I’ve been an MBA admission consultant for roughly 25 years. Initially, I worked on my own, but within a few short years, demand for my time exceeded the supply. “Linda Abraham & Associates,” a solo shop, quickly morphed into “Accepted.com,” a consultancy that grew over time to 20+ consultants serving multiple applicant markets.
Given my varied and lengthy experience, I’d like to pose an intriguing question in MBA-dom: “What are the pros and cons of solo-practitioners, which I once was, and consultancies, like what I now run?”
My co-founding and serving as the first president of the Association of International Graduate Admissions Consultants (AIGAC), which has both consultancies and solo practitioners among its members, further enriches my perspective. I know that size – small or large – doesn’t preclude or guarantee excellence
Pros & Cons of Working With a Solo-Shop As Opposed To A Consultancy
As with so much in MBA admissions, it really depends on what’s important to you, but here is a summary of the strengths and weaknesses of each.
Benefits of The Solo Practitioner:
1. You know exactly whom you will work with. His or her name is usually on the door (virtual or otherwise).
2. You are paying your consultant directly and every dollar spent, minus overhead goes to the person you are working with, which means you may save money.
Cons of Working With a Solo Practitioner:
1. There’s no backup in case of illness, emergency, or personality conflict.
2. Your consultant is also running a business and juggling serving you with the needs and responsibilities of CEO, janitor, and everything in between.
3. Your consultant has few or no options if he or she has a question or wants a second opinion (though this is not true of AIGAC members, who can and do turn to each other).
Benefits of The Consultancy:
1. Your consultant isn’t juggling running a business and serving clients like you. The consultant focuses exclusively on guiding clients and getting them into the MBA programs of their dreams.
2. You have choices within the organization, and the consultancy can refer you to the consultant best suited to meet your needs. If you aren’t clicking with your consultant, you may be able to switch to another consultant.
3. Your consultant can seek input from colleagues if he or she wants another perspective or has a question. Many consultancies, including Accepted, have systems set up for a “second pair of eyes” on essay drafts.
4. If your consultant gets sick or has an emergency and can’t work, there are others in the consultancy who will step in and assist you. Finding that back up is the consultancy’s responsibility, not yours. And since unexpected emergencies tend to happen at the worst times, not having to find that backup yourself can be invaluable.
Cons of Working With a Consultancy:
1. You’re not working with the head honcho.
2. If you are working the head honcho, that person can be expensive.
3. Consultancies can be more expensive because the company needs to make a profit and has higher overhead.
Consultants and consultancies large or small can provide a second pair of eyes and a level of experience and expertise with MBA admissions that you don’t have and probably don’t want to acquire. Choose the option that suits you best to optimize your chances of acceptance to the right MBA program for you.
By Linda Abraham, the founder of Accepted, the premier admissions consultancy. She has coached MBA applicants to acceptance for approximately 25 years. The Wall Street Journal, U.S. News, CBS News, and Poets&Quants are among the media outlets that have sought her admissions expertise.