Pages

Admission Consultants

aq25's picture
Rank: Chimp | banana points 8

Hi all,

I'm applying to some M7 programs this year and am considering using an admissions consultant. I've narrowed it down to two consultants: Stacy Blackman and Amerasia. Does anyone have any experience with either? I'd really like to get some honest feedback on both.

One thing I noticed is that Amerasia only seems to have reviews on gmatclub, and I am wondering why it doesnt have reviews elsewhere like Stacy Blackman. Candid feedback appreciated. Really interested in things like responsiveness, insights.

Thanks!

Financial Modeling Course

  • Get An Edge For Your Interviews & Finance Career
  • The Best (and Most Affordable) Financial Modeling Self-study Courses.
  • WSO Members receive a 15% discount

Comments (303)

Jun 16, 2012

I'd go with Sandy K if you can afford it. Hands down the best. And he doesn't charge per hour. Be careful with per hour consultants. Less incentives to be productive and you don't know what you're paying for

Jun 16, 2012
solb22:

I'd go with Sandy K if you can afford it. Hands down the best. And he doesn't charge per hour. Be careful with per hour consultants. Less incentives to be productive and you don't know what you're paying for

Evidence to support this claim? I find Sandy, and his ridiculous "predicting your odds" series on P&Q, to be obnoxious.

Jun 16, 2012

.

Jun 16, 2012
cinnamontoastcrunch:
solb22:

I'd go with Sandy K if you can afford it. Hands down the best. And he doesn't charge per hour. Be careful with per hour consultants. Less incentives to be productive and you don't know what you're paying for

Evidence to support this claim? I find Sandy, and his ridiculous "predicting your odds" series on P&Q, to be obnoxious.

People find him obnoxious because he's blunt and brutally honest in his assessment of candidates' chances. This stands in sharp contrast to what other admissions consultants do, and as a reasult a lot of people get turned off by him. I personally find the honesty refreshing. If you read through the poets and quants series, his analysis of the applicants' chances are spot-on. I would love to see a follow-up series where they actually reveal which schools these people got into. I'm guessing sandy's prediction success rate will be around 90%.

As I said before, I corresponded with sandy via e-mail regarding my chances. He told me in no uncertain terms that HSW are out and that booth/sloan/columbia are possible if I raise my gmat and do something outside of work that stands out. He basically said, "look you're an asian guy in trading at a company almost no one has heard of. HSW is not gonna happen for you." I actually liked his candor in that regard.

Stacy Blackman is truly awful. I used one of their consultants the first time I applied. Ok essay revisions but nothing that my friends could not have done. Very little insight and after I got dinged I sent my consultant an e-mail asking for her thoughts on what happened and how I can improve when I re-apply. Absolutely no response whatsoever. I thought that was remarkably unprofessional given the money I spent on the service. Jeremy Shinewald of MBA Mission was pretty bad as well. I talked to him for about an hour for an initial consultation; the guy is a slick talker but no substance whatsoever. He's sort of the Barack Obama of admissions consulting.

The business as a whole has a very perverse incentive structure. You pay a pretty hefty sum ($2500/school for most services, discounted rate per school if you do multiple apps), the amount gets paid all at once, and there is no chance of any sort of partial refund if you don't get in anywhere. Essentially what this does is ensure that consultants are given little incentive to be honest with applicants and to work their butt off for them. The structure is similar to pro baseball in this aspect, where you see players get ridiculous guaranteed money, only to flop due to complacency.

    • 2
Jun 16, 2012
Brady4MVP:

[I'm] an asian guy

My whole world just got turned upside down.

Free Consultation

We know you have questions as you prepare to apply to your target business schools. What are your chances of being admitted? How can you differentiate yourself from so many other applicants? What is the best way to showcase your accomplishments or mitigate your weaknesses? Start getting answers to all your questions by taking advantage of a free 30-minute consultation with an expert from mbaMission’s Senior Consultant team. Learn more.

Jun 16, 2012

DO NOT use stacy blackman. Probably the worst consulting service out there.

I talked to Adam and Drew Hoff at Amerasia. Nice guys, but I don't think they're worth the money.

The value-add of these services, given the price tag and lack of a refund, is quite dubious.

    • 1
Jun 16, 2012

.

Jun 16, 2012

I used his service and found it exceptional. I got into HBS. As far as any other evidence-not sure what you really want but from the consensus I've seen online he's the best in the business.

I'd use him for your one dream school if you're worried about price. If you really don't find his series informative and funny on poets and quants, I don't know if you're gonna like working with him. But don't let your fear of having your essays torn apart stop you from hiring him.

Either way-good luck

Jun 16, 2012

Any other experiences with amerasia or Stacy Blackman?

Jun 16, 2012

I agree that Stacy Blackman's service isn't worthwhile. I was not impressed when I did my initial consultation with them.

I did one with Sandy as well, and I can handle his brutal honesty; it's his pompous attitude that I can't handle. I think if you want someone that won't bs you, Alex Chu is a good choice.

On the point that consultants are cheerleaders that will unrealistically tell you that you have a shot at school XYZ...they will work with you on any school of your choosing, but it shouldn't take an admissions consultant to tell someone that he/she doesn't have a shot at H/S/W with a 2.9 and a 670. Gotta give them something to work with. At the same time, they should have an incentive to be honest with candidates because their reputation and track record is at stake...perhaps that's why they encourage people to apply to a safety school in their top 3 so they can save face.

I think admissions consultants' value is in their ability to babysit an applicant and hold his/her hand through every step of the process. Some people like/need that, others don't.

Disclosure: I'm not working with a consultant on my apps.

Jun 16, 2012

I used Adam at Amerasia. I thought he was worth every penny.

You should schedule an initial consultation with both, see who impresses you the most and then make a decision.

Shoot me a PM if you have any specific questions about Adam/Amerasia. I'd be happy to chat with you about it.

Jun 17, 2012

Has anyone used an admission consultant for just one application (whichever has the most re-usable essays), and then tried to leverage the advice for the rest of your apps? Trying to justify the expense...

Jun 17, 2012

I researched a whole slew of admissions consultants before choosing one. I had a free consultations (either email, phone, or both) with HBS Guru (Sandy), Veritas, Clear Admit, Inside MBA Admissions, Stacy Blackman, MBA Mission, Paul Bodine, and MBA Exchange.

I am an nontraditional candidate and I have some unique work experience. I am also a good writer (I had to write a ton in a past job), but I had no idea what b-schools were looking for in the application. From forum browsing, I could tell that my work experience and GMAT made me a strong candidate, but I used the admissions consultant feedback sessions to find out which schools I should target and what strategy I should use when applying.

Interestingly, most consultants (except for one) generally gave me the same advice and feedback based on my story, GMAT, undergrad GPA, and work experience. They each reinforced what I had found in my own research and told me how they would help me polish my applications. Here is what I thought of each:

HBS Guru: Blunt feedback and gave me my chances of admission to the top schools. He was very nice to me on the phone and I liked much of his advice. He thought I had decent chances to the top schools but a couple things (like my age) could hold me back. However, I decided not to go with him because he told me that with my background I should say I want to go into consulting (which would be a lie) because it made the most sense. MC isn't something I want to do and I have a personal problem with being dishonest to get into a school. Maybe I am foolish, but if I have to lie to get in I would rather not go - also I don't "need" an MBA, I just think it will help.

Inside MBA Admissions: Seems like a good firm. Nothing special though. Cheaper than most.

Stacy Blackman: This was the outlier. The consultant was severely unfriendly. From the very first minute of the conversation she seemed to have an axe to grind. Maybe someone from my industry rubbed her wrong previously, but I have no idea. She also basically told me that I had nothing to offer a top school and was wondering why I was even bothering to apply to HBS/Wharton/CBS/etc. Honestly, I was shocked during the conversation because you would think I ran over her dog or something. I thought about emailing Stacy herself to complain, but I decided that I don't care if her company destroys itself.

MBA Mission: Jeremy was very friendly and we got along well because we were/are both writers. Gave me blunt feedback on my candidacy and odds of admissions. I chose not to go with them because they are truly a bunch of writers. They help you tell the story. That's not what I needed. I can write well, but I need strategic guidance to bring out the best of me in the application. I would recommend this company to those that aren't good storytellers but know what admissions strategy they want to use.

Paul Bodine: I had read his book and had high expectations - he delivered. I like this guy and I think he knows what he is talking about. He is lesser known and only selects a handful of clients. He was easily one of my top choices.

MBA Exchange: These guys seems good as well. The email feedback was really useful. However, they allow for a phone consultation. For me, this was a deal-breaker.

Veritas: Big player with lots of consultants. They have decent backgrounds and seem to know what they are talking about. They also occasionally offer discounts.

Clear Admit: This is the company I ended up going with. I paid much more money but they seemed to have the whole package: Experience in admissions departments at top schools, full-time consultants, industry experts, honest feedback, consultants value integrity and honesty, and friendly customer service. This was not an easy decision, and I ended up paying a few thousand more dollars. I feel it has been worth it as I got the best.

Here was my order of preference for admissions consultants taking into account quality, price, service, etc.:

1) Clear Admit (Excellence in every category, but you pay $ for it)
2) Veritas or Paul Bodine (Good overall)
3) MBA Mission (Good for those who need writing help)
4) HBS Guru, Inside MBA Admissions, MBA Exchange (Depends on your situation/perspective)
5) Stacy Blackman (you couldn't pay me to use)

Hope this helps.

    • 1
Dec 18, 2012

Who did you work with at ClearAdmit, was your application successful? I had a great call with the consulting company but am concerned that there are so few reviews online.

ClearAdmit was the most optimistic about my admissions chances, which while nice to hear, raised a red flag.

Jul 13, 2015

Dear HG14

I visit Clear Admit website and its free admission consulting has been offered by Veritas Prep. Are they merged?

Jun 17, 2012

HG14 - thanks for sharing your thoughts, this is very helpful. It sounds like we have similar backgrounds (consulting), and as a career switcher, i'm interested to hear what your thoughts are in terms of discussing this in your applications. If you don't mind sharing a little more about your background and the strategy you ended up employing, i for one would definitely appreciate it.

Jun 18, 2012

Spalding,

I may not have made it clear, but I don't come from consulting. I have a background in both the military and in the private sector. My strategy was to be completely honest in my goals. Since I am fully sponsored, I stated how I will take the business I am working in to the next level. I described a realistic progression in the business - including eventually becoming the CEO. I briefly explained my passion for the industry. I also highlighted my past leadership experiences - especially in the military.

I don't want to give too much of my history away because I am willing to bet that I am the only applicant with my particular background.

Jul 6, 2012

After reading the posts in this thread, I'd like to say that I am truly sorry that you have not been happy with your interactions with my company. We have had a phenomenal track record for over a decade, with a very high percentage of clients receiving merit scholarships that make the service pay for itself - and then some. We also strive to treat each and every client with respect and truly enjoy the process of helping clients be successful.

