Obviously we take a ton of "free consults" or Initial Consultation calls as part of our business model, so it seemed like a good idea to pass along some thoughts on how applicants can best utilize these. It depends on the people involved (both the consultant and the applicant) obviously, but as general rules, these might help you go in better prepared - not only to respond to questions, but to have a clear agenda for what you can achieve and take away from the experience.
1. Expect to go deep on your goals.
This is a two-sided statement. First, "expect it" meaning do some prep work before you talk to consultants along the lines of knowing what your goals are, why you hold them, what motivates you, and so forth. Second, "expect it," meaning have the expectation of discussing this. If your consultant has no interest in asking you about your goals or understanding them, it means they are either A) not very invested in the call, or B) not very good at admissions consulting. Career goals are essential in an MBA application and while they may not be locked in just yet, any consultant needs to know that there is some gold to mine there before committing to work with someone. Put another way: when someone asks me to predict their chances of admissions and they share their stats and resume, my next questions are: what are your goals and what motivates them? That is one of the primary battlegrounds where a decision is made, so it's completely essential that I know some information about this area if I am going to properly advise a candidate ... or even take them on as a client. So to recap:
- If you don't have any thoughts on your goals or why you hold them, you aren't ready to talk to a serious admissions consultant yet.
- If your consultant doesn't ask about them, run the other way.
2. Avoid canned questions.
I've seen sites or experts give out a list of questions you should ask, but I strongly recommend avoiding a canned list of questions. For starters, it's a lame way to go about your business. But beyond that, it just burns up valuable time talking about things that might not be all that important to you. Stick to the stuff you really care about so that you can get the most out of the experience.
3. Don't be afraid to really talk schools.
A good consultant should be able to help you stress test and shape your list of schools, even with only basic information about you. MBA programs can be considered based on selectivity (how hard they are to get into), general ROI (perception and opportunity), custom ROI (some schools offer a better return for specific people, ala the Columbia Value Investing Program or the Wharton Health Care Management Program), or fit. You should be able to take 5-7 schools and kick them around under all these lenses to try to get a set list in place. Everyone on staff here can analyze these schools from all these angles, so I feel its fair to say that its a baseline performance level that you should expect on these calls. It's also far more helpful information to take away from your call than the answer to "what do think my biggest weakness is?" or any of the other canned questions.
4. Be considerate.
News flash: these calls are a two-way street. I can't tell you how many applicants have been late for calls, interrupted constantly, been pushy, blown way over my end time (I try to be available for as long as these need to go, but sometimes I just have another commitment after the our or 90-minute mark has expired), or been flat out rude. I can also tell you that some of those sample people are floored when they say they want to sign up and tell them, basically, "no thanks." Folks, top consultants always fill up their rosters and are under no obligation to take on every single person they talk to. You probably get the sense that it's a buyer's market out there and for the most part it is, but you still have to engage with consultants like human beings. Treat people how you would want to be treated, that's all. (If nothing else, do it for your own sake. As the saying goes, you get more flies with honey.)
5. Understand the nature of the call.
This seems obvious, but an initial consultation is a sales call. I don't mean that it's a sales person just pitching you products and services, but it's important to understand that these are offered by consulting companies like ours so that you can get a feel for things before making a decision on who you might want to use as an MBA admissions consultant. We structure ours in a way that ensure you get a ton out of it regardless of the outcome of that decision (we talk schools and goals, we share resources, etc.), but make no mistake: this is meant to tease out whether there is a good fit between the client and the consultant. Put another way: this is not designed to be a non-profit resource, where you call up a hotline and just have a professional answer all your questions. If you are looking for that, there are a ton of free resources out there (we do free profile evaluations all the time on the Ask Amerasia thread of GMAT Club, for instance). So just know going in that we're trying to spend this hour seeing if working together on an ongoing basis is a good idea.
If you are ready to engage with a top consultant in a serious and professional way, follow the above tips and jump on a call with us so we can take your MBA insights to another level. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to set up a free consult. If you do, mention this blog (including the specific post) in your email and we will make sure you get access to our best available discount if and when you sign up.