Ex-Adcoms Launch MBA Consulting Firm

SOME CONSULTANTS SAY INSIDE KNOWLEDGE OF ADMISSIONS ISN’T NECESSARY TO BE A GOOD COACH

Of course, some consultants pooh-pooh the notion that former admission officials bring much added value to the consulting process. “Admissions office experience provides insight into the process and enormous insight into a given school’s program at one point in time,” says Linda Abraham, founder of Accepted.com. “But it doesn’t provide insight into all programs at all times. It doesn’t teach anyone how to mentor or guide. Is it helpful? Yes. Is it the only way to get an understanding of admissions? No.”

Despite the fact that many schools have reported declines in MBA applications in recent years, Symonds sees the market for admissions consulting growing. “People in this age bracket more naturally reach out for advice,” he believes. “It’s come to the point where people no longer ask, ‘Should I get a coach?’ They ask, ‘Why shouldn’t I get a coach?’”

He also contends that getting into one of the best MBA programs is as competitive as ever. “The top schools are still overwhelmed with excellent candidates,” adds Symonds. “The flip side of the down curve is that the top quality pool remains stable and a lot of people jump in and out based on the ups and downs of the job market. At the top end, it remains fairly stable.”

FORTUNA WILL CHARGE A 10% PREMIUM DUE TO THE INSIDE INSIGHT IT BRINGS TO THE CONSULTING GAME

Fortuna says it will price its services at a 10% premium to existing market prices to account for the inside knowledge of its consultants, according to Symonds. A one-school comprehensive consulting package will cost an applicant $4,600, while a three-school package would cost about $7,500.

The firm’s launch will likely be greeted with some skepticism from current business school admission officials, some of whom have already expressed concern over the increasing visibility of MBA admissions consulting. Some top schools have publicly said they altered their admissions policies this year in part to get an unfiltered look at candidates due to the increasing use of coaches by applicants.

The Wharton School, for example, has introduced a new interview format where selected applicants participate in a team-based discussion with 5 or 6 other applicants. Harvard Business School has reduced the number of essays required from four to two, and then gives applicants invited to interview 24 hours to submit an additional written reflection on the interview experience. The University of Michigan’s Ross School is putting more weight on the in-person interview and less on essays because the school is concerned about the undue influence of consultants on the application process.

‘THERE IS NO QUESTION OF WRITING ESSAYS FOR CLIENTS’

Symonds and his partners say they will not be writing essays for candidates or crossing any ethical boundaries. “We are dedicated to offering the best possible advice to candidates, and to guide them throughout the admissions process whilst adhering to strict ethical principles,” insists Edwards. “There is no question of writing essays for clients, or stepping in on behalf of a recommender. We coach individuals through an in-depth reflection process, brainstorm essay approaches, put them through their paces for interviews, and provide feedback until we are sure the application clearly expresses what is unique and compelling about their personal story.”

Symonds also said he hopes to raise the bar in admissions advice available online, and contribute to the diversity efforts that make such a difference to the MBA experience. “Individual coaching is not available to everyone,” he says, “but with our collective industry experience we think we can provide a platform for helpful advice that goes beyond the focus on 10 extra points on the GMAT, or whether you should apply on a Tuesday or a Thursday, and gets people to think about finding the right fit.

“Current admissions directors have to be careful about what they say in public, because everything is read, dissected and analyzed for hidden meanings and secret formulas. Our team has the advantage of insider knowledge from their former roles, which they can now freely share that knowledge through our blogs and webinars.”

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