In the last two days I've become a lot more serious about admissions consulting. Still not 100% positive I'm going to use a consultant but I feel any advantage (as long as it's legal) is worth it. I don't mind paying $2000 (hopefully not much more than that) if it paints my applicant portrait in the best light possible. Why risk it? I had used Accepted.com's free 15 minute consultation a month ago and thought Saichen Waikar was very nice and helpful with his insight. Then I stopped looking cuz of the hardcore GMAT studying. Now that that's done, I'm researching consultants again. First stop: the Business Week forums. Naturally.
Today I posted my first thread. It asked how those insanely high success rates boasted by admissions consultants are possible. Some places claim 95 to 99% success! How do they define success? How many schools are they looking at? Are they self-selecting the applicants they work with to boost their stats? I doubt it because I don't think an admisssions consultant would turn down a customer. After all, $2000+ to give advice and edit essays is pretty easy money. Which isn't to say that they don't provide some insight and strategy that can increase one's chances... it's just that I think the majority of services are a bit overpriced for what they do offer. Anyway, I only got 2 replies and it seems like I should just take the percentages with a grain of salt. I think if I do use a consultant, I'll probably use MBA Apply as Alex seems the most level-headed. He seems genuinely smart and insightful and isn't overly self-aggrandizing or condescending as I've seen in some other consultants' threads. His price and services also seem great.
I was about to close the deal but he said he's not accepting new clients until late summer! Crazy. I guess they do turn down customers. He said he wants to enjoy his downtime which I can understand but this would be easy for him because I have my sh*t together and he can get me out of the way before the flood gates open in late summer- at least that's how I rationalize it! ;) Anyway, I did send him my profile and asked him for a brief evaluation... little did I know it was going to be an incredibly brief one. He didn't give me any insightful information... he only said that I should be competitive at all my choices but that the economy will cause a jump in application volumes next year. Both pieces of info are old news to me unfortunately. I really got much less info than other people got but maybe that's because I emailed him instead of posting it on his BusinessWeek thread. Maybe he likes the thread because it basically serves as free advertising (that's how I found him after all). But he doesn't seem like the type who would be intentionally unhelpful so I'll give him the benefit of the doubt. Especially since he's giving me his time for free. :) I'll try him again in July when the Columbia app comes out. He said that there's not much to be done now but I countered that Columbia's Essay #1 and resume editing and story refinement can be done. He replied that those things can be easily handled in 6 weeks. Yikes. I am aiming for near perfection with my Columbia app so I hope that's not the case. I guess I'm a bit of a high-maintenace kinda guy huh? :P
BTW, I was quite surprised to experience how rude Clear Admit was. I had a very nice free consultation with one of their consultants and was very interested in purchasing their services. Unfortunately, they only bill by the hour and do not offer school packages. Billing by the hour is highly suspect. Anyone who's ever "been on the clock" (i.e. sitting in a taxi) knows that this has the potential to be a horrible idea. However, I liked my free consultation so much that I inquired about customized school packages. The founder Eliot Ingram then proposed the same services that they offer at an hourly rate, except that I purchase them in bulk for the exact same price. Basically he was not going to offer me any of the unlimited services (Clear Admit limits the number of drafts or edits that they'll help with whereas other services will edit until they think it's near perfect). His so-called "package" was basically buying a chunk of their hours at the exact same rate (no discount, so what's the point of the bulk buying?). When I asked him to clarify why his "package" was essentially the same as his hourly offering, he gave me a pretty curt reply via email. Jeez. I guess when you're one of the bigger consulting companies, you don't need to worry about customer service.
Even worse, the super nice consultant who gave me the free phone consultation was so good that I decided to leave a voicemail on her phone to thank her for her time... I also said if she ever decided to go into business for herself, that I'm sure she'd be super successful ;) I even emailed her as follow-up. She never responded to either. I guess Clear Admit doesn't care about courtesy after concluding that they aren't going to make a sale. I'm kinda glad to find this out though. I'd hate to have hired them only to find out that their service sucks after having secured my money.
In other exciting news, I put the URL to this blog on the signature of my BusinessWeek forum messages. I've already gotten more hits today than any other day (an easy feat I know, but still!) ... that makes me happy. Oh and one last thing, sorry for the insanely long Columbia entries. You know how I can get :P