Brady4MVP: As I had mentioned to you in an earlier thread as well, I was surprised to hear the summary of your experience: "OK revisions and very little insight." We have so many layers of support that I wonder why you did not let us know that you were not receiving quality feedback. Even now, after the fact, I would certainly be interested in understanding more about why this did not work for you. As a former client, you have my direct email and I encourage you now, just as I did when you began with us, to be in touch. It sounds from your post that you were not aware of our policies or resources, and since you did not contact me personally, I am summarizing here. Every client has a client liaison, a flight tester, and my direct line if there are ever issues. You can always ask for a second or third read, and a fresh perspective from a new person on the team. You should always feel free to reach out to any of these resources should you not feel 100% comfortable with your service and you will indeed proactively hear from your client liaison and me in this regard. We also offer an option to cancel once you start and we do offer a refund if you are not successful. I do stand behind our service and would certainly always be receptive to direct feedback should you wish to speak offline and discuss details.

HG14 and CinnamonToastCrunch: the two individuals who did not work with us, but did not enjoy the phone consultation, I am sorry. We spend many, many hours every week offering advice online, over the phone and in person - for free. I have a ton of respect for my team and enjoy them all as human beings. I am surprised that anyone would find them to be abrasive or rude, and am having a hard time imagining who you could have spoken with or what could have happened. It is always our intention to help, not offend, and I apologize on behalf of my team.

There is a reason why Stacy Blackman Consulting has stayed strong while so many other companies have come and gone every year. I'd like to note that of almost every company discussed here, Stacy Blackman has been around the longest. While I literally have thousands of satisfied and successful clients, it's truly painful for me to hear when there are individuals who walk away unsatisfied. That is my personal failure and I do everything that I can to avoid it. This is why I encourage direct communication during the process; it's the only way we can ever be in a position to fix whatever is not working with a particular client.

Jul 7, 2012

I followed up with Stacy Blackman herself (not the consultant I talked to) after seeing that she cared enough to respond to my posted comments. Even though my first impression last year wasn't a good one, I think others may have much better experiences based on my most recent interactions. I recommend that people check out the consultants they are considering for themselves, using their free evaluations, before making a decision. What worked for me, and who I "clicked with," will not resonate with everyone. So long story short, I wanted to give some props to Stacy for trying to address any past issues both on this forum and with me.

Jul 6, 2012

I'm almost positive that Sandy K has been around longer than you have.

As I said, if you can afford it, go with him. No bullshit & straight to the point.

Jul 7, 2012
aq25:

Hi all,

I'm applying to some M7 programs this year and am considering using an admissions consultant. I've narrowed it down to two consultants: Stacy Blackman and Amerasia. Does anyone have any experience with either? I'd really like to get some honest feedback on both.

One thing I noticed is that Amerasia only seems to have reviews on gmatclub, and I am wondering why it doesnt have reviews elsewhere like Stacy Blackman. Candid feedback appreciated. Really interested in things like responsiveness, insights.

Thanks!

Hello aq25, I am an admissions consultant, and I run Master Admissions, a boutique firm. I was asked by Andy from WSO to start a thread here a few months ago because I have a lot of experience in the investment industry-- it's called Q& A with Betsy Massar of Master Admissions. I don't have a marketing staff, so I am not as widely known as some of my peers, but I would be honored if you take a look my information and my responses as a member of the WSO community. I am also happy to talk with you on the phone about services or about the admissions industry as well, which is mostly, but not entirely, composed of ethical people who really want to help prospective candidates get into the very best school possible.

Like my peers, I'll give you a free consultation, as a number of other monkeys here know. I prefer to do it on the phone, so I can get a sense of who you are and whether we might click. Fit with any consultant, as well as with a business school, is paramount.

I have a few reviews on GMAT club -- but I haven't "worked" it over there. I think the system now requires that consultants pay for a thread over there -- so bear that in mind.

I recommend everyone do what others on this board have recommended -- check out the person who is going to be working directly with you. That will be your closest relationship, and it has to work for you, as it is your investment.

As for fees -- well, it really depends on how you want to do it. Most firms have hourly pricing, and you can pace that way if you want. Others have essay-by-essay pricing, which may work for you too. It's really all about ROI for you in terms of both money and time.

Any way, I do what I do because I love it. I do what I can to help someone feel great about the process, as unsettling as it can be. I'm here at WSO for similar reasons. I also want to dispel myths about the process where I can and give you resources so you don't have to speculate so much about the do's and don'ts.

I do answer PM's, and am happy to help those who don't want to show all their cards to the whole web. Fair enough. In exchange, I hope you will at least ask one of your questions on my thread, so everyone else can benefit from your query.

So as we progress forward to the first-round deadlines -- 79 days until HBS! -- let me know if I can help.

Good luck to everyone who is applying!

Betsy

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

    • 1
Dec 3, 2012
pr0ficient:

I used Adam at Amerasia. I thought he was worth every penny.

You should schedule an initial consultation with both, see who impresses you the most and then make a decision.

Shoot me a PM if you have any specific questions about Adam/Amerasia. I'd be happy to chat with you about it.

I was planning on a consulting from alex from amerasia .Please can you comment how good are they ? s it worth $2100 per school and the time they give you and whether they help you get in ?

Jul 7, 2016

Fghy, did you work with Alex? I am planning to go with him too. Would appreciate some feedback. Thanks

Jul 7, 2016

Here comes Devil's Advocate. Why do you need a consultant? If you have piss poor writing skills, I would hire an essay editor. I think the best bang for your buck (read: spending zero) is to make friends with current MBA students or alumni from your target schools and run your story by them. Fine tune your story based on their feedback and you'll be fine. Sorry to voice my opinion, but I think admission consultants are not worth the high price point, especially since their services are basically available for free elsewhere.

Caveat: Got into a few schools without them and had a horrible gmat score.

    • 2
Jul 7, 2016

I've been lurking for a while and I'm obviously not an active member, so not what you're looking for. I was skeptical of consultants for a while. In the end, I decided to use one because I'm a non-traditional applicant without many friends who are currently in MBA programs. I decided I wanted a smart, neutral (my friends and family are smart but not neutral) sounding board who would look at my essays.

I worked with a guy at Clear Admit who was immensely helpful on this front. I've been admitted to one M7 so far and am waiting on others. I might have been admitted anyway--I had a good GMAT and interesting work experience, I think--but I think this guy steered me away from some of my less-brilliant impulses. Feel free to message me for more details.

    • 3
Jul 7, 2016
Bubbs:

I've been lurking for a while and I'm obviously not an active member, so not what you're looking for. I was skeptical of consultants for a while. In the end, I decided to use one because I'm a non-traditional applicant without many friends who are currently in MBA programs. I decided I wanted a smart, neutral (my friends and family are smart but not neutral) sounding board who would look at my essays.

I worked with a guy at Clear Admit who was immensely helpful on this front. I've been admitted to one M7 so far and am waiting on others. I might have been admitted anyway--I had a good GMAT and interesting work experience, I think--but I think this guy steered me away from some of my less-brilliant impulses. Feel free to message me for more details.

Strong post count to thread ratio.

Jul 7, 2016

I found mine helpful (sbc) but not as much as I would have hoped..as someone that was somewhat last minute and kissing the deadline, it was difficult to get things to them, read, and turned around within 2 business days which was key for me.

Where they were helpful:
- I recited my story, my consultant picked out what's good/unique to share and what to keep my mouth shut about
- structural overview of essays, e.g. 'you don't get into the meat of it right away, if you had 5000 of these you'd skip, so spill the beans early and expand on it as you go'.
- picking which schools they'd help with, telling me to analyze the essays topics and only get help on non-recycled essay content. (e.g. if 2 schools had 'why mba why now', don't get help with both, pick one with a different topic)
- reality check: I was told flat out I'd be lucky to get into 2 of the schools I initially selected, I was told to pick 1 of them and otherwise downshift slightly. I appreciated this over a "yeah, you can do it, pay me even if you're not in" attitude.

Not helpful:
- editing and corrections. There were typos and errors in some corrections which is amazing for the $300 an hr i'm spending and the "hour" sbc spent proofing my 500 words. (I doubt they spent more than 15 minutes on it given half of the feedback was an obvious template copy/paste
- I received little to any insight as to how adcom reads essays/what they want to hear/etc.

Jul 7, 2016

I bought the 3-school package with mbamission which I don't believe is worth $6k in retrospect. Of course, things are always easier to see in retrospect but I would really regret if I don't get in to any school and did not use one. For me, I was terrible in writing so needed a lot of help and didn't have someone that I want to consistently bug and feel that they are obligated to help me. If you are confident with your writing skill and have a few friends that can proof read your story and make sure the story is telling what you want, then I don't think you need the full package.

With what I know now, I would recommend people to buy 2-3 hours of service and have someone review them. Once you start, you will know there are a lot components beyond the essay part. You may also consider some full-package review service, like the one from mba admission advisory ~$500, you basically send them the entire application once you are done and they will review the whole thing as the adcom. I think every application can benefit, more or less, by having someone in the industry scan through it once.

To be honest, the application fee itself is $250 so what is another few hundred bucks. Even if you think the consultant can only help you go from 70% chance to 72%, I would say do it so you won't regret. Bottom line is you need to choose between what you will regret most. If you don't get in and wasted an additional $1k, you will be pissed. But you will regret even more if you did not get in and didn't use any consulting service. If you do get in, you will be happy regardless. Look it up, people always regret inaction.

Disclaimer: I applied to 4 M7 schools and got into 2 (including 1 that I did not use any consulting service). The first school, the consultant's alma mater, took the longest and most edits and I didn't get in. So I guess I cannot really tell how much it helped....

Jul 7, 2016

I've written a very long post on this topic before, so I'm not going to rehash my points here. Just a few basic things.

1. I agree with TwoThrones. The service is most valuable for those who badly need help writing essays or you are a rockstar with tons of cash to burn and have no problem paying for a consultant.

2. Although essays are certainly important, their importance have been grossly overstated by consultants. To use a military history analogy, by the time you start writing MBA essays, you are at the Battle of the Bulge in late 1944. Yes, there is important work to be done, but the war is almost over.

3. Proponents argue that since MBA is so expensive, you might as well spend $5K on a consultant since if you don't get in you will regret it. I think this is a very lazy argument. First, $5K cash is not a trivial amount for the vast majority of applicants. Second, that argument only has merit if one can somehow quantify the probability of getting in by using the service. Admissions consulting is one of the very few service businesses where the customer has no RELIABLE RELEVANT data that shows to what extent the consultant will add value to his application.

Overall, admissions consulting is a pseudo-scam, and I advise most of my buddies to stay away from them.

Jul 7, 2016

I used two - a large shop and a small shop. The large was SBC, the small I'll PM if interested. I will be attending an M7 this fall. Willing to elaborate on the entire process as the experience was completely different using a large firm vs. a small firm. Post more about your background and I'll give my pros & cons

Jul 7, 2016

Background: 3.5, state school, 720, 2 years audit, 2 years IM, white/asian

Overall, I am not sure whether I would have gotten in without the consultants so I am glad I used them. I guess you could say I paid for the comfort knowing I did everything I could to present the best application And if you do go with a consultant, only pay for 1 school.

Jul 7, 2016

.

Jul 7, 2016

Not going to comment on whether a consultant is necessary or not - that's for you to decide. But did want to give a +1 to Betsy from Master Admissions. Had a friend who used her and got into all the schools they applied for. She's also made some quality posts on WSO if you want to check her out before you buy. (See: http://www.wallstreetoasis.com/forums/b-school-qa-...)

