Great! You have decided to hire an admissions consultant, how should you chose one? Hopefully, this practical 7-step no-nonsense process can assist you:

Step1: Focus more on the Consultant and NOT the Company. Quick difference between the two: for eg. My MBA Journey is an a Admissions Consulting firm and the CONSULTANTS that work with us are, well, Consultants (duh!)

  • Irrespective of which firm you end up working with, you are going to spend 95% of your time with the CONSULTANT you choose.
  • Why do you need an Admissions Consulting firm? For several reasons: (1) It can give you legal assurances; so if the consultant were to renege on his promises made, the admissions consulting firm can step-in (2) If you are unhappy with the process, you can request for a change of consultant or get a refund (3) And in some bizarre circumstances, If something bad were to happen to your consultant, your case could be handed over to another consultant within the firm.

Step 2: Speak with the Consultant that you will be working with, not the sales guy! We have noticed that in the market the admissions consulting firm hire slick salesman to pitch for the “quality” of consultants. Unfortunately, once you sign-up, the perceived quality is drastically different from the actual quality. Make sure that you test before you buy!

Step 3: Even when you speak with a Consultant- and if you like what you hear, make sure that the consultant you spoke with is the who is going to work with you (not some other consultant). Save yourself from schemes such as this: many admissions consulting firm *ASSURE* you that the EXPERT you spoke with is going to work with you as your *PRIMARY CONSULTANT* and the *OTHER LESS ATTRACTIVE* Consultant as your *SECONDARY CONSULTANT*. Clients feel excited by such grand schemes, thinking that they would have two sets of eyes looking through their applications. Our advice is to avoid such confusion- such schemes are rigged against you. These schemes make no economic sense- why? Because Consultants bill by the number of hours they work. In the two consultant project above, you are likely to end up paying for the time of a *LESS ATTRACTIVE CONSULTANT*

Step 4: Ingredients to look for in a Consultant: educational qualification, industry experience, past (proven!) track record.

  • Education: In most cases there is no point in hiring a Consultant, who graduated from ISB to help you get into Stanford/Harvard/Wharton/INSEAD/LBS. It is very likely that he has never visited these schools and has very limited understanding about the geography or career opportunities after graduating from these schools. Make sure that the schools that you are targeting are aligned with the Consultant’s educational qualifications.
  • Work experience: Look for GENERALISTS for eg. Strategy Consultants (SC) or Investment Bankers (IB). Why people from these industries? Because (1) SC/IB work across multiple industries and geographies and can help you align your career goals accordingly (2) SC/IB are REQUIRED to hone their written/oral communications skills and are trained by top experts in the field of communications (3) SC/IB, like people from admissions committee, are generalists and will help you simplify the subject matter for generalist audiences.
  • Past references:  Don’t simply read testimonials on a firm’s website (we can literally put anything on our website and make it sound impressive!), ask for concrete proof from your potential consultant.

Step 5: Schedule a strategy session with your consultant (before you sign-up for full service). These sessions are usually offered for free (including ours’), to gauge the consultant on above points.

Step 6: Make sure that you understand what you are paying for. For eg. it is very common for Indian Admissions Consulting firms to offer 2 rounds of edits for essays, 1 brainstorming call (in fact 1-2 calls in total), letter of recommendation and resume help and call it a “COMPREHENSIVE SERVICE”. Also, the turnaround time could be anywhere between 1-2 weeks for every edit. Please make sure that you understand these subtle differences before you sign-up. Also, don’t sign-up just because a firm is offering you a  US$100 discount. It is very likely that a firm that compete on prices is likely to cut on service quality by changing the aforementioned points.

Step 7: Look for cues: if the consultant/firm has fast response time, are transparent etc. it is likely they are genuine players. On the other hand, if the firm/consultant is shifty about the requested information from your end then it is likely that they are trying to dupe you.