spoken to during the free consultation call. This saved me a day or two (critical in the grand scheme of things) in bringing a new manager upto speed with what my thoughts. I went ahead with a purchase of their 4 school comprehensive plan (I was planning to add 2 schools later and I would have been fine doing this as Critical square follows a 1 price school addition price model).
Do note that none of the admissions consultancies will write anything for you. As an applicant you must do the work yourself. At most , the consultancies will help you in using the correct words and provide the best way of putting the same thought forward. I made sure to choose what I thought was the main idea and tone behind the different essays. It will always be your work and not of your client manager's. As I had given my GMAT in August, the list of schools that I had gone ahead were Kellogg, Booth, Wharton, CBS, MIT and NYU. I was told in our first conversation that as Booth's deadline is less than a month away, I had to push Booth to R2. We dropped MIT as a combined strategic decision while bringing in Ross for R1. I was clearly explained that by keeping Booth, we will end up messing up the other R1 applications. After this strategic session, there were a couple of more calls with the client manager to chalk about a plan of attack as there were 3 weeks left for the first application. I was also provided a very detailed questionnaire that took me close to 8 hours to complete as I knew doing this exercise will help me understand answers to questions such as why MBA, why now, strengths and weaknesses. Once we had that figured out, I was asked to start bringing my recommenders upto speed with the process. Critical square helped in compiling a list of questions (most of the schools now ask same questions although with different word limits) and typical responses. I did tell Critical square that I wont be helping my recommenders in writing the recommendation as it is against the sanctity of the process. All these things had taken another week out of my applications leaving me with almost 2-2.5 weeks for 4 schools (Kellogg, Wharton, Ross (all R1)and CBS(ED)). The client manager and I created a very aggressive schedule in which I worked on close to 50 drafts of essays, and 5 drafts of resume. All these drafts were required as my initial drafts were either not answering the essay prompt or were too verbose. Although the client manager assigned to me was working with me as his 1st client (he did work in admissions at his bschool), I was fine with not working with a more experienced consultant as new hires usually work the hardest to impress the clients (professional experience!).

Few points that only made me more confident and glad that I chose Critical Square:

1. Comments on my drafts by my client manager were top notch. I was very ably guided all along via regular emails. Without these comments, it would have taken me atleast twice of what it actually took to submit even 1 application.
2. One partner at Critical square was there all along the way, making sure I was taken good care of as a client.
3. The most important point: the time-frame for getting the comments back usually used to be <1 day (sometimes even a few hours). I never had any round of comments sent after 2 days. Critical square did not charge me extra for providing such prompt service. I used to work on my drafts till 1 AM and would get up at 6 AM only to find comments back from the client manager. This is probably the most professional aspect of Critical Square.
4. Client manager would schedule weekly calls as the schedules were tight to discuss plan of action for the next week. We would discuss at length any of his comments that I would think should be answered in a different way. I did not use to incorporate all the comments but will have a good conversation with the client manager as to what should be provided to convey what I was thinking.
5. The mastery of language and ability to reduce my initial drafts by more than 400 words even was just amazing.

I did not miss a single deadline and made sure that all my documentation (essays, online applications, recommendation letters) were submitted on time. Client manager completely understood the urgency that was required in meeting my application goals.

After submitting my R1 applications, we started working on R2 applications (Stern and Booth). In the meantime, I got interview calls from CBS, Wharton and Kellogg. Critical Square made sure that I was well prepared by scheduling 2 mock interviews with 2 different people from the company so that I get to know different perspectives. Good thing is that the feedback that you get is actionable and can even ask for more sessions if needed. Final result was that I was admitted to Kellogg for class of 2018. Although, I was dinged after interview at CBS and Wharton, I am sure that the help provided to me by Critical square was instrumental in getting those interview calls in the first place.

This review will not be a complete evaluation of Critical Square, unless a few suggestions/recommendations for improvements are not provided.

1. Better interview preparation, especially for Wharton TBD etc.
2. Ability to call the client manager (I know it might be burdensome but sometimes with deadlines looming, it becomes easy to pick up the phone and call the person up).
3. Critical Square's own interview guides will go a long way in helping the applicants.
4. Do provide 1 free ding analysis to client that have taken your 2 or more school packages.

To summarize, my investment in Critical square was worth the cost, effort put in all along made made more aware of the entire application process and provided me better insights into my strengths. Definitely recommend them.

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Comments [2]
1 Commented by stonecold on April 25, 2016
Superb Review Man.
Very Pleasing to the eyes of any reader (specially the Bullet Points really help)
Now I have a few Questions here -

Firstly where are you currently Admitted ?
Knowing you it must be in M7 ..!! congrats ..!!!!

Secondly Did critical square help you in negotiating scholarships too?
Secondly Don't you think being in india and given the current situation of rupee to dollar The Test Prep companies should give some kind of discounted price to indians. I went to a MBA fair where a consultancy firm called Stratus Prep was offering heavy discounts to indian nationals (HUGE Discounts)
Does Critical square offer the Guarantee service too in which if you don't get in into the desired schools "they will work for free the next year" I think Stratus has that.(But a friend of mine had pretty Bad Experience with Stratus and thats another story )

Did you try any indian Consultants ?

