January 25, 2013

Joined: May 30, 2012

Posts: 9

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GMAT Club - This may be a little long, but I hope my unique experience, process for selection, and feedback is helpful to those choosing an admissions consultant.

After months and countless hours scouring the site for tips and feedback, I've decided to add something of substance of my own. Namely, my experience with admissions consultants. About a year ago, as I was preparing (and deciding) to apply to b-school, I began by identifying schools that made sense for me. While I (in no means) work in what many b-school admissions boards would consider a "prestigious" job/field, I am well compensated - better than I'll likely be immediately out of b-school - and therefore agonized at the "cost/benefit analysis" of going. After speaking with many, many people in my target industry, I decided to try to take the plunge, but I could really identify only about 4 or 5 schools that seemed "worth it," both in the short run and the long run.

I was pretty familiar with those schools and the stringent admissions process, but upon further research, I realized I had a problem. My GMAT was good but under the median for each, my GPA was WELL under the median for each, I went to a mid-tier state school, and although I had extracurricular activities, I was downplaying their importance. Most importantly, while I had an idea of my future career path and "story," I was having a difficult time articulating it to myself. That's when it dawned on me - perhaps I should look into getting an admissions consultant.

I soon realized admissions consultants weren't cheap, but I decided that if one made sense for me, I'd go with the entire 4 (or 5) school package. Ideally, I was hoping to find TWO separate consultants to take advantage of two different viewpoints on everything. I would just work with them on different schools.

I immediately set about "interviewing" various consultants (i.e. taking advantage of their "free" hour consultation). Prior to the interview, I sent them a lengthy profile of myself so they'd be adequately prepared, and asked them questions about my chances at the top schools, how to frame my background, strengths/weaknesses, what their process was, and some other general things to get a good feel for who I may be working with.

After interviewing 15 or 16 (literally) consulting firms, including MBA Mission, ClearAdmit, Stacy Blackman Consulting, MBA Prep Advantage, MBA Prep School, etc.... etc...., I wasn't feeling great. Each interview was pretty similar, and while I liked a few of the consultants, they weren't convincing me the money was worth it. Desperate and trying to whittle it down to two, I stumbled on Amerasia and Paul Lanzilotti on the GMAT Club website, and decided it was worth one more hour of my time to chat with Paul.

That decision helped me get into one of the top schools in the world.

Even on our INITIAL phone call, Paul was much different than every other consultant I'd spoken with. I could tell he had taken the time to read my bio, and came with ideas on how to shape my story. Our first phone call ran 90 minutes, with Paul asking me to elaborate on the bio I'd sent him and then him spilling out ideas for my story, even how to apply themes to various essays. I was frantically taking notes the whole time, even though I realized within the first 10 minutes that I had to hire him. Most importantly to me, we clicked fairly easily. Paul was not only clearly knowledgeable about the admissions process and extremely creative and resourceful in that he already had essay/story ideas (and was sharing them with me on our "free" call), but he was laid-back, casual, and much frank/honest than the other consultants I'd spoken with.

I told Paul even before we hung up the phone that he was hired, but due to my extremely, extremely analytical approach to this process, I still had to re-visit my "admissions consultant spreadsheet," and decide whether to go with Paul on the whole package or hire another consultant as well. I ended up sticking to my guns, and decided to work with Paul on two of the top schools, and another admissions consultant I'd previously interviewed on the two others.

Over the course of the next few months, Paul and I built a very comfortable relationship, working for hours weekly (Paul never complained about our two hour phone calls) on crafting my "story" and essay ideas based on my background. Within a few weeks, we were already shooting essay drafts back and forth for editing, and had knocked out my target school within a month or so. I was quickly beginning to realize the difference between Paul and the other consultant I'd decided to work with - I genuinely felt Paul WANTED me to get into these schools as bad as I wanted to and more importantly, he was going to tell me how to do it. While my other consultant had a fantastic system/structure in place for identifying references, crafting essay ideas, and identifying my own strengths and weaknesses, among other things, I was starting to wonder whether I had paid for the "system" itself or his advice. I had paid for an admissions consultant for a reason - I needed input! Ideas! A definitive opinion now and then! With Paul this was never an issue - he always let me "drive" the process (it was my application after all), but he was a wealth of ideas, opinions, and expertise along the way.

The bottom line for me in selecting an admissions consultant and working with an admissions consultant had always been "Who can help get me into the school?" In my case, Paul fit the bill.

After working feverishly with Paul last summer, I was ready for Round 1 applications. I can't tell you how pretty I thought those essays looked. Paul had helped me shape my background into some fantastic essays, and most importantly, he helped me realize how to not only ARTICULATE my story, but how to tailor it to the schools for which I was applying. Lo and behold, I received an acceptance to my school of choice Round 1. I had swung for the fences, both with the schools I applied for and with my decision to work with a consultant, and it had paid off.

Looking back, I can't say that I REALLY regret hiring two admissions consultants, although if I had to go through the process again, there's no doubt in my mind I'd hire Paul and only Paul. When I called him, ecstatic, after my first acceptance letter, he was more excited than I was. After we hung up, he texted me, "This is why I do what I do." I think that sums up Paul pretty well.

I've taken the time to write this (way too) lengthy summary and feedback on my experience because last year at this time, I was clueless. Apprehensive. I was pouring over threads like this one trying to figure out the best way to approach my applications. Moreover, I'm taking the time to write this because of the extra effort and time Paul spent with me, and because I'm that confident that my GMAT Club peers reading this will have a fantastic experience with him.

Good luck with applications!

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