Harvard Business School Cozies Up to MBA Admissions Consulta

by Vault Education Editors | October 27, 2010

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"That warm embrace by the most prestigious business school in the land marks a watershed for the business of admissions consultants. Not long ago, Harvard, Stanford, Wharton and other top schools regarded these hired guns with disapproval and skepticism. B-school officials often spoke out against the use of consultants, and some schools explicitly forbade applicants from hiring them."..."The relationship between the top schools and the consultants has gone from chilly to positively cozy."

Poets & Quants has an article about the New Coziness that's developed between MBA admissions consultants and B-School admissions officers. So, here's one obvious question: Now that this once frosty relationship has warmed up, does this mean all applicants--even the poors-- will soon need to pay thousands to enlist an admissions guru just to have a fighting chance? It's sort of like the steroid argument, and we all know how that turned out. 

Harvard business school friends admissions consultants

According to the article, Harvard Business School invited almost 50 admissions consultants to campus for a tour and a chance to speak with the admissions director and the program's executive director. Late to the party, Harvard joined other prestigious schools--Dartmouth, Duke, Yale, Columbia, Michigan, INSEAD and NYU; yes, you were wondering--in crossing the imaginary ethical line. Attending consultants were given valuable insight into the sausage making that goes on inside the admissions process. For example: hypothetical candidate profiles!

One consultant was quoted as saying: "There had been an us-versus-them mentality. Now there's acceptance. They know we're not going away."

Well, as effective as persistence is, the story hits on the two biggest explanations for the slackening taboo.

  1. "[T]his new detente is an acknowledgement that any school that wants access to the most desirable applicants had better be extremely comfortable with consultants. Not only do even the top applicants engage them but the consultants, with their vast online reach, often touch more would-be students than any admissions department and wield growing influence over who applies where."

  2. "The coziness that has evolved between the schools and the consultants also results from the fact that some consultants had once worked in admissions offices at the schools. Many others are MBA alums of elite institutions."

    "Now, rather than viewing consultants as hired guns, schools see them as a “particular set of helpers,” as the University of Chicago’s deputy dean of full-time MBA programs Stacey Kole says."

If you are a talented and qualified candidate, then hiring a well-connected admissions consultant could be a smart use of money. It's just that it's a whole lot of money, up to $10,000 in some cases. But it shouldn't be a surprise that serious people interested in making serious money will invest many thousands of dollars in their future, especially in light of the $100,000 they'll already be plunking down for their tuition. So, who's planning to hire a consultant and who isn't? 


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