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.

10 replies
  1. David
    David says:

    You and Ms. Blackman have formed quite a mutual admiration society:

    * * * * * * *

    David, I’m glad you brought this up. Because I’m always talking about how blogging is a great way to make meaningful connections with people. And I didn’t know of Stacy until I saw that she linked to my blog. But I check out all the blogs that link to Brazen Careerist, and I was really excited with Stacy’s. I knew right away she’d be full of interesting information.


  2. Berkeley Student
    Berkeley Student says:

    Berkeley! 3 e’s! You should be able to spell the name of the school you hope to attend ;)

    * * * * * * * *

    Thanks :)

    I changed it.


  3. Caitlin
    Caitlin says:

    You are right that one thing people need to consider is the connections they will be making with other MBA students in their class. However, this varies hugely by industry, not just the business school you attend.

    I know someone who did an MBA at a very highly regarded business school (but outside of the United States). The people in his class were of excellent calibre and have turned out to be leaders of business and industry. All well and good, except that they mostly working in the world of banking, finance, telecommunications and so on. He works in the music and entertainment industry where relatively few people do MBAs. So, whilst he made some good connections with people at university, they are not particularly useful for him as professional connections. He learnt a lot doing his MBA and feels it has been useful for his career. However, he says that the return on investment on his time and tuition fees has not been as great for him in his chosen profession as it would have been had he been working in a more traditional industry.

    The other thing is that in many places, universities make a great deal of money out of foreign students. For example, I know of another man who did an MBA at what is probably Australia’s top business school the Australian Graduate School of Management (AGSM). Australia is a very popular place for students from Asia to study as it offers a high quality of education at competitive prices and a chance to be independent from their families and practise English. My friend is in no way racist and on a personal level he was more than happy to engage with the foreign students. However, it was not without misgivings on a professional level.

    The issue is that the foreign students were usually young, straight out of their undergraduate course and without industry experience. More importantly, they almost always leave Australia after graduation and the expiry of their student visas and build a career in their home countries. My friend was torn because he was often put into group work or paired with young foreign students, which was fine occasionally, but he felt that when he was paying $50,000+ he should be making an effort to make useful professional connections for his future career in Australia.

  4. Monica
    Monica says:

    Hi Penelope. I really like your blog and read it every day. Every once in awhile you write things that annoy me, but that’s fine because a lot of times you say things I completely agree with. I also love the twentysomething column (I’m 23 and work full-time) and I’m excited about your new business venture with Ryan.

    I go to the Chicago GSB (part-time), so I’m a little passionate about this topic. I must agree with the five things listed above, but also say if a person has these five areas covered, they don’t need consulting services to get into a Top 10. On the flip side, if you don’t have these covered you probably have slim chances of getting in no matter who writes your application. So if you’re a great candidate but completely clueless on how to complete an application, hire Stacy. Otherwise, just fill out the application(s) yourself and save $3500. (No offense Stacy – I’m sure your business will prosper regardless of my comment.)

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