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Perhaps like many of you, I was initially very skeptical about using a consultant for my MBA applications; how much could a third-party help in crafting what should be a very personal application?
I am here to tell you that, if you are looking to get help and want to get into your #1 choice, you should definitely work with Square One Prep. I am off to Wharton in a few months and I absolutely owe this opportunity and any future accomplishments to Square One Prep. Having just attended Wharton Welcome Weekend for all new admits from R1, I am more excited and thankful than ever.
My consultant took an extraordinary amount time and effort to understand my story and helped me establish a narrative that was not only genuine but also consistent with what business schools were looking for. My consultant was honest, flexible, timely, and meticulous. She really pushed me when I needed inspiration and encouragement. Her interview simulation was a hugely helpful process. Her engaging approach to this relationship really showed that she was personally invested in my success.
Looking back, I am surprised that I even thought about doing this whole process on my own.I have absolutely no doubt that without Square One Prep’s help I would not have gotten into the Wharton.
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Having been in the tech industry for 9 years, my goal of wanting to do an MBA was very specific: I wanted to leverage my tech background and life experiences to accomplish my dream of being a tech-focused social entrepreneur. Right from the start, I knew that my case was going to be tough from a demographics perspective - an older applicant to a full-time MBA program in a highly competitive Indian male tech engineer pool. So what all this meant was that even with a 750 GMAT I needed all the help I could get to make it to a top 10 MBA program. Kathryn and Square One Prep understood my requirements very well. But what really set Kathryn apart was her unique mix of school specific insight, attention to detail, and a refreshing in-your-face approach that really helped cut to the chase in every aspect of my application. Add to that, her amazing response time consistently throughout the process meant that help and guidance was only an email, Skype chat or phone call away. I’m happy to say that my goal of making it to my dream top 10 school came true and Square One Prep played a big role in it. I’m not sure if I could’ve managed the roller coaster emotional ride that is MBA apps all on my own and having Kathryn by my side every step of the way helped both the quality of my work and my sanity. I would highly highly recommend her!
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I do not think I would be going to business school without the help of Kathryn, and SquareOnePrep. Quite frankly, I had no idea about the amount of work that goes into the application process or how competitive the applicant pool would be.
From my first introductory call with Kathryn, I knew that SquareOnePrep was the right choice for me. Kathryn spent hours taking the time to learn about my reasons for wanting to attend business school, my career to date, and who I was as a person. Unlike other companies I had spoken with, Kathryn wanted to understand my voice and how I could bring myself to an application.
Kathryn helped me navigate every step of the application process from studying for the GMAT, to choosing my advisers, to writing my essays, to preparing for interviews. I had no idea what to write about on my applications but Kathryn spent time helping me to craft a story that was both honest and relevant to the schools to which I was applying. Her awareness and knowledge of what each school is looking for in applicants is invaluable. She consistently challenged me to raise the bar in my applications and pushed me to work harder when my writing wasn’t up to par. Without Kathryn to coach and motivate me I doubt I would have received interviews let alone admission to the schools to which I applied.
Thanks to Kathryn I received interviews at 8 of the 9 schools I applied to and admission to Kellogg, Tuck, and Booth. I full heartedly and unequivocally recommend SquareOnePrep to anyone who is serious about attending business school. As a side-note, I received scholarships from each school far in excess of the cost I spent on SquareOnePrep. I wouldn’t have received them otherwise, so in effect, it paid for itself.
I worked with Square One Prep on a number of schools. I had experience with other consulting services last year that were more well known and didn't succeed. They seemed to just go through the motions with me. Square One Prep was different. Recommended to me, I did the free consult but was suspicious going into it, as I really thought all consultants were the same. They're not, and I could see that after one call with Square One Prep. I talked with Kathryn and was willing to pay the premium to work with her directly.
Kathryn has a wealth of experience and really wants the best for her clients. What is great about her is that she is tough and demanding; it definitely yields results.
