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I am still reeling from the second denial notification I received from NYU Stern (which follows the rejection from Columbia just few weeks before) two weeks ago and as such, my dream of attending an MBA in NYC has been wiped out (at least for this year). Now, if I told you that I applied with a 650 GMAT score , you may say that I should have expected such an outcome. Fair enough. But what you may not know is that I hired the consultants of SOP Advisory service to help me through the application process. I fell for their wonderful website where they brag about their incredible, high admission success-rate for their clients as prospective MBA candidates. Unfortunately, I experienced that their service was not wonderful at all: I can't know whether my poor GMAT score was the deal breaker in my application, but I can definitely say that the SOP ambition, to make your application as strong as possible and make up for other weaknesses in your profile, (among others a low GMAT score, it is one of first mentioned...take a look at their website under the most common application challenges list) has totally failed.
On top of this, every time I sounded the consultants out on any advice, I was treated with haughtiness and talked down to, both in the emails sent to me and during our Skype conversations. For example, I sent an email to my consultant last week saying that I has also been rejected from NYU and I am still waiting for his reply!!
On the other hand, the monthly payment reminders were sent like clockwork.
All in all my personal experience with SOP has been disastrous, not only for the very questionable service standard but also because of the poor customer care .
The service was very expensive and not value for money at all (LORs, essay and resume advisory for two business schools totaled 5,700 USD). Furthermore, the service should have included interview training as well. In the end I was rejected and did not benefit from the service. On top of this, I have never received even a partial refund from them.
I discourage future applicants to resort to this service: in hindsight I would never ever hire them!
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Gio, I am sorry that you failed to succeed with the process. You applied to only two programs. When we did your free consult on 6/22/2016, you explicitly said to me that you know you are taking a risk by applying to only two programs.
Your dream school was Stern, and before we started our work with you, we shared that Stern in particular is tightening up their GMAT requirements for international applicants based on what we could see empirically. Your verbal score on the GMAT was 32.; your quant score was 48. We did what we could to open your eyes to the fact that a 650 could be problematic; we also said we would do all we could with you to highlight all of your other strengths with the goal to mitigate the GMAT issue. We did do all we could. We worked heartily with you. Your advisor was extremely accessible to you, as was I. I got on several calls with you on my own. Additionally, I did calls with you and your advisor to ensure things were progressing and that we weren't making missteps. I also got on calls because we at times found it tough to compel you to take our advice. We appreciated that you had strong opinions about how you wanted to present yourself; we also were confused about why you would resist advice you were paying for. I saw that resistance when I reviewed the essays, which I reviewed 2-3 times, even getting involved with helping you re-select the topic for Columbia essay 3 because I simply did not find the topics you wanted to cover surprising or additive to your application. Your advisor cared deeply about your success and grew to care a great deal about you as a person, as did I. You were in fact one of our more memorable clients because of your effervescent personality. We did all we could to not only highlight that, but all of your other great metrics. With Stern, I have no doubt they liked you as a person - how could they not based on the video you crafted for your personal description essay? It was great, albeit long which we shared with you. That aside, the school has to believe that you are capable of excelling with the coursework and your verbal score gave them pause; it’s possible your quant did as well – in combination that is tough when you are applying at this level.
In terms of saying we were not accessible or that your advisor didn't have contact with you after Stern's rejection, that is factually untrue. Below is my email to you on 12/16/2016:
"How are you? I just reached out to James to get an update on your news from Stern and he shared that you were rejected from Stern as well. I am really sorry to learn that, especially after that powerful video you crafted for your personal description that, while long, was very effective. XXX said that you are now going to refocus on your GMAT to raise that to a 700+. We are here for you if you have other questions as you focus on GMAT prep. Please do not hesitate to reach out to us - XXX or me."
Your advisor knew what your next steps were because he was in touch with you. Further, in an earlier email to your advisor you explicitly said that you are sure the only reason you didn’t get the offer from Stern was due to your GMAT score – not our work with you.
