Pros and Cons of Hiring An MBA Admissions Consultant

·6 min read

Pros and Cons of Hiring An MBA Admissions Consultant

Applying to B-school can be a hectic experience. From standardized exams to essay writing, the admissions process contains a number of components that can easily overwhelm applicants.

Hiring an admissions consultant may help ease such stress from the application process.

Sydney Lake of Fortune recently spoke to experts about who may benefit from hiring an admissions consultant, what their job entails, and whether or not they are worth the cost.

“Consultants often provide an assessment of a client’s admissions chances, offer recommendations about where to apply and how many applications to submit, help an applicant decide what personal traits to emphasize in his or her application and coach the client on how to express themselves well in admissions interviews,” Ilana Kowarski, a reporter at US News, writes.


Hiring an admissions consultant isn’t for everyone, especially if you’re on a tight budget. Top experts can cost upwards of $400 for 60 minutes of consultation.

However, hiring an admissions consultant may be beneficial for busy professionals who become fazed by the application process and need help.

“I could’ve gone and done all of my research on my own and spent all this time, but as a new mom I knew I needed an expert to really help me with the process,” Alma Aguilar, an applicant accepted into University of Texas-Austin McCombs School of Business, tells Fortune. “I didn’t know what success looked like in terms of an application, so I knew I needed to work with someone who helps people be successful.”


While many applicants do benefit from the help of an admissions consultant, experts caution against relying too heavily on the help of others when applying to B-school.

“I would say that there are almost no situations in which I would recommend using an admissions consultant to get into business school … unless you can completely disguise the fact that you are using one,” Nick Barniville, an associate dean at ESMT Berlin, tells US News.

Moreover, Barniville adds that the authenticity of an application is a critical component to admissions.

“Admissions people are human beings,” Barniville tells US News. “They want to hear real stories from people. I don’t think an application has to be a perfectly polished piece of work. I just think it has to be an interesting and authentic reflection of a person.”

It’s important to note that admissions consultants aren’t for every applicant. Some may benefit more from having expert help, while others may be just fine without it.

“Just as someone might hire a personal trainer to get in shape or a consultant to help with a business problem, an admissions consultant can offer expertise,” Lake, of Fortune, writes.

Sources: Fortune, US News, P&Q

Haas School of Business

Berkeley Haas 2021-22 MBA Essay Tips

The University of California Berkeley’s Haas School of Business ranked number eight in P&Q’s “Top Business Schools” ranking.

The prestigious B-school keeps a tight circle with an acceptance rate of 12%. At Haas, the community is everything and admissions officers are incredibly selective about whom they let into that community. Stacy Blackman, of Stacy Blackman Consulting, recently discussed this year’s Berkeley Haas MBA essays offering insight into how applicants can highlight the right traits to convey the strongest narrative to Haas admissions.


The first required essay prompt at Haas asks applicants the following:

What makes you feel alive when you are doing it, and why? (300 words maximum)

This open-ended essay question, Blackman says, involves a two-step approach.

“As a first step, think about activities you find completely fascinating—for example, hobbies, sports, or artistic pursuits,” Blackman writes. “Or, maybe there’s an activity at work that absorbs you. Above all, it should reveal something personal and go deeper than your resume.”

The second step requires asking yourself the ‘why’ – a critical piece to your Haas essay.

“The ‘why’ is more important than the ‘what’ because it reveals who you are,” Blackman writes. “For example, maybe you enjoy research projects. You like to solve problems at work and have the freedom to pursue the question wherever it takes you. In that case, consider whether you enjoy research because it allows you to be creative or solve problems. Delve into your motivations to see what is driving you—being specific about the ‘why’ will help you with all of your essays.”


The second required essay prompt at Haas asks applicants the following:

The definition of successful leadership has evolved over the last decade and will continue to change. What do you need to develop to become a successful leader? (300 words maximum)

When approaching this essay, Blackman says, applicants should familiarize themselves with the leadership principles that Haas outlines.

“For Haas, leadership is both inclusive and bold,” Blackman writes. “Also, Haas prioritizes innovation, community, and collaboration.”

Once you have a strong understanding of what leadership principles that Haas prioritizes, you’ll want to define your own idea of leadership.

“How has that definition evolved?” Blackman writes. “If you had to define your leadership principles, what would they look like? For example, perhaps helping is a core part of your identity. And, for you, leadership means driving the development of your team.”

Sources: Stacy Blackman Consulting, Berkeley Haas, P&Q, P&Q

Fuqua student team working on the patio

Duke Fuqua 2021-22 MBA Essay Tips

At Duke University Fuqua School of Business, “Team Fuqua” is the mantra that leads the B-school and its collective community.

“We embrace a culture and mindset of inclusivity, trust, and respectfully challenging one another to push our own boundaries,” Kaveri Gyanendra, a second-year MBA, tells P&Q.

Duke Fuqua, which ranked number 14 in P&Q’s “Top Business Schools” ranking, specifically seeks out applicants who embrace “Team Fuqua” and can add value to the B-school’s community and culture. Catherine Tuttle, an expert coach at Fortuna Admissions and former Associate Director at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, recently discussed this year’s Duke Fuqua MBA essay prompts and provided tips for how applicants should approach each essay.


The first required essay, “25 random things about yourself,” asks applicants the following:

The ‘Team Fuqua’ spirit and community is one of the things that sets the MBA experience apart, and it is a concept that extends beyond the student body to include faculty, staff, and administration. Please share with us “25 Random Things” about you. The Admissions Committee wants to get to know YOU – beyond the professional and academic achievements listed in your resume and transcript. Share with us important life experiences, your hobbies, achievements, fun facts, or anything that helps us understand what makes you who you are. Your list will be limited to 2 pages (750 words maximum). Please present your response in list form, numbered 1 to 25. Some points may be brief, while others may be longer.

Tuttle says this essay provides applicants with an opportunity to convey more unique sides of their personality that may not have shined through in other aspects of your application.

“Think about your values, your hobbies, your interests, and important life experiences,” Tuttle writes. “These can and should be a mix of poignant, humorous, playful, deep, and everything in between. Some may be a paragraph whereas others may be a simple sentence.”

Another important aspect to highlight, Tuttle says, is cultural competency as Fuqua prides itself in having an international student community.

“Teams [at Fuqua] are purposefully made of individuals from different genders, ethnicities, and functional and industry backgrounds,” Tuttle writes. “It’s important that your savvy self- and cultural awareness shines throughout your application.”


The second required essay prompt asks applicants the following:

The Fuqua community and you – what are 3 ways you expect to contribute at Fuqua? (500 words)

With this essay, Tuttle says, it’s critical to highlight contributions that you’ll make outside of the classroom.

“All too often applicants ignore that part of the prompt and wax poetic about how their experience will add value in class discussions,” Tuttle writes. “You must go deeper. Fuqua boasts 60+ student clubs, each of which was started and continue to be run by students. These clubs and other experiential opportunities allow you to take initiative and flex the leadership muscle you are building in the program.”

Sources: Fortuna Admissions, P&Q, P&Q, Duke Fuqua

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