How I Ended Up in MBA Admissions Consulting
One of my earliest influences was my high school biology teacher, Mr. Ventura. He had so much passion for science and such a love for building connections with and tutoring his students (and as luck would have it, I needed plenty of tutoring to survive AP Bio). He was quick, funny, and witty, and he instilled in me a desire to motivate students and mentor others, the way he did me. He made teaching look like fun, and seeing the impact he had on his students certainly looked rewarding.
So when I stepped into Assumption College in Worcester, MA, I thought I wanted to be a teacher. I envisioned myself being the “cool teacher,” the teacher every student would love and look up, like Mr. Ventura was to me, kind of like how most students looked up to Robin Williams’ character in “Dead Poet’s Society”… the teacher who changes lives.
But then I tried teaching. Oops. I learned that I didn’t really love the tasks that take up 90 percent of a teacher’s day – teaching science concepts, lesson planning, and grading papers. Teaching was a no-go. So I graduated with a degree in Biology, a minor in Education, and a still-present vision to become an inspiration and mentor, but no aspirations to be a teacher anymore. What’s a guy to do?
Well, step one was to earn a paycheck. I accepted an interview at a company that made IT systems for hospitals and fought for a job in marketing (which I wasn’t entirely qualified for). Four interviews later, I had the job. I was given the opportunity to travel, and as my role matured, it took on a more consultant-like bent over the following years.
Around the same time I also started a Catholic youth group in the church in the town I was living. It grew quickly, and I found myself in the exact position I had always dreamed – inspiring high school students, motivating them to push themselves harder and “seize the day” (Carpe Diem!). We started a retreat program which blossomed into a youth leadership training program and spread to several towns across Massachusetts. My plate was full – working full time, running my youth groups and leadership trainings, and since business school was on my radar by then, torturing myself studying for the GMAT.
Why an MBA?
I wanted to go to business school to really learn strategy and marketing. I had learned aspects of it in my job, but still felt that classroom learning would help me, given that my degree is in biology and I have literally zero formal business training. And sure, consulting looked like fun. After suffering through GMAT study for over six months, I pushed my score up by over 100 points. Equipped with a 720, I was determined to aim high. I applied to five top-tier schools and was offered an opportunity to go to Cornell on a full scholarship as a “Park Fellow.” They were impressed with the leadership I had shown in my community, launching that youth program. That scholarship is truly one of the biggest blessings every bestowed on me, and has only heightened my belief that (1) good things happen to people who make good things happen for others, (2) you’ll be most successful just doing what you love, and (3) hard work really can trump raw intelligence. I mean, here I was – the kid who had to spend every day after school getting extra tutoring from Mr. Ventura, just to pass biology, who now had a 720 GMAT score and a full ride to an Ivy League school. Life is funny.
Business school kicked my ass. I mean, it was really tough. You’re thrown into this environment with a bunch of super-smart peers, all of whom are used to being top performers but are now dealing with the fact that (for some of us) there are a lot of people who are much smarter. But despite that stress, I loved my time at Cornell. I learned a lot, met some amazing people, loved the Park program that accompanied my scholarship, and even continued my work with high school students by getting involved in local high school groups.
I worked hard, ultimately did fine academically, and during my second year, served as a “Admissions Student Reader” – a group of second-year students who help the admissions committee by reviewing applications and conducting interviews. I loved that work – learning about diverse people and what drives them, hearing them describe their loves and passions and goals and dreams in their applications and interviews, congratulating them after they earned an acceptance letter and hearing them tear up over the phone. Talk about rewarding work.
I loved it so much that I continued to work in admissions even after I graduated. I took a consulting job at PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), but spent my nights and weekends doing admissions work – reviewing apps, conducting Skype interviews, contributing to admissions decisions. (If you’re wondering, yes, I have basically zero work/life balance). I worked in MBA Admissions at Cornell and at Kenan-Flagler (at UNC), but after five years of working in MBA admissions, I decided to try my luck as an admissions consultant, where I’d be able to work with candidates on their applications. I tried it on my own for a bit, saw that I had a knack for it (my first two candidates got into Stanford GSB and Wharton) and decided to join the consulting team at Stacy Blackman Consulting (SBC).
The Best of Both Worlds: MBA Admissions Consulting
By that time, I had left PwC to work for a local strategy consulting firm where I wasn’t traveling as much, so I had more time and advised a TON of candidates – at one point, I had 23 simultaneously – but I loved the work and genuinely didn’t mind staying up until 3AM editing essays and resumes. Maybe that’s weird, but I really loved it. My reputation grew as the vast majority of my candidates got into school – including some really “tough cases” – and I continued to gain more word-of-mouth referrals. So I opted to leave SBC and start my own little consulting firm. I hired a small team of really smart people, and we grew steadily over a couple of years (especially as I learned how to better market my business on Facebook). Then, after getting to know and really liking Elad Shoushan, the Ready4 CEO, I brought my team under the Ready4 umbrella. I quit corporate life and went all-in for Ready4 this past spring, where I’m now the Director of Admissions Consulting.
I continue to work with high school students, and even launched a Catholic non-profit conference this past year (AbideBoston.com) that attracted over 100 kids and raised thousands of dollars for a local soup kitchen. And now, I spend my days talking to talented, driven MBA candidates who are looking to make their lives and careers better. I’m inspired every day by the candidates I meet, and have now worked with candidates across 24 countries. And, thanks to my team of super-impressive consultants (all of whom got a top-tier MBA), I get to work and strategize with brilliant people every day as we work to help young professionals achieve the their dreams of going to a top-tier MBA program. We work so hard, but love every minute of it! Since starting my own firm, and now at Ready4, my team and I have a 96 percent success rate helping candidates get into top-tier schools. I don’t say that to brag, but I really am so proud of that stat, and I love working crazy hard every day to keep our success rate at least that high.
On a broader level, as I think about my goals and my legacy, I love knowing that, whether you’re a high school student looking to find your way, or an MBA candidate looking to outcompete the masses and get into Harvard Business School, I can help you. I’ve worked with over 5,000 teens through my youth programs, and have helped more than 500 people gain admission to a top-10 business school. I love feeling like I have a value to add to the world. I like to think that most who have had worked with me have walked away better people than they were before, and I hope, will look back on their lives and remember me as someone who played an important role in sparking their success. Just like Mr. Ventura did for me.
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