THE GREEN LADY WOOS ABINESH
Sameer Kamat, founder of admissions consulting firm MBA Crystal Ball and author of Beyond the MBA Hype: A Guide to Understanding and Surviving B-Schools, took a client’s success story and combined it with a photo of the fortunate man in front of the Statue of Liberty, to market Crystal Ball’s scholarship-facilitation services. “The green lady you see in the background has been trying hard to woo Abinesh,” says Kamat’s text below the photo of Abinesh Nimalan. “She made multiple offers he couldn’t resist. One was worth $40,000 and another that was over $100,000.”
Kamat’s introduction of Nimalan is followed by a blog post by the MBA candidate himself, who explains that Carnegie Mellon University’s Tepper School of Business had offered him the $40,000 scholarship, but he also received a full-tuition offer from The University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler Business School. “After discussing with Sameer I eventually decided to take up the Kenan-Flagler admit,” Nimalan writes.
Nimalan’s post, plus his “GMAT debrief” published on MBA Crystal Ball’s site, hint at what made him attractive enough to business school admissions officers that they threw money at him. An engineer, Nimalan had worked eight years as a product developer for a global telecommunications firm, positioning him well for eastern schools coveting techies. And his sky-high GMAT score represented a potent asset. “After a hectic 5 week preparation,” he writes, “I was ready to tackle the GMAT beast in mid July 2013 and I was pleasantly surprised with the result. I had scored a 760.” That 760, considerably higher than the average at even the most elite schools, is a standout number for Tepper, whose average is 694, and for Kenan-Flagler, where the average is 687.
REWARDS FOR THE OVERQUALIFIED
Nimalan’s offers fit the scenario presented by The MBA Exchange’s CEO Dan Bauer. “The more ‘overqualified’ an admit is,” Bauer says, “the more merit-based aid he or she can expect from a less selective school.”
Some admissions consulting firms’ marketing focuses less on scholarships and more on admissions. The MBA Exchange features on its opening web page a testimonial from a client celebrating three admissions, each with scholarships of $10,000 to $50,000. People looking to find out how clients did with funding will encounter limited information among the testimonials, which mostly discuss admissions: “I got into HBS!!! Woooohooooooo! I also got into Columbia, am wait listed for Kellogg and have an interview set up for Haas.” The occasional blurb mentions scholarships. “I attended (Harvard Business School) Admit Day and have since been doing a lot of thinking about the options,” writes an Australian client. “I had decided to attend HBS but then received my admit materials from Wharton and they have offered me a US$30,000 scholarship. After much thought I have decided to attend HBS and am very excited.”
A New York client writes, “I was accepted to Stern with a $50k scholarship. Thanks for all the help!”
Bauer says their consulting packages include guidance regarding scholarships. “We advise and support our clients on ‘scholarship’ essays for those business schools that feature them in the application,” Bauer says. “We also guide our clients on when and how to approach a school to request merit-based aid.”
SAYING NO TO UNREALISTIC EXPECTATIONS
Boutique consulting firm Fortuna Admissions lets the occasional testimonial speak to the scholarship money issue, as in that from a happy customer “Admitted to KELLOGG and CMU TEPPER: also secured generous scholarship.” Fortuna doesn’t post total scholarship funds received by clients because as a small firm serving applicants to elite schools, Fortuna’s total would be lower than large companies with far more clients applying to far more schools, says Fortuna director Judith Silverman Hodara. “We’re not turning over massive numbers the way some of our competitors are,” Hodara says. Also, publicizing specific scholarship amounts at specific schools could create expectations among clients, Hodara says.
“We didn’t want anybody to think, ‘Hey, I got into X, I’m going to get Y,'” Hodara says.
Finally, Hodara says, Fortuna endeavors to place students in the MBA programs that fit them best, rather than the ones that offer the most money.
THE MBA SCHOLARSHIP GAME SERIES: