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So with round 1 mba admissions cycle starting to get into full gear, a lot of applicants are very anxious. I recently had a chance to catch up with an old friend of mine who just graduated from a top 5 business school and was a student member of the adcom. After talking about a lot of random stuff, I asked him about mba admissions and for his thoughts on the process. Since he graduated, he was able to give more details than usual. I'm gonna paraphrase what he said in quotes regarding a few issues that I brought up.

1. Importance of the GMAT

"I actually think people underestimate how important the gmat is. At our school, applicants who scored 730+ were put in a separate pile from the rest, and those who scored 760+ got special attention. Of course in no way does a high score guarantee admissions, but what I found was that adcom members were much more willing to give applicants a benefit of the doubt when they had high stats. So for instance, if someone had a 3.8/770 but had mediocre extracurriculars or even less than amazing essays, they were given a lot of leeway. I was surprised by this since adcom always say in public that the process is holistic and that we look at multiple factors. But I think the top programs are trying to be more serious academically and get really bright people; gmat will become even more important in the near future, in my view."

2. Importance of the essays

"Essays are certainly important but overrated. It's actually really tough to write essays that are so good that they can switch you over from ding/waitlist to admit. Basically the essays would need to be not just superbly well-written but contain stories/experiences that are quite compelling and unique. Not too many applicants have those stories. So a lot of the essays we read sound all the same. And it's obvious that many of them use consultants to craft their stories. I know this goes against conventional wisdom, but i think a high gmat score can do a lot more for one's chances than essays."

3. Why do traders struggle with top MBA admissions?

"You have to realize that most adcom officers are women who got liberal arts degrees and don't know much about trading. They know the big names in finance and consulting obviously, but that's about it. A very successful trader from a prop shop for instance will have high hurdle. First they wonder if this person is so good at trading, why does he need an MBA? More importantly though, they feel that traders don't bring the type of skillsets from their work that can add much value to an MBA class discussion. They LOVE MBB consultants and PE folks precisely for this reason, along with of course strong connections with these firms. So a trader really has to go outside of the box and do something interesting outside of work to get in."

4. What do you think of admissions consultants?

"To be honest I think they're a joke. And I know quite a few adcom members who feel the same way. If you're a non-native english speaker and can't write essays, then yeah you might need some serious guidance. But by and large, I don't see what value they're adding. They will help brainstorm some topics you can discuss. After you write the essays, they will recommend ways to improve them, but none of that really has an impact on admissions. If your professional and personal experience have been boring, even the world's best consultant can't help you out on that front. If I were to spend money, I would much rather hire a good GMAT tutor than waste it on admissions consultants who bring very little value. The whole industry is a semi-scam."

6

Comments (45)

  • Ravenous's picture

    "You have to realize that most adcom officers are women who got liberal arts degrees and don't know much about [anything]."

    It all makes sense now.

  • keensetofpeepers's picture

    MBA admission consultants certainly take advantage of applicant insecurities, but for certain applicants such as military folks perhaps untutored in the language of business essay review services can be helpful. but yeah for the most part their services don't justify $4000-$5000 packages

  • In reply to Ravenous
    Brady4MVP's picture

    Ravenous:
    "You have to realize that most adcom officers are women who got liberal arts degrees and don't know much about [anything]."

    It all makes sense now.

    Lol. I gave you a banana for this.

  • In reply to Ravenous
    UFOinsider's picture

    Ravenous:
    You have to realize that most adcom officers are women who got liberal arts degree

    note to self when writing essay

    Get busy living

  • Spalding Get Your Foot Off the Boat's picture

    The 730 pile cutoff really sucks for those of us who scored 720... i got a little time and am pretty confident i can get a 730 or 740, worth it or no? Most say "no, spend that time on your essays!"

  • GS's picture

    The GPA thing also puts Math , Science and Engineering graduates at a disadvantage.
    A 3.6 in CS/EE should not be worth less than a 3.8 in English. Certainly no bank/hedge fund thinks it is. I wonder if Adcoms give the difficulty of your major some consideration. I would hope that they would.

  • In reply to Spalding Get Your Foot Off the Boat
    DCFwacc's picture

    Spalding Get Your Foot Off the Boat:
    The 730 pile cutoff really sucks for those of us who scored 720... i got a little time and am pretty confident i can get a 730 or 740, worth it or no? Most say "no, spend that time on your essays!"

    Same boat, except with a 710. I was told that since I have 80+/80+ percentiles I shouldn't bother retaking. Never realized that strict buckets were formed above 730. Hmm..

  • mdk6c's picture

    An important thing to realize in MBA admissions is that the adcom is not interested in your development per se. What they are singularly interested in is choosing incoming students that will best serve the interests of the school. And "best interests of the school" generally means their recruiting statistics.

  • mdk6c's picture

    What I mean is, a person from MBB may be less qualified than somebody from a less prestigious consulting firm, but the person brings MBB connections along wherever they go, which may help the school place more people in MBB. Schools like that. It's not a meritocracy.

  • Xepa's picture

    I worked in an admissions office for a year as well.

    Yes, they are liberal arts women that don't know much about the real world. So true, and so sad. And FYI, I could get them to give special attention to anyone I wanted. Your best best to get someone into a school is to reach out to someone who works WITH an admission officer and have them refer candidates. Just a tip.

  • In reply to Ravenous
    That_Aston's picture

    Ravenous:
    "You have to realize that most adcom officers are women who got liberal arts degrees and don't know much about [anything]."

    It all makes sense now.

    I lol'ed. But seriously this is a good to know thread if true.

    Here to learn and hopefully pass on some knowledge as well. SB if I helped.

  • In reply to Xepa
    bfin's picture

    Xepa:
    I worked in an admissions office for a year as well.

    Yes, they are liberal arts women that don't know much about the real world. So true, and so sad. And FYI, I could get them to give special attention to anyone I wanted. Your best best to get someone into a school is to reach out to someone who works WITH an admission officer and have them refer candidates. Just a tip.

    You just created a shit storm haha.

    The answer to your question is 1) network 2) get involved 3) beef up your resume 4) repeat -happypantsmcgee

    WSO is not your personal search function.

  • europeancall's picture

    a guy from an MBB would be generally SMARTER than the average guy applying for an MBA .. and Business Schools want SMART guys to attend their classes. It's simple as that ... Also GMAT is important especially for business schools that send a significant percentage of their classes in consulting, because consulting firms DO CARE about your GMAT score.

    Business schools care about three things:

    1. recruting statistics (as mentioned before)

    2. diversity (so they can boast about how SPECIAL they are) in terms of demographics, industries you have worked before

    3. how much value YOU can add in class - that's why they tend to favour consultants instead of traders, it's not because are considered evil or something

  • In reply to europeancall
    Brady4MVP's picture

    europeancall:
    a guy from an MBB would be generally SMARTER than the average guy applying for an MBA .. and Business Schools want SMART guys to attend their classes. It's simple as that ... Also GMAT is important especially for business schools that send a significant percentage of their classes in consulting, because consulting firms DO CARE about your GMAT score.

    Business schools care about three things:

    1. recruting statistics (as mentioned before)

    2. diversity (so they can boast about how SPECIAL they are) in terms of demographics, industries you have worked before

    3. how much value YOU can add in class - that's why they tend to favour consultants instead of traders, it's not because are considered evil or something

    Yup. This is a great post. On average, a person at MBB is smarter than the person at accenture. The former most likely went to a top college, excelled there, and kicked serious butt on the case interviews. Getting MBB out of undergrad is MUCH harder than getting it out of b-school since there are much fewer analyst spots. So in a large way, working at a MBB, top BB, PE, HF, etc., are a signal to b-school adcom that the applicant is very well-qualified.

    GMAT score matters more than people think.

  • In reply to keensetofpeepers
    Betsy Massar's picture

    keensetofpeepers:
    MBA admission consultants certainly take advantage of applicant insecurities, but for certain applicants such as military folks perhaps untutored in the language of business essay review services can be helpful. but yeah for the most part their services don't justify $4000-$5000 packages

    Hey! Not all of us take advantage of applicant insecurities. I am going to speak for myself here, as I cannot say anything for anyone else, but....

    My goal is to help people. If I get paid for it, that's better, because then we both value the relationship. If your pal helped, that's cool too, but the investment is different. I came to this business after working for big financial firms and decided to turn pro after I realized it was fun and that I might be able to give someone just enough advice and coaching to help the applicant tip the ball into the net. That's it.
    Lots of people who put together applications (and it is about the whole deal, not just the essays), have a decent business background, but don't know how to tell their own story well enough. It's a skill that many really haven't learned anywhere else, especially if they are naturally humble (and that's a trait business schools look for).

    Also, not all consultants charge exorbitant prices. We can be reasonable, too. And if someone is worried about a big ticket bill, they can always go hourly and just get help where they really feel they need it.

    I'm not going to apologize for anyone who doesn't act professionally in my industry, but some of us really do want to just help students. I'll do pro bono work if someone needs it. Most of us do. And I'll answer your questions here on my Q&A thread, do some PMs and work on folks' resumes.

    Hope to hear from you,
    Betsy

    Betsy Massar
    Come see me at my Q&A thread
    http://www.wallstreetoasis.com/forums/b-school-qa-...

    Ask away!

  • JDimon's picture

    There are MBA admissions consultants on WSO?

  • Mechanical Turk's picture

    I can vouch for Betsy. She is extremely knowledgable about the application process at all of the top schools and she herself graduated from HBS back when there were few women attending top B schools (in addition to working in the finance industry). She is genuinely interested in helping applicants and hosts a wonderful MBA round table each year in the Bay Area where she invites five or six top 10 schools to speak on a discussion panel and answer questions for the couple hundred attendees. She has offered me free advice in the past and I can honestly say she has the applicants best interests in mind.

    MT

  • Tzeentch99's picture

    How was the GRE seen in the admin offices?

  • In reply to Mechanical Turk
    bfin's picture

    Mechanical Turk:
    I can vouch for Betsy. She is extremely knowledgable about the application process at all of the top schools and she herself graduated from HBS back when there were few women attending top B schools (in addition to working in the finance industry). She is genuinely interested in helping applicants and hosts a wonderful MBA round table each year in the Bay Area where she invites five or six top 10 schools to speak on a discussion panel and answer questions for the couple hundred attendees. She has offered me free advice in the past and I can honestly say she has the applicants best interests in mind.

    Making an account to make a post like this is bad forum etiquette.

    The answer to your question is 1) network 2) get involved 3) beef up your resume 4) repeat -happypantsmcgee

    WSO is not your personal search function.

  • In reply to bfin
    UFOinsider's picture

    bfin:
    Mechanical Turk:
    I can vouch for Betsy. She is extremely knowledgable about the application process at all of the top schools and she herself graduated from HBS back when there were few women attending top B schools (in addition to working in the finance industry). She is genuinely interested in helping applicants and hosts a wonderful MBA round table each year in the Bay Area where she invites five or six top 10 schools to speak on a discussion panel and answer questions for the couple hundred attendees. She has offered me free advice in the past and I can honestly say she has the applicants best interests in mind.

    Making an account to make a post like this is bad forum etiquette.


    Agreed. I was going to contact for info but I'm not sure now. Let your work speak for itself.

    Get busy living

  • In reply to Mechanical Turk
    Underground's picture

    Mechanical Turk:
    I can vouch for Betsy. She is extremely knowledgable about the application process at all of the top schools and she herself graduated from HBS back when there were few women attending top B schools (in addition to working in the finance industry). She is genuinely interested in helping applicants and hosts a wonderful MBA round table each year in the Bay Area where she invites five or six top 10 schools to speak on a discussion panel and answer questions for the couple hundred attendees. She has offered me free advice in the past and I can honestly say she has the applicants best interests in mind.

    LMFAO this is embarrassing. How did you think people would fall for this?

  • In reply to Mechanical Turk
    Betsy Massar's picture

    Mechanical Turk:
    I can vouch for Betsy. She is extremely knowledgable about the application process at all of the top schools and she herself graduated from HBS back when there were few women attending top B schools (in addition to working in the finance industry). She is genuinely interested in helping applicants and hosts a wonderful MBA round table each year in the Bay Area where she invites five or six top 10 schools to speak on a discussion panel and answer questions for the couple hundred attendees. She has offered me free advice in the past and I can honestly say she has the applicants best interests in mind.

    Thanks MT!

    Guys, especiallly @BFIN @UFOinsider @Underground

    I have no idea who MT is. I am honored he wrote what he did. I don't know why he (or she?) felt compelled to write, but there's no reason it's a fake. This isn't GMAT club. If there's anything I can say or do to convince you, just ask.

    Betsy Massar
    Come see me at my Q&A thread
    http://www.wallstreetoasis.com/forums/b-school-qa-...

    Ask away!

  • In reply to Betsy Massar
    keensetofpeepers's picture

    Betsy Massar:
    keensetofpeepers:
    MBA admission consultants certainly take advantage of applicant insecurities, but for certain applicants such as military folks perhaps untutored in the language of business essay review services can be helpful. but yeah for the most part their services don't justify $4000-$5000 packages

    Hey! Not all of us take advantage of applicant insecurities. I am going to speak for myself here, as I cannot say anything for anyone else, but....

    My goal is to help people. If I get paid for it, that's better, because then we both value the relationship. If your pal helped, that's cool too, but the investment is different. I came to this business after working for big financial firms and decided to turn pro after I realized it was fun and that I might be able to give someone just enough advice and coaching to help the applicant tip the ball into the net. That's it.
    Lots of people who put together applications (and it is about the whole deal, not just the essays), have a decent business background, but don't know how to tell their own story well enough. It's a skill that many really haven't learned anywhere else, especially if they are naturally humble (and that's a trait business schools look for).

    Also, not all consultants charge exorbitant prices. We can be reasonable, too. And if someone is worried about a big ticket bill, they can always go hourly and just get help where they really feel they need it.

    I'm not going to apologize for anyone who doesn't act professionally in my industry, but some of us really do want to just help students. I'll do pro bono work if someone needs it. Most of us do. And I'll answer your questions here on my Q&A thread, do some PMs and work on folks' resumes.

    Hope to hear from you,
    Betsy

    sorry, i was referring to the Stacy Blackmans and Clear Admits that charge a lot of $$$.

    didn't mean to lump every consultant in there. in fact i had a great experience with Essay Snark.

  • In reply to keensetofpeepers
    Betsy Massar's picture

    keensetofpeepers:
    [

    sorry, i was referring to the Stacy Blackmans and Clear Admits that charge a lot of $$$.

    didn't mean to lump every consultant in there. in fact i had a great experience with Essay Snark.

    Glad to hear it! And you had good success, I saw something on a previous thread where you were choosing between Wharton and Columbia? That's so cool.

    Betsy Massar
    Come see me at my Q&A thread
    http://www.wallstreetoasis.com/forums/b-school-qa-...

    Ask away!

  • keensetofpeepers's picture

    Thanks Betsy

    also MilitaryToBusiness for vets looking to transition.

  • In reply to keensetofpeepers
    Brady4MVP's picture

    keensetofpeepers:
    Betsy Massar:
    keensetofpeepers:
    MBA admission consultants certainly take advantage of applicant insecurities, but for certain applicants such as military folks perhaps untutored in the language of business essay review services can be helpful. but yeah for the most part their services don't justify $4000-$5000 packages

    Hey! Not all of us take advantage of applicant insecurities. I am going to speak for myself here, as I cannot say anything for anyone else, but....

    My goal is to help people. If I get paid for it, that's better, because then we both value the relationship. If your pal helped, that's cool too, but the investment is different. I came to this business after working for big financial firms and decided to turn pro after I realized it was fun and that I might be able to give someone just enough advice and coaching to help the applicant tip the ball into the net. That's it.
    Lots of people who put together applications (and it is about the whole deal, not just the essays), have a decent business background, but don't know how to tell their own story well enough. It's a skill that many really haven't learned anywhere else, especially if they are naturally humble (and that's a trait business schools look for).

    Also, not all consultants charge exorbitant prices. We can be reasonable, too. And if someone is worried about a big ticket bill, they can always go hourly and just get help where they really feel they need it.

    I'm not going to apologize for anyone who doesn't act professionally in my industry, but some of us really do want to just help students. I'll do pro bono work if someone needs it. Most of us do. And I'll answer your questions here on my Q&A thread, do some PMs and work on folks' resumes.

    Hope to hear from you,
    Betsy

    sorry, i was referring to the Stacy Blackmans and Clear Admits that charge a lot of $$$.

    didn't mean to lump every consultant in there. in fact i had a great experience with Essay Snark.

    I have VERY strong negative views on stacy blackman consulting.

    I've heard great things about essay snark. I might use them if I decide to re-apply to full-time programs.

  • In reply to Underground
    Brady4MVP's picture

    Underground:
    Mechanical Turk:
    I can vouch for Betsy. She is extremely knowledgable about the application process at all of the top schools and she herself graduated from HBS back when there were few women attending top B schools (in addition to working in the finance industry). She is genuinely interested in helping applicants and hosts a wonderful MBA round table each year in the Bay Area where she invites five or six top 10 schools to speak on a discussion panel and answer questions for the couple hundred attendees. She has offered me free advice in the past and I can honestly say she has the applicants best interests in mind.

    LMFAO this is embarrassing. How did you think people would fall for this?

    No idea who MT is. But Betsy provided some helpful thoughts to me via private messages.

  • In reply to Brady4MVP
    glm1510's picture

    Brady4MVP:
    Underground:
    Mechanical Turk:
    I can vouch for Betsy. She is extremely knowledgable about the application process at all of the top schools and she herself graduated from HBS back when there were few women attending top B schools (in addition to working in the finance industry). She is genuinely interested in helping applicants and hosts a wonderful MBA round table each year in the Bay Area where she invites five or six top 10 schools to speak on a discussion panel and answer questions for the couple hundred attendees. She has offered me free advice in the past and I can honestly say she has the applicants best interests in mind.

    LMFAO this is embarrassing. How did you think people would fall for this?

    No idea who MT is. But Betsy provided some helpful thoughts to me via private messages.

    I can also attest to Betsy's sincerity in wanting to help. She provided me great advice via pm's and never once tried to solicit her business to me.

  • In reply to hbsguru.com
    GS's picture

    hbsguru.com:
    THIS IS REPOSTED FROM MY OWN THREAD ON WSO-GOOD WAY TO SPIN TRADING FOR HBS --
    IF ANYONE HAS HBS WHARTON STAN SPECIFIC QUESTIONS, POST THEM THERE
    http://www.wallstreetoasis.com/blog/ask-sandy-abou...

    GS:Hey Sandy ,
    In High Frequency Trading (especially after moving to a quasi PM role) , the job often involves co-ordination among researchers , analysts who write the strategies , as well as the hardware and network engineers who work at the firm. You also negotiate with exchanges on behalf of your firm , and consider whether a new technology is worth buying, or whether the profits from the speed gain do not justify the cost.

    In that sense , it's much more like product management or technology , than like screen trading, and I have lots of stories about leading and co-ordinating with a team. I also had successful summer internships in college , both at Trading@JPM and Research@Google (Junior and Soph years) , and my job seems like a decent intersection of the two.
    Have I really shot myself in the foot by working in HFT?

    Well, if you spin your job the way you do above, e.g. working with and thru others to create, ahem,value, and reposition yourself as someone who wants to have a real impact on something beyond a winning trade, e.g. manage money for NGO's (just a dumb quick example, more likely would be transition out of trading and into
    something related, e.g. managing big data for Health Care Delivery) or join hedge fund with some kind of do-gooder focus and also leverage Google experience, sure you got a chance. IF YOU GOT SOLID STATS AND MAYBE HAVE SOME INDEPENDENT COMMUNITY SERVICE IN COLLEGE OR CURRENTLY

    And there goes my edge!!!

    Just Kidding

  • cinnamontoastcrunch's picture

    This is nauseating. Is it not bad enough that HBS guru spams his "wisdom" all over the businessweek forums, gmatclub, and poetsandquants that he has to post here as well?

    Consultants, let your work speak for itself.

  • In reply to GS
    hbsguru.com's picture

    <a href=http://www.wallstreetoasis.com/company/goldman-sachs rel=nofollow>GS</a>:
    [Thanks, One follow up Sandy. Is it true that Stanford GSB selects against Stanford undergrads? (Have I shot myself in the foot twice over?)