We again are sorry that you failed with the process, and that you feel we failed you. We guided you with care and we there for you every step of the way - our phone logs, emails. and body of work with you illustrate that. We hope that with time, you will see that was the case. We understand that in the moment it can be very painful to get a rejection and that we are an easy target. We accept that. But we do not accept being factually misrepresented when we did for you what we do for all our clients. You were in the 13%, and in your case, we actually know what went wrong – as did you – that is expressly why you told your advisor that you would be focusing on your GMAT to get your score up. To be frank, in most cases you don’t know why a client doesn’t get offers because that is how subjective the process is. We hope you got your GMAT score up and are now in business school.
I hired Square One comprehensive consulting service last year and it was a horrible experience.
the Consultant back then was Erik Yazdani. I never found a smooth cooperation with him. Sometimes he got pissed at me reaching out to him at some thing i need him to answer quickly. I got an interview from wharton and wanted his advice on choosing the time slot. He was pissed that i reached out him without advanced notice and refuse to return my call.
I got into none last year with Square One and interestingly, I heard no words from either Kathryn or Erik after that.
This year, i hired Stacy Blackman and my consultant was Caryn. I got into both schools i applied - University of Chicago and Kellogg with 100k Scholarship. the process of application was super sweet and smooth. Caryn offered very insightful and professional advice. I trusted her on all her advice.
If anyone is considering hiring a consultant, please stay away from Square One. I had horrible experience and they were not responsible. Lack of structure.
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1Commented by Squareoneprep on January 15, 2016 Edited on January 15, 2016
I just read your post on GMAT Club. I am really sorry you feel the way you do about your experience with us. I am confused by what you wrote because it is factually inaccurate from beginning to end - as supported by emails, phone logs with notes, and your files. You did have structure (per a customized day-by-day schedule I crafted and sent to you on 8/13/2014) and I did stay in touch with you and Erik throughout your process. Your goal was to apply to Stanford, HBS, Wharton, and Columbia R1, despite my urging that you diversify your list to mitigate risk. If you recall, at first you only wanted to apply to HBS and Stanford. You got started with us on 8/16/2014 with a 1-school package - Stanford. Both your timeline and schools were aggressive. I was personally very clear with you about those facts before you signed on with us. I made sure your eyes were open. You said they were, that you were very motivated and felt the worst case would be that you'd have to re-apply. You said that you loved your job and would be ok with that, though of course it wasn't desirable. We felt comfortable working with you because I had spent 5+ hours talking with you on calls (all started after midnight to accommodate your schedule) to ensure you were in fact motivated, aware of the risk you were taking on, and the right client for us. We only work with folks we believe we can lead to success. We are right 86% of the time.
Due to the demands of your work, you applied only to Stanford R1. You asked to add a second school, HBS, and then a third, Columbia. On 12/14/2014, when you reached out via email to add a fourth school, I expressly asked you if you wanted it to be Kellogg instead of Wharton. I wanted you to take a little less risk. You said you wanted the fourth school to be Wharton.
You got an interview with Wharton. The fact that you got an interview there showed that your written application was strong. When you did not get an offer, Erik suggested debriefing on a call, which you two did. We were there for you.
As it regards Erik's availability to you, he was never upset when you reached out to him. Perhaps you are referring to when you requested to have a 1030pm est slot in his calendar every weeknight for a call. He would not do that, which I supported him on, as no client should need to talk with us nightly. That can create co-dependence; that does not yield productivity.
Last year you applied to the toughest programs in the world to get into: HBS, Stanford, Wharton, and Columbia. This year you applied to Booth and Kellogg - the hurdle to get in there is lower. We in no way say that to slight your work with Stacy Blackman Consulting, as we have great respect for that team. We are extremely happy that you had the success that you did. You deserve it. Just please be aware that we would have liked you to apply to Booth and Kellogg last year, but you would not. You have misrepresented your experience with us.
