I recently posed the following three questions to my uber-experienced and talented MBA consultant, Sachin. Here’s what he said:
How does your background–including a PhD in clinical psychology, McKinsey, novel writing, and freelance business writing–help you help your Admitify clients?
“Though it wasn’t by design, my work history has been great preparation for admissions consulting and for helping my clients reach their goals. Let’s go from my oldest experience to my most recent:
As a trained psychologist (recovering psychologist, as I call it!), I have a good sense for what motivates people and how they are coming across in written and verbal materials. So I work with my clients to get at their inner motivations—and sometimes their fears—related to grad school, along with how to position themselves through their essays and interviews. Striking the right tone is critical across all materials, and I listen carefully with my ‘psychologist’s ear’ to help my clients get it right.
Working as an associate (post-MBA level) at McKinsey was a whirlwind, hands-on tour of the business world, as I contributed to projects in pharma, consumer goods, tech, financial services, and many others, with emphasis on growth, M&A, and reorganization, among others. That gives me insights into my MBA clients’ backgrounds and career aspirations—including how to help them position their experience and career vision in the application. McKinsey’s structured approach to everything is also helpful in figuring out application strategy (how many schools, what order), essay sequence, interview strategy, and other issues for clients of all types.
After leaving McKinsey I focused on creative writing, with emphasis on fiction and screenwriting. Through this work I learned what makes a great story versus a boring one, and supporting narrative elements including character, plot points, openings, and foreshadowing. Storytelling is critical for any application, and I love helping my clients identify the right stories to use and tell them most effectively.
Finally, as a freelance business writer for companies, universities, and individuals, I’ve applied everything I’ve learned to communicate ideas and messages most effectively, whether a book on succession in family business or an article on the newest FinTech concepts. That means I ‘get’ my MBA clients’ backgrounds and aspirations, and can help any client persuade admissions committees through their written materials.”
What trends have you noticed among applicants and/or among M7 admission decisions?
“It’s getting harder.
I know that’s hard for applicants to hear, but it’s the truth. While the number of MBA applicants hasn’t changed dramatically, the bar for admission to these top schools is much higher now. There’s a clear ‘flight to quality,’ such that my clients who would have had a good shot at the very top—Harvard, Stanford, Wharton, Sloan—have to apply more widely to ensure admission (even outside the M7), and those who were already looking more broadly must go lower down for the true ‘safety’ options.
The good news is that my clients are rising to the occasion in two ways. First, they are coming to the application process with stronger credentials than in the past: better, more diverse work experience, faster advancement, stronger GMAT scores (often after several attempts), evidence of leadership within and outside work. Second, they have more realistic expectations about what schools to target (not just the top) and how many to aim for (more than in the past). With a strategic, well-informed approach, the vast majority of my clients are coming away satisfied with their results, and many have been pleasantly surprised by a higher-level admission than expected.”
What do you think applicants don’t ‘get’ about the admission/essay process that would improve their chances of admission?
“Three things: story, story, story.
Too many of my clients forget the power of story in approaching their applications, and retreat to offering bland lists of achievements or threadbare tales of success. Everyone has a good story to tell—but they often need help surfacing it and communicating it. Here’s an example taken from a composite of several clients: For an essay on a major challenge, one of my clients was set to tell a story of how hard he worked during college to get good grades. I advised him to think more broadly, and he ended up telling the story of surviving a major car accident when he was in his teens—how he was the only one conscious in his family and walked for several miles for help, then helped family members recover from various injuries and psychological trauma, while he himself healed. ‘I didn’t realize that’s what the admissions committee wanted,’ he said. His admission to an M7 school proved it was exactly what they wanted.
So I urge my clients to find the right stories to tell, and to tell them well, with my help.”