In a competitive environment, you need a consultant that guides you and tells you what business schools are looking for. Kathryn is one of those consultants. She will go through your goals, work experience, and history. Her experience allows her to quickly connect the dots on what works and what does not.
More importantly, Kathryn really cares for her clients and you may not see this in all consultants. She truly is excited about your success and will guide you every step of the way. With Kathryn, I redefined my goals in a way that I never knew schools would be drawn to and that genuinely excited me. That is just one of the ways Kathryn helped me stand out from my competition.
The results speak for itself. I got interviews at 4 schools and a very large scholarship to attend Kellogg. If you are considering working with a consultant, speak to Square One Prep after you speak to the big players. You will see the difference just like I did.
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I started the b-school application process thinking I knew exactly how I would need to craft my applications. I felt I was a competitive candidate, with a strong GMAT score and resume, and would be (at the very least) well-positioned in my applications to HBS and Stanford GSB. After just one or two sessions with Kathryn, I quickly learned how naïve I had been. Kathryn helped me from start to finish:
- Resume: Transform my resume from a corporate/professionally-oriented format to one that most effectively highlights my undergraduate/professional/extracurricular accomplishments and activities. With Kathryn’s help, I was able to better convey my experiences and their impact
- Personal Narrative: Critically think about what I wanted to get out of my business school experience before I started to even think about drafting my essays, so that I could have an honest, passionate, and compelling narrative to tell the admissions committees. Going into the process, I had a sense for what I wanted out of business school, but Kathryn constructively challenged me to refine that to make my application stronger
- Essays: Provide key feedback on my essays and a fresh point of view. After you read your own writing enough times, you can’t help but to lose some perspective. Kathryn’s honest and direct feedback style made for a highly value-add and time-efficient essay crafting process
- Interview Prep: Prepare for the interviews with mocks that gave me peace of mind that I was ready. After Kathryn has helped you refine your narrative through the resume/essay writing part of the process, the interview also just feels less ominous
I should add that I was also starting my application process relatively late and (to make things more complicated) was traveling internationally while preparing my HBS application. Despite these obstacles, Kathryn was extremely accommodating, moving things around on her own calendar to help me get it all done. We had about 10 days to do what normally required 30 – including resume creation, narrative development, and essay drafting. (Thank you again, Kathryn!)
I’m headed to HBS in the fall, and I’m very grateful to Kathryn for everything she did to help get me here. What is most special about working with Kathryn is the relationship you develop with her. She “pushes” / challenges you to tell your own story more effectively and provides feedback on how you present yourself – all of which go well beyond the b-school application process. I certainly feel that after working with Kathryn, I speak about my goals more confidently and better understand my own strengths/weaknesses.
Kathryn also played a critical role in my application to the joint degree program between Harvard Kennedy School and Harvard Business School. Despite the different timelines for those school admissions processes, it was key that I emphasize my dual interests across all my applications, and Kathryn helped me do that effectively.
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“Wharton! Seriously?? Tuck? Come on. It only accepts a few Indians per class. These are super dream schools for you. Get Realistic. You are an Indian Engineer Male, Non – IIT background, Working as a Software Developer, and with only two years of experience under your belt. Thinking about any top school is insanity.
This is what I heard without fail from 8 admission consulting firms (in their 30 minutes sessions). I was extremely demoralized . Amongst the last two consulting sessions I had, one was with Kathryn, SOP. Honestly, their name wasn’t on the top half of my list. It didn’t even appear on the first two pages of Google Search for “MBA admission consultants”. Still, I went for the call, half-hearted and ready to listen to the same old advice.