What advice would you give to someone like me Who Don't have enough Work experience and want to get into top 50 Bschools => " Should We hire a consultant or not"

P.S => I have just started researching and will Constantly Bore you with Stupid Crazy Questions until i Don't get in.!!! Please Don't mind ;)


Respect and Regards
STONECOLD
2 Commented by bb on April 25, 2016
Just a word of advice - never a good idea to bug, bother, or annoy people with questions you can easily find answers to on Google. I know your are joking but I am seriously telling you to drop even joking about pestering people, esp those who are clearly wiser. You can easily see/find what school Engr2012 is going to.
Great value for money!
May 01 | 2015
1 out of 1 people found the following review helpful
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     By PTK 1426 765
The reviewer was admit to the schools that they applied to:

Some, but not all

This review is for: Critical Square Tactical Package

I would like to share with GMAT club members my experience with Critical Square (CS) and my consultant.
In short - I really enjoyed my experience and would strongly recommend CS!

I have read lots of positive reviews here on GC and decided to try CS's services for a R3 application (INSEAD asks for 5 essays and they are not easy).
My background: European and no-native speaker, 30+ years old, WE: big4 audit->big4 advisory, then a specific kind of PE fund. Post-MBA goal to advance in my current industry.
This was my third application season and therefore I was pretty aware of who am I, what are my career goals, why MBA, why school X, etc. Therefore I picked their Tactical Package (1 review of resume and 2 rounds of essay review) and it proved to be excellent decision both in terms of value for money and pick of right package. Admissions consultant will not write essay for you, he/she will help you fill the gaps between your thoughts(in essays), compress your thoughts, cut the fluff, and provide really helpfull insight.
Please, if you feel uncertain regarding which package to choose, consult with them am I sure that they will help you and advice to choose the package, which will best fit your needs.

In my review I will follow the following structure:
Did you enjoy the process? - Yes, my consultant was very nice and friendly during the whole process. I even asked him some questions less/ or even not relevant to my application and he was very helpful in this regard too. I would say I do regret that I had not much time to work/talk with my consultant. He is very smart, easy going and funny person.
Was it stressful? - No, it was least stressful MBA application for me, because I was not alone, and I had someone who advised, helped and supported me during this challenging process. Moreover, when the person is positive and nice. The most stressful/challenging part was that I decided to use CS's service just 2 weeks before the deadline (please do not commit my mistake). Since the turnaround time was for about 3 days I was very stressed about the deadline (I did not want o submit my application in last hour). To alleviate my stress (I think he realized how important is to get things done in time). My consultant was really nice and replied within 2 days. This made my application experience even less stressful
Did they meet your expectations? - CS even exceeded my initial expectations. From the very beginning I though that "the cheapest package will give you less attention and value for money". However after first review of essays I realized how deep my consultant dug inside my essays and how relevant and helpful were his comments and/or questions.
What was their greatest strength? Quality of essay review. Experience. Commitment. Fast turnaround of essays. Compressing of my thoughts in essays (as a non-native speaker sometimes I use a lot of words to describe/explain something). My consultant is a word-wizard. He cut the fluff and compressed some of my sentences without losing intended meaning. Moreover he helped me to address some points in essays I missed to cover or misinterpreted.
What was their weakest part? - Ok, any feedback without things to improve would look suspicious or less credible. So I will post some points here. At the very beginning you will receive a self-assessment form to complete. I have spent 3-4 days to complete it, some questions are very detailed or seemed to me less relevant. I dont know whether it is the same form CS use for all packages or it is tailored to each package, but i did not feel we (me and my consultant) used much of information from it during the process. So if you are choosing Tactical package and know you story very well please dont spend much time on it, or ask your consultant which pages/para you may skip or not provide lot of details.
What was the outcome? - I was invited to interview and lately was not admitted to INSEAD, but I barely think it was due to my essays. They were really strong and shine brightly. I think the reason of my denial was a very specific/strange interview experience I had with my second interviewer, but that's another story. I reworked my INSEAD essays for other schools and was accepted to UNC Kenan-Flagler (my interview was OK), which proves that I and my consultant worked hard to submit a very strong application essays.

Dear consultant, thank you very much for your hard work and commitment!

Guys, good luck with your applications to your dream schools!

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Critical Square review
May 12 | 2016
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     By michael1000 0 0
This review is for: Critical Square Hourly Services
Consultant: Critical Square Team

I couldn't be more thankful to the team at Critical Square for helping me realise my goal.

I engaged a very well-known admissions consulting firm for my round 1 applications. I was rejected from three M7 schools, and received a waitlist invitation to a top 20 school. My objective metrics were reasonably strong (3.5 years' work at top tier law firm, 770 GMAT, strong extra-curricular involvement). While I felt my consultant did provide some useful pointers, I felt that perhaps his reviews were rushed and quite high level. He did not drill down into the content of my essays or provide meaningful suggestions; and I did not feel I put my best foot forward.

I dusted myself off and re-applied in round 2, this time to a further three M7 schools and one more top 15 school. After an initial free consultation (during which my consultant spoke with me for nearly 90 mins - well over the allotted 30 mins), I engaged Critical Square. Even though I had only purchased hourly services, I could immediately tell my consultant was completely invested in my cause. The feedback on my essays was wholly different to what I'd previously encountered - I could tell that my unique position had been critically and carefully analysed, with extremely insightful recommendations made. My consultant was incredibly responsive (even over the Christmas period). He delivered difficult advice candidly, but also warmly and professionally. I completely reshaped my career goals, and framed my past experience far more effectively.

Ultimately, I was fortunate to be admitted to two M7 schools, with significant scholarships, as well as the top 15 school to which I applied. I honestly believe I wouldn't have had this success without engaging Critical Square, and I'm forever indebted!