This business is my life. I put my soul into it, and the success of our clients. I sincerely care, as do my advisors. I had no idea that you at any point were unsatisfied with your experience with us. Had you been why did you add three more schools, one at a time? As you know, at any point in time you could have reached out to me to talk about things, and I would have availed myself to you----as I did on many occasions after midnight when you called me on my cell, unscheduled. I answered 100% of the time and was happy to talk with you. On each of those calls, the topic revolved around you needing encouragement - to know we believed in you; not once in all of those hours of calls did you say that you were unhappy with our level of service. You in fact emphatically and repeatedly stated just the opposite.
Again, this review is disheartening, due to both its factual inaccuracy and your emotional perception of your experience with us. That said, we are thrilled that you will be heading to b-school later this year.
I started working with Square One Prep this summer in order to apply for part time MBA programs at both Kellogg and Booth. I have recently been accepted into both programs, and I would highly recommend Square One Prep to both full-time and part-time applicants who are looking for ample one-on-one attention and a personalized approach to the admission consultation process.
I chose Square One Prep specifically as I could tell from my initial phone call with them that I would not be overlooked or lost in the shuffle, which was my hesitation with choosing a large scale company. My cousin also used Square One Prep last year and was accepted full-time into Booth, so I knew they had a successful methodology.
My application had its own set of unique challenges. I was a re-applicant, had a low quant GMAT score, and recently made a significant industry change in my career. Within the week of choosing Square One Prep, I was paired with a consultant that specifically focused on my application. While she was my primary point of contact, I also had access and was helped daily by the owner of the company, an essay specialist, a career narrative specialist, among others who have all been actively involved in the admission committees at top tier business schools.
Together with this team, we took a deep dive into my prior experiences, spanning from my professional to personal life. They helped me identify my strengths and develop essays that would truly make me stand out as a candidate. Most importantly, the team at Square One Prep was never afraid to challenge my pre-conceived notions in the application process. For example, many of the topics I thought I would write about in my applications were ultimately not used, as we found better and more unique experiences that crafted a much stronger narrative.
In conclusion, I would highly recommend Square One Prep to anyone looking for a highly personalized approach to the admissions process.
As I had heard many positive reviews of Square One Prep from my friends long before I started applying for my MBA, the decision to work with SOP came instinctively to me. I worked with Kathryn and Lara from the scratch - from assessing my profile and drafting my narrative to writing and proofreading the components of the application. The entire process was run by SOP in an enthusiastic, methodical and disciplined manner. Kathryn's optimistic approach with school selection instills confidence in the applicant. She has an impeccable knack of crafting tightly-knit narratives and ensuring that they are neatly reflected in the essays - She knows what the schools want. I thoroughly enjoyed working with Lara as well. She was creative, efficient, and patient throughout (we did numerous iterations!). Most of all, she is a very compassionate person because of which I could comfortably share my stories with her. During my first call with Kathryn when I asked her about my chances of making to a good business school, she told me, "You should come out of the process very happy". I most certainly have! I am grateful to Kathryn and Lara for their assistance in the process, and would strongly recommend Square One Prep to all MBA aspirants.
It was an amazing experience to work with Kathryn and Vanessa for my business school admission process. I received some great admission offers with big scholarships. My profile was very complicated because of my age and a lay-off at work, but Kathryn handled it very tactfully and ensured that the positive aspects of my profile were showcased vividly.
I could confidently talk during my interviews because Kathryn and Vanessa helped me understand my own life experiences and craft a genuine, coherent story around them. Kathryn was always accessible and passionate to help pretty much 24x7; I cannot remember a time when I needed Kathryn’s input and I had to wait more than a couple hours (usually she responded within a few minutes). I had some great discussions with Kathryn and Vanessa to understand how to write business school essays. Once I wrote the first draft, they thoroughly checked it and provided input on how I could further enhance it.
Kathryn’s honest and straight-forward personality was a major factor in my successful business school admission process. She provided honest input on my weaknesses (no sugar coating!) and limitations. I could craft a realistic and practical strategy to target the right schools because of Kathryn’s invaluable input.
I would highly recommend working with SquareOne prep if you are looking for a great success in your business school application process!
Kathryn and her team were extremely helpful through the application process including pre-prep, essays, and interview prep. They were very focused on you as a candidate and making sure your application is exactly where it needs to be, something that was clear from the intro call. They will push you to get there through honest, candid feedback on your work product (resume, essays, etc.), even if it means more time spent on their end. I spent a lot of time vetting different consultant options and after speaking with many of them would highly recommend SquareOne to anyone looking for application consultants.
In my first application to INSEAD I was rejected without an interview. I decided I wanted to apply again but needed to improve the application in all aspects. After getting more 70 points in my GMAT, it was time to get professional help for the application itself. I’ve contacted more than 6 different admission coaches, but no one was more enthusiastic, realistic, detailed and concerned with my application than Katheryn. I remember that even before hiring Katheryn and SquareOne Prep, we already exchanged several emails to decide which schools I should apply to. You hardly find someone as dedicated as Katheryn! When in partnership with SquareOne Prep, I always worked with Wonita, as my personal coach, and Katheryn. During a certain phase of the process, when we were developing my career narrative, Alana joined us, and this mix of opinions and contributions made my story, and the background for my essays, bulletproof. Working with Wonita was fantastic! With a lot of experience and a fantastic career, Wonita made the process seem very easy but at the same time very rigorous and complete. She was always very supportive and quick to answer all my questions and emails. When we worked all our way in one essay, the final test was passing it through Katheryn. Katheryn would review constantly our progresses to give an outsider’s perspective, which is something very very close to what happens with the admission council when they read applications. At the beginning I was afraid of having 2 pair of eyes looking at my application because I thought we could disperse and lose the core of my story and application. I couldn’t be more wrong! In the end having Katheryn’s analysis over my work with Wonita was something that assured me that my essays were at their best level.
With SquareOne Prep I felt a full support in all phases of the admissions , starting on LORs, Essays, Application Form completion, Interview preparation (this was a HUGE help for me to excel in my interviews) and even negotiating Scholarships! I couldn’t ask more from SquareOne, even though I’ be only assigned for a 1 school package, I still got a lot of good advices and recommendations for other schools that I’ve applied to.
In the end, and at my second try, I’ve got accepted into INSEAD with a scholarship (!), and also to the other school I’ve applied to, something that I could hardly achieve without SquareOne’s help! If you want a truly professional and complete service for your admission process, you can fully relay on Katheryn and Square One to do the job!
I had a pleasure to work directly with Kathryn on four applications to HBS, Wharton, Columbia, and Booth. An international student, I knew that despite an appropriate work background and good test scores, I had to deliver comprehensive and well-rounded written applications. That said, I had no concerns about interview stage. My goal was to come up with tight and neat essays, properly marketing my profile and story.
Those applying to HBS know that the school is quite random when it comes down to international students (particularly, HBS is notoriously known for admitting people from consulting from CEE, not IB/PE, for example), so I knew beforehand that there was no one to blame if I were dinged. However, I was positive that Kathryn and I could give the best shot to three other schools.
As a result, I was admitted to one of those three schools in R2 with 70k fellowship.
Due diligence: I reached to over 22 top consultants, finally choosing to work with Kathryn because of her experience with PE applicants, and because she identified key improvement areas with my profile during our initial consultation call (which made perfect sense to me – which was not the case with most other consultants)
Applications: due to time constraints (GMAT passed in early Dec), we had to work very fast given R2 deadlines. Kathryn was very accommodating of any requests and concerns I had, while she kept all work streams under her control to make sure I submitted applications on time. On average, turnaround time of files was less than 24 hours (1-2 days for first heavy edits), even as we moved closer to January. One of the things that I appreciate in Kathryn is her ability to push you out of the comfort zone (I didn’t want to do that extra work, but it was necessary for future success) while being very delicate and open to suggestions.
