But Angela Guido, you sell MBA admissions consulting!
Yeah, maybe, but if you’re going to spend all that money on someone to help you get into business school, you need to do it for the right reasons. It’s an open secret that a lot of people use MBA admissions consultants to get into top MBA programs, but using one for the wrong reasons may actually harm your chances of getting in.
There’s a lot to get through this week, so grab a cup of coffee while Angela Guido spills the tea on all the reasons you shouldn’t hire an MBA admissions consultant.
Prefer to read? Here’s the transcript:
Hello and welcome to a very controversial MBA Monday. I’m Angela Guido, the founder of Career Protocol, provider of career and MBA application coaching for lo these many years. Today I'm going to answer the question, do you need to work with an admissions consultant to get into your dream school? Controversial question. Should I just say out and say the answer? Should I just spoil it from the beginning? The simple, direct, and as always honest answer to the question “Do you need to work with an admissions consultant?” is no. I actually think the answer is no. I know that's weird coming from someone who coaches MBAs to apply to business school. I'm going to explain in detail exactly why I don't think you need to work with an admissions consultant in the rest of this video, and I think you're going to find it illuminating because I'm also going to break down for you the challenges that people face in the process of applying to business school. It's worth noting that the vast majority of our clients and the people who come to work with Career Protocol are not doing so because they're desperate and afraid and feel incompetent that they're not going to be able to complete the application process successfully on their own. They choose to work with us because we're helping them grow as a person while they're applying to business school. And that makes the process much more fun, much more rewarding, frankly, probably also much more successful. Most importantly though, it sets them up for dramatic success during business school and beyond, it doesn't just help them cross that threshold. So the service that we're providing isn't based in your inadequacies, it's based in what's really great about you and helping you bring that out in the process. But let's talk about traditional MBA admissions consulting and the four biggest reasons that people think they might need a consultant, and I'm going to help you understand why you may not actually need a consultant to get you through this process.
1. School Insider Secrets
First reason that people seek help navigating the MBA admissions landscape is because they think they need really detailed and specific insights about the schools they're applying to. If you go to the internet and you just do a quick Google search or Bing, whatever you're using, it's truly an exercise in suppressed overwhelm every day. We have to navigate this overwhelm every day. And when you get into the MBA admissions space, it's just like, there's just so much information out there!! It's not all good, it's not all correct, a lot of it is terrorizing. So it's tempting to want to solve that pain by going to someone who's going to take it away and tell you, no, look, this is what really matters at Harvard, and this is what really matters at Wharton, and so forth and so on. But you really don't need an admissions consultant to tell you that because the schools tell you what's actually important. If you go and sign up for the email list for all the schools that you're considering, they will send you up to date information, valuable application tips, and truly insider insight into what they are actually looking for in the application. Schools have been tweaking and refining their MBA essay questions for decades, and they've reached this happy equilibrium where each school is asking different questions. Have you noticed that? When I first started doing this job, it was really common that two or three schools would have virtually identical questions. One school would have five essays and another one would have two and they were trying to negotiate their place amongst each other. Well, they've figured that out now. They've each figured out who they are, what their brand is, what their community is all about, and they're asking questions directly and specifically to tell you what they care about. So all you really need to do is listen to the schools and do what the schools tell you, which is answer their questions. That's really it. You don't need any super secret former adcom insight into what Harvard values or what Duke is looking for because they actually tell you. They make it so easy for you to figure them out. They offer webinars, they offer chats with admissions directors. You don't need anyone else to tell you what the schools care about because they're fully transparent about it. They're trying to help you do your very best. So, hiring an admissions consultant to help you figure out the schools, it may feel good at first because it alleviates the pain of overwhelming confusion, but it's not really a worthwhile investment because that information is best sourced straight from the horse's mouth, and that's the school itself.
2. Confusion About The Process
The second reason that a lot of people seek the support of an admissions consultant is because in addition to the information overwhelm, there's also a little bit of process overwhelm. Most MBA applications are pretty complex. You're going to have one or more essays, one or more short little baby essays, multiple questions in an online application. You've got to submit a resume, you've got to submit multiple recommendations. There's really a lot to manage, acknowledging that as a fact. But aren't you pretty competent at self-management? I mean, if you're applying to a top business school, you're already competent at getting stuff done on tight timelines. You really don't need a second person to project manage you through the process. Full disclosure, we have a really robust project management system for our clients that we set up for them with deadlines and a checklist and everything. And still, 50% of our clients build their own project management spreadsheet because that's what they do. That's the person you probably already are. You know how to manage complexity. You know how to build a simple Excel spreadsheet or Google sheet that's going to tell you what to do and when and make sure that you don't drop any balls and track all the details and get everything done on time? You can do that for yourself, you don't need someone else to project manage you. I'm still having flashbacks to my own MBA application project management spreadsheet, and I didn't know jack about Excel. I actually taught myself Excel in the process of building my MBA application project management spreadsheet, and I managed. I managed to submit eight applications all on time. And that was in the day — I'm dating myself here — where you had to mail it in on paper. Paper. I submitted a paper. I submitted eight paper applications from abroad and I’m not an organized person. If I can do it, today in the digital age really, really, really, you can do it. You don't need someone to project manage you.
