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In March 2014, my girlfriend and I decided to ask admission consultants for help in our applications. By that moment, we still were uncertain which schools to choose at all and had absolutely no knowledge about how to write essays.
As for our background, we are average-aged for MBA students and are based in emerging market country. We worked in country-scale finance company and then parallely started our own project in the same field. We both scored 710 on GMAT and have 3.82 and 3.94 GPAs in universities that are almost unknown in the world (one of them is in top10 in our country).
We were seeking for the consulting firm for a while - read some reviews and searched their websites. Even though there were only few positive reviews and only one negative of StratusPrep, we booked initial call with Shawn, CEO of StratusPrep. What we liked was their collaborative consulting approach - both Shawn and an assigned consultant work together on your admission. Shawn constructs overall strategy of applications and controls the whole process, and an assigned consultant works with you very actively on every single part of your applications. We decided to apply to HBS, MIT, Kellogg and Duke.
We started working with Vinod, who was amazingly supportive on every part of our applications. Very soon we realized that we would have had much less chances to be admitted if we had had no consultants.
First, I had only few ideas WHAT to write in my essays (why MBA), and my girlfriend had totally NO idea what to write in her ones. In the very beginning, Shawn constructed overall strategies of applications for each school, and during our work, they both (with Vinod) were making us brainstorming to come up with good examples.
Second, we found out that we absolutely had no idea of how to write an essay - how to start, how to conduct thoughts, how to connect them, what sounded good and what sounded risky. Vinod helped us immensely in all that stuff.
Third, our english was (and unfortunately is :)) so poor that our "try essays" sounded as they had been written by children. Active and collaborative work with Vinod ended up in absolutely perfect essays (they actually looked like those in the books such as "65 Successfull Harvard Essays"band sounded at least as strong).
Forth, being non-native speakers, we had problems even with fulfilling our resumes and online applications. And here, Vinod explained many questionable moments to us and helped to formulate many points.
Finally, even though we found out much information about interviews ourselves, Vinod's mock interviews and following advices were totally priceless (I am almost certain that some of them were determinant in my success on, for instance, the MIT interview).
As for results, we were accepted in MIT, Kellogg and Duke, but denied without the interview in HBS, although I am certain that our HBS essays were totally perfect. The reason of deny was, I bet, in our relatively weak background (as one of current HBS students told us, they don't like those guys from our country who don't work in world-known companies). So, I think HBS just considered us risky applicants.
To sum up, we both think that applying with a help of StratusPrep was our best investment. Without consultants we could barely count on admission to any school in top20. I suppose that european and american people are much more skilled in writing essays, than we are (our country's universities do not demand that applicants write essays), so I don't know whether they need help from admission consultants in the writing itself. But still I'm certain that the approach of StratusPrep to admission consulting and its experience is a killer combination that would help anybody to come up with good thoughts, to formulate them and to apply to business school successfully.
Special thanks to Vinod and Shawn!
P.S.: We are totally happy!!!
I was very hesitant about using a consultant for my Round 1 applications this year but decided to speak with Shawn to gather an idea of what Stratus would be able to provide and what I would need to craft a successful application. I was sold after our initial 20-min conversation.
Stratus utilizes an extremely comprehensive appraoch that included introspection, outlining, revising those outlines, and finally drafting and revising the essays. They also prepare you for the interviews, extremely well. The best part is that Shawn is very hands-on and heavily invested in every step of the process. He actually works with you and your consultant (Amy was mine. She's fantastic!) on the essay outlines and conducts the mock interviews himself. I should also add that the essays are read not only by your consultant, but an editor, and finally, a senior consultant before they are given the stamp of approval. And this is only after you work on the content and message with Shawn. I spoke with several other consulting firms before deciding on Stratus and this methodology is truely unique and what sets it apart.
I actually received merit-based fellowships from Wharton, Columbia, and Sloan, and I know that I couldn't have done it without Shawn and Amy's help! The application process is extremely grueling and Stratus definitely helped me to put my best foot forward while maintaining my sanity. I highly recommend at least speaking with Shawn. He is THE expert in MBA admissions.
I was incredibly pleased working with Stratus prep. I used their LSAT course/consulting/and tutoring and was able to gain admission to 2/3 top law schools. I worked primarily with Michelle and Shawn and were blown away by their thoughtfulness in reviewing personal statements/resumes/asking logistical questions...etc. The process can be incredibly stressful and it was a great relief knowing I was in good hands. I honestly don't think I would have been accepted had it not been for their admissions advice. I highly recommend!
Non-Under-Represented Male in Finance
GMAT: Around 720
GPA: Under 3.0
Undergrad: Top Ivy League School
Work Exp: 5 years Investment Banking (including 1.5 years abroad)
Choosing an admissions consultant was a stressful process. I did free consultations with the founders of two different firms, and I loved both. Ultimately, I chose Stratus Prep because Shawn O'Connor is the smartest consultant I have ever encountered. He is a genius in his understanding of admissions offices and how they think about candidates.
I knew that I would work extremely hard to apply to my dream school (Wharton), but hard work is not enough in the admissions process. I needed the help of Stratus Prep to choose appropriate stories for essays, improve my resume, prepare for interviews, and help me to edit my application. I worked with Jeff Mroz (Wharton alum) and Shawn O'Connor on my application for 2-3 months before it was complete. I was amazed at the personalized attention that Jeff and Shawn provided, in addition to their encouragement and accessibility.
There were two particular situations in which Jeff and Shawn saved my candidacy.
