Let's face it - US business schools, especially the elite ones that you and I aspire to be a part of, have some extremely stringent acceptance criteria with an almost blackbox-like process to boot.
Before admissions consultants became mainstream (mainly thanks to the penetration of the Internet), applying to business schools was a lonely, nerve-wracking activity - especially if you were from an over-represented demographic like India or China. Nerve-wracking because you had no idea of what constituted a good or bad response to an essay question, or how to go about structuring it; Lonely because at the most, you had a couple of friends who had even heard about the schools you were applying to, and even then, they wouldn't have enough in-depth knowledge to help you write compelling essays.
I began researching MBA programs in 2005. At the time, the only ‘consultants’ I had were Montauk (‘How To Get Into The Top MBA Programs’) and Strunk Jr and White (‘The Element Of Style'). By 2011, when I began the application process, I decided that in addition to my due diligence (attending events, chatting with alumni, professors, etc) I could use the expertise and perspective of a non-Indian who was on the pulse of the admissions process – someone who could look at my essays from the perspective of the admissions committee and help me paint a clear picture of myself. And thus began my hunt for the ‘Best’ admissions consultant.
After two months of initial consults with 10 different admissions consulting firms – Clear Admit, The MBA Exchange, Accepted.com,Stacy Blackman Consulting, Forster-Thomas, MBA Crystal Ball, MBAApply, VeritasPrep, MBAMission, and Amerasia – I finally decided to work with Paul Lanzillotti at Amerasia.
Don’t get me wrong – I didn’t pick Paul because he painted the rosiest picture during the initial consults; he didn’t. I picked him because we connected, and we connected well. My reasoning was simple – I need to not only be comfortable sharing details of my personal and professional life with my consultant, I needed someone who would push me, probe further for details, and not pull any punches when critiquing my essays. I saw all this in Paul, and over the course of our engagement, my gut instinct was proven right.
This is not to say that Paul and I didn’t disagree on anything – in fact, we frequently disagreed.
But therein lay the beauty; every disagreement would result in us coming up with something far better than what we started with. We had different perspectives, and kept hammering at each sentence in each essay till we were both satisfied with it. Sometimes, simply flipping the order of sentences in a paragraph would work miracles. Sometimes, we’d scratch everything and head back to the drawing board. Some essays were born ready (took a couple of edits to finish) whereas others had to be sculpted and refined multiple times (more than 8 edits).
Paul’s knowledge of various schools is extensive; more importantly, he has a skill for converting life experiences into strong essays – and this is where I knew I was getting my money’s worth.
There were experiences that I did not think much about, but were potential essay responses in his perspective – today, some of those have actually made their way into my essays for multiple schools.
Additionally, Paul was always available on call or mail, and would respond within a few hours at the most. He was upfront about delays (if any), and made sure that I had his undivided attention when on a call.
Ultimately, we worked together for 4 schools, and I was waitlisted at 2 of them. Since two of the schools were R3, Paul honoured his R3 guarantee and helped me craft 2 R1 apps this year. Additionally, I retook the GMAT and took extra courses to boost my GPA. The result? I applied to 4 schools and have been invited to interview at all, and so far, accepted at Tuck (and looking forward to the rest).
So is Paul/Amerasia the best consultant/company?
I can’t say; that’s like asking whether HBS or Stanford is the best business school – its really down to personal choice. Yes, he was the best consultant for me. Ultimately, its your application, and your hard-earned money that will be spent on a consultant, and you need to take a well-thought out decision based on the initial consults. I did my research and chose Paul, and did not once regret it.
My experience with Paul was extremely good, and I would gladly recommend that you consider his services when scouting for an admissions consultant.
You may now return to your scheduled programming ☺
PS – I’d be happy to have this review verified by moderators.