The Case for Admissions Consultants:
An Interview with Sandy Kreisberg Founder of Cambridge Essay Service
HARBUS: Who does get in with a 560 GMAT?
SANDY: Ha, ha, I thought you could tell me.
HARBUS: Name some things consultants have pointed out to the blogosphere?
SANDY: That 3rd Round is really, really hard at Wharton and Stanford, and probably a bit harder at HBS; that most folks over 32 or so, who are not military, are going to have a hard time getting in to Harvard or Stanford; that Harvard is not as fond of IIT graduates from India as Wharton is; that Harvard’s recent claim that grade non-disclosure was implemented to insulate its January cohort (of beloved memory) who were, in fact, different in terms of background, etc. was a major 180 from what it was telling the January cohort at the time; that interviews at Stanford usually have zilch impact on your admit decision, while bad interviews at HBS are usually a prelude to a ding or WL.
HARBUS: How many HBS students use consultants?
SANDY: Well, the HARBUS survey said 10 percent, and my own guess is probably as many students use consultants as HBS faculty and staff use admissions consultants for their own children – in one form or another, including sending them to schools that hire consultants.
SANDY: And, that is probably higher than 10 percent.
HARBUS: What do you think HBS adcoms are looking for?
SANDY: It’s no secret undergraduate GPA counts more than they let on, as a gross metric. Although, like I said, they are willing to blink, in lots of individual cases, to their credit. If you don’t come from the most popular 50 feeder companies or organizations, you need to pop some other part of the application, like extras, or stats. If you are a regular Joe or Jane from Ivy/near Ivy/ banking/ consulting, it gets real, real hard separating the last 75 applicants on the train from the next 100 on the curb. I don’t envy the adcom making those calls. Every year, I run across 20 or so people who get dinged at HBS who seem just great to me, but I’d have a hard time kicking out 20 members of the class to make room for them.
HARBUS: You said you convince about 100 applicants a year not to apply to HBS? What makes you so sure?
SANDY: Because I try to convince 200, and of the 100 who apply anyway, none get in.
SANDY: Too old, too ordinary, no stardust, nothing driving them in, disfavored cohort (IT) to boot, deluded (owns auto detailing shop, sells residential real estate, web designer). OK, the adcoms are going to come up with one of each of those (laughing). I’m sticking with the program, I don’t mean someone who once sold residential real estate, I mean that is the current job-not that there is anything wrong with that, as Seinfeld says.
HARBUS: If you were on the adcom, what would you do about consultants, and what changes would you make in the application process?
SANDY: Nothing and nothing. I love the HBS process, and not because it is good for me, it isn’t. I’d do better if essay execution counted more, as it is, I tell lots of applicants not to bother hiring me, ‘You could make this application way better, but it ain’t going to make a difference, you deliver the package, and that is all that counts, the wrapping paper just has to have the right address.’
HARBUS: So what do you love about it?
SANDY: I think it is a very good corkscrew that gets out the cork, and the cork is mostly the stuff of your real experiences, and a slight aroma of reflection, hope, aspiration and potential.