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Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Econonomist's March MBA news

I love this monthly summary from Economist. It's very helpful. March's just came out this afternoon. - Dave
News from the schools
Mar 6th 2006

BUSINESS schools are debating how to handle an emerging industry that helps MBA applicants with the ultra-competitive admissions process. For fees ranging from $50 to $3,000, admissions consultants, as they are commonly known, offer clients a range of services; from tips on essay writing and interviewing to advice on which schools best meet their needs. As a growing number of MBA candidates shell out for these services, a host of top schools worry that applications are being distorted by consultants who claim to know what a business school is looking for.

Consultants are quick to point out that their primary service is matching up clients with schools that fit their aspirations. But beyond this initial step, the consultants also provide insight into the admission preferences of different schools, and help candidates tailor their applications accordingly. Alex Brown, a former admissions officer at Wharton and now the senior admissions counsellor at Clear Admit LLC in Philadelphia, likens the process to a marketing strategy: “You’re going to have…a little different approach to each of your target audiences.”

This type of strategising seems innocuous to most business schools, but it raises the ire of admissions officials at Harvard, Stanford and Wharton. “Business school applications are not marketing exercises, they are accounting exercises,” says Derrick Bolton, the director of admissions at the Stanford Graduate School of Business. “Anything that comes between an honest and candid view of the applicant and the school is a bad thing.” Mr Bolton also believes that consultants keep exceptional candidates from standing out by taking too narrow a view of what makes a good application.

At Wharton, Thomas Caleel, wonders why applicants spend their money on consultants when they can simply call the schools they are applying to for advice. “We tell the applicants what we’re looking for,” Mr Caleel said. “And I can guarantee what we say is far more accurate than what a consultant says.”

Sanford Kreisberg, the founder of Cambridge Essay Service, disagrees: admissions officers, he says, are limited in what information they can release, and tend to be too generic. By contrast consultants, according to Mr Kreisberg, offer “insight into school preferences as to age, background, stats, pet peeves, touch points and passions.”

It is this type of information that is attracting an ever-growing number of applicants to the consultants. At Harvard Business School, a recent poll indicated that 11% of students used consultants during the admissions process. And a number of schools, seeing this as an irreversible trend, have decided to reach out to the industry. Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business, for example, coordinates an event each year for consultants to visit and learn about the school, in hopes they will steer more of the best candidates Tuck’s way.

Admissions consulting firms are also trying to make their business seem more respectable. A number of firms are taking part in the Graduate Management Admissions Council meeting this summer in San Francisco. Mr Brown of Clear Admit hopes that, over time, firms like his will come to be seen in the same light as GMAT prep courses. But Stanford’s Mr Bolton seems unlikely to have a change of opinion soon. His message to applicants who use consultants: “Don’t apply to Stanford.”

School of hard knocks

Despite having attended some of the most prestigious schools in America, under half of all players in the National Football League hold a college degree. With this in mind, the NFL and NFL Players Association have reached agreements with the Kellogg School of Management, Stanford Graduate School of Business, Harvard Business School and Wharton to offer players executive education courses in order to prepare them for their post-playing careers. Over 100 current and former players have been chosen for the programme, now in its second year.

The athletes attend a three-day session at one of the host schools, each of which focuses on a respective area of expertise. (Athletes choosing the Harvard or Wharton programmes attend two three-day sessions.) Although no degree is awarded at the end of the programme, the players are expected to act like full-time MBA students. At Harvard, players’ days are filled with classes on topics such as investing, finance, marketing and general management. In the evening they get a set of case studies as homework. Meanwhile, at Wharton, players get the ultimate back-to-school experience, living in campus housing during their stay in Philadelphia.


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