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     By Ed2289 4 6

Coming into the MBA application process, I was pretty overwhelmed. After taking the GMAT and hitting my target score, I knew that the long application process was ahead of me but really didn’t know how to begin tackling it. I did several free phone consultations with many of the well-known admissions consulting firms but never really felt like I connected with any of them until I spoke to Bhavik at Critical Square. In contrast to how most of my consultation calls went with other firms, my call with Bhavik left me feeling that him and his team at Critical Square were more interested in getting to know about me than having me pay for the services. After our call which went well over our scheduled thirty minutes and several more follow up emails I sent to Bhavik, I decided to purchase the comprehensive package.
Even though my initial communication with Critical Square was great, I was still slightly weary as the comprehensive package was a serious upfront investment. However, within a few days my weariness began to slip away as we jumped into the first steps of the application process. We approached every step of the process methodically, but at the same time extremely customized to my needs. I was a non-traditional candidate applying to business school so it was extremely important to have a solid story in place. I was assigned to a client manager who really spent the time to understand who I was and what I wanted to accomplish. After our story framework session where we spent over an hour on the phone drafting the unique story I wanted to portray in my applications, I was actually excited and couldn’t wait to begin writing my essays. The essay editing is where Critical Square really shines. They were brutally honest in each of my drafts and we went through several until my essays were just right. Critical Square employs a whole team of editors in addition to your client manager and Bhavik, all of whom assist in the essay editing process. By the time I finished my first essay for NYU Stern (6+ drafts) I was incredibly happy with the end results.
I purchased the comprehensive package for NYU Stern, and decided to purchase hourly services to assist with four additional applications. After finalizing and submitting almost all my applications for R1, I received interview invitations from 4 of 5 of the schools I applied to. The interview prep I conducted with my client manager was absolutely amazing and I felt completely prepared for my first interview at UCLA Anderson.
A bit of advice though for those of you about to go through the process is to truly understand what Critical Square’s role in the application process is. If you are looking for someone to hold your hand and do everything for you, this might not be what you’re looking for. The team at Critical Square will really challenge you and they require you to take initiative at every step of the way. You will only get as much out of their services as you are willing to put in. If you put in your maximum effort, you will get amazing results. This August, I will be attending the Johnson School of Management at Cornell University with a merit scholarship and I could not have done it without the help of Critical Square!

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     By MBACreative 5 2

Alright guys, I’m an extremely non-traditional candidate who had success in Round 1, thanks to a dedicated strategy and the amazing assistance of my admissions consultant, Critical Square, and I’d like to give back to the community. This post will be a combination of advice to other candidates out there with a creative profile as well as my experience with Critical Square. Candidates with traditional profiles may not find some of the stuff in here to be as useful.


PREFACE
For the sake of anonymity I prefer to be a little bit vague about my stats/work background. My background is relatively unique so I would prefer not to reveal myself too easily.


BACKGROUND
I’m in a creative role. Think magazine writer / stage manager / dance choreographer / music composer / film editor. One benefit of my role is that I work with teams frequently, and that my creative role has an analytical or technical edge to it.

I was similar to many of the people who come on GMATClub or other websites worried about their stats and their profile, wondering whether they could crack the top 20 at all. In my case, I had zero experience in business and had never even set foot into a traditional office or corporate environment. In terms of age, I was old enough to be considered part of the upper limit of ages that are considered practical for the typical candidate to apply. When I started to look into business schools, I had a poor mental state — I personally felt that it would be lucky if I was able to crack the Top 20.


STATS
My undergrad school was decent — a tier below Ivy League. However, my GPA was not — it was on the lower end towards 3.0. I also had some questionable items on my transcript (a withdrawal, random F’s, etc.) that I had no clear answer for. To make matters worse, my grades on my transcript trended downwards.

For the GMAT, I received a 710-730. I’m not an URM. I’m from the US.


RESULTS
I applied to 3 schools in the Rank 10-15 range in October and 1 school in the same range in November. I received interview invites from all 4, accepted to my top two choices, waitlisted at my third choice, and canceled the interview with my safety school. I recently applied to just one M7 school for Round 2.


TIMELINE
- I started to look at business schools in January
- Prepared for the GMAT from January - April
- Contacted Critical Square at the end of June
- Took me all of July to slowly churn out answers to their extensive questionnaire, as well as polish my resume
- Submitted the first draft of my essay by the third week of August — I pretty much spent the bulk of that time working on that draft. It took forever. I also spent a decent portion of August preparing an extensive outline for my recommenders. This was also the time when I began to conduct the first of many informational interviews with students and alums.
- By the end of September, I had turned in my 5th draft. Overall, for my comprehensive package I did a total of 9 + 8 drafts with my target school. For my other three schools in Round 1, I did on average 4 drafts.


HOW I FOUND OUT ABOUT CRITICAL SQUARE
Not coincidentally, I found out about CS by reading reviews on the “Best Admissions Consulting Companies - 2015 Season” thread. I liked the content of the reviews for Critical Square best. Ultimately, I did free consultation calls with 3 different companies, and personally liked CS’ pitch best. Bhavik was honest and pointed out some flaws in my profile that I needed to work on. He also told me that I didn’t need to retake the GMAT (I was seriously considering it) and that I did a good job taking continuing education classes in quant, but didn’t need to do anymore of that. I found Bhavik’s pitch to stress me out and reassure me on my prospects at the same time, a good combination as I got a decent reality check but also encouragement on my chances.


SERVICES HIRED
I paid for the full comprehensive package, and 5 hours worth of the hourly service. I also paid for a one-hour mock interview session (in addition to the 2 mock interview practices that come with the comprehensive package).

Bhavik was not my consultant; I was partnered up with a consultant related to the industry I came from (and wanted to go into). I was actually disappointed about this at first, as I had mentally expected Bhavik to be my consultant. However, my new consultant turned out to be the better choice due to her expertise in my field and story.