To my surprise, it wasn’t the same. We talked for more than 2 hours in the free consultation call. We not only discussed my credentials, but even my interests and passions, and also my goals. Kathryn wasn’t impressed by my goals, but I was impressed by her knack for understanding my personality. She strongly urged me to scrap my goals because she didn’t find the right intent/motivation behind them. Not only that, going by my interests, initiatives, and personality, she suggested I research other possible career paths that I had never considered and didn’t think business schools would ever appreciate. To add to it, she agreed to connect a couple of weeks down the line to discuss the research she asked me to do. I wasn’t sure she would talk to me again given she’d already given me so much time and I was so hesitant to believe what she was saying. But she stayed in touch and two weeks later, we were on the phone again.
We talked for close to 7 hours before I officially started my consulting services with SOP. I was a little worried about the prices (the combo packages that other consulting services were also distracting because they were much cheaper than SOP). But no other company really cared about me or my success. SOP said they wouldn’t partner with me unless I went for goals that I actually felt passionate about and trusted them to guide me. Kathryn actually had to tell me more than once to stop distrusting her. She even told me to start with only a couple of schools, and only take other school packages, if needed. She didn’t upsell!. Further, even though I kept saying that i thought top schools were too risky, she encouraged me to believe in myself, and believe in SOP. So I did trust her when she suggested Wharton, my dream school that I had not had the guts to even mention I thought it was so far-fetched.
The brain-storming sessions before each essay, and then the following edits helped me put the best face to my story. I won’t deny, but at times, I lost hope of getting into a top b-School, possibly because the other consultants’ words kept haunting me, and because I kept looking at the LinkedIn profiles of selected candidates. They all had stellar professional and personal credentials. But Kathryn was always there to motivate and help me get back on track.
Eventually, we completed the application process. I received interview invites from a couple of Ivy Schools. Kathryn helped me prepare for them by taking mocks and advising on the tone, content, and length.
And voila! Fuqua, Tuck, and the school of my dreams Wharton presented me with their admission offers for their upcoming class.
My colleagues were pretty skeptical of me spending quite a few thousand dollars on admission consulting. I can say with confidence that it was well worth. I have recommended SOP to some of my friends, and they are already working with SOP for the upcoming rounds.
I would highly recommend SOP to any serious MBA aspirant who is looking for a compassionate, inspiring, and result-oriented admission consultants.
SOP’s application strategy, diligence, time management, and above all the genuine care for their clients are unusual. They made sure that “a non-IIT Indian IT male (largest cohort) with two years of experience.” got his dream B-School.
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Applying to business school is a tiring process, and one that doesn't have a clear beginning. I am sure many people were in the same position as I was; I hadn't gone through an application process in years and needed help figuring out where to begin. Which school applications should I pick up first? When should I begin my interview prep? Square One was incredibly helpful in finding the answers to these questions, and many others, which made this process seem manageable.
As I reflect back on my experience, the biggest benefit I got from both Mike and Kathryn was that they were not afraid to provide the hard truths. If you want a consultant who works like a "yes-man" than this isn't the group for you; instead Mike and Kathryn told me when I needed to think of a new approach to an essay, or if I needed to rethink my rationale for applying to a specific school. It was because of Square One that I truly got in touch with myself and my reasons for applying to B-school; in fact my initial discovery call with Mike was probably one of the most introspective experiences I've had over the past few years.
Having completed the application process, the biggest piece of advice I would offer to anyone thinking about applying to business school (whether they plan to use Square One or otherwise) is that you need to do what you can to eliminate the confounding factors that could become a reason you do not get admitted to a school. The worst thing you can do is misunderstand an essay question, or not prepare for a key moment in the interview, and then think about that for months afterwards. With Square One I was able to check all the preparation boxes -- they helped me get to the root of every question and the mock interview I conducted with Kathryn felt like a word for word facsimile of the real deal. Regardless of how my applications turned out I felt confident in what I had put forth, and this made all the differences as you play the waiting game prior to a decision.
