MBA Admission Consulting needs to be customized

With so much interest in phoren MBAs, do you think MBA admissions consulting in India has come of age? Far from it, actually. We are still a CAT-obsessed nation. We are talking about the Common Admission Test for entry into the IIMs.

However, as pointed out earlier, the profile of the typical Indian MBA candidate aiming for the top Indian MBA programmes is distinct from the international MBA aspirant from India. The MBA selection process parameters considered by the top business schools abroad are also very different. Which, in turn, means the whole consulting approach needs to be customized for the international business school admissions process.

However, the bigger players with a huge footprint in the CAT market counselling for CAT 2015 don’t really get it. The cookie-cutter approach adopted for candidates with low-to-nil experience (where the emphasis is more on the standardized exams) cannot be extrapolated for international schools.

So don’t be surprised if you come across candidates narrating unpleasant memories of how their ‘consultant’ knew far less than the candidate, used a template to answer questions, was at a loss for explanations/ justifications when the candidates’ queries went just a little beyond the norms. The essay editing was little more than polishing the language and in many cases the structure, grammar and presentation left much to be desired.

The factory mentality permeates the MBA preparation industry. How else can you expand across the country rapidly and have a huge army of service delivery people (we refuse to acknowledge them as ‘experts’ or ‘consultants’)? The big draw for them is the low price they can offer. It also reflects in the compensation their consultants get. But you’ve heard the saying, ‘If you throw peanuts, you will get…’ . Ahem… you know the rest.

MBA admissions consulting in India or abroad cannot be a commoditized service. Don’t take these views at face value, do your own research. Talk to guys who’ve gone through the process with these bigger factories and fly-by-night operators. If they got into the schools of their choice, find out if it was because of or in spite of their ‘consultants’.

Rather than engaging the wrong MBA consulting team, you might be better off managing the application process on your own.

It’s a complex decision for most of us coming from middleclass backgrounds. For a top school, you are looking at an outflow of $ 100K + (30– 70 lakh rupees). And then there are the costs associated with relocation, visa… and MBA admission consultants.

And to complicate matters, consultants come in all varieties:

The bulk deal (people willing to do unlimited schools for Rs 15,000)

The upgraders (CAT coaching institutions wanting a piece of the growing international MBA pie)

The part-timers (top-school graduates testing the waters, but holding on to their day-jobs while trying to figure out a business model that works)

The serious ones based abroad (fantastic quality, great track record, but obscenely priced services out of reach for most Indian applicants)

It’s a call you have to take, based on multiple parameters – the quality of people working with you on your application (and not some unknown face working behind the scene on something so critical), their credibility, the track record and, of course, the cost involved.

One big factor to keep in mind is trust. If you get the feeling that the guy or the team working with you on one of the most important decisions of your life is in it just for the money, run in the opposite direction. There has to be a genuine desire on the part of your adviser to get you into the best school.

How can you judge that? Well, for starters, check out how involved the consulting firm has been in responding to your queries (irrespective of whether this advice is free or paid).

Are they providing superficial answers and MBA advice or do they immerse themselves into your world?

Are they going by the book and giving your standard template answers or do they really know more than you do about the MBA industry and what admission committees are looking for?

Have they been successful in the real world out there (academically and professionally) or is this just bookish knowledge that they are passing on to you?

Are their testimonials genuine and honest? Cooking up and pasting flattering feedback on websites is pretty easy.

How many of their candidates are willing to reveal their identities without being ashamed of being associated with this team?

An MBA admission consultant can be your most important advisor, mentor and friend in this challenging journey. Spend time and effort in doing your homework and you will not regret your decision.

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