Confessions of An MBA Consultant

I’d rather listen to Celine Dion on a loop, I think to myself knowing there has to be a torture less painful than listening to a business school applicant recite his resume line by line.

Getting to know a new client is ordinarily a pleasure, unless he or she drones on about “what” they’ve done rather than why.

“Minnesota,” says today’s candidate, Alan.

“Mendota Heights actually,” he explains. “It’s a suburb of…”

Minneapolis, I chime in.

“Right, Minneapolis. Then I went to Penn undergrad.”

He stops, bites his lip, then continues.

“Well, after a year at…” he says rushing and apologetic. “Then I went on to a mid-level firm in…”

Chicago, I guess to myself without looking at his resume.  

 “San Francisco,” he says.

Same thing, I think.

“So?” he asks.

So what? I reply.

“So what are my chances of getting in to…?”

 EVERYONE WANTS TO KNOW IF THEY CAN GET INTO THE SCHOOL OF THEIR DREAMS

Harvard and Stanford, I interject, knowing full well this kid isn’t planning on going home with an MBA from the University of Burbank.

In more than ten years as a B-school admissions adviser, I’ve been asked thousands and thousands of times some version of: “What Are My Chances? Am I Going To Get In? What’s It Going To Take?”

Much of the time, even top candidates like Alan are not going to get in. Not because they are unqualified or didn’t deliver when it comes to their GPA and GMATs, but because they are clinging to the notion that a perfect score will make them the perfect candidate. They believe they are “what” they’ve done, not why.  As Alan’s adviser, it’s my job to get him ready. That means it’s my job to tell him the truth.