Rather than elaborate on Critical Square, I’ll cover the components in my application process individually and how Critical Square helped me in each component.

Again, much of my content is relatable to a professional in the creative industry, but not necessarily to people from more traditional backgrounds!


GMAT
If I were to go back in time, the #1 thing I would change is to spend less time studying for the GMAT and especially to reduce the amount of stress that I developed over it. My goal was to score 750 on the exam. I thought it was absolutely necessary to make up for my poor GPA and creative background. I was constantly stressed at how unprepared I was — I rescheduled and postponed my GMAT test date almost 4 times! In the end, I scored a bit less than 750 and was very disappointed.

However, I realize now that the GMAT score is merely a qualifier. Think of the GMAT as a single hurdle in a long race. You only need to clear it once, usually with a score above 700. Then you should spend the rest of the time focusing on what matters: the actual race. If you’re a pro athlete and clear the hurdle incredibly high, then good for you. But if you’re not, then it may not be worth the opportunity cost to train excessively at the expense of a crappy race. It’s better to pace your energy and focus on what matters.

Critical Square’s Impact:
CS had nothing to do with my GMAT score of course. However, they did impress upon me that I didn’t need a 750 score, and I’m glad I listened to them. If I had listened to them earlier in the year, I would have saved myself from significant periods of stress and anxiety.

By the way, the study resources I used were a combination of GMAT Pill, the source books/questions, MGMAT, and dutiful excel tracking.


GPA
I knew my GPA would be an issue, and was fortunate to realize early that I should create an alternative transcript to balance my poor GPA. From January to September, I took 6-8 quantitative courses through a continuing education program (at a well-known university). 2 of these classes were in the classroom; the rest were online. I made sure to get only A and A+ grades in all of them.

One tip I have is to take as many online classes as you can, because they’re easier and take less time away from your work. However, double check with the institution to see if the transcript will reveal whether your classes were online or not. I was pleasantly surprised to find that my transcript didn’t distinguish between online and in-person classes.

In the end, I feel my alternative transcript, plus a well-written Optional Essay, definitely made up for my poor GPA and undergrad transcript.

Critical Square’s Impact:
Nothing, except tell me that I had taken more than enough classes LOL.


RESUME
First of all, I didn’t even have a real “traditional” resume to begin with. Again, creative professional — I never needed a resume to find work in my industry. For my preliminary draft, I had to dust off a copy that I had from undergrad!

My consultant asked me to write down stories of my biggest successes or accomplishments in my line of work. I spent about 6 hours (actual time spent writing was less than this) to produce a 10 page document that detailed my stories. For my first draft, I incorporated these stories and accomplishments into my resume. Overall, from late July to September, my resume went through about 6 drafts with my consultant.

Critical Square’s Impact:
Transformative is one word I would describe my resume. Critical Square transformed a crappy, poorly formatted resume that I pulled out of my undergrad years into a polished resume with intriguing examples and accomplishments that made me appear to be a business expert. My resume made a huge qualitative leap from my first and second draft, when my consultant essentially transferred my first revision into their resume template. From there, we only had to tweak words and phrases gradually over time.


MAIN ESSAYS
Before I start, I should give some background about my work ethic as a writer. First, I consider myself to be a decent writer, but not amazing. Second, I get mired in the details, to a fault. I’m extremely verbose — as you can tell from this post, LOL! In fact, my consultant told me multiple times to whittle down the details — she even quoted me, “Follow this rule: Brevity is the soul of wit.” Third, I’m an intense reviser. There are times when I revise a sentence 5-10 times before I am satisfied and move on to the next. It’s a headache, but I can’t help it.

My constant self-revision improved my writing, but at the cost of personal time. For the first draft of my target school (that I worked with my consultant), I spent about 4 entire days in a cafe. Most of that time was writer’s block/bashing the table with my head. Later drafts got better: my second draft was about 1 entire day in a cafe, and drafts afterwards took only hours. When I began the essays for my other schools, I also took significantly less time than my first school.

Several comments on my writing process. I don’t claim this to be even efficient or effective, but I hope this is of use to anyone out there who is just starting:

1. Before I did anything, I took the Harvard paperback of model MBA essays and meticulously outlined every essay that pertained to the prompt that I needed to answer. I studied the structure in every essay, all the transitional phrases, and business jargon that I liked.

2. Once I had a firm grasp of what I thought a model essay should look like, I slowly molded my outline to the best elements that I found in my research. I then wrote my first draft. I thought it was pretty decent.

3. My consultant read my first draft and completely threw it out the window. It was shocking at the time but makes perfect sense to me now.

4. The second to the sixth draft comprised of smaller and smaller adjustments and tweaks. Besides my second draft, I’d say my seventh draft made the biggest qualitative leap. After my sixth draft, I turned in essays for my other two schools, which I independently researched and wrote new essays for. This gave me two whole weeks away from my original essay — time that gave me a fresh perspective and allowed me to improve my essay even more.

Here are my takeaways:
1. Your first draft will always be crap. It’s a famous Hemingway quote, and it’s a truth of writing.

2. The more drafts you can write, the better. My top choice school had 9 and 8 drafts for each essay; school #2 had 4 and 3 drafts; school #3 had 5 drafts; school #4 had 3 and 3 drafts. Keep revising — my final drafts all looked so much better and looked nothing like my first.

3. Force yourself to write. Despite long work hours, I still found time to spend days in the cafe. Many hours were wasted on writer’s block. It is painful and sucks. Still, you need to commit and write.