Jul 7, 2016

I will add that the consultant can be most valuable in choosing what to write about and not necessarily how.

Strongly recommend Sandy for this.

Jul 7, 2016

double post

Jul 7, 2016

I have to agree with mbavsmfin. I've already paid $3500 for a one-school package. I already got dinged from that school. I compared my essays to another person who got an invite. And the quality of the essays were substantially different. These consultants have a simply conflict of interest. You pay them hourly, so they're going to do what consultants in any industry are known to do, embed problems into their solutions to get repeat business.

What's useful from them is possibly the initial exercises for you to run through your entire life to see what major themes might lead you to short-term and long-term goals that tie to your upbringing and work experience.

What I should've done before walking into essays was literally go through every single work project I've ever done. Think about what tasks I did, what impact I had, functions/people I worked with, context to how the project came about, all of my involvement with soft/hard skills. And then some reflection on the experience, like whether it was difficult, a failure, or someone annoying on the team, or I rallied people, and whatever the experience was. You need to know all that well even for interviews, so it should be done before essays are written. And there are tons of free literature from a few reputable companies, like MBAMission and Stacy Blackman. Admissionado actually has a release of 50 sample essays. Also, MBAMission sells a book for $20 or so with tips for the entire process. Exhaust these things first. You're still going to have to learn the process even if you have a consultant, so why pay someone else to do the work that you're going to be doing anyways.

I initially spent the money because I was short on time and thought it was going to help, but my consultant really had no clue what she was doing, even though she's gone it for 8+ years and has pretty legit professional credentials. We never went over brainstorming I worked on earlier with my work experience nor did an exercise to dig deep into work. She basically directed the process of my essay writing. When I had concerns and didn't like something, she pushed it to the side and didn't give me the help I needed. Whenever I objected to stuff, which was mainly over the phone, it became a debate and yes, I essentially was paying for it with my hard-earned money. She wouldn't have a problem arguing with me since she's getting paid.

To reduce the cost, you really got to do as much as you can yourself first. If you need help with the initial life map or brainstorming, see what exercises a company like MBAMission has when you pay hourly. That'll be maybe 2-3 hours of time you buy, and that's it. Then as someone else said, use them to brainstorm ideas, but do the writing and proof reading yourself and with someone else who's gone through the process. Use a consultant with proven track record (plenty of reviews online) when you reach what you feel are final versions of your essays.

If anyone is curious to who I used, PM me.

    • 1
Jul 7, 2016

Thanks for the input. If I hire a consultant, it would be only for one school. I suppose I can do the trick myself afterwards. Main reason is that they have seen 100s of essays and resumes (what to include and what not), and specifically not to shoot myself in the foot anywhere.

Does anybody (know somebody who) hired Fortuna Admissions? They are expensive, but their consultants all seem be former (associate) gatekeepers at top schools.

Jul 7, 2016

wanted to add my two cent to the discussion............I worked with a consultant and bought a two school package for $5700. Unfortunately, I didn't even get an invite to the two schools that I used a consultant for. However, I got 5 interviews from top 10 programs in which I didn't use a consultant. I am not sure how to account for this irony. As it has already been pointed our in earlier posts, in hindsight, I wouldn't have paid $5700 and instead saved that money to travel to schools for interview.

I worked with a company called Clear Admit, and WOULD NOT RECOMMEND it to anyone. The consultant I worked with was good, but she left the company part way through R1 2014 and I had to discuss my situation with Clear Admit head honcho and needless to say he was uncooperative, rude, and unflexible in assigning me a new consultant.

I strongly feel that writing essays is a long term process, and any candidate should write the essays over few months so that he/she can 'sleep on it'. As for proof reading etc., a candidate can always hire an english major from a nearby university as that is what I did for my other essays.

I feel that if someone's profile is strong he/she will get an interview no matter what, on the other hand, if someon's profile is not the greatest he/she will not get an interview invite no matter who the consultant is. Biggest thing is to be self-aware of your profile, and pick a set of schools that are within your profile and reach schools.

Jul 7, 2016

I notice that a lot of people got dinged at the schools they used admission consultants for, while getting admits at other schools (on par). Is it possible that there is a trend that AdComs notice somebody is using an admission consultant and therefore look upon your application less favorably?

Jul 7, 2016

I don't think that is the case. The reason that happens sometimes is the process has some unpredictability to it, so one may get into 2 or 3 of their top choices but get dinged from another one. I think consultants are helpful if you find the right one. At first I hired one of the bigger, well known names and while service was good at first it died out toward the end. I ended up working with Scott at Personal MBA Coach and had a great experience. He can be tough at times and push you to your limit, but in the end it worked out for me as I got into HBS with his help. Scott is definitely worth looking into as the support is great; this is what he does and he loves it, really taking an interest in your app and it makes a difference.

Jul 7, 2016

If these admissions consulting places really wanted to put there money where their mouth's are then they would offer a feature where you get money back if you don't get in. I wouldn't even ask for a full refund, but something like a few 1-2k back depending on what package you purchase. It would make the buyer feel a little bit better and would also making the admissions consulting firm a little more responsible.

Jul 7, 2016

Wanted to share some quick insight from my own process looking at Admissions Consultants. Be very careful looking over their T&CS. I found that one firm had a very aggressive indemnification clause that essentially barred anyone from writing a negative review. If you pare this clause with the fact that they will not offer refunds if you do not get into the programs you want then you end up with a situation where they have no real incentive to see that you are successful. I thought this to be a giant red flag and decided to stay away.

Jul 7, 2016

Seems a bit difficult to verify if somebody broke the T&CS, when you post anonymously online.

Jul 7, 2016

Many people don't understand that "admission consultant" is actually a person instead of a company. I wouldn't choose consultant service by just looking at company's review, unless that company has only one consultant. When you do free chat/evaluation with particular admission company, make sure you are talking to the person that will guide you through the entire process, instead of famed founder who may get hundreds to HSW but barely look at ur package after you paid.

Also, don't assume you can do less work by using consultant. Even before u pay, you need to research a lot about admission process so you can judge whether particular consultant is legit. For instance, if you know your background is a stretch to NYU by preliminary research but your consultant says he can get u to Wharton, don't be fooled. My consultant honestly told me my chance to HBS is less than 5% (he was right).

So my suggest is to do your research first and talk to all consulting companies that offer free evaluation session. Ask difficult questions and claims and see if they challenge you using factual information. You should be able to figure out who is better at doing jobs and who is better at sales.

Jul 7, 2016

BE CAREFUL with both GMAT prep and admission consultants.

This being said I bought about 3 hours a la carte at MBAMission and it was VERY worth it. I was fairly pessimistic applying as I had a bad gmat score and was actually unemployed at the time. The consultant to me to raise my standards and advised me to apply to top 20 only. I got in 2 out of 5 (including my top choice) and waitlisted at a M7!

Suggestions:
-Get a la carte and DO NOT have them edit your essay (my consultant skimmed with a time limit of 15 mins for content changes). Get editing done by friends, colleagues, undergrad career centers, etc.
-Use them as a sounding board for schools, essay structures, and ideas.
-Make sure they are willing to go the extra mile and are client oriented. The consultant I used did WAY more than 3 hours of work and even after applying she spot-checked my interview follow-up emails, helped me with selection, kept me up to date on what she heard in the admin grapevine, send me lists of questions asked at each school for interviews, etc.

Jul 7, 2016

I did not use anyone, but I think Sandy Kreisberg and Alex Chu are pretty solid because they're very knowledgeable and brutally honest.

MBA admissions consulting is a pseudo-scam in many ways. It's a service industry where pretty much every provider charges a similar rate, there is no way to figure out who really adds more value than the others, the consultants use data points without any context to sell their services (one of our clients got into HBS with a 580 GMAT!!!), and there is very little evidence that they meaningfully increased one's chances of admission.

Having said that, if you have money to throw around and just want to pay for the "insurance" or are a non-native English speaker with poor writing skills, I could see why you would want to hire one.

Jul 7, 2016

The fact that you are working with an individual and not a company cannot be emphasized enough. Don't be fooled by the big company name / support services. At the end of the day you work with one person most of the time and if you have to work with more, it just complicates things. I hired a more well known name referenced on here and was not satisfied as the support died off as it got closer to the deadlines. I then reached out to Scott Edinburgh at Personal MBA Coach www.personalmbacoach.com and could not have been happier. In a very short amount of time, we did an entire HBS application and I ultimately got in.

With Personal MBA Coach, you get a great balance of no BS, direct and brutal feedback while at the same time you have encouraging support throughout the entire process. Whereas with the other more well-known name I felt like I was a number in the process and when I didn't like essay recommendation, he lost interest, Scott brainstormed everything with me from start to finish and after learning about my entire life story, he was the one coming up with essay topics. Do what you all wish, but Scott saved me a ton of time and is a hidden gem in the admissions consulting space. After all, if I were to have to wait a year to get into a top B school if I didn't get the right support, it would have cost me $100K+ in salary difference between pre-MBA and post-MBA salary. The risk wasn't worth it to me.

Dec 6, 2012

What is the value proposition with these consultants? They all seem inordinately expensive. I know people will say "It could be the difference between Harvard and NYU", but I think most of us are able to convincingly tell a story and then have a friend with a BA in English take a look at it.

Jul 7, 2016

Why do you want one? No time, bad grades/GMAT, non-native speaker?

Jul 7, 2016

Does hiring a consultant increase your chances of getting accepted? Because the consultant might have a rapport with admissions?

Jul 7, 2016

MCBB, supposedly they help you craft a "good" story, review your essays - basically help you game the admissions process. I doubt they have connections that they can rely on to "get you in"; I don't think it works that way.

I'm curious to know if they are worth the money. If they can help you get into your dream school, which is already going to run into the $120k+ range, what is another $2-5k on top of that?

Jul 7, 2016

i think the story and message is honestly what makes you get in at some of the top schools and is probably is one of the things that people mess up the most, ergo it can be one of the best things to do in all honesty.

Jul 7, 2016

I think admissions consulting is a pseudo-scam. But that's just my opinion. I talked to a bunch of them, decided they were full of shit, and did everything on my own.

Jul 7, 2016

I heard Aringo has a good reputation, and according to their website they have higher acceptance rate then others.

    • 1
Jul 7, 2016

Every admissions consultant, including Aringo, claims a higher acceptance rate than the average. First, there is no way to actually verify that since such client data is confidential. Second, even if that were true, it doesn't tell you much since we don't know the background and demographics of these candidates. So for example, Aringo's website boasts of numerous people with low gmat scores who got into elite b-schools. What exactly does this mean? Those people could have been NFL players, Navy Seals, successful entrepreneurs, someone who fled a war torn country, etc. By just advertising the GMAT scores and acceptances, admissions consultants are essentially trying to pull wool over your eyes. They are trying to convince potential clients that their services can get you in despite subpar credentials, something that is extremely insidious in my opinion.

Jul 7, 2016

I think it depends the most on your background and the size of your wallet. I elected not to use one, but primarily because I felt capable of completing the application well on my own. I also had a lot of connections to people who attended top businesses schools that were willing to give me feedback on my essays for free. If you are uncomfortable with your writing skills or profile in general and blowing $3k - $10k isn't an issue for you, then by all means go ahead and hire one. For the right candidate, I do think they can be the difference between an admit and a rejection. While I don't believe there is a meaningful negative social stigma associated with it, I do know that the adcom are very strict about the application being written by you and nobody else. Goodluck.

