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Joined: Jul 21, 2019
740 Q47 V44
I come from a technical atypical background with a lower than average GPA for M7 schools without anyone in my friends/family circle having pursued an MBA. Naturally, I the MBA admissions process was a big mystery to me so I decided to look into admissions consultants. I talked to a few but stopped the process the day I first chatted with Susan Cera from Stratus Admissions. We immediately clicked because of having similar backgrounds and more importantly because Susan seemed very down to earth and was also very honest with her assessment of my overall profile. Once I took care of the GMAT in May, off we went with our journey. Btw, Susan said she will be my biggest cheerleader throughout the day I signed up with Stratus and that could not be more true.
For the first half of the summer Susan and I met every other week and would discuss in detail my background, my stories, the big defining moments of my life and Susan would provide constructive feedback throughout these take home introspection assignments. I could tell the team at Stratus over the years have put in a lot of work by looking at the activities and questions Susan would ask me about my background. By July we essentially had crafted and narrowed down my personalized MBA strategy - essentially the why MBA, why now but tailored to me. This included an overview of some key stories, themes and arcs that I would highlight in my essays.
At this point Susan introduced Melissa from the Stratus team to take a look at my story and provide an unbiased and fresh perspective. Melissa pointed out a few areas for us to focus on moving forward.
Next came in resume building and honestly, words cannot describe how pivotal Susan was in this. Due to my technical background I essentially had to do a complete makeover and Susan's skill, or should I say, art, came in to the rescue. I could tell Susan gives in her 100% because she was not satisfied until the finished results meets her high standards.
Finally, when it came to essay writing Susan worked tirelessly with me to provide ideas, tips, and overall strategies that I should employ when writing my drafts. Her feedbacks were spot on, and more importantly if at anytime I'd get stuck during the essay writing process she would promptly hop on a quick call to help me get unstuck. Once the interviews started rolling in, she helped me prep up for those using a combination of mock interviews, themes/arcs to talk about and the do's and don't of interviews tailored to each specific school.
I applied to 6 T20 programs in Round 1, got into 2 T20s with $$, WL at 1 T10, and got into one of my top choice M7 with some $. Do not think any of this would be possible without Susan. I'm glad I went with Stratus and I'm glad I got to know Susan and what a kind, warm, wonderful and amazingly talented person she is. I would 100% recommend Stratus/Susan to anyone exploring admissions consultants.
Joined: May 17, 2021
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After quite a bit of research on different consultants, checking with references (both online and personal connetions), I had the fortune to work with Susan. I'm glad I did because I was admitted to my top choice!
One of the most challenging aspects of the application for me was how to coherently bring together all the elements of my past experiences and translate that into an application. Throughout the introspection process, Susan asked insightful and pertinent questions that helped me dig further into the details of my experiences. Once that work was done, she was instrumental in helping me parse through all the details to come up with a detailed and very focused narrative. I was concerned in working with a consultant that my "voice" might be stripped away, but was impressed by how she helped me maintain my "voice" throughout while helping me sharpen it to focus on communicating my story more clearly.
She was helpful in all parts of the application process (from helping review essays to updating the resume to preparing for the interview). Susan, together with the Stratus team, helped guide me through the high frequency of questions I had regarding my application with thoughtful replies.
The MBA application process can be an extremely nerve-wracking one. Many times, I revisited my essay, my narrative, and other parts of my application over and over again. Susan truly cared about me not only as a client, but as a person, helping me calm down during this intese process. Her words to "trust the process" are something I will never forget. I'm so glad I did listen because now I'll be going to my dream school. I cannot recommend her enough if you really want to go to your dream school!
Joined: Jun 28, 2022
As a Deferred Programs applicant, I was unsure of whether it would be worth the effort / money to engage with a consultant. After chatting with a lot of other consultants, I find myself immediately gravitating toward Susan’s radiating passion for her work and her students. I was also affirmed by her candid feedback on my profile and her realistic assessment of my chances. These characteristics - passion, candidness, and optimism - remain constant throughout my interactions with her after I purchased an hourly service.
I am so grateful that I did decide to hire a consultant. We first worked together to come up with my key themes and a strategic plan, which Susan played a significant in helping me articulate. During the essay editing process, Susan was responsive and provided thoughtful feedback for every draft. There were moments when I grew frustrated with my writing, but Susan was persistent and encouraging in helping me craft a compelling narrative that accurately portrays myself. When it came time for interviews, Susan was my biggest cheerleader. Beyond helping me with mock interviews, she would send me a note before my every interview. To note, throughout my engagement with Susan, she has always been efficient with the hours I purchased.