4. Finish early and give your essay time to breathe. Work on other essays, which may dredge up the little nuggets that can improve your main essay further. I finished my sixth draft two weeks before the deadline, then worked on other school essays. When I finished, I had refined enough other material that my seventh draft made a noticeable qualitative leap.

5. Keep an open mind, but remember that your consultant doesn’t have the final say. For all my drafts, I mostly adopted my consultant’s advice and edits. However, I ended up revising my short and long term goals, as well as my “Why MBA” theme, to be slightly different from the original strategy session. My consultant had no objections to this, as my changes were better researched than the original ideas.

There were also a few minor details that we debated on that didn’t really impact the overall shape of the essay. A little debate is healthy, but a lot is counterproductive. However, in my final two edits I did find myself sneaking in phrases that were cut and inventing new ones that I liked. In fact, all my final drafts had last minute changes that didn’t mirror my consultant’s final revision exactly. If you really feel strongly about something, then trust your instincts.

6. There is always a way to stick to word limits, though sometimes it may be worth it to cheat. Through constant revision, I always found a way to cut my words down. However, there were a few exceptions for 1 or 2 schools where I went over the limit slightly because I felt strongly on a few phrases. I always stayed within 5% of the total count.

7. Find outside help. This goes without saying, and is especially important if you don’t use a consultant and are not a natural talent and genius. Despite my most meticulous efforts at self-revision, my essays always improved the most with outside feedback.

Critical Square’s Impact:
For my comprehensive package, I did a total of 17 drafts, 21 if you include the optional essay. I received great feedback on each. I paid for 5 more hours and received feedback on a total of 13 drafts. I will let the numbers speak for themselves.


OPTIONAL ESSAY
This was necessary to explain not only my GPA, but also the many questionable details on my transcript, which included a withdrawal, random F’s, and other glaring details too complicated to mention here.

I remember the first night when I sat down to review my transcript and figure how to approach the optional essay. I was overcome with self-doubt and worry, and my confidence completely left me. I even scheduled a call with my consultant in panic, who reassured me in a succinct way that it wasn’t a big deal.

Fortunately, I realized I overreacted and hammered out my first draft. The content was way off mark and my consultant told me how to restructure it before she would begin to edit it. My second draft was better, but I had to rethink the second half — it was more like a work of prose than a business school essay. In the end I did 4 drafts.

Critical Square’s Impact:
I have to stress the importance of getting outside help on your optional essay, particularly if you have some sensitive matters to address in your academics or transcript. The optional essay is incredibly tricky — every decision you make in terms of word choice or excuses or explanations can send you off course and make the wrong impression. My consultant helped me restore a strong sense of maturity, wisdom and purpose to my optional essay that I had difficulty conveying (or was obscured by unneeded language and prose). My essay ended up making a strong impression of my drive rather than a sorry excuse to cover up my faults.


RECOMMENDATION
I definitely overcompensated and invested more effort preparing my recommenders than the average applicant. Keep in mind that my recommenders also have a creative background — they have no idea what a quality business school recommendation looks like. I decided to create an “outline packet” for each of my recommenders. The packet contained an introduction about the message and themes I wanted the recommendation to convey, and an outline that detailed the structure, content and examples that my recommenders could cherry pick at their convenience (which came from research and meticulously breaking down examples of good recommendations that I read).

To put things into perspective, the first draft of my outline was TWELVE PAGES. PER PERSON. Yes, I spent a lot of time on this.

My consultant impressively read every single page and commented on everything. I actually felt some guilt about this LOL. My consultant told me that I was way too detailed (a weakness of mine in the entire application process). I whittled down the outlines over 3 more drafts. My consultant reviewed those too.

Fortunately, I know my recommenders well and they truly believe in the impact that I make at work. They were surprised to receive a huge packet of information but were later grateful to have quality material to reference. However, I wouldn’t recommend my strategy to people who don’t know their recommenders well, or people who work in traditional business environments who might think you’re crazy.

My suggestion to applicants who have recommenders with non-business background is to prepare your recommenders as much as humanly possible. Your recommenders should put your analytical, managerial and people skills into perspective in ways that you could never convey well enough in your essays. For example, unlike a management consultant, it is much less straightforward explaining how your excellence as a public school teacher improves the entire organization and helps save the bottom line.

Critical Square’s Impact:
It was my idea to create the packet; I don’t think CS would ever recommend the applicant to dump a 6 page outline on their recommenders. However, I have to credit CS for helping me shape the structure of my outline and comment on my examples. My consultant read through everything I had without complaining once, even though this was not traditionally part of my package deal with the company.


EXTRACURRICULARS
Not much to say here without getting real specific. My extracurriculars were pretty weak/non-existent. I started to volunteer at the start of 2015 in 1-2 activities that were relevant to my experience. I thought this could be a negative factor in my admissions but it didn’t seem to have made much of an impact.

Critical Square’s Impact:
None.


INFORMATIONAL INTERVIEWS
Prior to my application journey, I had no idea what an informational interview even was. I quickly learned how important they were early in the process. I spent days scouring Linkedin to find people with similar backgrounds who attended these schools (not easy given my background). Ultimately, I interviewed 23 people across 4 schools — more at my target and less at my bottom ranked school. I started in August and was still talking to people until the final week. Oh yeah, my interviews were terrible at first — I sounded very dumb and full of “umm and uhhs”. But I got better over time, so don’t be afraid to jump into it if you are new to this.