Jul 7, 2016

I think CompBanker's post is pretty accurate. There are two groups of people who could potentially benefit from a really good admissions consultant (there aren't that many). First is people with good profiles but are mediocre writers and don't understand the admissions process well. Second group is very strong candidates who don't mind spending a lot of money to "hedge" their bets, so to speak. If you're in the latter group and shooting for HSW, you should probably go with Sandy Kreisberg or Alex Chu.

Jul 7, 2016

They'll only work with you if they're confident that you can get in, i.e., if you don't need one. They're also insanely expensive.

Jul 7, 2016

I have also been a room with the head admissions people from HSW and they laughed at a potential candidate when he said that he was using a consultant. I think that there could definitely be some value to using them, but if you are trying to get into a school like HSW there is really no guarantee that you are going to get into the school based on the candidates that actually end up getting into the schools and some of the candidates that don't even get an interview.

Jul 7, 2016

There is some value when it comes to MBA admission consultants, but probably less than they think. If you are a horrible writer, clueless on the process or otherwise like an 'expert" to advise you then drop the coin. If you are not these things then do it yourself.

And adcoms shouldn't be laughing at counselors since the bullshit that you need to go through to get into a top school creates the market for these services.

Jul 7, 2016

yea you can't realllllly laugh at them when so many of them were in your shoes only many years ago and can possibly provide an exit opportunity for them.

Jul 7, 2016

The notion of adcom laughing at admissons consultants is truly hilarious, given that most of them know little about the business world. MBA admissions is total fluff, which is precisely why pseudo-con men known as admissions consultants came into being.

Free Consultation

We know you have questions as you prepare to apply to your target business schools. What are your chances of being admitted? How can you differentiate yourself from so many other applicants? What is the best way to showcase your accomplishments or mitigate your weaknesses? Start getting answers to all your questions by taking advantage of a free 30-minute consultation with an expert from mbaMission’s Senior Consultant team. Learn more.

Dec 18, 2012

I worked with Deena and got in to Columbia, Wharton, and HBS - the only three programs I applied. I couldn't recommend the company highly enough. Trust me, after looking around (see my post above), they are worth the extra cost vs. some discount admissions consulting firms.

Jul 7, 2016

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

Oct 16, 2013

^ I checked Clear Admit and I don't see Deena, so I think she left to do something else.

I also had a good initial call with Clear Admit and a not-so-great call with Stacy Blackman. But I recently spoke with a friend who had a great experience with a Stacy Blackman consultant and mentioned that it's the individual consultant (not the consultancy) that matters and suggested I reach out to the SB consultant he used. I trust his experience was positive, but the mixed reviews on SB does make me a bit uneasy.

I was wondering if anyone has had a good SB experience? And if so, who with? And for bad experiences, well, I'm not asking for divulgence of their names, but maybe very high level b/g (were they previously in admissions or were they relative newbies - like recent MBA grads).

The impression I get is they (SB) hire a lot of consultants and the quality really varies (just like the mixed reviews) with who you get - either someone who was previously an admissions professional at a top b-school, or some recent MBA grads.

Jul 7, 2016

Just a general thought, admissions consultants are very expensive and I'm not sure that they are that useful, barring one of a few things, poor English/English as a second language, a bizarre story, limited time to polish essays. I have not heard many people thinking that highly of admissions consultants in general.

Jul 7, 2016

If you go for the entire package it will be very pricey, but If you really have no idea how to sell your story, then you should see it a sunk cost (and part of the total cost of the MBA). If you think you can read into what admissions usually looks for (leadership, professional and academic accomplishments, unique traits, etc). Then I would say save your money and just pay for someone to help you with your essays. If you are in NY, I know someone who is really good.

Jul 7, 2016

Save your money, pick up a few good books, go to informational sessions to get a sense of what your schools are looking for. The people I have talked to who have retained admissions consultants have been very, very critical of the experience. The problem is there its a lot of money and its difficult, if not impossible to isolate the marginal impact of the consultant on your ultimate outcomes. If you get into one of your targets they will take credit, if you strike out they can always say "The admissions process always has a degree of randomness." I just don't think they provide much that personal research and hard work can't get you for free.

Jul 7, 2016

I think it depends how comfortable you are with your profile and the stories you're telling. If you feel really good about what you want to say, and have a good knowledge of what all your target schools want, then you may not need one.

That being said, high quality consultants do have a bunch of experience that applicants won't have, and probably have a halfway decent idea of what stories you should and shouldn't tell based on your profile.

My opinion (and plan) is if you're going to use one, start with a one school plan. Pick either your #1 school, or, probably a better idea, is pick the school you plan to apply to with the most essays, so you can get feedback on as many stories/situations as possible. Hopefully, you find that they helped you develop your experiences into essays well enough that you can handle the rest of your apps, or if you have to, you sign on for a few more schools. Worst case is you don't find it that helpful, but at least you didn't buy a 4 or 6 school package to start.

Oct 17, 2013

Anyone? On my above question?

Jul 7, 2016

I think it depends on the level of services requested. If you are asking them to determine the best schools to apply to then you'd need a few months but if you are only looking for them to edit your resume/essays/letters rec then I believe 3-4 weeks is enough as long as you aren't applying to a a ton of schools.

Jul 7, 2016

Also keep in mind two things:
1. If you hire a consultant earlier you likely pay less as there are lots of deals and discounts if you sign up say before June
2. If you are going for comprehensive packages, you'll likely get more bang for your buck, cause you can always reach out to your consultant for advice on the "preparatory" stages.

Jul 7, 2016

The timing for hiring a consultant is easy: the earlier the better. The two main reasons are recommenders and this little thing called "life". Your LOR's (letters of recommendation) are a critical component to your application and you need to give these people enough time to do right by you. As for life, that's what I mean! With the best of intentions to study for the GMAT and knock out the essays, if you get handed a time consuming project or your best friend asks you to be best man/maid of honor at an August wedding, your essays will sit in your draft folder longer than you intended. One of the many things a good consultant should do is in fact make sure you are making progress. Still....... start early!

Carol Grayson

Oct 17, 2013

Yuo basically answered the question yourself - experience absolutely depends on who you work with. On that note, I think you have to do two things to give yourself the best chance of having a good experience with a consultant: 1) Get a referral from someone who had a very positive experience (not just okay, they cost too much money and there are too many out there to settle); and 2) Talk to the multiple times to make sure you connect and trust them.

I was pretty set on using a consultant for applications this year. Among other things, I have a pretty weak GPA ,and knew that execution would be huge, but more importantly, I had a lot of stories that I wanted to figure out how to get into each app. I ended up talking to maybe 10 different consultants until I found one I liked. The first few I talked to were just random sign ups, and to put it bluntly, I was not impressed by any of them. After that, I got specific names from friends in bschool, and ended up talking to a few of them before making my decision. The one I ended up going with already had glowing reviews from friends, but also seriously impressed me when I talked to her.

Having just completed five R1 apps, she was nothing short of a superstar. We'll see if I get in anywhere, but if I don't, I very much think that she helped me present myself in the best way possible.

I don't think there's a standard background that makes the best consultant (again, I've only worked with one). The best consultants are going to have a good udnerstanding of the process, which is not rocket science, but more importantly, will actually know you. As opposed to an essay editor (also an important skill that many have), they will actually look at an essay and steer you in a different direction based on their knowledge of your experience and goals. I can go on for a while about this, but I know for fact that my essays would have been significantly worse if I hadn't used a consultant.

Oct 17, 2013

Thanks BGP2587, would you mind sharing who you used?

Jul 7, 2016

I'd focus on the GMAT before even considering an admissions consultant. That's your single biggest factor coming from a non-target and small company.

* Unless if you completely transformed your company and or have a super unique background.

Jul 7, 2016

Depends. If your stats, GMAT, and work experience are complete shyt then even an army of consultants won't save you.

I'd generally recommend using them if you have absolutely no idea how the b-school admissions "game" is played, can't write interesting essays, and have nothing in your profile to make you stand out. Admissions Consultants are good at molding your "story" to fit a particular school, and can help you highlight skills and experiences (i.e. help you bullshit) that can tip the scales in your favor. They can also make suggestions on ways to confront weaknesses in your app, do mock interviews/interview prep, and anything else that will help you lock-down a spot at your favorite schools. Just remember that you're paying for a better chance-nothing more, nothing less.

I'd say on balance they're worth it, provided you can actually afford to pay a few grand for editing and advice. You have to ask yourself just why it is you think you need one, and then go from there. Personally, I have friends who are in the business, and I was able to utilize them to great effect. But I probably wouldn't have done it had they charged me their regular rates.

Jul 7, 2016

Can anyone recommend some good consultants?

Oct 17, 2013

Non target with average credentials got into a hsw. Couldn't have done it without sandy. Changed the topic of one essay completely and changed the focus of the other. Insights were definitely worth the $.

Oct 17, 2013

AnalyzeThat, would you mind sharing what you consider were "average credentials" to get into HSW. Or if you're not comfortable with that, maybe we can discuss via PM?

I've considered using Sandy/HBSGuru but I tried emailing him before and never got a response. He's also pretty blunt - which I suppose is refreshing, but it also made me a bit apprehensive. I don't plan on applying to H/S but I might apply to Wharton and some of the other schools, so I wonder if I should be using Sandy.

Nov 12, 2013

kanon, I'm in the same boat as you were in when you posted this comment. Which consultant did you end up hiring?

Jul 7, 2016

Didn't use one myself, but from my POV (just completed 1Y @ M7) John @ Admissionado's advice over on GC is usually spot-on.

Jul 7, 2016

@brj Thanks for opinion.
Actually I am bit confused as overall feedback on different forums about admissionado is average. But what fears me is that one of my close friends has really very bad experience with admissionado. Hope this forum would lead me to better option: p

Jul 7, 2016

What about ClearAdmit? To be sure, I'm not advocating Clear Admit, but I had a free one hour consultation with their guy and it wasn't bad. I don't have a point of reference to compare them, though.

Jul 7, 2016

OK. I will Look in to it...It would be more convenient if you provide me contact details of some good consultant that you know in Clear Admit.
Looking forward to your response!

Jul 7, 2016

Just register for a free consultation on their website and they'll write back to you within a day or two to set up a call. I spoke with Jon Fueller and was pretty satisfied with his suggestions. It resonated with what I had heard from some people whose advice I trust.

Jul 7, 2016

Thanks Bate....Sure, I will consult them
Hope they won't charge enough :p

Jul 7, 2016

Yeah I too had this confusion back in my time and I went for DreamMBA and thank heavens I did. Admissionado might be good too but I'd recommend what I know for a fact. My friend hired this DreamMBA for M7 programme and they got him into Columbia Business School. He recommended it too me and I'm sitting in Kellogg now.. That's a score, right?

    • 1
Jul 7, 2016

Like your Confidence.Right now I am thinking about Dream MBA as better option, because havent got any convincing response about Admissionado. Will make my final decision after having discussion with "Clear Admit" consultants. They also sound good enough.
Hope my choice ends up in a brighter fate!

