July 29, 2014

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Upfront and honest: Hiring an admissions consulting service was the best decision I made during the MBA application process, and if I had to do it all over again (thankfully I don't!), I would work with Susan again in a heartbeat.

Small caveat: I worked in the undergraduate admissions office at a Top 25 school in undergrad, and learned that the most important part of an applicant's application is not necessarily the "stats." Most everyone applying has around the same GPA/test scores, so just numbers alone help an applicant achieve parity with the rest of the applicant pool - not necessarily differentiation. The story that supported the stats, i.e. essays/letters of rec, was really where applicants separated from each other and unique students stood out.

Therefore, I applied the same insights to the graduate school application process. Knowing my grad school stats (3.4 GPA/650 GMAT) were going to be "average," the essays were going to be an critical part of my application in order to breakthrough the applicant log jam.

However, I had no idea where to start, what to say and how to say it. When trying to fit years of work experience and undergrad accomplishments into 250 words or less, having a clear perspective on the key points you want to say is mission critical before ever putting finger-to-keyboard. That is when I started working with Susan, and she absolutely saved me!

Here is what Susan did that was tremendously valuable:
- Gave me a place to start. The initial brainstorming sessions were painful soul-searching endeavors, but she knew the right questions to ask and how to ask them in a way that got me to be honest with myself about who I am, who I wanted to be, where I wanted to be and what made me unique.
- Helped me understand the application game. With her background in marketing, Susan helped me to understand that applications are really just an exercise in building your personal "brand." She helped me to look through my background, and recognize the experiences that were worth building a brand around.
- School-specific optimization. Susan also provided unique insight into each school I was applying to, the elements they're looking for in an applicant and how I could tailor my brand story to align with what each school was looking for.
- Time efficiency. Susan also kept our time streamlined so as to maximize efficiencies, which I appreciated. This mentality extended to the essay writing process itself, where she was also able to help me self-edit down (some times brutally, but necessarily) to the most important parts of what needed to be said in order to maximize every word.

I applied to four schools, each with approximately 2-4 essays and several resume iterations (professional and activities.) Susan provided feedback on time in every instance, helping me to meet deadlines as needed.

Additionally, Susan also provided encouragement when things were on the right track and honest feedback when an essay had gone awry. When words begin to swim in front of you, knowing I could trust her to give me real feedback made the process less stressful and more productive.

I also worked with Susan for interview prep, and highly recommend the experience as well. Susan knew me as an applicant and was able to identify my key strengths/weaknesses along with suggestions as to how to address them in an verbal format. The mock interview along with her real-time feedback was particularly beneficial.

In the end, I got into 3 of the 4 schools, including my top choice, and was wait-listed at the other school. I am very pleased with how everything went, and I have Susan to thank for the positive outcome.

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