Your strategy will vary. You might want to interview alums in the industry that you want to move into. I did the opposite — I found it more useful to identify people from my background who then became students (most of whom exited my industry). For every student, I took copious notes that I reused in my essays and my interviews. This is important. Your ability to ask good questions and remember their information will really set you apart in the application.

Critical Square’s Impact:
My consultant encouraged me to contact the board officers of clubs I was interested; at the time I hadn’t started yet, so it was nice to have a push. My consultant also volunteered to do a 10 minute mock phone call with me before my first informational, which was awesome. I honestly doubt there are many consulting services out there that will just offer their time like this.


INTERVIEWS
First, I used MBADataGuru (check out his blog) as the basis of the questions I needed to prepare for. I then wrote out long-form answers to all these questions. I then memorized all my answers. Next, I had a mock interview with my consultant and an additional mock interview (that I paid for) with a partner at Critical Square (because I didn’t feel ready enough), before doing my first interview with my third-ranked school.

My strategy had issues. First, my long form answers had too many details. Second, my memorization of these answers made my answers too long and mechanical. This ended up impacting my first interview because I failed to timely address some important fit questions (I automatically went into my “Why MBA” speech instead of “Why X School?” when the latter was asked). I think this interview performance is the main reason I got waitlisted with the school.

While I prepared for my next two interviews, I decided to shorten my answers. I also had more time to rethink and rewrite my answers. Most importantly, I devoted more time to practice my answers enough times that I could deliver them 100% fluidly and conversationally. As a result, I ended up nailing my two interviews (in my opinion) — constant eye contact, smiling, and fluid delivery to every question that didn’t sound like memorization.

In the end, I found that long-form memorization + intense repetitive practice worked out for me. But this was very time intensive, and I don’t think it works for everyone.

Critical Square’s Impact:
Personally, I didn’t see as much of a qualitative transformation from my mock interview practice than in other parts of my application. The advice they gave me was high quality and useful, but it didn’t directly make me a better interviewer. I feel I interviewed better after much further revision of my answers, practice of my answers, and finally comfort in my answers.


CONCLUDING REMARKS
My application journey required me to invest a lot of time and research. I tended to overcompensate for every aspect of my application due to the stress I felt from having a “disadvantage” as a creative professional. In the end, I think my unique background, interesting story, and super-tight essays/recommendations motivated schools to accept me. YMMV, but I hope some of my insights have been useful.

For those people who are concerned about dropping 3-5G’s on a consultant, I’ll say that the 21 draft edits (plus 13 from the 5 hour package), 6 resume edits, 3 recommendation packet reviews, and 2 mock interviews by my consultant was more than enough to make every dollar spent worth it. I just looked at my Outlook inbox — I have exchanged 119 emails with my consultant. Yes, if you have your stuff together and know a group of MBA alums who can mentor you, then you probably don’t need a consultant. But no alum or friend would be able to invest the level of effort in you as my consultant did.

If you have any questions please leave a reply and I’ll respond to the best of my ability. Best of luck to all Round 3 applicants and beyond!

