A $3,500 ‘Hell Week’ For MBA Applicants

Not quite a Navy Seal hell week, but an intense and grueling week for MBA applicants

Not quite a Navy Seal hell week, but an intense and grueling week for MBA applicants

Filling out an application to get into a business school can be both a lengthy and fairly solitary process. It can take months to to update your resume. Draft and polish your essays. Line up and coach your recommenders. And then get everything ready to file by a school’s admissions deadlines.

Most of the hard work is often done alone at home or in the office. But a prominent MBA admissions consultant is trying to change it up—at least for some applicants. Inside MBA Admissions, a San Diego-based firm, is putting together a five-day boot camp for applicants who want to crash the process with others into a single hell week to get it all done.

The company, led by a former admissions official from the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, is limiting the number of candidates for the first workshop in Los Angeles to 16 MBA candidates who want to apply to highly ranked business schools. The $3,500 price tag—equal to the firm’s current pricing for help with one application–includes food and beverages but not lodging in L.A’s Westwood Village near the UCLA campus. The first of what Inside MBA hopes to be several camps will begin during the week of Aug. 26. A second is possible in Chicago for round two candidates.


Those who attend can work on up to three MBA applications during the week, but the goal of the camp will be to create and finalize at least one solid application from start to finish. The firm said that the camp will be staffed by four consultants who will work one-on-one with MBA candidates, with the majority of the week broken into work sessions where applicants will receive feedback from consultants and peers. In typical admission consulting, most candidates never actually meet their consultants because most of the work is done over telephone and online.

“If you don’t have a lot of money and a lot of time, you can take a week off and get it done,” says Jana Blanchette, president and founder of Inside MBA Admissions. “It will be intensive but they will walk away with completed applications.”

The idea for the camp emerged from the firm’s customers, some of whom wanted to try to squeeze the application process into little more than a week. Many consulting firms, for example, give their young employees a week off to allow them to apply to business school. Many other candidates use vacation time to get the process done, often waiting until key school deadlines approach.


“It’s putting things off to the last minute,” adds Blanchette. “For many applicants, there’s a frenzy around money and time. Last year, we had a bunch of candidates two weeks before the end of December and they wanted to do four schools. We said we don’t recommend it but if that’s what you want to do, we’ll try to help you. But our core consulting model doesn’t accommodate that because it’s tossing material back and forth. Once a client leaves the workshop, we’re done with them versus our current model of a flat fee and unlimited access.”

The reaction of rival admission consultants to the idea is mixed. “Some applicants will just want to get the applications out of the way as fast as possible and will want to do so in a short, intense burst,” agrees Linda Abraham, founder and president of Accepted.com. But Abraham wondered if it would be possible to gather a critical mass of those applicants in one place at one time. “I doubt it, but we’ll all find out.”

She also believes that individual consulting would generally result in a better application. “It’s the tortoise and the hare principle,” she says. “The applications and essays come out better if developed over a period of a few weeks. The final product produced by applicants at the last minute is usually is not as good as the product produced by the applicants who works slowly and steadily over a longer period of time. Part of this program is in a group and therefore has to be general. The beauty of individual consulting is that it is tailored for one client.”

Some clients also may have privacy worries. Asked if she thought the group work would concern some applicants who don’t want others to know they are getting consulting help, Blanchette said that all camp participants would have to sign a confidentiality agreement.

“If we were offering this to 100 to 200 people that could be a problem,” she said.  “But 12 to 16 people is not a large number. We will do group brainstorming sessions, but we will also give them one-on-one feedback. The feedback of peers is likely to be a positive experience. There will be the benefit of our expertise and we might bring in experts in careers from consulting, finance, and brand management.”


To register for the camp, applicants are required to have a GMAT score. “The one requirement is they have to have taken the GMAT,” says Blanchette. “Because part of this is assessing their profile and you really can’t do that without knowing the GMAT. And it’s not a practice GMAT. The GMAT has to be taken and we have to know what that is.”

The firm is also aiming to attract the highest quality applicants. “If you have unexplained gaps in your resume and no extras and a 580 GMAT, sorry,” explains Blanchette. “Good luck. We want good quality people. Registration will be handled like our consultations. We will talk to them and make sure they are a good fit and they understand it is going to be an intense, grueling week.”

She said the camp will focus on assessing a person’s candidacy (strengths and weaknesses), confirming school selection, revamping the resume, selecting essay topics, constructing and finalizing essays, developing a school strategy, selecting recommenders and instructions on how to effectively prepare them, interview practice, and tips for the on-line application.

“This camp is not for the light-hearted,” said Blanchette.  “You will be expected to work hard, do your assigned homework, present your material to your breakout team, and provide your team with honest feedback.”


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