Jul 7, 2016

I also had a good conversation with ClearAdmit recently. Now I am torn between ClearAdmit and Stacy Blackman.

Jul 7, 2016

Yeah I am planning to contact "Clear Admit".....Have you compared their packages??? which one is inexpensive?

Jul 7, 2016

Why don't you go to their website and see for yourself?

Jul 7, 2016

Admissionado's might not be bad as one of my friend told me.....I opted for their free consultation services but not quite impressed. Don't think that would be good enough to get you in to any of M7. However Dream MBA is good option as far as affordability is concerned and they always have some special student packgaes. I find them quite cooperative and hardworking and the way they help me at each stage, despite the fact that I was approaching them from back in India.

    • 1
Jul 7, 2016

That is interesting.....Do they have any consultant in US??? As i want to get admission in "Kellogg".
I would prefer if they have some one who has Masters from US.

Jul 7, 2016

Though when I got in to "INSEAD"....It was one of their consultant "Omer Cheema" who guided me. You can consult him as well. But if you are interested in US Consultant only then go to their website. You will find one from US.
Hope that will help you!

Jul 7, 2016

Everyone has it totally wrong. It's not the company that matters as much, it's the individual consultant. Consultant A at a firm can be totally awesome while consultant B can totally suck.

Jul 7, 2016

this reeks of shill post to gain some attention for Dream MBA. never heard of this company while researching admission consultants until one of them pm'ed me on GC based on a post i made there. checked out their website and the website alone looked atrocious so i declined the offer for a free 30 min profile evaluation.

and what do you know, jessica, brett, and ankush have only been members of WSO since yesterday!

    • 1
Jul 7, 2016
i hate audit:

and what do you know, jessica, brett, and ankush have only been members of WSO since yesterday!

seems legit

Jul 7, 2016

Hey There, Folks. Jon Frank here, CEO of Admissionado. Don't worry - I'm not going to sit here and tell you how badass my team is, or why you should work with us. That's not my style. But I did just want to say that the GMAT Club reviews are indeed.... real :) They have a verification system over there, and the only way to get a review on there is to have it double verified. So what you're seeing is indeed real. And we only have reviews there because that seems to be where our clients want to post 'em. But if you're still not sure, then just reach out and set up a Free Consultation with one of our guys. See for yourself how killer they are. Not gonna cost you a thing, and then you can make the call on your own!

Oct 20, 2013

I've always been very suspicious of bschool consultants and their business model in general. It seems like they're only going to work with people who already have a good shot of getting into their target programs and/or they'll steer you towards programs that you already have a good shot at (they'll present programs as reaches that are, in reality, sure things), in order to improve their success rates. Also, their writing is usually subpar. That being said, I can see them being potentially useful for the marginal candidate, who has the right qualifications, but truly needs the guidance due to that candidate's inexperience. Is it worth the price tag? Probably not, even for that marginal candidate (most of the stuff you're paying for is readily available for free on sites such as this one), but it may be if you need the guidance to get into H/W/S.

Dec 20, 2013
Esuric:

I've always been very suspicious of bschool consultants and their business model in general. It seems like they're only going to work with people who already have a good shot of getting into their target programs and/or they'll steer you towards programs that you already have a good shot at (they'll present programs as reaches that are, in reality, sure things), in order to improve their success rates. Also, their writing is usually subpar. That being said, I can see them being potentially useful for the marginal candidate, who has the right qualifications, but truly needs the guidance due to that candidate's inexperience. Is it worth the price tag? Probably not, even for that marginal candidate (most of the stuff you're paying for is readily available for free on sites such as this one), but it may be if you need the guidance to get into H/W/S.

I think gmatkoopa more or less described it. A consultant can't work miracles (seriously, those SBC 1-time posters are really misrepresenting things), they can only help you collect your thoughts and approach so to present yourself as best as possible as you are.

As for whether it's worth the price tag or not... I don't think a consultant is needed if the applicant is diligent and has been reading bschool stuff for many months and can self-motivate themselves. To each their own. I think a consultant is useful when you have little time to go through those blogs which is like information overkill and noise, or need someone to help center your thoughts, improve the impact of your essays (tell you when you're actually 'answering' the question or getting the point of the essay). A consultant is not necessary, but can be quite helpful for certain people looking for the guidance.

Lastly on underselling someone's shot - that could be a matter of being more conservative in their analysis. It's hard to say anyone is a sure thing. There have been people who have gotten H/W interviews but get dinged at a lower ranked school. But what I did was I took up a bunch of free initial assessments with the usual suspects and got their opinion to see what each said, even Sandy at HBSGuru who is suppose to be more blunt. Then I used all of that and what I read to make my own judgment call on what are reaches and targets.

Jul 7, 2016

When I used to work for MBB, none of my colleagues used admissions consultants for bschool applications.

However, virtually all the associates at the PE fund where I currently work do use them for bschool applications. I think the widespread use at my fund is driven by the convenience factor - the consultants certainly do a nice job polishing up your materials, but it's not really any different than the sort of refinement a strong candidate (given sufficient time) could put together on their own.

I used one this past fall for Wharton, Stanford and HBS '08 application essays (for obvious reasons, I kept the same consultant for all schools). For me, the time savings was well worth the cost (~$6k in total), although I don't think the actual essays were of any higher quality than I could have done myself.

Jul 7, 2016

Have you heard back from those schools yet Smuguy?

Jul 7, 2016

Was planning to submit for round 2 at each school, then decided two weeks ago to accept a third-year associate offer and hold off on bschool for another year.

I'm hoping the questions won't change too much for fall '09, but to the extent that they do I plan to use the same admissions consultant.

Jul 7, 2016

Much appreciated - best of luck.

Jul 7, 2016

bump

Excellent thread.

Jul 7, 2016

I used them for law/business school and thought it was a complete waste of my money. The "consultant" I spoke with didn't tell me anything that I didn't already know, and he gave me general/vague answers for every question I had. I felt that 20% of our conversation (that I paid a great deal for) was based him trying to sell me on one of their packages. I was very disappointed since I had a lot of well prepared questions and was hoping for straight answers.

Considering the long questionnaire they have you fill out (which I spent a very long time doing), it was so frustrating to note that my consultant did not know much about my background. The guy must have asked me seven questions that were all answered in the questionnaire the company gives out. If he would have taken ten minuites to learn about me before the appointment (like they said they were going to), it would have been a more informative conversation. The only valuable lesson I learned was not to ever use them again.

This is just my opinion, I don't have any experience with their packages and I thought I would share it with you guys.

Jul 7, 2016

sink

did you go through a certain company/consultant group? Which?

Jul 7, 2016
F9 - Update:

sink

did you go through a certain company/consultant group? Which?

yes the one I am reffering to is actually called "admissions consultants", and they get you all hyped up before you pay, and make you feel like they have the perfect consultant for you (for example, they will say something like "oh you want to go to Harvard b school, thats great! I have someone that is an expert in Harvard b school admissions). Then after you pay and actually talk to the consultant you realize that they are just trying to sell you more and don't know as much as you would expect an "expert" to know. I guess I am lucky that I didn't buy a big package at first--I would have been soooooo pissed!

Jul 7, 2016

I am currently using Veritas Prep to help me apply to 3 top bschools. I have been mostly happy with the service (I bought the 3-school comprehensive package) but we will see about results. I'm done with my essays and submitted now, so I can mostly speak to that aspect. The comprehensive package also includes interview prep, which is important for me since I don't interview particularly well (I get nervous, mostly).

Pros: You have someone who actually knows what the hell they are talking about (unlike random people on the internet, no offense WSOers) to ask detailed questions about how to position things, what to talk about, what to omit, etc. You have someone impartial and motivated to tell you the truth about essays and such - I've found that if I give essays to a friend or family member for editing, they will sometimes tell you things are great when they aren't, or if they criticize then I can be quick to get defensive and say "they just don't know what b-schools are looking for." Family and friends can correct your comma usage or word choice, but it's good to have someone impartial to say "this is a bad topic choice, start over." (which my guy has done on several essays)

Cons: Expensive, obviously. No guarantee of results. Over-editing creates risk of inconsistent style, etc. which may look bad. Each consultant has many clients, so response times are not instantaneous (they are reasonable though: typically 24-48 hours for full essay reviews, 12 hours or less if you ask a simple question (e.g. should I list high school sports accomplishments on my resume?)). They will only edit your essays in a complete package for each school, so you can't do essay 1 and get feedback while you work on essay 2, etc. This becomes annoying as you get closer to deadlines and want to get feedback as you work. If you use one I would recommend starting early and being ahead of schedule throughout the process. My guy has been a little flaky and there have been conversations where I could sympathize with sink's comment above (though never that bad). The guy knows how to edit essays, and knows the school he went to (from ten years ago though). He's not that helpful on other schools or questions about other aspects of the application process.

Ultimately, I would currently give it a mild recommendation, without knowing the results or getting the interview prep yet. If I get into 2+ of the 3 schools then I'd heartily recommend it. If I get into 1 or 0, I will think maybe they gave me some bad advice or led me astray. I guess ultimately I'll never know how much of the results are based on me vs. them though. PM me in April and I can give you more feedback/results.

Jul 7, 2016

Don't waste your money.

Ok, let me rephrase that. If you're a native english speaker, and have decent writing skills (ie went to a decent undergrad, did well in english classes, your boss didn't tell you that you suck cuz your emails are full of mistakes, etc), then DO not waste your money.

After a lot of research into this, and actually trying out three different well-known services, I can firmly say that they're not worth the money. These are the reasons why.

1) They are nothing more than editors who correct your grammar, sentence structure, and basic (i mean REAL BASIC) strategy on the content. All these cusultants tell you about their "full range of services" and "packages" and "end-to-end guidance" and all that mumbo jumbo.....NO they are a bunch of guys sitting at home, trying to make easy money, doing basic edits of your essays, that's IT.

2) They don't give a crap about you. They make sure your essays don't sound like shit, but they sure as heck do don't make it great or outstanding. They're just trying to get through as many customers as possible, they REALLY don't care if you get into school or not.

3) They do not add any value. They charge a LOT of money, taking advantage of the fear and paranoia that applicants have. The stuff they do can easily be done by yourself with a bit more effort. It's better having an english major friend going through your essays than these so called consultants. Also there books you can buy.

4) They take away your uniqueness and voice. These people are essay and grammar machines, they write everything the same boring style. If you have any unique voice or style, they will change it into regular old boring concervative crap.

5) Some aren't even that great of writers themselve, I've had quite a few grammar and spelling mistakes ADDED to my essays. Sure they are from harvard and wharton and what not, but they are mostly ppl just like yourselves who make mistakes. They probably got into bschool based on their 4.0 GPA and McKinsey work experience, NOT their essays. So there is a high likelyhood of your constultants actually being crappy writers.

6) They manipulate your expectations. Yes we should be realistic, but consultants always tell you to apply to lower ranked schools than you want to reach for, so its safer to get an admit. IF I want to get into my targets or safeties then what do I need consultants for anyway right? Everyone want to get into their reach schools, but consultants don't help you get there.

7) All the info you need to apply to bschool can you found on the internet or by your own research. Consultants provide absolutely no additional info AT ALL.