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     By Wildabout 137 16

My business school admissions journey was not easy. In fact, it was two years of hard work, disappointment, and uncertainty. However, it was also an incredible learning experience and tremendously rewarding. Looking back, I only have one real regret, which is that I did not work with Critical Square from the beginning.
Growing up, I had been a competitive tennis player -- I played through the juniors and in college and professional events. After attending a top 25 public university, I spent two years working in equity research and consulting and then left the finance world to pursue professional tennis aspirations. I discovered a real passion for coaching and worked with competitive junior players for the next couple years. From coaching, I transitioned to entrepreneurship, starting my own sports consulting, sponsorship sales and activation, and athlete/event marketing business. Nearing the end of my twenties, I decided to pursue bigger challenges and greater intellectual fulfillment outside of sports and joined the business development team at a rapidly growing, late-stage startup in the digital marketing space. Though I had been successful in a number of disciplines, translating my disjointed work history into a compelling business school application proved no easy task. I focused all of my attention on the GMAT, upon which I did well, and I hired a number of consultants as the round 2 deadline approached, thinking that I could circumvent some of my uncertainty by throwing money at the problem -- big mistake. My high-priced, well-known consultants had no idea how to synthesize my story effectively. They hastily inserted a few facts and metrics into my essays and helped me churn out some mediocre-at-best applications, resulting in two wait lists and ultimately zero acceptances.
I was disappointed and momentarily considered giving up, or at least targeting part-time programs exclusively. Having been close to getting into some great programs, I decided to give it another go and had the incredible good fortune of discovering Critical-Square through a blog post. From my initial conversation, the experience with Critical Square was head and shoulders better than with any previous consultant I had worked with.
The differences were obvious. Most of the consultants I had worked with or spoken to focused on the weaknesses of my application: my age (now 30), non-linear work history, and difficult to attain/justify career goals. I always left our consultations/initial conversations feeling like my chances of getting into good schools were grim and without any sense of direction or of a cohesive strategy that highlighted my strengths. While my case manager at Critical Square acknowledged that there would be challenges associated with my story, he was positive and focused on the aspects of my story he liked. More importantly, he immediately pointed out elements of my background that he felt had been underutilized and fit well into a larger narrative. I chose Critical Square based on their enthusiasm, confidence, and ability to articulate what they thought they could do with the "raw material" I provided.
The fact that my case manager was knowledgeable, experienced, and confident enough to immediately begin to synthesize a strategy that we both believed in did not mean our collaboration was easy. In fact, I found that I had to work much harder with the staff at Critical Square than with any of the previous consultants -- I would say the thing that they did best was to tolerate mediocrity less than I did, which was no small feat. In having me download from memory all of the relevant details from my professional and academic background onto paper, they were relentless, pushing me farther than I would have thought possible. We explored every stretch at an academic institution, every extra-curricular activity, and every job with an extraordinary attention to detail, something profoundly more extensive than anything I had encountered, but it was their insistence on getting everything out that would set the stage for our future success.
My case manager maintained this commitment to excellence at every stage, overcoming push-back and frustration from me on numerous occasions. He pushed me to select better recommenders, conduct more informational interviews with students, student body leaders, and alumni, and participate in more campus and class visits. The MBA admissions process is arduous, and it is only because of Critical Square that I now understand what a great application looks like -- the payoff of the partnership with my case manager became evident as I completed my first essay drafts. By motivating me to dig deep into my past and approach researching schools and collecting experiences/talking points with the same tenacity that I had approached the GMAT, I began to see the mountain of raw data refined into concise, compelling, and effective writing. I had done all of the work myself, but what I saw in front of me could never have been achieved without the collective expertise of the staff at Critical Square to show me how to allocate my time and efforts.
Armed with all of this information, the essay writing process was far easier. My previous consultants had advised me to stay away from using too many words to describe things and encouraged me to insert facts and metrics wherever possible, but this is only part of the truth. Without spending time really considering every step of one’s life and career journey, conducting career/goal research, talking to people, and visiting schools the metrics and specifics are just clutter and do little to make the essays more persuasive and forceful. I cannot emphasize the importance of this enough and how regrettable it was to have wasted time alone and with other consultants without this in mind. Moreover, my case manager displayed incredible patience in reworking all of my essays until I felt we had assimilated all of the facts and metrics into my writing in a way that did not compromise the flow of the narrative.
When I finally submitted my applications, I can honestly say that I was at peace with the fact that I had done everything I could do to further my candidacy.
Even after all of the hard work, I was not particularly optimistic. The disappointment of the previous year was still fresh in my mind, and I just wanted to get into one of the six schools I applied to. In fact, I only applied to two top ten schools. My top two choices were Columbia and Wharton, and I received word that Columbia wanted to interview me only a few weeks after I submitted the application. I have always been fairly confident in interviews, and I did not expect to get too much out of the practice sessions with my case managers. I could not have been more wrong. Their process of having me tell my story a few times and getting me more comfortable with the transitions on my resume was incredibly valuable, and every time we went through a prep session something new came to light – the logic behind a decision, wording that I wanted to stay away from, a subtle tie in to something from my past. By the time we had finished, I had mapped out a story that replaced disjointed clutter with a linear, well-thought-through career progression that led to my targeted roles with a gap just large enough for an MBA degree to bridge.
I selected an interviewer through Columbia’s web portal and completed the interview a few days later. About thirty-six hours later, I got the call -- I was accepted into the class of 2018 of my dream school and am moving to NYC in a few months. I received interview invites from Yale and Michigan and a ding from Wharton, and I withdrew the rest of my applications. I can honestly say that I would not be going to Columbia next Fall if it were not for my case manager and the staff at Critical Square. Had I gone with Critical Square from day one, I would have saved myself thousands of dollars, tremendous disappointment, and a great deal of time. More importantly, our collaboration and the guidance of the staff gave me an opportunity to really evaluate my goals and ambitions, understand myself better as a professional, and learn life-long resume writing, interviewing, and business skills.

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     By ElCorazon 33 12
This review is for: Critical Square Hourly Services
Consultant: Critical Square Team

I would like to share my positive experience working with Critical Square, whose support just helped me get an offer at a top-10 programme for the MBA class of 2018.

I applied to business school as a consultant looking to move into a higher-tier firm. I decided to use Critical Square based on positive online reviews and my experiences from a free consultation. When first considering an MBA I had reached out to a few admissions companies for free consultations, to get an honest view on my chances and an idea of shortfalls in my profile.

In some cases I felt the consultants told me what I wanted to hear but the Critical Square rep were positive about my chances whilst being honest about how competitive the process would be, and they gave me practical suggestions on areas to work on. They were also extremely helpful with my numerous follow-up questions in the months following our consultation.

I initially decided to go it alone with my application as I have had a pretty strong story from the start about why an MBA is the right path for me at this point. I got into a fairly strong position with my essays, but eventually decided I wanted a second pair of eyes, given how big an application this was to me. I therefore bought a couple of hours of review time with Critical Square and I can honestly say it was a fantastic investment that far exceeded my expectations, for three key reasons:

1. Critical feedback. This is obviously the main thing you'd hope for and I couldn't have asked for more. I received excellent advice on my essay content, including suggestions on where I could be more specific, comments on phrases that came across badly, and suggestions for additional points to consider. Some comments pointed out weaknesses I hadn't noticed, such as the fact I would introduce a paragraph but then talk about something else. Some called out weaknesses I knew were there but had been too lazy to address. The feedback gave me the motivation to go a further level deeper in terms of quality and detail.

2. Value for money. Fantastic - for a relatively small outlay I received great, comprehensive advice. I got feedback comments very promptly, despite this being around Round 1 deadline time. As with my experience during the free consultant, they carried on answering my questions after my time was up, which is one of the main reasons I am writing this feedback.

3. Style. One of the reasons I didn't initially use a consultant was that I was very keen to preserve my own voice and tell an authentic story. Critical Square allowed me to do this. Comments forced me to tighten up my goals, challenge weak points and do additional research on specific areas, but did not simply spoon-feed me phrases. At no point did I feel my essays had stopped becoming my own. If you want to present the best version of yourself, rather than a fictitious version of yourself that may or may not collapse at interview, then I would recommend Critical Square.

