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Tips on choosing an MBA consultant, Wharton admit from Japan

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Joined: 17 Jul 2017
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Location: Japan
GMAT 1: 760 Q51 V42
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Tips on choosing an MBA consultant, Wharton admit from Japan  [#permalink]

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New post 11 Jun 2018, 01:33
Summary (including disclaimer): This review is 100% truthful –I am not paid by anyone to write this, nor do I have anything to gain by swinging opinion from one counseling firm to another. This review recites my experience of working with Admissions Gateway, particularly in finding an excellent consultant/counsellor in B, a Kellogg alumnus from the social sector. However, the key takeaway I hope you take back is that you should not go by just brand name of the (often expensive) firms alone, but by first trying to talk to a few consultants of the admission firms (4+ would be a good number). After that, narrow down based on the understanding and insights the consultant has of your profile (and your chemistry with him/her). Among the 4+ firms you consider, I recommend that you give Admissions Gateway a 30 min try-call as well.

Note: Consultant name is undisclosed below because the purpose of this article is to help you search for your consultant based on your own criteria.

A bit of my background: I am from India, but have been living/working in Japan for 5 years. While deciding on an admissions consultant, I was looking for a consultant who could understand and help me develop my own unique story based on my international experience, and hence I was looking for consultant’s who understood the challenges of working in intercultural environments and how to bring out the best of that experience.

I went about searching for some of the top global MBA admission firms. A friend of mine (from India and who got into Tuck) suggested Admissions Gateway due to their stellar record, particularly for Indians. . I called up a few of the other known firms in end July, and it a dismal picture – “I went through your profile, there’s a bit of a good experience here but you’re an Indian applicant and there’s ton of them. There’s not much chance in the top schools, we would suggest going safe”, “The timing is a late, our slots are nearly full and hence will suggest you apply asap to book your spot”. While I cannot generalize this for all the firms, it did seem they were not trying to understand my background. The more I talked, the more I became dismayed. Then, there were the (top) firms billing $400 per hour, with no guarantee of results – this all led to an affect bias that was on feeding my suspicion that this thing is all a sham and I thought of going at it alone.

I once again consulted my friend (from Tuck) I mentioned above if hiring a consultant was worth it and he insisted that I call up Admissions Gateway. I went about setting an initial 30 min appointment to discuss my profile. After a couple of calls, I was mapped to my consultant who was Asian American from the States, having done his MBA from Kellogg and had started his own business in India. I was given the option of talking to him before signing up. His talk focused more on listening than judgments, and gave me advice based on what I wanted out of the process. Since I wanted to go to top-3 schools, he suggested a risk hedging strategy of applying for 1 Top-3 in Round one, alongside some Top-10. He promised that even if I did get into a school in Round 1, he would be happy to adjust up (or down as required), and would help me in applying for the remaining top-3 schools.

The other concern of mine was professionalism, some of the MBA consultant’s appeared to have a condescending voice, which seemed like they were the customers instead of the providers of service. My consultant promised me a 2 day turn-around and he mentioned that he would not rest until we both were satisfied with the end output. He was true to his word– and beyond. One more thing that was good about Admissions Gateway’s approach was that they promised results – they would not be billing for hours (as opposed to some consultants) but for the number of schools, and if I followed their approach, I felt like I would at least get into one school.
Trusting in my gut judgment, I went ahead with Admissions Gateway and to work one on one with the consultant I chose after discussions.
We first started with an introspection of key experiences and core values through a framework provided by Admissions Gateway. I reckon most of us are guilty of being too shallow in our thoughts, and I was the same; my consultant knew where to dig deeper. For some, it might be a bit too invasive, but in hindsight, this level of introspection helped me to write a unique story.

We went through several iterations of polishing my resume - Polishing would be an understatement. What we did was a complete rewrite of my resume to focus on achievements, results, and the impact rather than just roles and responsibilities. We did this by using Admissions Gateway’s STAR framework which served a guiding light. We went through 8 rewritings/revisions before we were happy with the result. This was one of the many areas where my consultant’s commitment to quality and his perseverance helped me improve my own thought process and better my understanding of myself.

