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Application Experience + Consulting Company Reviews (got in Harvard)

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Joined: 26 Dec 2016
Posts: 1
Application Experience + Consulting Company Reviews (got in Harvard)  [#permalink]

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New post 26 Dec 2016, 17:22
I just created this account to share my experiences applying this previous 2016 Round One Cycle. I specifically wanted to talk through the consulting companies I interacted with, which will hopefully be helpful to others.

TLDR Summary: I was very happy with Karen Mark’s service (North Star Admissions) and ended up getting accepted to Harvard. This is my second time applying to MBA programs, and the first time with consultants.

Stats: I went to a top 20 undergrad in business, 3.7 GPA, 740 GMAT (took twice, 740 both times), and will have 4 years of experience at a Fortune 500 tech company on the business side upon starting grad school, where I have done very well. I have little to no extra-curriculars post-undergrad (quite a bit in undergrad), but spent a lot of time mentoring and recruiting at work.

Context: I applied to MBA programs Jan 2016 for Round Two, applying to Harvard, Stanford, Wharton, and MIT. However, I only got one interview with Wharton, and ended up getting rejected. I decided that the next time I applied; I would need to apply Round One, and also wanted to give consultants a shot.

Results: This time I applied Round One to eight different schools: Harvard, Stanford, Wharton, MIT, UChicago, Northwestern, Columbia, and Berkeley. I interviewed at five: Harvard, Wharton, UChicago, Northwestern, and Berkeley. I went to campus to interview at all of them, and based on my experiences I thought my interviews at Berkeley and Wharton went great, and Harvard went okay. I did not connect with the UChicago interview at all (worst interview of the bunch) and I had no idea where I stood with Northwestern because they interview everyone. I ended up being accepted to Harvard and waitlisted at Berkeley. For those who may be surprised by the results, I would say there is variance in admissions, and I also think I didn’t demonstrate much interest in programs (I didn’t do on-campus activities other than interview, and didn’t participate in any other outreach things) to separate myself from other competitive candidates. All of these schools are highly competitive with plenty of great people to choose from, and I think the more interest and enthusiasm you can show, the more it will help.Also, no offense to the 2nd year MBA interviewers, but I definitely appreciated being interviewed by actual decision makers at Harvard (admissions board). Between last time and this time, I think what made the biggest differences (because I didn’t have significant updates to my candidacy) were 1. Using consulting help on structuring my story (and helping give feedback on my essays) 2. Applying Round One

Consulting Company Experiences: I spoke with multiple consulting companies that would give a free 30 minute phone call or evaluation. I knew going in I would not be signing up for any full school packages (I felt that I didn’t need them because I had gone through this process before and knew many MBAs for advice already), and that I wanted to focus on essays and overall story through an hourly process. I also wanted to use multiple companies to get different perspectives/opinions. Here were my experiences with the different companies I talked to

Companies I did not use:
- MBA Exchange: I filled out a free evaluation online and received generic, but appreciated feedback. I emailed as a follow up if they do hourly pricing and received no response. I did not use them
- Veritas: I also filled out a free evaluation. I was contacted about scheduling a call to discuss, but as I gave times, they were unresponsive. I did not use them

Companies I used with hesitancy:
- Stacy Blackman: I had talked to someone at Stacy Blackman the year prior and talked with someone else this year. Both times, I felt that I was being sold at more than listened to and was very on the fence about their services, but given their reputation I decided to purchase five hours. I was allowed to pick between several different contractors, and I went with someone that had experience in the admissions office. We spent one hour more of less getting to know each other first. Then, he effectively helped edit/read more polished versions of my essays; I only sent him essays that I had done at least one review of already. I do think he was a good writer and editor, but at the price I feel like it wasn’t a great value. In addition, he had what I believe to be a very narrow view of how to communicate and structure these essays (which I didn’t use in most cases) Over four hours (after one talking), he was able to go over about 1500 words worth of essays and talk through some of it.
- Stratus Prep: After a decent introductory phone call, I decided to purchase five hours working with someone more senior over there that had been in admissions. We spent some time going over self-reflection exercises that Stratus would otherwise use for school packages. In addition, she evaluated my prior year’s application to Wharton and had good (but harsh) feedback. She reviewed my polished essays for Wharton this year and provided some feedback that I more or less ignored (basically wanted me to restructure/rewrite everything). Throughout the process, I felt constantly like I was being sold on the value of school packages (was not appreciated). In addition, I felt she had a very structured approach (for better or for worse) that was often narrow (from my opinion), but her experience in admissions was definitely helpful in our discussions. In addition, she was always very professional, and checked up on how my admissions process had gone even after our 5 hours were up (although I think I surprised her with the number of interviews I got and the acceptance into Harvard).

North Star Admissions (Karen Marks):
After talking with Karen, I knew I wanted to work with her the most when compared to all the companies I had talked to. I ended up purchasing 10 hours. As she was running her own thing, I knew that the person I was talking to was the person I’d work with (unlike the other companies). I would recommend her to anyone looking for consulting help. I worked with her specifically on high level story, essays, and interview preparation. Below are some quick pros/cons:
- Pros:
o She listened. I cannot emphasize this enough, especially in comparison to the other people I talked to. She took time to understand me, my candidacy and truly listened
o I found her admissions experience extremely helpful. She gave me her perspective and guesses as to what other schools were looking for
o She was generous with her time. With the other consultants I used, they were marking essays sent back to me with time it took to read, they were very much “counting hours”. With Karen, I never felt that way. She more or less counted the time we talked.
o Karen was very positive and provided a lot of encouragement
- Cons
o I asked Karen for help on high level story and message or both my candidacy and for essays. She did that well, potentially at the sacrifice of some more detailed feedback on the essays. Of course, that probably would have taken more time as well, which I wasn’t interested in. I just wanted to throw this out there because I don’t have experience with her on detailed feedback
o This might be personal bias (I’m someone who seeks negative feedback), but I occasionally felt that I would appreciate more critical feedback. But that might have also come across as pulling things out of thin air (similar to how I felt with Stratus sometimes)

Overall, I’m excited to be headed to Harvard in the fall, and do not regret using consultants for help. I think that someone who had done their research and had some insightful MBA friends could get some value just through talking with them, but for me it was very useful in fleshing things out.
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Application Experience + Consulting Company Reviews (got in Harvard)   [#permalink] 26 Dec 2016, 17:22
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