    ========================================

    hmmmm, dont think so, see below, altho you could argue with the methodology
    and we will never know how many great Stanford undergrads applied to get that 7.3 percent of the admitted class. IT does suggest, however, that it is unlikely that there is an anti-Stanford bias. BTW, it is typical that the largest number of kids in the admitted class of HSW from any college is HSW resepectively, e.g. more Harvard College kids at HBS than any other college, more Penn kids at Penn than any other college, more Stanford kids at Stan than any other college.

    Top Feeder Colleges for Stanford Graduate School of Business Class of 2013
    source
    http://is.gd/vwG1tA

    Stanford GSB Top Feeder Colleges Estimated % of Class of 2013, Estimated Number in Class, Number Found in LinkedIn
    1. Stanford University 7.4% 30 20
    2. UPenn 6.3% 25 17
    3. Yale University 5.9% 23 16
    4. Harvard College 5.2% 21 14
    5. University of Virginia 3.0% 12 8
    6. Dartmouth College 2.6% 10 7
    6. UC-Berkeley 2.6% 10 7
    6. Indian Institute of Tech 2.6% 10 7
    9. Duke University 2.2% 9 6
    9. Univ. of Texas-Austin 2.2% 9 6
    11. Princeton 1.9% 7 5
    11. MIT 1.9% 7 5
    11. Northwestern University 1.9% 7 5
    11. UCLA 1.9% 7 5
    15. Cornell 1.5% 6 4
    16. Brown 1.1% 4 3
    16. U.S. Military Academy 1.1% 4 3
    16. UNC-Chapel Hill 1.1% 4 3
    16. Peking University 1.1% 4 3
    16. New Economic School 1.1% 4 3
    21. Brigham Young 0.7% 3 2
    21. Cambridge University 0.7% 3 2
    21. Columbia University 0.7% 3 2
    21. Haverford 0.7% 3 2
    21. Rice University 0.7% 3 2
    21. Wellesley 0.7% 3 2
    21. Williams 0.7% 3 2
    21. Univ. of New South Wales 0.7% 3 2
    21. University of Notre Dame 0.7% 3 2

    Source: These numbers for Stanford's Graduate School of Business' Class of 2013 are calculated from LinkedIn, Facebook and other online sources, including employer websites. The educational backgrounds of 269 of the 397 enrolled students were confirmed by Poets&Quants using Internet searches. The estimate of students with work experience at a specific firm is based on the percentage of the confirmed sample who have worked for that employer.

  • In reply to cinnamontoastcrunch
    Brady4MVP's picture

    cinnamontoastcrunch:
    This is nauseating. Is it not bad enough that HBS guru spams his "wisdom" all over the businessweek forums, gmatclub, and poetsandquants that he has to post here as well?

    Consultants, let your work speak for itself.

    I was one of the guys who highly recommended Sandy to Andy Louis and told him to invite Sandy to join WSO. There are very few people out there who understands elite MBA admissions as well as Sandy. His analysis of applicants' chances on poets and quants is masterful and pretty much on the point. If they did a follow-up series of where these people got in, my guess is that sandy would have about a 90% accuracy rating. And no, I'm not a client of Sandy and have nothing to gain by saying this. I just think it's unfair to lump him in with other consultants, most of whom are BS artists.

  • In reply to Brady4MVP
    cinnamontoastcrunch's picture

    Sandy should take Brady on as a client so that Brady can do a write-up about it once he's in at HBS.

    or...

    Sandy and swagon can have a rap battle to see whose turf WSO is.

    Brady4MVP:
    cinnamontoastcrunch:
    This is nauseating. Is it not bad enough that HBS guru spams his "wisdom" all over the businessweek forums, gmatclub, and poetsandquants that he has to post here as well?

    Consultants, let your work speak for itself.

    I was one of the guys who highly recommended Sandy to Andy Louis and told him to invite Sandy to join WSO. There are very few people out there who understands elite MBA admissions as well as Sandy. His analysis of applicants' chances on poets and quants is masterful and pretty much on the point. If they did a follow-up series of where these people got in, my guess is that sandy would have about a 90% accuracy rating. And no, I'm not a client of Sandy and have nothing to gain by saying this. I just think it's unfair to lump him in with other consultants, most of whom are BS artists.

  • In reply to hbsguru.com
    GS's picture

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  • In reply to JDimon
    Senvik's picture

    "You stop being an asshole when it sucks to be you." - IlliniProgrammer