Eventually, I got into 3/5 schools I applied to and I could not have asked for a more professional, helpful, and compassionate advocate by my side than Susan.
Joined: Jul 14, 2021
As a candidate from an overrepresented category - teaming up with Susan was the best decision I made. Susan really puts in the additional effort to understand the applicant's story. Her attention to detail is impeccable and her dedication was a constant source of support throughout the application process. She took the time to really get to know me so that I could identify what is unique about me and present my most authentic self through my essays and interviews. Her introspective inquiry process helped me come to realize my personal and career ambitions. She is kind and candid - the best of both! With her help, I will be attending my dream (m7) school!
Joined: Sep 21, 2013
I still keep pinching myself, y'know. To ensure I am not stuck in an 'inception-esque' trance.
But I know it's real. My destiny was sealed the day the admission letter read 'Congratulations' with a celebratory confetti background wallpaper.
Mins later, I sent an email to Susan telling her that we had done it. We had converted our first US business school. The journey hadn't been easy, especially for an ORM (over-represented minority). So, let's dive right in.
In September 2021, I decided to finally shake off the dust of procrastination regarding my MBA plans. But, still reeling under the 'let-me down' eyes of self-doubt, I knew I needed guidance on the admissions process. After some secondary research online, I came across the website of Stratus Consulting and its senior director - Susan Cera.
Susan and I spoke for the first time end of September. It was a 30 mins consultation call wherein we discussed my profile. The discussion was highly directive. It was humbling to hear about my strengths and my blind spots. Susan did not mince her words, which helped me steer clear of any delusions I was carrying.
We decided to work together for the next 1-2 months, building my personalized MBA blueprint. This had three critical parts, each feeding into the other:-
a) Part 1: Gather data points by reflecting on past experiences across professional and personal settings
b) Part 2: Identify Attributes by leveraging the data points gathered
c) Part 3: Build Story by identifying stories that allude to those specific attributes
Post this exercise. We built out the second part of the strategy:-
a) Why MBA? And Why Now?
b) Post MBA goals? Short-term and Long-term
Further to this exercise, we refined my resume, driving specificity through the STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Result) framework.
Finally, we bucketed my target schools across three areas, i.e., Likely/Reach/Stretch. At this point, it is essential to mention that given my debilitating test anxiety, we decided to only look at schools with a GMAT waiver.
As part of the following steps, we worked selectively on a few essays, wherein Susan reviewed my story, constantly pushing me to direct my thoughts using the STAR format. Her #1 guidance to me was that 'specificity drives credibility,' and those golden words have been etched into my brain since then.
Our journey led us to convert to a top 20 B-School and get waitlisted at a top 15. I honestly did not expect to cut, but Susan – as my guardian angel – was there to reassure me in every way. She was more than a consultant, a sounding board that allowed me to vent my frustrations and insecurities without turning a page of judgment. I am forever indebted to her contribution, allowing this ORM a fighting chance at the top 20 MBA programs in the US.
Joined: Mar 16, 2022
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If I could offer a single piece of advice to someone interested in business school, it would be: work with Susan Cera. Susan helped me secure multiple acceptances, including 3 full-ride scholarships (including one to an M7) and a substantial scholarship to Wharton. Honestly, that success alone is enough for me to offer Susan my highest recommendation (11/10 !) and to tell everyone I know to hire her ASAP. However, Susan brought so much more to our relationship than the feedback one would expect from a consultant. She brought unyielding support (at times, she felt more like a therapist than coach), so much positivity (even while chatting as her daughter was in the hospital), and, truthfully, heart. Susan really, really will be in your corner throughout this process. She wants the best for her clients and consistently (underscore consistently!) goes above and beyond to ensure they submit high-caliber applications that reflect who they are.
When I first connected with Susan, I had a "feeling" as to why business school was the right next step for me, but as a nontraditional candidate, I was super naive about the process and business school, in general. I had an ambiguous dream career and a surface-level rationale as to why an MBA would help me get there. Susan always knew what questions to ask and what sort of guidance to offer to help me tease out my short- and long-term goals. She also has extensive knowledge of business school and the different programs, so she helped me connect the dots between the skills I wanted to develop and what I would learn from an MBA. This helped me answer the "why an MBA now?" interview question confidently and with ease. Perhaps more importantly, Susan made me believe that I was a strong fit for business school. Susan made such an effort to get to know me and helped me realize my place at top MBA programs. She also ensured my applications were an authentic reflection of me, my experiences, and my dreams, and it was this authenticity that I think caught the eyes of admissions committees. On that note, I feel more confident entering business school after having worked with Susan. Knowing that I presented my full self to admissions and was accepted has lessened my imposter syndrome. I was accepted based on who I am and what I can bring to the table - I cannot thank Susan enough for this confidence boost and peace of mind!!
