While many MBA applicants are already keenly aware of the advantage offered by working with an Admissions Consultant, I’m still occasionally faced with people who are amazed that there is an industry built around this service. For those of us unfamiliar with hiring coaches or consultants, the skepticism is understandable.
Usually, once an applicant agrees that they could probably benefit from working with a trained professional on their application, they start looking to understand exactly how it is we can help. They ask about essay reviews, interview preparation, resume editing and all of the other services we provide, but they are still missing the point. You don’t hire an MBA Admissions Consultant to edit your essays or help you prepare for your interviews, you hire an Admissions Consultant to get you admitted to your dream MBA program. How this happens is different for every client.
I’m reminded of the story of when Henry Ford got a bill from legendary engineer, Charles Proteus Steinmetz.
From The Smithsonian Magazine:
“Ford, whose electrical engineers couldn’t solve some problems they were having with a gigantic generator, called Steinmetz in to the plant. Upon arriving, Steinmetz rejected all assistance and asked only for a notebook, pencil and cot. According to Scott, Steinmetz listened to the generator and scribbled computations on the notepad for two straight days and nights. On the second night, he asked for a ladder, climbed up the generator and made a chalk mark on its side. Then he told Ford’s skeptical engineers to remove a plate at the mark and replace sixteen windings from the field coil. They did, and the generator performed to perfection.
Henry Ford was thrilled until he got an invoice from General Electric in the amount of $10,000. Ford acknowledged Steinmetz’s success but balked at the figure. He asked for an itemized bill.
Steinmetz, Scott wrote, responded personally to Ford’s request with the following:
Making chalk mark on generator $1.
Knowing where to make mark $9,999.
Ford paid the bill.”
Knowing where to make the mark is why we have consistently been able to get motivated clients admitted to top MBA programs almost completely regardless of their undergraduate GPA, GMAT or work experience. What most applicants don’t understand is that business schools don’t select you based on the criteria you’ve probably heard about from friends or on online forums. In fact, most MBAs don’t even know why they were admitted.
Business schools are actually looking for a complex, but uncomplicated, set of traits for you to communicate throughout your applicationto gain admission. The most important of these being that you are positioned for success.
To better understand how to present yourself as positioned for success from the perspective of an MBA admissions committee, let’s take a look at a case study for two hypothetical (but very real) applicants.
Applicant A went to a top ranked school and performed well. Upon graduation he got a great job at a great company and the future looked bright as the sun. The first few years went great but after the third year Applicant A started feeling like he made some wrong turns and is now on a career path he doesn’t want to continue along. He missed a promotional opportunity recently, which is only adding to his bitterness. He knows he’s made of the right stuff, but he’s looking for an opportunity to make a seamless transition into another industry and function and sees the MBA as the perfect opportunity to do just that.
Applicant B went to a much humbler school and did ok. Her first job after college wasn’t glamorous, but something clicked in her and she started working her butt off. Promotions came at her fast and furious and she now finds herself at a peer level position to Applicant A, at the same company or a prestige equivalent. She can’t believe her luck! The future looks bright along her current path, but she has often been curious about an MBA and now that she’s feeling confident about what she has to offer a business, she is really interested in knowing if she could offer even more with the right MBA.
Applicant A started strong with a downward trending curve and Applicant B had a soft start with an upward trending curve. Which applicant would business schools prefer?
By quite a significant margin, business schools would rather have Applicant B. They may still take Applicant A if his stats are alright, but Applicant B is going to punch above her weight because she has positioned herself as being on fire. MBA programs want to be a part of that fire! They don’t want to save you from your career doldrums!
It’s important to keep in mind that each and every application is read by a person, and more likely than not, multiple people. These people are prone to the same emotional responses we all are. FOMO – Fear of Missing Out, is a big one.
By positioning yourself as on the upswing in your career and considering the MBA as just one of your many attractive options, you come across as less desperate and washed up. You want to present yourself as fresh and ready!
Every MBA who has been through the recruiting season knows that there is nothing you can say at your Bain interview more persuasive to getting an offer than that you already have an offer from McKinsey, but like the Bain culture better. Isn’t this so often the case in life?
It’s important to be tactful in your presentation, but this is one of those subtle changes that can make all the difference in your application.
Here’s a little shorthand on how you can be Applicant B
Applicant A needs an opportunity to follow his dreams
Applicant B is following her dreams and is offering the opportunity to be a part of it
Applicant A has done awesome things in the past and will do awesome things again
Applicant B is currently doing awesome things and is ready for more
Applicant A has more external limitations than weaknesses
Applicant B has no limitations and is keenly aware of what areas of herself she needs to develop
Applicant A has friends that went to his dream school and already knows a lot about it
Applicant B took the time to cold approach people from her dream school and learn everything she could about it
Applicant A will feel angry and bitter when he doesn’t get in to his dream school
Applicant B will feel grateful and blessed when she does