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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.
Product Square One Prep Hourly Service
I could not be happier with my decision to work with Square One Prep – both based on the process and based on the outcome.
I will admit that I was highly skeptical of using a consultant when I first started the application process. My scores and background were all in line with averages from the top business schools, and I had a compelling story in place. I thought that a consultant might not be useful since I didn’t have a problem to address in my application.
I spoke with a few firms just in case, and had mostly sales-y conversations. But when I spoke with Kathryn – Square One’s owner - for my Square One free consultation, I knew this conversation was different. Instead of a praise laden sales call, Kathryn dug right into the nitty-gritty of my resume – pointing out concerns that I hadn’t even thought of. She spent over an hour on the phone with me, giving away valuable application advice – all for free. Kathryn’s frank and honest approach, and her clear depth of knowledge on the process, convinced me that Square One would be an invaluable asset to my application process. Plus, Square One was one of the most reasonably priced firms that I spoke with.
When I was handed over to my actual consultant, I paused. Could she possibly be as good as Kathryn was, I wondered? Well as it turns out, she was. I worked with Mary throughout the application process, from resume creation to essay editing to interview prep. Mary could not have been more fantastic! Though I had a few friends and family read drafts of essays, none of their advice compared to the advice Mary gave. And let’s be honest – it just can’t. Your friends and family didn’t have the experience, nor the endless patience, that Mary does. And on top of that, it was clear that I was more than just a paycheck to her. She truly cared about helping me reach my goals.
Oh, and if you’re worried about never seeing Kathryn’s amazing-ness again – fear not! Kathryn did a final review of all of my work, so I got to benefit from both Mary and Kathryn’s great insights.
The care Mary and Kathryn have for their clients was especially clear over Labor Day weekend. My most importantly application was due in a few days, and I had a moment of crisis over the essay. Not only did both Mary and Kathryn work with me over the holiday, but Kathryn spent an hour on the phone with me for free, talking me through all the needed changes.
In the end, I was accepted to my dream school! I’ll be starting at HBS in the fall.
I’ll answer a question a few of you might be asking. Could I have gotten in without using a consultant? Maybe. But working with Square One allowed me to go through the application process as a much more confident, calm, and happy candidate. I have no idea how I would have gotten through it without Kathryn and Mary.
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.
Joined: Sep 25, 2013
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Product Square One Prep Premium Service
At least for me the search for an admissions consultant company was not easy. It’s not only a large financial commitment but also finding the right company can make a world of difference. I spoke to more than 10 firms and from the first time I talked with Kathryn from Square One Prep I felt they were completely different from the rest. I was looking for a personalized service that could cater to my specific needs and not a service that made me feel like I'm only one more. The individual attention I got from Square One Prep was exactly what I was looking for. My consultant, Mary, was always available even on odd hours and she also replied to all my e-mails quickly. I couldn't believe she never took more than 24 hours to correct something. This kind of treatment made a world of difference and allowed me to apply to 6 schools in only 2 months.
The entire application process with Square One Prep was simple and painless. You work closely with a consultant that is always there for you and then all your work is reviewed by Kathryn to get that high level, fresh perspective. This system generated positive results for me.
Another thing that I think is worth mentioning is the invaluable knowledge that having an American consultant brings. I’m from Brazil and I was in doubt if I should take a local consultant or an American one. Every interaction that I had with Square One Prep was seamless (probably even more productive than an in person meeting (you lose time with traffic, strict appointment times, etc…), Also, the knowledge that you get by having someone on the ground in America in direct contact with admissions, that knows the culture and what they want, is really precious.
In large part thanks to Square One Prep I got accepted in Columbia Business School, my first school choice. Thank you all!!!
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REVIEWER IDENTITY VERIFIED by score report [?]
Product Square One Prep Premium Service
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.
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.
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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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Product Square One Prep Hourly Service
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!