I am happy to discuss my methods in detail during a free initial consultation but the information below should give you an idea of how we might work together.
After using different ways of charging (i.e.; per school; all-inclusive flat rate, etc.) I have found that charging by the hour or package of several hours is the best way to go, both for you and me. A client simply purchases a specific amount of time (more details on this under the “Fees & FAQs” page) and I send you an updated time sheet each time I do some work for you.
Once you have purchased time with me, it is entirely up to yoy how we use it. For instance, in our sessions, I can help with overall strategy, school selection, brainstorming, application preparation, interview preparation, waitlist strategy, letters of recommendation and whatever else comes up. Some clients require assistance in all these areas while others require advide only on specific phases of the admissions process. It’s up to you.
Building a list of schools
My feeling is that if you know you are ready for graduate school you should have already done some research on the schools you might like to attend. In other words, I expect clients to come to me once they have a basic grip on what they want and where they might get it. With this foundation to guide us, I am then happy to recommend other schools and eventually arrive at a final list.
A typical admissions officer spends just a couple minutes–if that–reviewing your resume. Nonetheless, the resume is an essential part of your application as it will very likely create the first impression, much like the first time you meet someone. Particularly for business school, the resume must be loaded with accomplishments that you have quantified; generalizations or a list of your responsibilities is not of much interest to the people who will be reviewing your application. A resume is not simply a job description.
Resumes can be done relatively quickly. You send me a draft, I review it, make notes to prepare for our session and then we talk directly. After that I will spend some time, usually no more than an hour, upgrading the information on and appearance of the resume and then send it to you for your approval.
Please, please, please do not make your resume in a table format. It is extremely difficult and time-consuming (i.e.; expensive for you) for me to revise resumes when they are in a table. Please just make the resume in a regular Word file and all will be well.
I have been doing this work for nearly two decades and my experience tells me that there is no point in doing brainstorming for the sake of brainstorming. I’m sure other consultants will disagree but I work under the assumption that you don’t have loads of spare time to experiment with and you also wish to keep your costs under control. So rather than indulge in free-form brainstorming, let’s brainstorm on specific topics. Which ones? Essay prompts. There is no doubt that the essay prompts in b-school applications can be challenging and since there is no “right” answer but there is a word limit (usually a tight one) that means you might struggle to select content for your essays. My idea of brainstorming is to throw a bunch of possibilities on the page and, once externalized, assess them. It is a fact that you will be better able to assess your ideas when they are on the page rather than swirling around in your head. It is also a fact that this style of focused brainstorming will help you work more quickly and cost-effectively.
Essays, whether they be for business school or any other type of graduate program, require thought, planning and more time than you are probably imagining. They are also the area of your application over which you have the most control.
I’m always open to better ways of serving my clients but the way it usually works is:
1) You send me a draft (or outline, or even just a few random ideas), starting preferably with the “goals” essay, and I read it, write extensive questions and comments on it and make suggestions for how to improve it. I put a lot of thought into these comments and they are designed to get you thinking about the best way to present yourself to an admissions committee. In some cases, these initial drafts are a disaster and it’s better just to have a live session to talk over your ideas and presentation of them.
2) After you read my comments, you can revise the document and send it back or we can have a live session. We can do this over the phone or in a video chat. During this time you can ask questions and seek clarification and I might ask you to explain or elaborate on certain points. These discussions are essential because with both our minds working together we’ll generate new ideas that turn your essays from good to great.
3) This process of review-comment-discuss continues until the essay is complete. As for the actual writing of the essay, I can help with basic mechanics or organization but, overall, the writing has to be your own product. This is both for ethical reasons and to be sure it captures your uniqueness as a person.
Letters of Recommendation
Letters of recommendation give the admissions officers a different perspective on much of the information already in your application. Many applicants find themselves in the awkward position of having to write their own letters of recommendation or, at the very minimum, guide their referee about what to write. If this applies to you I am happy to discuss your situation and help you meet your goal.
If you have been selected for an interview that is great news–and interview prep is essential. I am happy to do interview prep and I can also refer clients to a select group of counselors I have worked with for years if you desire interview training with a complete stranger.
During the interview prep sessions we’ll run through key questions and I’ll press you for deeper explanations to probe your level of knowledge and seriousness. I’ll time your answers and make notes as we go along. After that, we’ll discuss your results and I’ll offer strategies for how to improve.
One key point about my style for interview prep: we’ll create a body of information from which you can draw an answer for any question. While there are certainly some basic questions most interviewers will ask, it is, perhaps, more important to know what you want to tell the interviewer about yourself than it is to try to predict every question he or she will ask. Likewise, it is better to spend time practicing than it is to become overly obsessive about what this year’s (alleged) interview questions are for this or that school. I find that message boards that post interview questions are are of limited use. Since you really can’t really know your interviewer, it is a better strategy to thoroughly know yourself and become comfortable improvising. Indeed, the best interviews feel more like natural conversations than rigid question and answer.
If you are wondering how to make a body of information about yourself, here’s how I recommend starting:
1. Sit down in a comfortable chair, away from noise or distraction. Have a cup of tea or a glass of wine or just breath deeply and relax.
2 Decide what you want the interviewer to know about you by the time the interview is finished — no matter what he or she asks.
3. Think about any weak points in your application. Think about them carefully, even the unpleasant ones, and become so familiar with them that they no longer worry you. Say them out loud. This will help you become comfortable discussing them; they’re just words.
4. Based on the info in Steps 2 and 3, think about what you offer to other students in the program. The deeper and more sincere you can be about this the better.
5. Remember that much of an interview comes down to “feel” or if an interviewer thinks you’d be a good fit for the program. There’s not too much you can do to control this. The best approach is simply to be prepared, relaxed and comfortable with yourself.
One final point: I find that clients can make a lot of improvement on their own by recording themselves answering questions and reviewing this recording. There is no doubt that this can be an uncomfortable experience but I guarantee that it works — and it helps keep your costs down. I can certainly guide you in our sessions but, as with sports and novice musicians, there is no substitute for practice if you are serious about being the best you can be.