8) Beware of all the "testimonials" and "success stories" that they rave about. When people get into schools, they are so happy they would thank anyone. They would probably write the same testimonial for their lucky midget and the Egyptian Sun God Ra. Most likely the constultants did not add any value or help them much in gettin in, but those who get in don't know and are too happy to care. Those who have bad experiences or get dinged, you don't hear about.

9) Honestly, if these guys have top MBAs and are so great, why are they essay editors?

Bottom line is, unless you don't speak english or are a real crappy writer with loads of extra cash, then don't do it.

My 2 cents.

Jul 7, 2016

Aceman - aren't you still in undergrad? Are you applying to business schools now?

Jul 7, 2016
smuguy97:

Aceman - aren't you still in undergrad? Are you applying to business schools now?

smuguy - aren't you in high school?

Jul 7, 2016

I doubt smuguy is in high school

Sep 11, 2017

I would definitely go with Sandy K and not Stacy Blackman. Sandy K is very upfront which I think is good for an admission consultant.

Sep 11, 2017

I can't comment about Stacy Blackman but I used ClearAdmit and a couple others and found them useful only if you need someone to structure your deliverables and meet deadlines. As far as input, especially the essays, they were all pretty useless and at times seemed to recycle stuff found in popular B-School Application books. I would save the money

Sep 11, 2017

When you say B-School Application books do you mean the booklet which the B-Schools give out when you purchase the application ?

Sep 11, 2017

Agreed with the above, save the money. I hired Expartus for the full 2 school package ($5K) - not only did i get rejected from both schools without interview offers, but my consultant was also fairly non-responsive after we finished the first application. I understand MBA programs are difficult to get into, but for 5K I would have expected emails to be returned in under a week.

For reference: both schools were between #5 and #10 rankings. I currently work at a bulge bracket investment bank in NYC, with a 710 GMAT, 3.6 GPA, recommendations from my MD and VP, and a fairly significant amount of volunteer work.

AEKDB

Sep 11, 2017

I used vantage point and they were amazing. Started out targeting UNC with Duke being my stretch and then after i crushed the GMAT got into Columbia.

Sep 11, 2017

I used Square One Prep and recommend them highly. I got into two M7s and friends of mine also used them and all got into multiple M7/T10 schools

Sep 11, 2017

Don't forget Sandy Kreisberg. Have only spoken to him on the phone but have heard from others that he does a great job.

Sep 11, 2017
Dec 19, 2013

lol @johnsmith12345

How obvious is that?

Sep 11, 2017

Non-target here. Thank you for posting your story; keeps us motivated. I think there are going to be a few nay-sayers here -- stupid HS kids who will say that your story is made up. Any way you can get a star to add credibility?

Sep 11, 2017
JamesHetfield:

Non-target here. Thank you for posting your story; keeps us motivated. I think there are going to be a few nay-sayers here -- stupid HS kids who will say that your story is made up. Any way you can get a star to add credibility?

.

Sep 11, 2017
JamesHetfield:

Non-target here. Thank you for posting your story; keeps us motivated. I think there are going to be a few nay-sayers here -- stupid HS kids who will say that your story is made up. Any way you can get a star to add credibility?

Done.

Sep 11, 2017

Congrats

When you joined the buyside, how did you describe your Big 4 experience? Do you find your work from Big 4 to be relevant? How did you find the headhunter to work with?

Sep 11, 2017
Dogon:

Congrats

When you joined the buyside, how did you describe your Big 4 experience? Do you find your work from Big 4 to be relevant? How did you find the headhunter to work with?

Not following your first question - are you talking about during my interview or when I talk to fellow colleagues?

Second question - depends on the companies you audit. For my VC/PE/HF clients, work is completely irrelevant. For my tech companies, I do believe that I have a better understanding of their footnotes and as such, a better understanding of how to utilize their financials in my analyses.

Third question - LinkedIn; Big 4 employees are constantly contacted by headhunters on LNKD, but I did not use the people who contacted me as they only wanted to sell me on accounting positions. I clicked on their connections and found other headhunters focused on finance in their company and reached out to them directly.

Sep 11, 2017

When you were interviewing with the HF / headhunter did you say you were interested in working at a HF or just 'buy-side'? I would think if you just said 'buyside' they would blow you off as someone who was just interested in getting out of audit as opposed to getting into something specific (HF, PE, etc.) This is at least the case in my experience

Sep 11, 2017
MistaBooks:

When you were interviewing with the HF / headhunter did you say you were interested in working at a HF or just 'buy-side'? I would think if you just said 'buyside' they would blow you off as someone who was just interested in getting out of audit as opposed to getting into something specific (HF, PE, etc.) This is at least the case in my experience

You are correct. I have several Big 4 friends who are still stuck in audit because of this reason. I was actually working with the headhunter on landing a TAS gig (side note: you should never reveal your full hand; if I told the headhunter about my ultimate path -- audit -> TAS -> IBD/MBA -> PE/VC/HF, I'm almost 100% positive they would have ignored me like my other friends) as TAS is a common exit for skilled auditors. I just happened to build good rapport and the headhunter threw this out to me. I was currently in the second round interviews, but had already expressed to the headhunter my concerns about the Company and relocation so the headhunter kept looking for me.

Learning how to build rapport is probably one of the best skills I learned from audit.

    • 1
Sep 11, 2017

How much experience did you have with valuation and equity research prior to your interview? Was this something that you were doing on your own already, and were able to pitch some ideas - or were they just looking to see how adept you were with accounting?

What were some of the things you had listed on your resume that you think distinguished you from others. Was there a specific project that kept coming up during the interview?

I'm just trying to get a feel for how you leveraged your audit experience.

Best Response
Sep 11, 2017
equitydigger:

How much experience did you have with valuation and equity research prior to your interview? Was this something that you were doing on your own already, and were able to pitch some ideas - or were they just looking to see how adept you were with accounting?

What were some of the things you had listed on your resume that you think distinguished you from others. Was there a specific project that kept coming up during the interview?

I'm just trying to get a feel for how you leveraged your audit experience.

It was much more accounting intensive for me. I got absolutely crushed on one question (I was taking double shots at the airport bar after the interview in an attempt to retroactively black out how badly I fumbled) but the headhunter informed me sometime after that the partners were not expecting me to know the answer given my background and were much more interested in my thought process and my ability to think under stress. I fully believe that at boutique firms, since they don't usually compete for your stereotypical GS/MS candidates, that they would rather identify someone with potential and mold from scratch versus dealing with some douche who believes their old firm's methodology is the greatest thing since sliced bread. It definitely varies across boutique firms, but one common theme across all the major players is that their interviews are much more rigid and structured. This is also why I fully believe that working at a boutique firm is the best way to break in.

I requested IPO projects as those are universally known across the audit spectrum as the most intensive engagements (maybe with the exception of restatements, but who wants to work on those? Much cooler to say you were on an IPO than on a restatement and not to mention that engagement dynamics are much more enjoyable as you're helping the client make money vs. realizing that your firm messed up and are now correcting your mistakes - clients are much more helpful and friendly during an IPO engagement vs. a restatement). Given my first year performance, I was given the opportunity to essentially senior another IPO engagement (I did 2 IPO's during my 2 years), which resulted in me being directly responsible for 6+ associate-level members among many other responsibilities. After the IPO, I essentially seniored all my other engagements even though I had yet to reach the standard 2-year mark for promotion to senior level.

It is hard to distinguish yourself among your audit peers as you're all generally doing the same thing, but there are a few other things such as leading a technical seminar on an industry-specific accounting topic. While reading accounting guidance is by far one of the worst things I have ever done (I'd rather go through I-week again than read accounting guidance all night long), it demonstrates one's ability to understand and explain concepts as well as one's personal drive to succeed.

    • 2
Sep 11, 2017

How did you land a buy side gig from audit? When they asked technical questions, were you able to answer them or did they stick to fit type due to your background? I guess I just dont understand how the transition would work since they seem like totally different positions.

Sep 11, 2017
yeahright:

How did you land a buy side gig from audit? When they asked technical questions, were you able to answer them or did they stick to fit type due to your background? I guess I just dont understand how the transition would work since they seem like totally different positions.

Technical accounting questions, basic finance questions and a lot of "walk me through how you would do this..." type of questions.

Please see my response to equitydigger (I just wrote it), and let me know if you have any follow-up questions.

Sep 11, 2017

What kind of positions did the headhunters tell you about when you were in Audit? Was it mainly F500 companies, and also was it mostly pure accounting, or were there positions in FP&A, Treasury, Investor relations etc?

Do you think Big 4 is a better option than a FLDP at a large F100 company if the goal is to become a manager/director in Corp Fin, in more of FP&A, Treasury rather than controllership, or SEC reporting.

Sep 11, 2017
AsianMonky:

What kind of positions did the headhunters tell you about when you were in Audit? Was it mainly F500 companies, and also was it mostly pure accounting, or were there positions in FP&A, Treasury, Investor relations etc?

Do you think Big 4 is a better option than a FLDP at a large F100 company if the goal is to become a manager/director in Corp Fin, in more of FP&A, Treasury rather than controllership, or SEC reporting.

The first headhunter who contacted me tried to sell me on a "finance" position at a F10 Company. The headhunter sold the position very well (but now I'd prefer to chalk it up to my inexperience dealing with headhunters), saying it was purely an FP&A role. However, after I got in touch with the Company and went through the first round, I quickly found out that while it was labeled "financial analyst", the duties involved were much more aligned with a senior accountant role - primary responsibilities were month-end close, help with audit procedures, etc... The only reason there was "finance" involved at all was because they said that I would be working closely with the FP&A group on their analyses. Given my experience auditing companies, I knew that "working closely with the FP&A groups" was actually just providing them with month-end actuals. Headhunters are amazing salespeople.

Side note: This is a great example for all college students to ignore the title and look at what your daily responsibilities are; I audited a company where the "Controller" was actually just the personal assistant to the CFO and didn't know jack shit about accounting; she didn't even have a CPA license. This was quickly corroborated every time I asked her a question and all her responses were to ask the CFO.

After that, I stopped responding to the headhunters who were offering me positions and went a different route (described in my response to DogOn's question, please see therein and let me know if you have further questions).

The FLDP question is difficult to answer. The great thing about working for a Big 4 is that they have so many different arms and if you are a stellar performer, you will be given the opportunity to rotate into one of those service lines, at which point, I personally believe Big 4 finance (e.g., Deloitte Corporate Finance) would be better than the FLDP program. However, if you are not a stellar performer, you will be stuck in audit, in which case the FLDP position is much better. Also note that it will require 2 years minimum before they will let you rotate into a different program at the Big 4, so there is a lot of opportunity cost involved. I really wish I could give you a straight answer on this, but there is always more than one way to skin a cat.

    • 1
Sep 11, 2017
itsinthebag:
AsianMonky:

What kind of positions did the headhunters tell you about when you were in Audit? Was it mainly F500 companies, and also was it mostly pure accounting, or were there positions in FP&A, Treasury, Investor relations etc?

Do you think Big 4 is a better option than a FLDP at a large F100 company if the goal is to become a manager/director in Corp Fin, in more of FP&A, Treasury rather than controllership, or SEC reporting.