For those less clear on their story, and less confident of producing strong first drafts, I am sure a comprehensive package with Critical Square would be a great investment. I can personally vouch for their hourly service, which I found a fantastic way to get a sense-check and final review of my content whilst preserving my sense of integrity and voice. Without re-writing my essays the suggested tweaks significantly improved my essays in terms of overall flow, internal logic, and impact.

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     By Anonymous 22 6

Critical square does no magic but brings your real self out, and that's exactly what helps you differentiate yourself from hundreds of other candidates. Definitely watch their youtube videos to get answers to the most critical questions for your application. I must say their videos were key for me to select Critical square service for my application. The process starts with a well crafted questionnaire that makes you think hard about your passions and interests. It would feel like a self reflection of yourself in a very methodical form. I got the Critical square's strategy package as I only had one target school and had made a general strategy for my app. They connected really well with my engineering experiences and background. Critical square's process helped me to hone my application from both personal and professional side. Bhavik had been extremely helpful and responsive to all my questions and requests. It felt like he was always on his email , no matter day or night. In the end, I was really impressed to see my own application. Mind that critical square process does not include writing any fake stuff instead it's an intense brainstorming process about yourself. Critical square is like your mentor showing you a holistic picture about yourself and this picture differentiates you from everybody else.

I also really liked their interview prep primarily because of the in depth feedback of the mock interviews. The feedback really helped me to understand my weak points, and their recommendations helped me to understand and hone the intricacies of the interview process.

I sincerely recommend their service because of their authentic process and great professionalism. They know perfectly how to align your application for your target school.

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Worth It!!
July 21 | 2015
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     By magse7en 64 21

This was a crazy process. I had been planning on getting an MBA for a few years. I would pick up and put down the books, never really making a strong push towards achieving my goal. But in September, I got motivated. I decided I would put in 3 months to study and then 1.5 months applying. I would be in school in a year. Getting that motivated was hard, but I achieved my goal.... for the most part. I was shooting for a 700 but I scored a 690. Surely, that would be enough to get me where I wanted to go, a top-10 program with some money?
Then I started to look at and research my options. I did a truly fantastic job of spinning my wheels. I was getting nowhere, fast. Which programs are a good fit for you? Are you in their 80% of your GPA and GMAT? What about if you're a minority or have unusual aspects in your background, how much does that help or hurt? Where do you want to live? What do you want to do? Why should one of the top ten programs let you in over someone else? Can you put together an application that concisely ties your background, your MBA goals, and your future plans together while at the same time making each school think that you have eyes for them and only them? Oh, and make it believable, witty, grammatically correct, and memorable. Yikes! I knew I needed help.
So I signed up for free consultations with a few of the firms out there. Everyone was nice, everyone was polite, and everyone was smart. But sometimes I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was talking to salesperson. I wanted a personal connection with someone who actually cared. Consultants are expensive and offer no guarantee of anything.... was it worth it?
That’s when I got on the phone with Critical Square. They answered a lot of my questions, gave me some solid advice, as well as told me some hard truths. It never felt rushed – and for a reason, we were on the phone for an hour – and they shot me straight from our very first conversation. The verdict delivered stated I was a long shot for H/S/W. Maybe Wharton was a bit more realistic of a stretch since one of my recommenders was an alumnus but still...long shot. Hard to hear but necessary advice. I took the plunge.
I bought a package and some a-la-carte hours. I thought that was how I could get the most value since I planned on applying to 9 programs. 9 programs and we had 5 weeks to get them done. To be blunt, I couldn't have done it without them. Let me be clear, they didn’t write anything for me or change my profile, but they brought out the best version of me in my applications. Talk more about this, less about that. You’re spinning this the wrong way. These themes are missing. Change the intro. I would write what I thought was a solid essay only to have it reviewed, cut apart, and returned in a much, much better state. Not to mention under the word limits - they have a gift for saying in 5 words what takes you 15. They really helped me polish my profile. I was able to take creative chances in my essays and get honest feedback. It’s such a competitive process that regardless of the outcome, I wanted to make sure I had put my best foot forward.
I received interviews at 5 of the schools I applied to and I will be starting at NYU Stern in the fall with a fellowship. My entire tuition is paid for!
Getting into one of these programs is life changing so make sure that you give it your all. This isn't a process that I would recommend you go in half-heartedly or alone. At the very least give them a call...30 minutes could save your application from being a mess (pun totally intended). So, needless to say…money well spent! I highly recommend Critical Square!

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     By Anonymous 0 0
This review is for: Critical Square Interview Prep
Consultant: Critical Square Team

A few months ago I decided to embark on one of the most difficult process that I had to endure, getting into an MBA on a top 10 school. After setting my heart on Berkeley´s Haas School of Business, deciding what program to aim for (EMBA) and getting my invitation letter for round 1 interview I decided I needed some extra preparation for the big day ahead. After checking a lot of different options I decided to go for Critical Square, since the price was pretty reasonable, they offered quick advice (most of the time the admissions committee will give only a small window for your interview date) and great reviews. It was the best decision I made regarding my preparation. From the first interview they focus on your strengths and weaknesses, going for the usual questions that you can expect from the interviewer and giving extensive feedback on areas to improve, either be your presentation, speech, confidence, narrative or whatever needs to be tweaked.

Going by pure confidence building you should look into this service as the questions will prepare you so you don´t feel like so surprised by the curve balls that the interviewer will send your way. The interviewers are assertive, knowledgeable, with a lot of experience on admissions and very patient, taking into account your personal story and giving as much thought as if it is the real deal.

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