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I was skeptical coming into the MBA application process about hiring an application consultant. Applying to business school itself is expensive (test prep for GMAT/GRE, application fees, flights and hotels for visits to schools and maybe again for interviews). As an employee of a nonprofit organization, I didn't have $12,000 and oodles of Starwood points to throw at the process (a verbatim quote/estimate I received from another application consulting firm).
I also had smart, thoughtful friends who had volunteered to read draft, after draft, after draft, of essays.
So why did I choose Square One? After interviewing six of the top application consultants, Square One stood out from the pack for the following reasons:
1) My consultation phone call with Kathryn was nearly two hours long. Everywhere else, I talked to a salesperson who gave me exactly my 30 minutes, and no more. Kathryn had clear and specific advice for my application, answered all of my questions, and effectively challenged my strongly held notion that it wasn't worth working with a consultant who had not previously been an admissions officer.
2) Their pricing is very reasonable compared to all of the other companies. Kathryn worked with me to create an a la carte package that met my needs and my budget. I never felt upsold or the pressure to go "all in" on a single (or more) schools.
3) As someone who prides myself on my own expertise, it became clear that although there were not always "right" answers, some answers were more right than others. Only experts who had read hundreds of essays, built relationships with the adcoms, and/or had some experience on the inside could tell me how to put my best foot forward. Friends and family did also read my essays for authenticity, but my application strategy was developed by my consultant and me.
So what was my experience like? Again, focusing on the parts that were of particular value to me:
1) The resume re-write was extremely helpful. We captured the most important data and presented it in the most compelling way. A small but pertinent example: rather than list my titles as XXX Associate, YYY Manager, and ZZZ Director, Mary reformatted it to list the "level" first (Associate, XXX / Manager, YYY / Director, ZZZ). Like magic, my two promotions and increasing level of responsibility was suddenly immediately clear from a quick glance at the left hand column of my resume.
2) Mary stayed on top of me. I started the R1 process very early (in June), but struggled in the beginning to build momentum and get into my essay writing groove. But I knew that if I missed a deadline, I would have a polite email in my inbox from Mary checking in to see when she might get the next draft. Nothing like guilt/shame to motivate you to get those essay drafts in.
3) Mary and Kathryn helped connect the dots in my application. I had the GPA and GMAT score to be a contender for top ten programs, but as a nontraditional candidate with nontraditional reasons for wanting an MBA, presenting an application that allowed a reviewer to check as many boxes as possible was key. The two-step review process was helpful for winnowing out interesting but irrelevant information and making sure my application was intelligible to a reader who hadn't been in the trenches with me.
4) The mock interview was a lifesaver. Just getting a list of the 30 most common interview questions helped relieve my anxiety about being thrown a curve ball. Getting the feedback from Mary about what was thumbs up, thumbs middle, and thumbs down for my answers was also crucial.
So how did I do?
I suppose you could say I buried the lead here, but I was admitted to my top choice program - the 60 person dual degree MMM program at Kellogg - with a full tuition, $130,000 scholarship. In other words, a game changer that makes an MBA possible for a candidate like me.
And I couldn't have done it without Mary or Kathryn. So thank you to Square One Prep for seeing me through the first step of my MBA journey!