I would happily recommend Square One to any aspiring business school attendees
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Square One Prep was far and away the best decision I made during my business school application process. I first reached out to Kathryn at the strong recommendation of two friends who had both been admitted to top schools. This, however, was before I was sure I even wanted to attend business school. The fact that I wasn't sure about applying did not stop her from spending a great deal of time with me walking through my background, the potential strengths and weaknesses of my application, and how we could potentially craft my story. Once we agreed to work together a few months later, nothing changed. The entire process was one in which she was always available (almost immediate e-mail response was typical) and willing to offer her blunt, yet much needed feedback. She knew when to really push you to dig deeper in crafting your essays and her help with interview preparation was invaluable. I was extremely impressed with how easy she made a difficult process feel due to her organization and encouragement. You could tell that she truly cared about helping you achieve your goals and that she would not let you rest until you put forth the best application possible. I am happy to say that I received admission to both Wharton and Columbia! The support and guidance she offered were critical in making that happen.
1. Committing to $5,000 investment through e-mail
Yes, we live in this high-tech modern e-commerce era but bank-wire $5,000 to someone you've never met? Really? I guess this is where everyone, including me, is hesitant and there are reviews - I've read like 500 reviews of different companies on gmat club - that says some consulting firms didn't live up to what was expected. When buying something as expensive as $100 on Amazon, people usually read the reviews to see if the product delivers and even then, the reviews are subjective by nature; from glass half-full and glass half-empty to glass no drinkable water. Unfortunately, based in Korea, I didn't know anyone who had used an US consulting service and I had to rely on reviews. Reviews on Square One prep really seemed to come from heart of applicants and after initiation calls with 5+ consulting services, I felt Square One prep really cared - I mean really - about the applicants and that they really enjoy doing this.
2. Structured guide from experience
I've gotten my GMAT and TOEFL score by July and realized there were tens of thousands of other applicants with similar scores. Applying to 6 b-schools for round 1 just seemed overwhelming and I wasn't sure if I could do it all. I leaned towards another firm because of web-based schedule and documents upload/download management system but e-mails proved to be a more efficient way with instant access through smartphones. I was worried if I was going to get enough "air-time" or structured guidance but Square One had set up their system from experience and delivered manageable packages at right timing to keep me focused and assured.
3. Hop on a call from e-mail exchanges
Sometimes, dialogue is the most efficient way to communicate and that's exactly what we did. The whole process is based on e-mail to keep track of where we were but Skype calls were always welcome; Square One prep asked that we talk on Skype for a few minutes when we had 3-4 e-mail exchanges in a short period of time, to remove any ambiguity. I don't remember how many times we had talked but I'm sure it was more than like 20. It was up to me if I wanted more calls.
4. Essay qualities depends on consultants not firms.
There isn't one super-consultant or super-firm that is the best in the world. It really depends on the chemistry between the applicant and the consultant. No one can say that their essay could not have been better if they had worked with another consultant/firm. I think my results speak for the quality of work with Square One prep.
5. Highest recommendation
I am most happy with my application results and I don't think I would be here without Square One prep. I would recommend Square One prep to my friends and family.
Joined: Mar 14, 2013
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I must say that investing in a partnership with Square One Prep was without any doubt one of the best decisions I ever made. My main objective on this partnership with SOP, and with Kathryn Lucas specifically, was to have someone keeping my focused as I was starting a new project and had recently moved to a new country. I didn't know I needed as much strategic and editorial help until I began to see Kathryn's edits to my work, starting with my CV and going all the way through to my final essay! I never thought that the quality of my profile and applications would reach such a high level as they did. The commitment to our goals, the rhythm of work imposed, the discipline and the constant challenges that Kathryn "surgically” created during the process were impressive and can only illustrated what an enormous expert she is in this kind of process.
We, I mean I, ended up getting offers from 2 of the 3 business schools we applied to, INSEAD and IMD. I say we because it was such a team effort. With the third application, LBS, considering my profile as a civil engineer and the fact that we applied in the final round, I must say that reaching the waiting list was in fact a achievement by itself. Therefore, the experience of working with SOP can be resumed to one word: priceless.
Thank you so much.