First, I chose an interesting story to tell in one of my essays. The story is fascinating to tell in front of an audience, and I thought it was appropriate for the application. But Jeff and Shawn helped me to realize that the story did not relate to business, what I could learn at Wharton, or how I might perform in the workplace after earning my MBA. If I had ignored Jeff and Shawn's advice and chosen my first story, I don't think I would have gotten into Wharton.
Second, I rehearsed for my behavioral interview like it was the World Cup Final. Jeff and Shawn both conducted mock interviews. Although I thought my responses were solid, Shawn told me that two of my responses were awful. And they were! If I had given those responses in the actual interview, I don't think I would have gotten into Wharton. Shawn taught me how to give more effective responses that showed how I could apply lessons learned in my career to the classroom at Wharton and to my future employment.
I was particularly impressed with the attention to detail that both Jeff and Shawn showed to my application. Jeff and Shawn helped me to edit my essays, short responses, and resume, and they provided around-the-clock (late night) service as the deadline approached. They provided suggestions for word choices, phrasing, and grammar that helped to polish my application. They made me feel like we had done everything possible to put forward a great application to my dream school.
I have recommended Jeff and Shawn to many friends and colleagues over the past few years. I could not be happier with their service. They helped me to achieve one of my most treasured goals. I wanted to go to Wharton for three years, and Jeff and Shawn helped me to get there. If you are thinking about spending several hundreds/thousands of dollars on an admissions consultant, you owe it to yourself to pick the very best one. Stratus Prep is absolutely the best one.
I availed the assistance of Stratus Prep with Sheila on my b-school applications this year, and I am very thankful for her kind assistance as it is due in part to her that I was accepted to all three schools I worked with her, including Stanford GSB, Harvard Business School as well as Wharton. As an Indian engineer with a 680 GMAT, despite having attended an IIT, I knew the outlook was bleak as my profile is quite common to b-schools. My deepest gratitude goes to Sheila in addition to Shawn O'Connor who also was very helpful in the process.
I had a fabulous experience with Stratus Prep. Working with Shawn and Shaifali on my applications, I was accepted to both Harvard and Wharton (as well as the healthcare management program at Wharton), which is ideal given my background and career aspiration in the healthcare industry.
I'm really thankful for Stratus Prep since these were both definitely stretch schools for me. I had a 3.5 from a state school and a 690 GMAT.
Shawn and Shaifali were both so incredibly helpful throughout the process, very attentive, knowledgable of nuances of each school, and creative to the bet application strategy given my somewhat complicated work history.
I had a really poor experience with Stratus Prep. I was impressed by all the claims and stats on website and during sales process but in truth the company felt very new, a bit disorganized and had nothing to offer beyond proof reading. Although I was bombarded with emails and attention prior to signing up, once I did purchase the service I really felt like the love dried up. As it happened I did not gel with my consultant at all and found him to be disinterested, not engaged and really full of himself. The response times were not good, and when I tried to engage and turn things around, I hit a wall. After a really disappointing run with them first round, including receiving an email addressed to another client, I submitted two more applications round 2, and was admitted to one of them (but none with Stratus Prep). For these last two apps, I did my own research and asked friends for input. I got much better, critical feedback than I received at Stratus Prep. I clearly do not recommend and in reference to the recent Beat the GMAT posts online, there is no way they are as big as they are now claiming to be. Shawn is not running a huge company here and while I am not sure, I am guessing only been in the MBA world for a few years.
I previously worked with Stratus Prep and unfortunately will be a re-applicant this year. I applied to four schools and was not admitted to any.
Do I blame everything on Stratus Prep? No. Do I think that I wasted my money? Yes.
The truth is that my consultant was a very recent MBA grad. He was right out of Wharton when we worked together. So all he had going for him was that he had applied successfully himself. And he was a nice guy. I felt that my consultant was nice and happy go lucky - very supportive but not remotely creative or critical. I have a few friends who are grads of top schools and they could have easily given me the same level of advice - or likely better. There were many times when edits came back with typos, took longer than expected, and just did not scratch the surface of what I needed. I found that Shawn's input muddled the process and overall with the two inputs things felt confusing and disorganized. I really felt let down several times throughout the process. Yet I did not feel I had a real outlet to voice my concerns because I was up against deadlines and relying heavily on these guys.
I used Stratus for a consulting MBA app package. They basically helped me plan, prepare and proofread my application for HBS.
I got in, so that's a plus! ?
I thought they did a great job at keeping me on schedule and guiding me along the way. And I really feel that the tag team strategy they had (Shawn & consultant) is what makes these guys a great consulting firm. It was always great to get a second opinion as we moved along. The team helped me map out my application process and plan my time accordingly. I put together a personal profile of myself, and worked with a consultant to decide on what stories I wanted to tell and convey via my essays. The multiple drafts of each essay was extremely helpful and made sure I submitted my top quality work.
If you're looking for someone to keep you on track, give you solid advice, and that knows some of the tricks of the trade, I'd highly recommend them.
My thought process was: If I'm going to apply to a top school, I'm going to give it my absolute all, and take all the help I can get.
Stratus Prep did a great job with me - I was incredibly grateful to have gone to them to begin with and thought that they were worth every penny. I went into the process feeling very overwhelmed but they helped me through every step. I opted for the hourly consulting package as opposed to the total, all-in variety; I found that the hourly package was sufficient for me. I found them extremely responsive and supportive and they helped me with the content of my essays as we went through many iterations until we found the exact right mix of topics. They also have school-specific knowledge and helped me tailor my applications; I wouldn't have known how to do this otherwise. I was nervous, because I am a white male, but ended up being accepted to HBS and Wharton (and waitlisted at Stanford). I would not want to go through this process without them.
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