Admissions is a tough game; we teach you how to win it. ApplicantLab is
an on-demand series of interactive exercises that walk you through everything
you need to craft a winning application. Created by an HBS grad with almost 15
years of experience, ApplicantLab takes admissions consultants’ tools and puts
them in your hands. Learn more.
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As I was left with zero admits in 2017, I was scared, nervous and pretty distraught. Insecurity is a funny thing - it totally destroys your self-confidence and makes your do things you would never do if your self-esteem were intact. I was also having a terrible time in my relationship, so all in all, I was a ball of depression. Impressed by their efforts in marketing themselves, I reached out to a big admission consulting firm. I spend thousands of hard-currency-converted-dollars and it was, to say the least, the most uninspiring experience in admission consulting. I was getting really varsity inputs on my essays, and there was no strategic push (I had signed up for only two schools). Also there was only one call involved and most of the stuff were on emails, which is pretty useful, but at same time leaves much to be desired for a real conversation. The thing with big consulting firms is that it can always be a hit or a miss. You might get an incredible consultant who really likes your story and wants to help you more strategically, or, like mine, your experience could be vanilla. This consultant was [i]very[/i] prompt, super nice and cordial, but when it came to the meat of their work - the protein just wasn't there. Anyway, I was not super happy and was looking for a better experience. (Also, just FYI, I was dinged at the both the schools I used this consulting company for, despite getting interviews and admits in higher ranked schools without their help).
I was just randomly getting into calls with other consultants at the same time (hello! I was applying to 10 schools remember? I also did not have money to throw away, but I saved everything from the previous year to make sure I am financially capable of utilizing every opportunity I can possibly get). A few interesting, and a few downright obnoxious calls later, I found Maria. Maria is the founder of ApplicantLab and let me just go ahead and say it - Maria saved my 2016-all-dings-butt this year. At the risk of sounding like a promotion, I would just go on to list the things she did for me.
1. I first used the Career Vision module. If you have not seen it before, it gives you some ideas about whether your goal will stick. I realized my original goal was crap when I watched her video on super-common goals. For example, I was applying with a consulting goal and I have not had any formal consulting experience at all. For some reason, that did not seem strange to me (or my former consultant) at all last year 9 The career vision module will also [b]force you[/b] to explain your transition and push you to think about whether your goal logically stem from what you have been doing pre MBA or is it a far-fetched idea that your parents (and your neighbours) want you to do.
2. Once my career goal moved away from plain-vanilla consulting, I thought more about what I really enjoyed about my current work. My present job was at the confluence of education and tech and I was bootstrapping an EdTech project to scale our organizational impact. I had really enjoyed the work I did, but for some reason (well, I know the reason - it was peer pressure and preconceived notions of what business schools were supposed to be all about) I chose to ignore it. I rehashed my goal to joining an EdTech firm and I could write about my own expertise and long-term vision much more effortlessly than talking about leading a practice at a consulting firm without any experience in consulting (go figure…)
3. Once the foundation of our goal was set, I used the lab to figure out how to classify my stories according to several brand traits. ApplicantLab has many brand traits with explanations (both text and video for all you folks with different learning styles). The lab will force you to reflect and write stories from your past that would fit certain brand traits. This was incredible, because once I had 12-15 stories set up, the skeleton for almost all my essays, interviews and even short answer questions were pretty much set. DO NOT AVOID THIS STEP. A lot of folks write random stuff to move on to the essays. BAD IDEA. DO NOT DO IT. DO NOT. DON'T. STOP IT.
4. After figuring out my stories, I moved on to the essays. ApplicantLab has detailed explanations (and videos) of how to frame each essay and also which brand traits to focus for which essays. It was amazing because it is directly mapped (the aptly named section is called Mapping), to the stories I have created before so it takes the brainstorm part of writing essays out of the equation. Maria also hashes out extremely detailed explanations in her essay advice - from big picture stuff to even things like where to find what on the school website which, I guess, must have taken her hundreds or thousands of hours - well it did end up saving hundreds of hours of mine.
