The difference between an MBA from a top school and the other schools is large. For example, one of the biggest benefits of business school is the connections you make while you’re there. So, the more superstars you go to school with the more superstars you connect with.

Another benefit that business school gives you is they bring the recruiters to you. And in this case, you’ll have a wider range of opportunities brought to you if you’re at a top school.

So it’s no wonder that people are willing to pay consultants to help them get into a top school. One of these consultants is Stacy Blackman. She went to Kellog (yes, top ten) and now owns a consulting firm that has helped hundreds of people get into top ranked business schools.

What does it take to get in? A lot of it is about personal marketing, which is what Stacy’s company focuses on. But there are some tactical issues as well. Here are five things you can do:

1. Know the general benchmarks.
Blackman says that for getting into a top school, a 3.5 GPA and a 700 GMAT score is “a nice place to be.”

2. Target schools that value your strengths.
Sometimes people are really good fit for a top school like MIT but Stanford would be a reach. For example Berkeley looks at test scores more than other schools. Harvard and Stanford look at test scores less than other schools, (although most people applying there have phenomenal scores.) Columbia emphasizes the GMAT score over the GPA.

3. Manage your work experience to have a clear trajectory.
You should be able to show that during the time you have been working, you progressed with increasing levels of responsibility, held leadership roles in diverse settings, and can list achievements.

4. Consider volunteering in the community.
This gives you an opportunity to show a range of leadership, and civic engagement. It’s also an opportunity to show commitment to your vision for where you are going. For example, if you want to go to business school to become a consumer marketing guru, volunteer to help market a local charity. Just make sure to start doing this early enough so that it doesn’t look like you did it merely for the application.

5. Show your true, best self in the application.
You want to look like an attractive candidate, for sure, but you need to look real. Stacy says too often people “try to be Joe Business School, try to say what should say instead of being who they really are. If you have something really interesting about yourself, it can reflect your originality even if it’s not in a business environment.”

To hire Stacy’s company to help you, you pay by number of applications and receive unlimited help for each application. The cost is $3250 for one application and fees go down as the number of your applications goes up. The best time to start with her is a year before you want to apply.

One lucky person will get a taste of this consulting for free – for 90 minutes. If you’d like this help, and you are considering applying within the next year, send an email to me with three sentences about why you think you could get into a top school and why you think you need help. Deadline is Sunday, May 13.