The first headhunter who contacted me tried to sell me on a "finance" position at a F10 Company. The headhunter sold the position very well (but now I'd prefer to chalk it up to my inexperience dealing with headhunters), saying it was purely an FP&A role. However, after I got in touch with the Company and went through the first round, I quickly found out that while it was labeled "financial analyst", the duties involved were much more aligned with a senior accountant role - primary responsibilities were month-end close, help with audit procedures, etc... The only reason there was "finance" involved at all was because they said that I would be working closely with the FP&A group on their analyses. Given my experience auditing companies, I knew that "working closely with the FP&A groups" was actually just providing them with month-end actuals. Headhunters are amazing salespeople.

Side note: This is a great example for all college students to ignore the title and look at what your daily responsibilities are; I audited a company where the "Controller" was actually just the personal assistant to the CFO and didn't know jack shit about accounting; she didn't even have a CPA license. This was quickly corroborated every time I asked her a question and all her responses were to ask the CFO.

After that, I stopped responding to the headhunters who were offering me positions and went a different route (described in my response to DogOn's question, please see therein and let me know if you have further questions).

The FLDP question is difficult to answer. The great thing about working for a Big 4 is that they have so many different arms and if you are a stellar performer, you will be given the opportunity to rotate into one of those service lines, at which point, I personally believe Big 4 finance (e.g., Deloitte Corporate Finance) would be better than the FLDP program. However, if you are not a stellar performer, you will be stuck in audit, in which case the FLDP position is much better. Also note that it will require 2 years minimum before they will let you rotate into a different program at the Big 4, so there is a lot of opportunity cost involved. I really wish I could give you a straight answer on this, but there is always more than one way to skin a cat.

Wow. Thanks for the great info. Had another question: Do headhunters contact you for opportunities near the Big 4 office you are located in? I'm not sure how they offer you all of these positions when there are countless amount of Big 4 auditors.

Also- thanks for the input on FLDP vs Audit. Do you think that when you get recruited by headhunters for Fin/Acc roles at F500, that you are on kind of a "fast-track" , as in they want to hire you to train you to be in management later on?

Thanks.

Sep 11, 2017
AsianMonky:

Wow. Thanks for the great info. Had another question: Do headhunters contact you for opportunities near the Big 4 office you are located in? I'm not sure how they offer you all of these positions when there are countless amount of Big 4 auditors.

Also- thanks for the input on FLDP vs Audit. Do you think that when you get recruited by headhunters for Fin/Acc roles at F500, that you are on kind of a "fast-track" , as in they want to hire you to train you to be in management later on?

Thanks.

Yes, all first offers were located within 75 miles of my office. You can always tell them if you are interested in opportunities outside your current location though.

It's a numbers game; not everyone they contact is ready to leave or has the necessary skills required by the Company. They just want to throw as many potential candidates to the Company as possible and then let the Company deal with weeding out the candidates.

No, you are not on a "fast-track", especially at well established companies. At F500 Companies, they don't hire you because they want to train you; they hire you because of your experience and hope that it will help the Company grow.

To me, leaving Big 4 for a corporate accounting role is career suicide; you only do it if you are a woman who wants to get pregnant (even then Big 4 has AMAZING women's benefits, always ranked in top 10 best women companies to work for), you want work-life stability, or you got fired from your firm.

All the smart auditors leave for finance/operations/law school/start-up ASAP (note it's very hard to go straight from Audit to a reputable MBA, but you can go to a reputable law school).

    • 1
Sep 11, 2017
itsinthebag:
AsianMonky:

Wow. Thanks for the great info. Had another question: Do headhunters contact you for opportunities near the Big 4 office you are located in? I'm not sure how they offer you all of these positions when there are countless amount of Big 4 auditors.

Also- thanks for the input on FLDP vs Audit. Do you think that when you get recruited by headhunters for Fin/Acc roles at F500, that you are on kind of a "fast-track" , as in they want to hire you to train you to be in management later on?

Thanks.

Yes, all first offers were located within 75 miles of my office. You can always tell them if you are interested in opportunities outside your current location though.

It's a numbers game; not everyone they contact is ready to leave or has the necessary skills required by the Company. They just want to throw as many potential candidates to the Company as possible and then let the Company deal with weeding out the candidates.

No, you are not on a "fast-track", especially at well established companies. At F500 Companies, they don't hire you because they want to train you; they hire you because of your experience and hope that it will help the Company grow.

To me, leaving Big 4 for a corporate accounting role is career suicide; you only do it if you are a woman who wants to get pregnant (even then Big 4 has AMAZING women's benefits, always ranked in top 10 best women companies to work for), you want work-life stability, or you got fired from your firm.

All the smart auditors leave for finance/operations/law school/start-up ASAP (note it's very hard to go straight from Audit to a reputable MBA, but you can go to a reputable law school).

When people compare Big 4 audit vs FLDP at a reputable company, Big 4 supporters say that there are just too many ex-Big 4 people in management/exec that it's hard to argue against that Big 4 is not the best route to management positions in F500 Finance.

What do you think about that statement?

Sep 11, 2017
AsianMonky:

When people compare Big 4 audit vs FLDP at a reputable company, Big 4 supporters say that there are just too many ex-Big 4 people in management/exec that it's hard to argue against that Big 4 is not the best route to management positions in F500 Finance.

What do you think about that statement?

Who are the Big 4 supporters? How much experience do they have at the Big 4?

It's a numbers game, you probably hear about the Big 4 much more simply because there are so many more Big 4 employees than there are FLDP employees. Need to keep everything in perspective, I'm sure the % allocation is equally comparable.

There is no one clear path that will lead you to management at a F500; you need a wide range of skills to get that position, and both Big 4 and FLDP provide you with just a few of the many skills you will need to be successful in the management role. They are both excellent starting paths, but one is not clear cut better than the other, there are other variables more important than where your first job is such as the person's competence, ability to play the political game and so forth.

Sep 11, 2017

Thanks for making yourself available for questions. Your LinkedIn strategy is genius - that is the answer to the first problem of getting the interview as an auditor. As for the second step of acing the interview, what did you say to convince them to hire an auditor? Did you try to leverage your limited TAS experience?

Great post - FYI I posted a link to this in my group Big 4 Accounting.

Sep 11, 2017
808:

Thanks for making yourself available for questions. Your LinkedIn strategy is genius - that is the answer to the first problem of getting the interview as an auditor. As for the second step of acing the interview, what did you say to convince them to hire an auditor? Did you try to leverage your limited TAS experience?

Great post - FYI I posted a link to this in my group Big 4 Accounting.

Thanks for posting the link; I will always be forever grateful to my firm as they gave me my first job which ultimately allowed me to land my current job. Please let me know if anyone in that group has any specific questions and I will do my best to answer.

As for acing the interview, I think the best thing is to convince them that you are not an auditor. There are many factors that play into this (e.g., the longer you stay in audit, the harder it will be to convince them you are not an auditor. Someone with 2 years of experience is still relatively new and maybe just figured out what they want in life versus someone who's had 4 years of audit experience - it's much hard to explain how it took you 4 years to realize audit is not your cup of tea.) Nail down the "why" part as I'm pretty sure that was always the first question I was asked during my finance interviews. If you can't get past the first question, you don't stand a chance.

    • 1
Sep 11, 2017

Which group within PwC TAS or Deloitte FAS would you say will help the most in trying to get onto the buyside? Also what's the current strategy/role at your firm right now? Ever consider the CFA in addition with your CPA?

I think I'm one of the few people that would be willing to read your 10,000 word post about your experience btw.

Sep 11, 2017
Vyraal:

Which group within PwC TAS or Deloitte FAS would you say will help the most in trying to get onto the buyside? Also what's the current strategy/role at your firm right now? Ever consider the CFA in addition with your CPA?

I think I'm one of the few people that would be willing to read your 10,000 word post about your experience btw.

Going off of the exact terminology, PwC TAS (as I know, is related to tax advisory) and Deloitte FAS (as I know, is related to forensic accounting/security valuation). In this case, I'd definitely go with FAS. Deloitte Corporate Finance is it's own beast and unrelated to Deloitte FAS.

I want to clarify that Deloitte and PwC both offer transaction advisory services (TAS). For Deloitte, it's guised under their AERS arm as "M&A services", while for PwC it's called "Capital Markets Advisory". So if you're asking me to compare PwC "TAS" vs. Deloitte "TAS", then I'd say there really is no difference other than my personal preference as to which firm's culture is better. All Big 4's will essentially provide the same experience (minus KPMG, not personal preference, fact).

Fundamental-value w/ several billion AUM. I'm in the tech sector.

No, I do not plan on taking the CFA simply because I do not believe it is necessary to my future goals. That being said, there are senior partners at my firm with the CFA designation. However, to me, I would much rather focus on getting a good GMAT score and working on my EC's in hopes of landing at a top MBA as I believe that an M7 MBA > CFA in all regards (timing as well is a factor; I could study for the GMAT and graduate with an MBA in the time it takes to pass all 3 CFA tests, both require ~3 years). There are many posts on WSO about the value of the CFA and the general consensus (which I agree with) is that it is pretty much useless unless you plan on doing asset management, which I do not. This is also one of the greatest myths that I saw during my Big 4 days - that the CFA/CPA combination is a golden ticket to finance. Sorry, but that's just not true. I wish I could find the link, but there are a million posts on here about the value of the CFA to finance and that is what I base my knowledge on and believe it to be fairly representative of the world's view on the CFA. One more thing, I don't believe the CFA will provide me with any useful real-world experience, just like the CPA did not improve my audit/accounting knowledge in any way shape or form.

As much as I'd love to write about all my experiences, I don't think the value-add would be worth it. I'm already doing my best to keep my responses direct as I can without going off onto a bunch of different tangents. For example, in the above, I could go on about EY/KPMG's service offerings compared to smaller firms like Duff & Phelps, Alvaraz & Marsal, etc.. I could also then discuss the difference in clients they serve and the value at each firm. I could also write 10,000 words on why I am not pursuing the CFA. There are just too many roads for me to go down and I don't have enough time to write it all/write it in a meaningful way where people won't think I'm just rambling.

That being said, do you have any specific areas you are interested in? Big 4 politics? Big 4 pay/promotion structure? Big 4 lies? Big 4 exit-opps? Most common misconceptions in Big 4 about landing in finance? Favorite part of working in audit? Least favorite? As you can see, there are many different roads I can go down.

Sep 11, 2017
itsinthebag:

That being said, do you have any specific areas you are interested in? Big 4 politics? Big 4 pay/promotion structure? Big 4 lies? Big 4 exit-opps? Most common misconceptions in Big 4 about landing in finance? Favorite part of working in audit? Least favorite? As you can see, there are many different roads I can go down.

Can you touch a little bit on the Big 4 exit opps/Big 4 landing in finance part of things as far as breaking into corp. dev.? This or going the start up route are the most appealing options to me right now.

And I dont have any specific question that I can think of right now (will check back in if I come up with one), but if you want to discuss some Big 4 lies as you mentioned, maybe a little about the environment, hours (busy season vs regular), etc., that would be great too.