Overall, I am, of course, thrilled to be attending school in the fall and to be done with this arduous process, but at the same time, I will miss my sessions with Susan. She is THAT wonderful, THAT motivating, THAT inspiring. I feel immensely lucky to have worked with her!
Lastly, a big shoutout to Melisa - she was another huge help in my strategy session and congratulated me with every interview invite and acceptance I received. Thanks, Melisa, for your support and warmth! I am glad Susan brought you into our sessions.
Joined: May 02, 2022
As a non-traditional candidate coming from an arts background, I needed someone to help me translate my wide-ranging real-life experience into something business schools could understand. We worked on my resume, messaging, and essays, as I already felt confident in my interview abilities. After just a few hours consulting with Susan as part of an hourly package, I felt very confident with my applications. In the end, I received $120k merit to CBS and over $300k from NYU Stern, Berkeley Haas, and Georgetown combined. If you're looking to pay for school with merit money, there's absolutely no smarter investment than working with Susan.
Joined: Apr 20, 2022
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I cannot recommend Susan highly enough – if there was an 11/10 option she would be worthy of that score and more. I knew that I was going to be working with a top-notch admissions expert from her reputation, but the experience I had greatly exceeded my expectations. She took the time to really get to know me so that I could identify what is unique about me and present my most authentic self through my essays and interviews, and through her introspective inquiry process helped me come to realize my personal and career ambitions. She provides super timely feedback and communication, and was even willing to give me helpful pep talks and prep sessions before interviews to keep me on point. She was able to flawlessly apply the lens of a tenured admissions officer with her feedback on all areas of my application, including making my resume more poignant and impact-oriented. While I was waitlisted and was losing faith in myself, she encouraged me to not give up and helped me secure interviews/acceptances from that seemingly unfavorable position. What meant the most to me was seeing how invested she was in my success at every node of this long journey. I ended up getting into Harvard as well as multiple other top business schools with scholarships/fellowships – something unfathomable to me as I was worried about having a low GPA, being a re-applicant with no success my first go-around, and providing a GRE score instead of GMAT. I do not believe I would have achieved my dream of going to Harvard if I had anyone else in my corner coaching and supporting me. I am beyond grateful to have had the absolute best in the business on my team and I could not recommend her highly enough if you want the same.
Joined: Mar 19, 2022
Susan was such a great partner in the MBA process! I'm so glad I worked with her as her guidance really took my applications to the next level, and she made the process less stressful for me. From start to finish, she provided me with valuable insight and helped me clarify my goals and application strategy. It was helpful having her support and more importantly, her encouragement and positivity. With Susan's help, I got into all 5 of the schools I applied to with scholarships. I would 100% recommend working with Susan for everyone thinking about applying to bschool. Thanks so much Susan!
Joined: Mar 21, 2020
700 Q49 V36
The MBA process is exhausting and scary; trust me, I've been there. Susan was recommended to me by a MBA admit who had worked with her the year prior. From our first consultation call, I knew that I really liked Susan. She genuinely cared about my story, my aspirations, and my goals, which was not always my impression when I talked to other consultants. I got so many great nuggets from our first call and even follow-up emails I shared with her, I knew I had to work with her.
We started in early spring with the goal of applying Round 1. We really thought through and ironed out my story and my career aspirations in the first few months. I took a month off to study for a certification for work, and Susan was so flexible and as soon as I was done, she jumped right in, not missing a beat, in our preparation. When we started our essay / short answer process, I really felt supported by Susan (and the school specific reviewers and proofreaders from the Stratus team) who really guided me in producing something that was memorable yet mine. I can seriously say I loved every essay I wrote for the MBA process, and I always felt like each application was my best work. I got interviews at all four schools I applied to, and Susan really helped me prep. When one of my interviews felt terrible, Susan was there to (1) cheer me up and (2) provide great insights and advice on how to mitigate any gaps from the interview.
Susan is fabulous and so fun to work with! If you're looking for a consultant who cares about you and takes the time to get to know you as a person, pick Susan!