5. Lastly, in the interview module, she handles 15 most popular interview questions which are framed generically enough to overlap with almost the entire spectrum of business school interviews. Each section has a video from Maria where she goes on excruciating details about how to answer each question, how not to answer each question, and most importantly, how different answers make you sound/look. Brilliant stuff.
6. Also, I purchased a few additional hours for her to review my essays because I was insecure af, and needless to say they were amazing.
Could I be more resounding in narrating my experience with ApplicantLab? Probably not. But it is worth the praise it receives. Anyway, another point to note which was [i]bigly[/i] important to me is that Maria cannot function without humor. So every video she makes or paragraphs she writes she can't help but throw in a joke which always makes me chuckle. In all the stress and depression, I have been in back in September, the laughs took the edge off.
Was this review helpful to you? 5 out of 5 people found the following review helpful
Thanks for writing such a detailed review.
This phase of application is way more important than GMAT and I'm more nervous about it than I was for GMAT.
Congratulations on making it to your dream MBA program!
I wanted to understand how did you reach Maria for personalized sessions and reviews?
I've tried emailing her about setting up an appointment but haven't heard back.
Will I receive a response only when I purchase a tool?
Please let me know what could be the best approach.
I'm heading to Wharton this Fall - the ApplicantLab was the secret sauce that got me in. (In fact, Maria's/the Lab's advice "let's not bury the lede" has played out right here! :)
For context - I'm an Indian male engineering - a special snowflake - just like everyone else. Additionally, my number of years of work experience was relatively "light" when compared to the rest of the cohort and the company I work for usually begs the question, "Where do you work, again?" By the way, did I mention that my GMAT score was slightly below school averages, and way below standards for engineers from India?
While initially shopping around for consultants, the feedback I received was usually dismissive ("aim-lower"). However, with ApplicantLab, I felt more confident to give the top schools a shot.
The Lab's modules are self-contained, if you're the kind of person who is self-directed, you’ll find all the advice you need. I was blown-away by the video guidance in the Lab -- it's like talking to her face-to-face, and you get to rewatch them to let the message sink in.
The interview module is also great -- not only for the standard interviews, but her advice for the Wharton TBD is also spot on. (this is an entirely different beast from the HBS interview, and is probably the "nicest team-discussion" that you'll have in your life - see the Lab for details!).
Hands-down, ApplicantLab is the future of affordable admission consulting. Maria has done a fantastic job of making expert admission advice, services that typically cost high four-figure / low five-figure $ amounts, accessible to a broader audience.
"I would say do not even think of applying to M7 schools. Duke, Ross should be fine", said Stacy Blackman Consulting during their 30-min free evaluation call, without even listening to my "what matters most?" story for once. I was dejected.
From that moment just over a year ago to getting into Stanford GSB on a full tuition fellowship, has been an amazing journey!
But it all started when Maria "listened" to my story after I reached out to her as one of the 50 finalists for the Stanford Reliance Fellowship (given to 3 Indian students every year).
Being the first one to pursue a proper college education in my family, let alone applying to a business school, I had no clue about the admissions process, and I wanted someone to guide me - and not spoon-feed me like most Indian consultants do, for exhorbitant rates! - on what the admissions team expects from applicants. And Maria was willing to be the mentor I was looking for!
I wanted to take a DIY approach with some expert inputs along the way - something ApplicantLab offered in a unique way as Maria has listed specific advice for each school in terms of short write-ups and in-depth videos...and with a good dose of humor!
The best thing about the ApplicantLab platform is that it guides you to do a lot of "pre-work" before getting to write essays. Be it about your career journey, leadership traits, extracurricular stuff, future goals - it all comes into a matrix form once you are done with the pre-work steps. And then, it is very easy to pick and map the important points for a particular essay prompt. More importantly, this pre-work gives you enough time for self-reflection, something that eventually helped me bring out my most personal and authentic stories in the "what matters most" essay.
Towards the R2 deadline (I applied to 3 schools all in R2), I was lagging behind and so I even availed a few hours of help for AL's premium services, where each of the conversations with Maria were very helpful, especially for my MIT and HBS MS/MBA applications.
On the platform, the video guides for essays of all schools are in-depth and you'll have enough guidance to write the best essays on your own - that's what ApplicantLab stands for: "Be your own admissions consultant!".