Next, we started the essays. An important point to note here would be that whenever I mention we, it is more that I am writing the essay and that I get input from my consultant on where to dig deeper and which point to leave out to conserve the already limited space. My advice here is to not be mistaken that the admission consultant will write your essays for you or give you a copy-paste answer which you can use for your essay. This would be an ethical violation and not serve the purpose of knowing about yourself and what unique story you have to offer. You are better off being skeptical of any ‘quick-hit’ consultants.

With 1.5 months remaining for Round 1 deadlines, we focused on efficiency. My consultant suggested we work on 3 schools in parallel, which turned out to be a great choice. Most schools have essays that seem similar but have different requirements (for e.g., the word requirements or asking to write it in terms of the school’s offerings). We had to juggle 3 different sets of essays, with me writing one while having sent another for review. By doing this, we reduced idle time, and I was able to think creatively to answer to the differing requirements of the schools, and ultimately reflect the essence to story of the other essay’s answer. Now, this sounds easy but in no way was this easy. We spent 17 revisions for the first essay, 13 revisions for the second, and 8 for the third. To handle this workload in less than 1.5 months my consultant often spent late nights (he often sent me mails at 2 or 3am in the morning) reviewing my essays so that I could spend the next day revising it. I reckon he spent over 40+ hours on just reviewing my essays for Round 1 alone (not including my introspection sheet, resume and or my Round 2 essays).

His commitment to quality was outstanding, there were places that I had given up because I was at my limits of my thinking, encouraged me on to push further. One difficult item was about what type of leader I wanted to become. Till now, leadership to me was always vague. My first level of thought was to be an inspiring leader who could create change. After being poked around for a bit, the second iteration of my answer was that of a transformative/visionary leader. Not being satisfied with my answer, he asked me to dig deeper. I was sure I was at my limits but he went through the trouble of sending me articles on leadership. He encouraged me to stop every other essay and tackle this head on. However, he made sure to not give me any answer, because there is no correct one as it depends on your core values, but rather to search for my own answer. After going through the articles and thinking deeper, I came to my actual answer.

After the essays were done, we started preparing for the interviews. I got a list of questions and a framework to organize my thoughts around. One of the fundamental aspects of this process was that he ensured that while I knew my answers, I didn’t sound like I was speaking from memory. I need to sound both natural and convincing and his guidance was helpful here as well. Since you needed to sound non-verbose while answering, we also did multiple practices to do our timing and he encouraged me so that I could calm my nerves before the interview.

I got all 3 calls for the interview, which went smoothly. Now there was month long wait for results – this was the most nerve wracking period since you are not sure if your effort paid fruit. To take my mind off things, we started working on the remaining 2 schools for Round 2.

While doing this, in December, I got accepted in all 3 schools – Wharton, Tuck, Michigan Ross (with a 50% scholarship).

After the results were out and over the new years and Christmas, I was under the impression that both we would be taking a break, but my consultant messaged me in the nights to polish my application for Harvard, finishing on Jan 2 and submitting it one day before the deadline.

I ultimately chose Wharton. Now, looking back, I realize choosing a consultant who I connected with and who was dedicated to my success was the single strongest contributing factor to my results. I realize that this MBA application process is a journey – a journey to know about your core values, to dig deep into what motivates you and what you want out of life and to be able to articulate it into a coherent story. The biggest result was not getting into a school of my choice, but by learning to think deep about what matters most and improve my own critical thinking.

As a recommendation to others who are going to start this wonderful and arduous journey – while you maybe able to do it alone, I recommend having someone who has completed this journey and who can provide an outsider’s perspective to improve your thought process. However, since you are probably going to be working with them for 6 months, make sure to talk with multiple firms (4+ is a good number). The decision should be based on the talk with the individual consultant you will be working with and not the brand-name of the firm. I would suggest deciding on a few parameters(such as professionalism, insights on resume, chemistry, any strategy/hints) for judging the consultant before doing the 30 min free interview.

Good luck to you all and hope this helps you on your journey!
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Re: Tips on choosing an MBA consultant, Wharton admit from Japan  [#permalink]

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New post 10 Oct 2018, 10:26
Quite an inspiring story! Goodluck for your journey ahead :)
Why do we fall?...So we can learn to pick ourselves up again
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Re: Tips on choosing an MBA consultant, Wharton admit from Japan   [#permalink] 10 Oct 2018, 10:26
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