Hiring an MBA Admissions Counselor

Getting into a top-tier MBA program isn’t a walk in the park. Elite business schools such as Harvard University have an acceptance rate below 10%. As it becomes more and more difficult to get into a quality school many candidates are turning to MBA Admissions Counselors to help.

According to a 2013 study by AIGAC Graduate Admissions Consulting, 57% of prospective MBAs hired Admissions Counselors (although, a large portion of this percentage comes from applicants to competitive top-tier programs).

What does an Admissions Counselor Do?

They offer a broad range of services from high-level conversations about which schools you should apply for, down to the nitty-gritty details of your application, interview techniques, resume, and essays.

Almost every MBA candidate could benefit from third-party feedback, but an Admissions Counselor isn’t for everyone. It’s important to know if a counselor is right for you, when it is the best time to hire, and what you need to look for in a good counselor.

Should You Hire an MBA Admissions Counselor?

Admissions Counselors aren’t magicians, and they don’t live in your brain. If you’re hoping to hire someone to complete your applications for you, then an MBA Admissions Counselor isn’t the right fit. They’re also not the right fit if you’re not open to feedback, or you already have everything worked out. However, there are definitely times when hiring an MBA Admissions Counselor is the right fit.

  • You’re Short on Time: If you work long hours, have a busy schedule, or deal with heavy travel, an MBA Admissions Counselor could be a lifesaver. They can help keep you on target by creating and managing a schedule that keeps you on track and on time.
  • You Need Help Standing Out: You might have years of great work experience, a valuable network of peers, and the dream background, but if you don’t know how to position yourself in a way that makes you stand out, you could get denied admission. MBA programs want talented candidates that stand out from the crowd, and that’s exactly what a counselor is for.
  • You’re a Non-Traditional Applicant: If you’re applying for your MBA from a non-business background, you’ll probably want help from a counselor. They can look at your experience and help you tell a story that draws attention to the skills and aspects of your life that make you unique, interesting, and qualified.
  • You Have Weaknesses: Everyone has weaknesses, but for some candidates, those application weaknesses are more glaring than not. If you have a weak GPA, a low GMAT score, little management experience, or gaps in your resume, an MBA Admissions Counselor can help you figure out the best way to present your case.
  • You Need Advice: Sometimes you just need extra help. If you want an objective sounding board, an additional set of eyes, and a friend to help you un-muddy the waters of each MBA application, then hire a counselor.

When Should You Hire an MBA Admissions Counselor?

If you fit into one of the categories above, and you’ve decided to hire an MBA Admissions Counselor, when is the right time?

Should you hire a counselor at the very beginning of your application process or should you wait until the end?

Well, it depends on what you need and how much you’re willing to spend.

MBA Admissions Counselors are not cheap. Some charge a flat rate per application while others charge per hour. You’ll probably be spending about $1,000 per application according to Newsweek, so making sure you’re not wasting time and money is key.

Below are a few questions you should ask yourself before hiring a counselor to ensure you get your money’s worth.

  1. What help do you need? If you don’t know how to answer this question except to say “everything,” then, you’ll probably want to hire a counselor at the very beginning of the process to get your head on straight. However, the best idea is to start filling out your applications and then look for the areas where you need help. You should be able to figure out pretty quickly if you need help with your resume, essay, interview, etc. Then, once you’ve gone as far as you can go, hire a counselor for the rest.
  2. When is the deadline? Don’t wait to hire a counselor until one week before your application is due to your top school. Make sure you give yourself and the counselor plenty of time to work together. Once you hire a counselor, you might discover that you need more help than expected, so make sure you have enough time.
  3. What research have you completed? One problem that MBA applicants make is hiring a counselor too early in the process to the point where their voice gets lost. You don’t want to rely too much on the expertise of your counselor. It’s important that you at least know your own goals, wants, and plans before you let a counselor start working with you. It should be a relationship, not a situation where the counselor takes on all the work.

How to Choose the Right MBA Admissions Counselor?

There are hundreds, if not thousands, of firms and individuals that offer admissions counseling. Choosing the right one is vitally important. There’s nothing worse than spending thousands of dollars on bad advice and a bad experience.

The first thing you need to do is look up perspective counselors online and get as much information as you can to start narrowing down your choices. Then, it’s time to individually interview your counselors.

To make sure you hire the right person or firm, keep in mind these admissions counselor interview questions.

Admissions Counselor Interview Questions

  • Experience: How many years of experience does the person/firm have? Do they have previous happy clients that they can refer you to?
  • Perspective: During the interview process, ask what has worked and what hasn’t worked for their MBA applicants over time? If you have a particular program in mind, see if they have any insight into the program.
  • Time: Make sure you ask how busy your counselor is and what their turnaround time is. If they have 20 clients all with the same deadline, you might get too little help.
  • Involvement: You need to ask not only how involved your MBA Admissions Counselor will be with you, but also how involved they are in the industry. You want someone who is up-to-date with the latest trends and changes in admissions as well as someone who is willing to build a working relationship with you.
  • Approach: Not every Admissions Consultant approaches applications the same way. Make sure you choose a counselor that fits your needs and how you work. Take advantage of free assessments, if possible.
  • Budget: If you think you’ll need a lot of work, look for a counselor that offers a flat fee. If you think you’ll only need a few hours of help, look for an hourly counselor. Determine how much you’re willing to spend and then find someone that fits.

Choosing to work with an MBA Admissions Counselor is an important decision that shouldn’t be left up to chance. Before you jump off the deep end and hire a counselor to see you through the stressful MBA application process, make sure you know what you’re getting into so you can make the best decision.

If you’ve decided that working with an admissions counselor is right for you, click here.

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About the Author

Kelly Vo    

Kelly Vo is a writer who specializes in covering MBA programs, digital marketing, and personal development.

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