--Art Vandelay

Sep 11, 2017
Art.Vandelay:
itsinthebag:

That being said, do you have any specific areas you are interested in? Big 4 politics? Big 4 pay/promotion structure? Big 4 lies? Big 4 exit-opps? Most common misconceptions in Big 4 about landing in finance? Favorite part of working in audit? Least favorite? As you can see, there are many different roads I can go down.

Can you touch a little bit on the Big 4 exit opps/Big 4 landing in finance part of things as far as breaking into corp. dev.? This or going the start up route are the most appealing options to me right now.

And I dont have any specific question that I can think of right now (will check back in if I come up with one), but if you want to discuss some Big 4 lies as you mentioned, maybe a little about the environment, hours (busy season vs regular), etc., that would be great too.

--Art Vandelay

For people with less than 2 years of experience, I've seen all sorts of exits - IBD (boutique firms only), Operations at Start-Up's, Law School, and FP&A at F500's. The IBD/Op's people were high performers from the get-go and only landed in audit because they couldn't break in to finance from undergrad. They also had degrees from top US institutions that receive OCR from BB IB firms.

For people with 2+ years of experience, exit opps are much more limited to either law school, TAS, or Sr. Accountant/Accounting Manager/Director of Financial Reporting (3-5 years/5-7 years/7+ years in public accounting, respectively). Kept in touch with a TAS friend who is now at an M7 MBA (5 years in Audit, 1.5 years in TAS, then applied to MBA).

Biggest Big 4 Misconception - I'll do two.

1 - you work 40 hours a week. Fact is that audit is a client-service job, so don't expect to be at the client site for fewer hours than the client themselves. I don't know anyone who worked 40 hours a week, whether it be busy season or regular season. Regular season average is closer to 50 hrs/wk and my firm's requirements during busy season were mandatory 11/hr minimum per day, so expect to work 60+ hrs/week during busy season. I have personally done several 100+ hr/weeks.

2 - Auditing in the finance sector will improve your finance skills and therefore your ability to break into finance. Completely false. Unless you want to be an accountant for the financial firm, learning how to audit PE/VC/HF's is completely useless and zero value-add to landing a gig in finance.

Environment - varies across firms, EY thinks they are the smartest so everyone is extremely cut-throat and a lot of backstabbing occurs there, PwC and Deloitte have the most collegiate-like atmosphere, everyone at KPMG wishes they were at the other 3 firms. It all depends on the team dynamic - there are douche bags and there are genuinely nice people, it's expected when your firm employs over 100K+ people. I've met and worked with every single type of personality out there.

Sep 11, 2017
itsinthebag:

... I'd say there really is no difference other than my personal preference as to which firm's culture is better. All Big 4's will essentially provide the same experience (minus KPMG, not personal preference, fact).

No, I do not plan on taking the CFA simply because I do not believe it is necessary to my future goals. That being said, there are senior partners at my firm with the CFA designation. However, to me, I would much rather focus on getting a good GMAT score and working on my EC's in hopes of landing at a top MBA as I believe that an M7 MBA > CFA in all regards ... This is also one of the greatest myths that I saw during my Big 4 days - that the CFA/CPA combination is a golden ticket to finance....One more thing, I don't believe the CFA will provide me with any useful real-world experience, just like the CPA did not improve my audit/accounting knowledge in any way shape or form.

That being said, do you have any specific areas you are interested in? Big 4 politics? Big 4 pay/promotion structure? Big 4 lies? Big 4 exit-opps? Most common misconceptions in Big 4 about landing in finance? Favorite part of working in audit? Least favorite? As you can see, there are many different roads I can go down.

This is a godsend and I understand your reasons for not wanting to spew everything for the sake of keeping concise, regardless I really appreciate the spirit of this thread overall. I would SB you if I only had the credits. I got some more follow-up questions if you don't mind.

I wasn't able to land any offers right away (I'm a senior trying to break into buyside, preferably a fundamental equities long short fund, a dream for me would be any investment analyst role in a distressed fund but I think that's even more difficult coming out of undergrad). As an aside, I am interviewing and trying to break into boutique asset management/ER firms now until Spring as well as Deloitte FAS's BVal group (mainly because it's in a city of my choosing) and has the most relevant skillset as far as I can determine for an eventual buyside role.

What do you think I should expect for BVal? I know that the Corporate Finance is a separated entity just like Consulting due to independence reasons, so lateraling won't be any easier. I've been told I would know financial modelling, but only in a rigid fashion as the numbers we put out will be scrutinized by the law and IRS. Any truth to that? Any recommended actions for someone who wants to eventually end up in a distressed credit fund?

Big 4 lies you say? Please, do tell more. Also what was the most difficult aspect trying to get out of Audit? Stereotypes? Showing you had technical down? Showing that auditors have personality as well?

I noticed that you said CFA wasn't that useful because you didn't plan on doing asset management, but at the same time you're at a buyside firm? I always imagined asset management being the overall category and HF/MF etc falling under that umbrella. Did you have another definition for asset management?

To be honest I didn't have a solid plan when I graduate about how I was going to end up in a distressed fund, only grabbing at job descriptions that might provide a skillset that would help me later down the road, but this thread has gone a long way in giving me some inspiration, I really appreciate the input.

Sep 11, 2017
Vyraal:
itsinthebag:

... I'd say there really is no difference other than my personal preference as to which firm's culture is better. All Big 4's will essentially provide the same experience (minus KPMG, not personal preference, fact).

No, I do not plan on taking the CFA simply because I do not believe it is necessary to my future goals. That being said, there are senior partners at my firm with the CFA designation. However, to me, I would much rather focus on getting a good GMAT score and working on my EC's in hopes of landing at a top MBA as I believe that an M7 MBA > CFA in all regards ... This is also one of the greatest myths that I saw during my Big 4 days - that the CFA/CPA combination is a golden ticket to finance....One more thing, I don't believe the CFA will provide me with any useful real-world experience, just like the CPA did not improve my audit/accounting knowledge in any way shape or form.

That being said, do you have any specific areas you are interested in? Big 4 politics? Big 4 pay/promotion structure? Big 4 lies? Big 4 exit-opps? Most common misconceptions in Big 4 about landing in finance? Favorite part of working in audit? Least favorite? As you can see, there are many different roads I can go down.

This is a godsend and I understand your reasons for not wanting to spew everything for the sake of keeping concise, regardless I really appreciate the spirit of this thread overall. I would SB you if I only had the credits. I got some more follow-up questions if you don't mind.

I wasn't able to land any offers right away (I'm a senior trying to break into buyside, preferably a fundamental equities long short fund, a dream for me would be any investment analyst role in a distressed fund but I think that's even more difficult coming out of undergrad). As an aside, I am interviewing and trying to break into boutique asset management/ER firms now until Spring as well as Deloitte FAS's BVal group (mainly because it's in a city of my choosing) and has the most relevant skillset as far as I can determine for an eventual buyside role.

What do you think I should expect for BVal? I know that the Corporate Finance is a separated entity just like Consulting due to independence reasons, so lateraling won't be any easier. I've been told I would know financial modelling, but only in a rigid fashion as the numbers we put out will be scrutinized by the law and IRS. Any truth to that? Any recommended actions for someone who wants to eventually end up in a distressed credit fund?

Big 4 lies you say? Please, do tell more. Also what was the most difficult aspect trying to get out of Audit? Stereotypes? Showing you had technical down? Showing that auditors have personality as well?

I noticed that you said CFA wasn't that useful because you didn't plan on doing asset management, but at the same time you're at a buyside firm? I always imagined asset management being the overall category and HF/MF etc falling under that umbrella. Did you have another definition for asset management?

To be honest I didn't have a solid plan when I graduate about how I was going to end up in a distressed fund, only grabbing at job descriptions that might provide a skillset that would help me later down the road, but this thread has gone a long way in giving me some inspiration, I really appreciate the input.

BVal is good, all the principals (equivalent to Partner, just different term for legal purposes) are CFA's. Don't work in a distressed credit fund so can't comment on that.

See my response to Art Vandelay and Equities-In-Dallas for several misconceptions. I think having less than 2 years of experience was a serious bonus as I haven't developed the full-on image of being an accountant/auditor. I was still able to play the "I didn't know what I wanted in life so went to audit" card.

I categorize asset management more with PWM.

No problem, happy to be of any assistance.

Sep 11, 2017

+1 Thanks for this.

Sep 11, 2017

You said, your first job was at a boutique - can you give us an AUM range?

Sep 11, 2017
equitydigger:

You said, your first job was at a boutique - can you give us an AUM range?

Several billion - trying to keep myself somewhat confidential.

Sep 11, 2017

I have an offer at a conservative Fortune 100 insurance company in product management and another as a consultant for a company that provides financial software to buy side firms (Reuters, Fact Set, Bloomberg) .

In your opinion, which would lead to better opportunities down the road to break into the buy-side?

"Don't let making a living prevent you from making a life."

John R. Wooden

Sep 11, 2017
Tintinnabulation:

I have an offer at a conservative Fortune 100 insurance company in product management and another as a consultant for a company that provides financial software to buy side firms (Reuters, Fact Set, Bloomberg) .

In your opinion, which would lead to better opportunities down the road to break into the buy-side?

Can't give you an opinion as I don't know much about product management. With the financial software firm, you would essentially become a master of navigating the software; not sure how much relevant financial experience you are gaining there. Sorry can't provide more insight here.

Sep 11, 2017

Thanks so much for making yourself available. Similar to your background, I started out in big4 in Hong Kong 3 years ago, after graduating from a top public school in the Midwest. About 4 months ago, I moved to a transaction service role in another big4 firm.

Currently I am looking to jump into IBD or a F500 corporate development role. I have also started preparing for the GMAT, in case things do not work out and I will have to go back to business school.

My question is
1. I understand how I can leverage my experience in dealing with financial statements, i.e. their footnotes, proforma adjustments. but how did you address you knowledge on modeling, valuations, as well as specific industry experience (e.g. If the buy-side firm are TMT-focused, while your audit experience was with industrials)
2. In your opinion, what set you apart from other big4 staff that wanna make the move as well?
3. In my situation, do you think I should continue to network and try to break in, or go for business school earlier ?

Thanks

Sep 11, 2017
kychung3:

Thanks so much for making yourself available. Similar to your background, I started out in big4 in Hong Kong 3 years ago, after graduating from a top public school in the Midwest. About 4 months ago, I moved to a transaction service role in another big4 firm.

Currently I am looking to jump into IBD or a F500 corporate development role. I have also started preparing for the GMAT, in case things do not work out and I will have to go back to business school.

My question is
1. I understand how I can leverage my experience in dealing with financial statements, i.e. their footnotes, proforma adjustments. but how did you address you knowledge on modeling, valuations, as well as specific industry experience (e.g. If the buy-side firm are TMT-focused, while your audit experience was with industrials)
2. In your opinion, what set you apart from other big4 staff that wanna make the move as well?
3. In my situation, do you think I should continue to network and try to break in, or go for business school earlier ?

Thanks

See my response to EquityDigger for questions #1 & #2.

Question #3 - Both. Work on breaking in to help strengthen your chances of getting into a top B-School, but if you are a strong enough candidate and are able to get into a top MBA program, then leverage that to re brand yourself. Apply to B-School and if you don't get it, keep networking to strengthen your resume. Always keep multiple doors open, never put all your eggs in one basket.