In all, I thoroughly enjoyed the experience of working with ApplicantLab/Maria and would HIGHLY recommend anyone to go for it. ApplicantLab will be your best guide if you are taking the DIY approach!
Was this review helpful to you? 2 out of 2 people found the following review helpful
Belonging to an over-represented applicant pool (Indian male candidate working in an IT industry) and scoring an average GMAT score (700), I very well knew that the chances of getting into a top-tier B-school were slim. Almost all the admission consultants whom I approached pretty much dissuaded me to apply to any of the top 25 B-schools .But Maria was probably the only one who said – “Lets give it our best shot” and actually encouraged me to do so. I ended up getting wait-listed in two universities and got an admit from HEC Paris (one of my top choice schools). I can safely say that the Applicant Lab and Maria were the primary reasons because of which I could get into such an esteemed B-school even after having a low GMAT score.
I basically used all the features of the Applicant Lab including the add-on services such as the strategic feedback sessions, editing services and the mock interview session with Maria. My views regarding the product and the services are as follows:
Applicant lab as a tool: I feel , the applicant lab is a very innovative and intuitive tool which has succinct and complete advice segregated school wise. I was pretty much amazed by the detailed advice available on all the schools and specific suggestions for each and every essay question that is available in the Lab.
Strategic Feedback sessions: Booking the strategic feedback sessions for each school proved extremely helpful in my case. Maria used to give me a personalized feedback on the essays and even the short answer questions from the application forms. In many cases Maria actually chalked out the central theme of the essays which would best portray my candidacy. I strongly believe this was a game changer for me. Getting such a personalized and elaborate feedback from a Harvard alum was indeed a steal at the price at which it was offered.
Editing Services: Applicant lab has a tie-up with Admissionado for the essay editing part. The turn- around time is pretty good and you really get better versions of your drafts in practically no time. Maria was kind enough to do the editing herself for some of my essays during the strategic feedback session itself.
Mock Interview session: The interview prep section of the Lab is by far my favourite segment. Maria has uploaded video advice for almost all the possible questions that someone could get in an interview. I extensively followed the advice posted on Applicant Lab for all the interview questions and I believe it worked pretty well for me. I also took a mock interview session with Maria and I can’t emphasize enough upon how much this helped me. During the course of 90 minutes Maria fine tuned all my answers and made sure I was touching upon all my highlights within the 30 minute interview. I remember one of my interviewers specifically told me that my answer for the question ‘Walk me through your resume’ was one of the best he had heard during this year’s application season. The entire credit for this goes to Maria. During the mock interview session she practically framed this answer for me by recollecting the data she had read in my essays during the strategic feedback sessions.
To sum it up I would just like to mention that Maria and the Applicant lab were instrumental in getting me admitted to my top choice B-school. I can’t thank Maria enough for the support throughout the application season. In short I will recommend Applicant Lab to all the prospective candidates who want to get into a top b-school.
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Coming from a background where MBAs are rarer, I went into the whole MBA process pretty blind, and I am certain I wouldn't have been able to put my best foot forward without the essay, resume, and interview tips that Maria laid out. ApplicantLab was intuitive, easy to navigate, and provided the key info that I needed in a tailored format for each school - amazing!
More than just her thorough platform, Maria was warm and responsive when I sent her emails and
actually gave me the push I needed to retake my GMAT and re-focus my application strategy. Unlike some other consultants I had spoken to, in our back and forths, Maria never downplayed my questions and I could see that she truly cared about bringing out the best for each applicant - this translates to her product as she's program agnostic and doesn't have skin in the game whether or not an applicant gets into a particular program vs. traditional consultants.
I ended up receiving acceptance to Wharton, Kellogg, and Yale with scholarships at 2 of these schools. ApplicantLab was hands down the best ~$300 I spent throughout the application process. Thank you Maria!
ApplicantLab was the only tool I used when I applied for R2 this year and was instrumental in helping me get accepted to Wharton, Yale and Darden in the end.
