Booth Courts Admission Consultants

Kurt Ahlm, Associate Dean, Chicago Booth Admissions

Kurt Ahlm, Associate Dean, Chicago Booth Admissions

In a highly unusual move, the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business has launched an outreach campaign to promote the school’s prestigious MBA program to MBA admissions consultants. Booth has designated a “contact person” in admissions for consultants, sent them an elaborate information packet on the school, and will be conducting a private webinar exclusively for admissions consultants this Monday (June 20).

Only a few years ago, the admissions officials of several business schools looked suspiciously at the growing field of admissions consulting. Some school directors even discouraged the use of consultants in helping candidates apply to their programs. But in more recent years, there has been increased acceptance of the fact that admissions consultants play an ever-increasing role in the number and quality of applications a school may receive — and are therefore here to stay.

Estimates of the use of admissions consultants vary widely and there is little hard data on the topic. Scott Shrum, chief operating officer of Veritas Prep and the board secretary for the Association of Independent Graduate Admissions Consultants (AIGAC), believes that as many as half of all applicants to the top ten MBA programs now use the help of a consultant.


Still, few schools have actively courted the hundreds of consultants who act as guides for MBA applicants through their long journey to a highly selective business school. Booth’s initiative opens up a new phase in the highly competitive race to get the best and brightest applicants. The school already is among the most aggressive in using scholarship support to land highly desirable MBA candidates. Kurt Ahlm, associate dean for admissions, could not be reached for comment.

“This is a milestone in the evolution of the MBA admissions process,” believes Dan Bauer, founder and CEO of The MBA Exchange, a leading admissions consultancy. “Booth’s recognition that professional, ethical, independent consultants are their allies — rather than their adversaries — raises the bar for enlightenment.

“While adcoms from several top schools have participated in online interviews and hosted periodic campus visits by admissions consultants, starting with Tuck in 2005, Booth’s initiative in reaching out to consultants with such sincerity and formality is unprecedented — and irreversible. Producing an elaborate information packet, offering a private webinar, and appointing an official point of contact for consultants makes a statement that resonates with veteran admissions advisers. Booth’s candor and trust is certain to be rewarded by consultants when portraying the school’s culture to their clients while shortlisting top MBA programs.”


In promoting Booth’s invitation-only, one-hour chat for consultants, the school states that “directors can answer your questions about the 2016-17 essay question and format, provide insight into the application and evaluation process, the admissions interview, and more. Don’t miss this opportunity to chat directly with the Booth admissions committee to better serve your clients.”

What kind of competitive advantage the Booth initiative may bring the school is unknown. Ironically, an AIGAC survey of MBA applicants released today (June 15) oddly showed that consultants aren’t nearly as influential in school choice as thought. Asked to name the most influential factors applicants used to select their target schools, the advice of admissions consultants came in dead last, with only 6% of respondents citing that factor. Rankings had the most sway, garnering a response from 74% of the respondents, while the impact on one’s career was second, with 48%, and geographic location was the third most influential factor with 46% of the vote.

Regardless, founder Linda Abraham views the Booth initiative as “part of a positive and ongoing trend.” The Booth webinar, she adds, “marks a change in the relationship between Booth and the consultant industry in that Booth is reaching out to us so that we can more effectively relate and amplify its message as we advise clients. The result will be more and more appropriate applicants for Booth.”

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