Friday, September 24, 2010

Use Simple Logic When Thinking About MBA Admissions Counselors or Other Resources

You should first read the page entitled "Are You Korean (in Korea) and Applying for an MBA Degree in the US or Europe" which is on a different page on this blog.  On the right-hand column of this blog, it is one of the choices under the heading "Pages."  Once you are done with that, then please continue here.

A friend of mine came to ask about the possibility of applying to MBA programs.  He had graduated from Seoul National University, and he had worked at Samsung Electronics for 3 years.  He scored well OVER 750 on the GMAT.  In other words, he basically had the blue-chip application up to that point.  He asked for my help.  His target schools:  Harvard, Stanford, Northwestern, Wharton.  No others, and no "easier" schools.  Uh-oh, I thought, here is the "ideal" candidate, but trying to get into the most selective schools in the U.S.

Here's what I told him.

Go around and try to interview the different MBA consultants, and make sure they pass the "smell" test.
For example, do the consultants have an MBA degree or do they have explicit, MBA admissions experience?  It would be almost impossible to understand what the bare minimum skills would be in order to gain entry, if you have no experience either in obtaining a degree or working on an admisssions committee.  Unfortunately, you can find many, many counselors that have little/no business experience, no MBA degree, or have never worked on an Admissions Committee.  Just ask yourself, "Does this sound right?"

So my friend with the credentials asked for my help, and my first piece of advice was to go around to the other counselors (just go around Gangnam station, there are many famous MBA admissions counselors there).  He went to the first place, and his opinion: 
1.  The counselers didn't have work expereince in business.  To be fair, this is the lowest of the necessary criteria.  For example, a person may have worked as an admissions officer in an MBA program.  Let's say that it is not a large negative.
2.  The counselor did not personally have an MBA degree.  Now, I have have a MAJOR PROBLEM with this.  If you have no MBA degree, and no experience as an admissions officer, how can you tell who has demonstrated skills and/or achievements worthy of admission?  Take this analogy:  if you wanted to enter into Art School or Music School, would you be comfortable if non-Artist or non-Musician evaluated your work?  No.  Very simple.

In short, if it doesn't "smell" right to you, then something is probably wrong.  In Englsih, the saying "smell" test is used when you are trying to eat a particular food.  If a food smells bad, are you more likely, or less likely, to eat it and like it?  Anyways, let's continue. 

My friend, who went to the best university in Korea (sorry Yonsei, Koryo, KAIST), worked at the most well-known corporation in Korea, and received a GMAT score in the 98th percentile, was very, very qualified, and wanted to make sure that he received advice which would actually help him in creating a portfolio that he did not already have.  That is the key:  the counselor must add to the application, and inform applicants about how to enhance the application.  If the person is not qualifed to do so, and the applicant is very qualified, you do not need sophisticated knowledge.  It is a matter of simple logic. 

That is not the usual case.  However, the advice I am giving to you is the same, ESPECIALLY FOR NATIVE KOREAN APPLICANTS.  The concept of "expert" is too easily accepted in Korea, there is an excessive following of the service/hagwon that is most famous.  If a person calls himself/herself an "expert," you are entitiled to the right to ask potential counselors about their qualifications to provide the valuable service that you may need.  In an MBA program, you will be asked to challenge statements that may or may not be true on first glance.  You should begin now by asking yourself whether or not the counselors pass your "smell" test.

The same criteria mentioned above can be used for books.  You can, and should, probably buy a book (at least one), and it is easy using (link on the right-hand column).  At the very minimum, you should make sure that the authors have the credentials to be able to give advice.  I have looked through many books (and have recommended a couple on the right-hand column).  However, I have also seen others written by authors with zero business experience, and believe that a few YouTube videos will get you to buy their book.  While I cannot explicitly say that such authors/counselors are not qualified, this type of counselor/author does not pass my smell test.  You can decide for yourself.

All the best,  and feel free to send me an email if you have any questions, is my email address, and follow me on Twitter

Good Luck.


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