Interview: Kathryn supported me from Day 1, after interview invitations started arriving, offering two full-scale mock interviews and tons of interview tips. For Wharton team-based discussion task, Kathryn was very much involved in challenging my ideas to make sure that I came to the discussion well-prepared.
I believe that the quality of work and support that Kathryn offered was one of the best on the market. The actual experience was very smooth, and I’m glad I had Kathryn on board during my MBA journey.
When I first reached out to Kathryn, I was ready to submit my applications for Round 1. I was working with another consultant in Brazil and thought I had everything ready, but wanted just to "double check" with that 30 minutes free consultation. Kathryn was extremely honest, literally saying I would not get anywhere with what I had, and I loved it! I knew I could do a lot better. I realized I needed someone that truly pushed me to the limits and was absolutely honest about my work. I decided to postpone the submission of my application for Round 2 and worked with Kathryn and Lara on my complete application. I got exactly what I wanted as both of them really made me get the best out of me! Trust me, you will not rest until you can do your best. This is what makes a difference. My written applications were outstanding. I got an interview for the 6 programs I applied to (Booth, Kellogg, Wharton, Yale, Berkeley and Stanford), and I am sure that my essays were great because Lara and Kathryn worked tirelessly with me to make them great. They would both write down things such as "this makes no sense", "sorry but I do not buy it for a second". You read first, get sort of angry, and then totally agree and change it, until it is a piece of art! I got admitted in 5/6 and with large scholarships in 3 of them.
Besides their professionalism, I must say that Kathryn and Lara's availability and quick response time is outstanding! They really do care about helping you out and answering your questions as soon as possible. Round 2 can be pretty stressful because deadlines are right after Christmas holidays. Having both of them answering my e-mails and reviewing my essays through this time is just an example of how committed they are!
I recommend square one prep with my eyes closed and will be forever grateful to Lara and Kathryn for the work they put together with me to get to my dream school.
Goal: Applying to EMBA programs at: Wharton, Kellogg and Booth
Before Square One - My background as I perceived: Non-native speaker, from the most competitive demographic, male, No unique work experience, No big name companies on resume; Pretty doubtful about how I could differentiate myself.
I filled an online evaluation form for Square One prep one month from deadline.
Square One was the 7th firm I talked to about supporting my application journey.
I was pleasantly surprised to find the founder of the firm, Kathryn on the phone who took 45 minutes genuinely listening to my background and goals.
She said she would be willing to take me as a client. I am an experienced professional and I could immediately tell that her evaluation is fair as she outlined the opportunities and challenges ahead in the evaluation call (free!)
The review and feedback I received on my application artifacts from Kathryn and Mary Winograd were the most valuable inputs.
They challenged me to think outside my comfort zone (on literally every idea I was presenting in my goals or resume) and this helped in presenting myself in the right light to adcoms.
But for Kathryn’s and Mary’s dedicated support (via numerous phone calls and emails), I could have never been able to elevate my story from the competition.
My application packages spoke for themselves (resume, my essays and all supporting docs were each serving a role in delivering my story)
After Square One - My background as I perceived: Unique values learned, achievements that went beyond my peers, Innovative work delivered, Conscious career paths chosen; Clear about the value I bring.
The fees I paid paled before the personal transformation I realized during the application process. I feel every business school wants its applicants to go through such experience in preparing them for the program.
Such outcome was possible ONLY due to Kathryn’s belief in my potential and Mary’s utmost dedication to my success. NO ONE could have been able to do this for me other than Square one.
After a few weeks wait, I had a different problem on my hands: Choosing among the 3 best MBA programs that accepted me - Wharton, Kellogg and Booth. ( With Kathryn’s guidance, I converted a waitlist at Wharton to admit)
Oh did I mention about the scholarship I received for my EMBA….
Thank You Kathryn, Mary. Thank You Square One.
P.S: With individual effort and support from Square One anyone (yes ANYONE!) can make it happen.
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