Hello North Star Blog readers! I am delighted to share an inspirational update from one of our guest contributors, a very successful MBA reapplicant who was recently admitted to Kellogg, Darden, Duke and Johnson – after being denied at multiple schools last year. It’s always incredibly gratifying to help people achieve their dreams, and I  am very happy that he has such wonderful options!

Please tell our North Star readers the good news, and remind us about your background.

Since my last blog post, I re-applied to Tuck and Kellogg, and submitted fresh applications to Fuqua, Darden, Yale and Johnson. I have been fortunate to receive admit decisions at Kellogg, Fuqua, Darden and Johnson.

I am male Singaporean, with a GMAT score of 710. I am also a first generation college graduate. I will have five years of working experience by matriculation, all with Citi. At Citi, I have been given the opportunity to experience job rotations across a broad spectrum of banking businesses and functions.

Looking back at your journey as a re-applicant, what have you learnt about applying to business school?

Applying to business school is extremely hard work! Comparing my essays from the previous year to the ones I had prepared this season, I realized that I had tried too hard to embellish my candidacy. As a result, my own voice had gotten lost in the midst of all the Admissions Committee pandering that I tried to do.

Karen would not have any of it. She asked the toughest questions as she reviewed my initial drafts. Why do you want to do this? How do you know that this is the path you want to pursue? How do you know that you would be good at it? It was very frustrating for me, because I had it all thought out in my head, but I simply could not express it clearly in writing.

In a fit of exasperation, I wrote her a long email detailing the reasons behind my goals, the experiences which had influenced my decisions around them, and the progress that I have made so far on those goals. Karen loved it.

I had dug deep, and struck gold. Following that, it was all about expressing what I had to say concisely. The essays which I wrote this year were deeply personal, and were unmistakably me. I eventually got so comfortable writing about myself, I made only one pass at the Darden essay.

Would you recommend using an Admissions Consultant?

The short answer is: it depends. It was worth it for me.

I had exhausted the resources around me in the previous season, but ended up being denied at all the schools I applied to. It did not make sense to me to do everything the same way, and hope for a better result. That was why I engaged Karen’s help.

In my opinion, Karen helped to:

  • Focus my school strategy – ensuring that I do not waste effort on “poor fit” schools
  • Guide my self-reflection – discovering my best stories, and confront my areas of development
  • Refine my essays – correcting odd sentence structures and expressions
  • Plan my candidate profile – maximizing each application component to present a complete view
  • Boost my morale – cheering me on and providing a listening ear when the going got tough

Hiring a consultant is a big monetary outlay. I did extensive due diligence. After surfing the online forums, and speaking to several firms, I realized that there a lot of “fly-by-night” firms out there. There are two articles on the North Star blog which deserve mention here:

Why People Hire Admissions Consultants For College and Business School

Three Crucial Questions to Ask BEFORE Hiring an Admissions Consultant

I strongly encourage everyone to have a look.

On the other hand, there are also prospective students who expect to be given step-by-step, clear instructions on how to complete their applications. I would steer clear of consultants who promise a cookie cutter approach, who tell you that they have discovered the “magic formula” for admission into prestigious business schools.

Expect to work really hard at the beginning as you mine your experiences for essay material. Expect to feel uncomfortable as you acknowledge your areas of development. Expect to rewrite your first few essays. If more than a few reputable consultants say your profile needs work, then your profile probably needs more work.

As an international who has visited his schools twice, what are your thoughts about visiting?

Schools like Tuck and Fuqua do appreciate the effort, and it makes for an excellent conversation topic. However, not everyone can afford to, and Admissions Committees do understand that. If cost is an issue, it is definitely not compulsory. I would recommend it only if you have the means, or if you have a strong preference for interviewing in-person.

When I flew to Hanover for the second time, I had a face-to-face meeting with Karen at the local Starbucks to prepare for my interview at Tuck. With her intimate knowledge of the Admissions process, Karen advised me on the questions that I should expect, and the talking points that I should focus on. Karen also reminded me on how I can maximize my school visit – I had just taken a 20+ hours flight to be here after all!

I applied her advice during my visit to Fuqua too. Suffice to say, I had two excellent interviews, and a very fruitful trip.

What was the biggest challenge during the application process?

I am not the best at waiting. Self-doubt crept in when I received a “deny” decision at Yale. The weeks wore on without the slightest hint of news from the other schools. “Could last year repeat itself?” I wondered.

Karen remained a pillar of support throughout. She always made time for our call appointments, always replied my emails, and always maintained a positive outlook on my candidacy. Her optimism kept me going throughout my own uncertainty.

Then the interview invites started rolling in: first Darden, then Johnson. It was a relief to know that some schools were actively considering my application!

Do you have anything else to add?

Good luck North Star readers, and all the best for your applications!

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Karen Marks

Karen has more than 12 years of experience evaluating candidates for admission to Dartmouth College and to the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth. Since founding North Star Admissions Consulting in 2012, she has helped applicants gain admission to the nation’s top schools, including Stanford, Harvard, Yale, Wharton, MIT, Tuck, Columbia, Kellogg, Booth, Haas, Duke, Johnson, Ross, NYU, UNC, UCLA, Georgetown and more. Clients have been awarded more than 20 million dollars in scholarships, and more than 97% have gotten into one of their top choice schools.