Long story short, I decided very late to apply for business school last year and only had 1 month in December to prep both for the GMAT and to write essays. I had no interest in shelling out US$4-5K for traditional consultants and also had no time to meet with them. By some miracle I stumbled upon ApplicantLab and signed up to give it a shot; this was probably one of the best decisions I've ever made. The ApplicantLab tool was very systematic in outlining the crucial components of a good MBA application and then provided great guidance in helping me flesh each of these components out. The tool was easy to use and well-designed; I mixed and matched ideas across modules and it really helped me to brainstorm and finally to form my "story" in a tight timeframe.
The tool was not just helpful for the brainstorming phase of the process, it also gave very insightful advice on how to tackle each school's essays specifically. For example, I wrote the essays for an M7 school in 2 days with minimal prior knowledge about the school. I was able to do this because the Lab laid out all of the "unique" aspects of the school (i.e. school motto, reputation, special clubs, interesting leadership ventures, etc.) in one place. Not just that, sometimes the Lab even provided in-depth analysis on changes in essay topics between years to try to really get at AdCom's psyche.
One more thing, the Lab really is a all-in-one tool. When I received interview invites (or even before them), I read up on the interview tips module. ApplicantLab provided detailed advice on almost every interview question I could imagine and more. What was more impressive was that it also offered school-specific advice for team-based interviews that were only done at a few schools; this really helped with the Wharton interview.
Overall, if you don't want to spend US$4-5K on a traditional admissions consultant that very well may not get you in, ApplicantLab is your best bet. There was no "fluff" in what it offered.
Was this review helpful to you? 3 out of 3 people found the following review helpful
I was not very confident about how would a tool help me write essays or get me into top business schools. I was like "Are you really serious? This is just a tool Man!".
I must admit today I laugh at myself when I think what I used to think about this tool. Since it was just for a few bucks, I thought let's go for it. I bought the tool and started working on it. I showed my last years Resume to a couple of people and everyone was like "Hey, did you really apply to Business schools with this resume?". I was highly embarrassed. Come on, I paid so much for this and now you are laughing at me on this resume?
Trust me: I got awestruck when I saw Maria's advice on how to build a resume for MBA school. At that time, I wanted to punch my consultant too badly. I mean how dare he made me make a resume that was the worst resume in the world. Maria has made a comparison on what a good resume is and how badly you can make your resume. And all the qualities of a bad resume were there in my old resume. It was a BS.
I worked on my resume again and followed the advice that was provided on the tool. I felt a bit confident that atleast I have made something better this year than what I did the previous year. This also made me realize that some of the "big" consultant companies are using their big names to get the business but are hiring low quality consultants to provide services.
I started working on other modules of ApplicantLab. Initial modules brainstorm you alot by asking you to think alot and answer alot many questions. I felt a bit less confident on how boring it was. But I realized its worth once I started writing my essays. I felt that whatever the questions were asking was already brainstormed by the tool in the initial stages. It got so easy to just pull the information/answers I already wrote and plug them in the essays to make a story. There are many sanity checks that ensure that you are adding the information that the essay is looking for. The best thing is you have very specific information for every school.
I even realized that my previous consultant was not even providing me any direction or ideas to write my essays. He was just asking me to remove this and add something better. But ApplicantLab has very well explained videos for every school. Maria has provided alot many ideas/examples for you to think and has provided right directions to help you get further ideas.
Feeling more confident now, I started working on my first essay and this way I ended up submitting 10 applications within 30 days.
It was Diwali night (A North Indian Festival) when I received my two interview invites within a span of 30 minutes. I got excited and opened the interview module of ApplicantLab and started preparing for interviews. My experience with interview module was again awesome. All the general and behavioral questions are very well explained and they guide you to generate many ideas to talk about. This went in my favor. I prepared well and started receiving interview calls from a couple of more schools in the mean time. My interviews went awesome.
I ended up spending less than what I spent last year and got admitted to 3 schools with huge $$$s.
It was 2 weeks after the interview of one the schools that I came to know I got admitted and that too with unexpectedly high scholarship.
I have added my detailed story here: https://gmatclub.com/forum/stepping-into-my-10-years-long-dream-thank-you-applicantlab-262884.html
Was this review helpful to you? 1 out of 1 people found the following review helpful
Absolutely amazing! Cheap and highly effective!
Starting from how to write resume to how to get the best recommendations, ApplicantLab covers everything. The best thing is you get unlimited access and can use it to prepare the best applications for all your targeted universities. ApplicantLab (through tons of exercises and tips) also helps you to understand yourself well and develop a well-defined post MBA plan. Maria is extremely supportive and provides feedbacks that will make you a strong candidate.
I am from Bangladesh and very few people from my country apply to the top MBA programs. So there were not many people to guide me when I decided to apply for my MBA. Also, other consultants were so expensive that it was impossible for me to avail their services. ApplicantLab was a life-saver for me! Even though they provide the service at such a cheap price, their service is topnotch.
I only applied to three universities – Babson, York and Johns Hopkins. I got selected (with scholarship) to all of them. Johns Hopkins offered me 100% scholarship for their MBA program!! Babson offered $20K scholarship and York offered $10K. All of these were possible because of Maria and ApplicantLab!
Was this review helpful to you? 1 out of 1 people found the following review helpful
ApplicantLab got me and my girlfriend get into HBS and several other top MBA programs. I honestly do not think we could have done it without the app, and I think everyone applying to business school would benefit from it.
We did not work with any traditional consultants, but having gone through the whole process, it is hard to imagine what they would offer that you cannot get from Maria and the app at a small fraction of the price.
For people who like to work on their own schedule, I actually think ApplicantLab is the better option. Maria provides detailed written and video analyses for nearly every question on each school’s application which you can consume all at once or whenever you have time. The analyses are excellent at pointing out the opportunities (and risks) that every question on the application presents--even the very small ones that are easily overlooked.
Even if you do decide to go with a consulting company, the ApplicantLab’s price point makes it a no-brainer as an additional resource. Maria is incredibly responsive to questions (not sure how she does it), and has filled the app with many years of insight and experience. Really can’t overstate how much this app helped us!
This is not your typical admissions consulting services. If you have the will to put in the effort, Applicant Lab will help you in every way possible.
I am a second time applicant. First time, which was over 5 years ago, I had paid over $600 to had my essays written for me. In hindsight, I realized that the consultant took no interest in knowing me. What she produced was a stereotypical file of essays and SOPs, which lacked "ME".
This time around, I was determined to not follow the rat race, but truly understand why I want to do an MBA, what motivates me, and what are my strengths/weaknesses.
After researching via GMAT Club and attending a session on Resume building from Maria through eGMAT, I bought the online Lab access.
It really helps you structure your thoughts and dig out the times when you did great at work or in personal life, but might have forgotten about it or didn't think that experience would help in your application. The Lab helps you identify your weaknesses, and then work on it to present the best version of "YOU".
I religiously worked with the lab and watched all of Maria's videos over 2-3 months. I received excellent remarks on my resume. During my interview at Ross, my interviewer was very impressed with my preparation. She was happy with the thought and effort I'd put in to know the school and how it fits with my goals.
At first, I was a little scared that the whole experience of Applicant Lab will be impersonal. I thought, it will be one advice for all, and I might get stuck again with representing myself in a stereotypical way. But I was quite impressed with the depth of options offered. Maria doesn't hand anything to you on a platter. She will present you with her thoughts, what she thinks works, and given your situation what works best - rest is up to you. If you follow the tool religiously, you'll see how it enables you to know yourself better.
If you're looking to be spoon-fed, then I won't suggest using the lab. But if you want to write your own essays, and present a genuine self to the schools you're applying to - Applicant Lab is your best bud.
By the time I completed all the modules from Lab, I knew exactly what I wanted from an MBA, why Ross and Schulich, my strengths and weaknesses, what I brought to the table - and I could talk or write about it in a precise and succinct manner.
And if you are really in doubt, and need human interaction, Maria is available at all times for help. She'd answer my emails within a day. I'd thought I will request her to do Skype interviews with me, but her interview module was so interactive that I didn't need to.
All in all, best value for your buck. Especially if you are on a budget and believe in doing things by yourself.
Thank you Maria! Your product was not only helpful in my admission process, but also has helped me find and build my perspective and gather my thoughts - and I am finding that increasingly helpful along every step of my MBA life.
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