3. Literary Palpitations
The third reason that people tend to seek admissions consulting is because they're insecure about their writing abilities. This is really common among nonnative speakers of English, but it's also common among engineers, business people, anyone who didn't get a really solid liberal arts education that focused on writing. Even people who did get a really solid liberal arts education focused on writing frequently have insecurities when writing about themselves. So, the temptation is to pay someone to help you write better or to tell you how to write that's going to be compelling. I have a lot of spicy things to say about this, but I think I'll skip most of those. What I'm just going to say is that it's really important to understand that MBA essay writing isn't a writing exercise in the sense that we tend to think of writing exercises. It's not blogging, it's not persuasive writing, it's not the writing that you're going to put together a memo that ten people in your organization are going to read. It's more an exercise in self-expression. It's an exercise in communicating who you are, much more so how you speak than how you would write if you were trying to be formal. In fact, most people who get really serious about the writing of MBA essays, those are the people that take the most drafts among our clients to get to the end because we have to remove all the formalities and all the perfectionism that's actually tainting their natural voice, that's allowing them to just express themselves in their own words. That's what you're trying to do here. And so, in my experience, this is where admissions consultants can actually be a dangerous addition to your process, as can friends and family and alumni. Because if they're trying to fix your writing, they're inherently going to make it sound like them and not you. We all have some idea that we're not good enough writers, but all of our clients submit amazing stories, even if they have grammar mistakes because they didn't grow up speaking English. That's actually appropriate, by the way. You're going to have to go through the interview process, and the admissions committee is going to know that when you speak English, you use the wrong prepositions, you sometimes mess up your verb tense, and your pronunciation isn't perfect. They're going to see that your English is perfectly functional, perfectly intelligible, and fully allows you to express yourself in every way that you need to in an MBA classroom, but it isn't perfect. And if you submit essays that are perfectly written, you're putting yourself in a very dangerous position because then you're going to cast doubt on everything else about you. They're going to wonder who you paid to write your essays for you. You're going to seem like a fraud. So you have to be ‑ especially if you're a nonnative speaker, but everyone ‑ you have to be really, really careful about whose advice you take on how to write. It’s probably worth mentioning that when we coach our clients, we’re not line editing their essays. We’re not putting words in their mouth. We’re not telling them what to say. We’re teaching them the tools of storytelling and helping them focus the scenes of the movie of their life, that's coming to life in these essays, in a way that brings out their truest self-expression. It's not about word choice, it's about storytelling. It's a very different kind of a process. Even if you're not super secure in your writing abilities, think really carefully before choosing to work with an MBA admissions consultant on that because there's a very high probability that what will end up happening is that your writing will regress towards the mean, and you'll end up sounding like ChatGPT wrote your essay.
4. The Magic Spell
Then the fourth reason that people seek MBA admissions consulting, is a bit of a combination of the first three. That is that they're really looking to someone who can tell them the thing that they need to say to be able to get into their dream school. It's a combination of insight about the school, managing the process, and then writing correctly. This is unfortunately the worst reason to hire an MBA admissions consultant and it's subtly or overtly the reason that really most people go down that road of looking for admissions consulting. Because there's this illusion perpetrated by a lot of people in the world that there's some secret, there's something that you don't know about what you need to say to a given school or to schools in general to be able to get in. And that if you can just find the person who knows that answer, that it'll work for you and that it will help you get into the school that you want to get into. This just isn't how it works. If the previous three answers didn't make it clear that admissions committees, like, there's no secret, they tell you exactly what they want, they want you to express yourself as the person that you are and not tell them whatever you think their secret formula is, then let me just make it really clear. If you're approaching your MBA essays with the mindset that you're trying to tell the school what you think they want to hear so that they will let you in, your essays are going to suck. They're going to sound like everyone else's. Even worse than being boring, they are going to run a really big risk of making you seem arrogant or defensive because you're framing your whole candidacy in terms of the judgment of someone else that you don't even know who they are. That's not going to lead to self-expression, and it's not going to lead to good writing. So, if you're looking for support in navigating the process, in understanding what all the pieces are, and in putting together an application that's going to really allow you to shine, then I want to invite you to sign up for my free MBA101 program. It's a series of videos and resources to help you make sense of the process, understand what really matters, and begin laying the groundwork of self-expression and self-awareness that you're going to really need to actually be successful on this journey. You can sign up for it for free right now, careerprotocol.com/MBA101. It's going to go a long way to demystifying what you need to do to be successful as yourself in the MBA application process. Then, if you're interested in further developing your soft skills, your ability to inspire people with your authentic story, your ability to really know who you are, the value you bring to the table, and what you want from your MBA and your post-MBA job and career, and you want a partner who's going to see the best in you and ensure that the journey is not only successful but also fun and one that helps you grow as a person while you're applying to business school, please request a call to speak with me and my team. You can do that at careerprotocol.com/MBA. We would love to talk with you about your MBA journey and how working with us doesn't give you better information about schools or help you manage the process or coerce your writing into some perfection. It actually helps you get to know and love and express yourself better. That's what we do. Yeah, that feels really good, I really enjoyed saying that!
That's the end of this incredibly controversial MBA Monday episode. I truly, truly, truly believe that you don't need an admissions consultant. A lot of people get in without consultants, and you're probably a competent and amazing person who's capable of doing this process on your own. So don't hire an admissions consultant because you feel like you can't do it on your own. One last thing is subscribe. Subscribe to our channel. I'm here every Monday. I'm giving away as much free information as I can cram into these videos every week because, again, I really believe that you can do this. You can do this with or without a coach and the world needs more awesome leaders out there. That's why we're here. So okay, I'm done. I don't have anything more to say. This is the end of MBA Monday, I will see you here next week. Thanks for watching. Leave me a comment!