‘A GOOD ADMISSIONS COACH ADDS VALUE FOR THE CLIENT & THE SCHOOL’
Abraham and others are attending the annual AIGAC conference this week in Boston the acceptance of admissions consulting has been reaffirmed. “As it happens, I spent a wonderful day at MIT Sloan today and will be at HBS and HKS on Thursday as part of the annual AIGAC conference,” Abraham says. “Tuck hosted consultants on Monday. Babson and Tufts will host on Friday. In addition to longer presentations from these schools, we will hear tomorrow from representatives of Wharton, INSEAD, Georgetown, Babson, Tepper, Haas, NYU Stern, Vanderbilt, Darden, Rotman, Yale SOM, UCLA Anderson, UT McCombs, IESE, Columbia, Tuck, Stanford MSx, and LBS.”
It wasn’t all that long ago that such a full embrace would have been hard to imagine. Caroline Diarte Edwards, who had been admissions director of INSEAD from 2005 until 2012 and who is now an admissions consultant and director at the consulting firm Fortuna, recalls observing the industry’s early days.
“Initially,” Edwards says, “schools were suspicious. However, over time most schools realized that a good admissions coach adds value from both the client and the school perspective. As admissions director, I had to ding many candidates who fundamentally had good profiles, but had completely failed to understand how the school needed them to present their candidacy. If they had got better advice before they submitted, many of them would have been admitted.”
‘THE FIRST SEEMINGLY WELL CONCEIVED & WELL DEVELOPED PLAN TO ENGAGE’
To Edwards, the Booth campaign is a natural evoluton of the industry’s size and clout. “Schools recognize that a large proportion of B-school candidates are working with a coach, so it is in the school’s interest that the coaches are in the know,” she says. “Informed coaches can help applicants to see beyond rankings, to identify the stronger fit they might have with the GSB vs HBS, or Kellogg versus Booth. And beyond the M7 there are wonderful schools whose strengths great applicants might otherwise be unaware of.”
Jeremy Shinewald, founder and CEO of mbaMission, another leading firm, called Booth’s campaign “a very shrewd move.” “Over the years,” he adds, “we have been invited to Tuck, the Indian School of Business and Indiana Kelley to visit on their dime. My hat certainly goes off to them but these were really one-off events — almost experiments for their admissions offices. Chicago Booth’s outreach is the first seemingly well-conceived and well-developed plan to engage with our industry. The question really is, in the competitive world of MBA admissions, not ‘who’ but ‘how quickly’ will others follow? We have always had great relationships with admissions offices, but they have never been institutionalized like this and Chicago Booth deserves credit for taking this step.”
REVOLVING DOOR OF ADMISSIONS PROBABLY SPEEDS ACCEPTANCE OF INDUSTRY
It also probably helped that many consultants are former admissions officials. So the revolving door of MBA admissions has made the field less of an unknown world to the business schools. Fortuna, for example, has on its consulting staff former business school admissions officials from Harvard, UCLA, Duke, London Business School, and INSEAD, among others. “Admissions staff see admissions coaching as a valuable way to leverage their expertise and continue contributing to the business education sector,” believes Edwards.
Her Fortuna colleague, former acting admissions director at Wharton Judith Silverman Hodara, agrees. “The first time that I recall the advisers reaching out to and getting some acceptance from the schools was at the GMAC conference in Baltimore in 2007 when Graham Richmond, who at the time was very involved with AIGAC, was a presenter on a panel and he told me it was the first time he had not been treated like he was at cross-purposes.
“Given that undergrad institutions welcome counselors with open arms (and through IECA and HECA) run tours for them to visit and to get to know the schools, I am not surprised that this is now accepted practice,” she says. “I think that Chicago understands well that the MBA advisers can really help to support the school’s mission, by helping the school to find and read applicants who may not have otherwise applied.”