*Please note that I worked with Greg Guglielmo while he was a consultant with Critical Square*
"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 the higher end of school averages will not cut it for me. Even though I knew what the consultants will 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 (Greg Guglielmo) 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. Greg told me that the schools of my choice (all M7) will all be extremely difficult but not impossible given my educational and professional background. That being said, I understood the process on the very first call, leading 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 Greg Guglielmo during our free consultation call that 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 5 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. Greg Guglielmo 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.
Applications: 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 MBA will 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, Greg Guglielmo’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 (important in the grand scheme of things as I only had a month to submit 5 applications in R1) 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). I went for the comprehensive (Tier 3) package as I didn’t want to be constrained by number of edits or number of times I can reach out to my client manager.
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 consultants will help you in using the correct verbiage 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 3 weeks 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 had ~30 questions and 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 up to speed with the process. Greg Guglielmo helped me 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 my client manager 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 Greg Guglielmo 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 had the support of Greg all along:
1. Comments on my drafts by Greg were top notch; very particular and even included links to places where I would be get the desired answers. I was very ably guided all along via regular and prompt emails. Without these comments, it would have taken me atleast twice of what it actually took to submit even 1 application. Prompt email replies is something I truly appreciate as a working professional as it alleviates stress to a very large amount.
2. 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 and Greg 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.
4. Greg Guglielmo 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.
At the end, I did not miss a single deadline and made sure that all my documentation (essays, online applications, and recommendation letters) were submitted on time and were of highest quality possible. Greg 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. Greg Guglielmo made sure that I was well prepared by scheduling 2 mock interviews before each school 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 Greg Guglielmo was instrumental in getting those interview calls in the first place; especially at Wharton and Columbia where they have tons of engineers with my background applying every single year.
This review will not be a complete evaluation of Critical Square, unless a few suggestions/recommendations for improvements are not provided.
To summarize, my investment in Critical Square and Greg Guglielmo was worth the cost, effort put in all along made me more aware of the entire application process and provided me better insights into my strengths. Definitely and whole heartedly recommend Greg Guglielmo for MBA applications.