The Association of Incarcerated MBA Admissions Consultants
I guess this is as good a place as any to address a disturbing trend in the MBA admissions world — the shameless whoring out of MBA admissions services. I get asked about it constantly. Maybe it's time to share my opinion.
Perhaps you've noticed that MBA admissions consulting is now an industry, complete with mass marketing techniques, slick sales pitches and faux legitimizing tactics. It didn't use to be like that.
A Little History
When Adam and I started working with MBA applicants 16 years ago we knew that our experience as professional writers and editors would dramatically improve the work product of our candidates. We also knew that our intimate classroom contact with applicants would inform our work and improve our results.
Now it seems that writing skills and firsthand experience are no longer necessary. All one needs is an opinion and a Go Daddy Web site.
How times change.
A Few Things to Watch Out For
In the smoke-and-mirrors world that MBA applicants inhabit it's hard to know what's real and what's an illusion. The stakes are high and everybody's got something to sell. Mostly they want to sell you fear and then the antidote to the fear.
The way to protect yourself and make good decisions is to be informed, especially about changes in the MBA applicant community. Below I'll list some of the more disturbing developments and deceptive tactics that have come into the MBA applicant world that Adam and I used to inhabit virtually alone.
1. Price as Credibility
This was the first sign that things were changing. We started to notice people with limited—or even no—experience coming onto the Web and offering services at outrageous prices that had no real relationship to the work being done. This is the old higher-price-must-mean-better-quality trick. It's now a widespread tactic.
2. Valueless Opinion Mongering
When you have little experience in the classroom and none as a writer the tendency is to fall back on strident opinion mongering. Doing so is a bluffing technique that can convey an illusion of experience and a sense of superiority. Unfortunately, the advice is often bad, though the applicant can't know it. I have heard so much crazy and clearly incorrect advice coming from alleged experts that I'm considering gathering it all together and publishing it.
The only thing worse than overpaying for admissions help is overpaying for advice that actually harms your chances of being accepted. Keep in mind the old saying: "Opinions are like assholes; everybody's got one."
3. Credentials as a Substitute for Skills
One of the more recent trends has been the "populating of the space" by people who tout credentials that seem impressive but are perhaps not appropriate. (See our buddies Flaco, Rascal, Joker and Spooky for relevant examples.) This trend seems to be driven by an economy that has resulted in a large number of unemployed MBAs. I guess they figure that if they got into B-school themselves they must be experts in the admissions process.
4. Shameless Self-Promotion
Over-the-top marketing tactics are a recent innovation. Admissions consulting is by its very nature a cottage industry in which skilled and informed editors guide applicants through the complex essay writing process. It's not a commodity that can be sold through mass marketing and then farmed out to low-paid worker bees.
5. Faux Professional Organizations
By far my favorite — and perhaps the most audacious — tactic has been the out-of-the-blue conjuring of professional organizations meant to convey a sense of legitimacy. These groups come complete with official-sounding names and heritage-invoking crests.
I have to admit that this was probably the last straw for me. I had grown accustomed to the increasingly outrageous tactics of the rogue players, but this development took even me by surprise. I'll leave it to you to decide whether these auspicious bodies with their impressive imprimaturs reflect any bona fide credibility.
Having said that, however, I have to admit that I'm contemplating creating a professional organization myself, complete with a conspicuous crest and a name that reflects both the current trends and the integrity of the people who engage in this behavior:
Associate Editor Bios
Master of Arts in Comparative Literature
Emphasis: Rhetoric and Composition
Doctorate of Philosophy in Particle Physics
Thesis: Higgs Boson Integer Spin Analysis
The Max Planck Institute, Leipzig, Germany
M.D. and Postdoctoral Fellow in Cell Biology
The Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine
Master of Fine Arts in Screenwriting
Tisch School of the Arts
New York University
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