Graduate Management News

Admissions Consultants: Love ‘em, Hate ‘em, Use ‘em.

Four admissions consultants faced a crowd of admissions professionals at the Annual Industry Conference, prepared to describe their services and dispel any rumors about inappropriate application assistance. According to Linda Abraham of, admissions consultants act as advisors, serving the same purpose as high school career centers and writing tutors. They help applicants prepare for the process, they mentor their clients during essay-writing, and they conduct mock interviews.

Ricardo Betti of MBA Empresarial in Brazil discussed the many ways admissions consultants can help students navigate the applications process. They assist in self-assessment and help candidates explore different career paths. They build oral and writing skills, and they help candidates revise essays to better reflect their experience and accurately represent themselves.

Betti’s company also leverages relationships with institutions and companies for placement. Betti offers lifetime career counseling and networking, and the consultants and clients celebrate each candidate’s success in school and the job search. He sees his company as an admissions officer’s ally; both are interested in helping candidates make the most of the business school process and curriculum.

Maxx Duffy is a pioneer in the admissions consultant business, having started her consulting firm in 1985 when the field was brand new. She sees consultants as “catalysts for contribution” that can save time for admissions professionals by providing a better-vetted applicant pool. She helps her clients understand what programs are seeking and define their own needs and desires. This focuses her clients on the idea of “fit” and helps them target their applications. Duffy continues to assist in the decision process once her clients have been accepted, and she advises and counsels on “following the rules” around wait lists and re-applications.

Although it may seem that admissions consultants interfere in the traditional process, Graham Richmond of ClearAdmit encouraged the audience to work with consultants as a “part of the equation.” Consider them in the same light as guidance counselors who prepare high school students for college and college students for law or medical school, he said. Traditional candidates for graduate management programs don’t have the same resources as current students; most are already in the workplace.

Instead of looking at cooperation with consultants as unethical, Richmond advised the audience to consider the “Tuck approach”; Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business hosted admissions consultants for a three-day info session about the school. That kind of partnership, Richmond said, offers a valuable marketing opportunity. Additionally, Richmond and Duffy both emphasized the popularity of their free Web resources as possible alternative communication vehicles for graduate management programs.

As next steps for the consulting industry and business schools, the panelists focused on the need for industry standards that discourage the less reputable consultants from writing application essays or otherwise interfering with the process. They would also like to learn more about different programs from the sources; the Tuck example is one they would like to see duplicated. They also want to make the data they collect available for school use, helping to keep the cooperation transparent and effective.


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