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A great educational consultant doesn’t do the work for you. He (or she) pushes you—like a tough athletic coach—to go from good to GREAT in all aspects of your candidacy.

Lebron James has undeniable natural talent. He couldn’t be less than “good” at basketball if he shot the ball from his couch with his other hand wrapped around a Pringles tube. But if you want to be Major League, you need someone outside your own mind and body to push you to a new level.

Sammy’s application to MIT Sloan’s MBA program is an excellent example. I enjoyed Sammy’s optional personal expression essay. It was clever, well-produced, and bold. And yet it was missing something crucial.

MIT Sloan’s optional essay allows the applicant to create something original, something that reveals his or her personality.  Sammy made a video, a clever takeoff of Apple’s “I’m a Mac, and I’m a PC” commercials, explaining that he was no typical finance guy in the way that Macs aren’t typical computers. In making good points about who Sammy is, it did exactly what that essay is supposed to do, no more and no less.  AND THAT WAS THE WHOLE PROBLEM.

At Forster-Thomas, we refer to the upper echelon of elite schools as the Major Leagues of Admissions—Harvard College, Columbia Medical School, Haas B-School, Stanford Law, USC Film.  We do that for a reason.  It takes something special to make it to the major leagues.  Talent is a given.  Most people applying to those schools have talent.  Effort matters—a lot—but not all effort is created equal.  Some effort is wasted on things that don’t count.  That’s why major leaguers need COACHES.  You know, that guy on the sidelines in a suit or uniform (or in the case of Bill Belichick, a grungy hoodie) screaming at you to slide or bunt or whatever it is you do in baseball.  You need someone to take your clever essay ideas, your interesting interview responses and your competent resume from “effective” and “polished” to “authentic” and “compelling.”

In Sammy’s case, his optional personal expression essay was missing that one, teeny-tiny, indispensable ingredient: HEART. While the Forster-Thomas crew enjoyed and nodded at the video when we saw it, a day later, none of us could recall a thing about Sammy—other than the fact that he’s not a PC.  And that is a BIG, BIG problem. If I don’t remember Sammy, neither will the adcoms.

While Sammy had worked with us on his applications to other schools, he did MIT Sloan on his own.  Imagine if he had had someone there to push him, to make him sweat the small stuff.  Imagine, if instead of a perfect Mac, we saw a guy who showed off two amazing things about himself like his academic ability and a great club he led. And then imagine Sammy stops. He looks down, and then back up at the camera and says, “Wait. I don’t wanna put anyone else down—not PC or anyone.” And then he reveals something not so great—like his struggle organizing thoughts, a truth about his insecurity about transitioning from law to business. And then he asks MIT for help giving him the life his really wants. And maybe he cuts to this part when he’s “backstage,” setting everything up. See?  It not only takes it past the clever “Mac/PC” commercial, but it humanizes him. Now MIT doesn’t just like Sammy. MIT remembers Sammy. We all do.

That’s what a strong, experienced, savvy educational consultant does. He or she takes you from D-League to Major League—by helping you find and express your HEART, not just your resume.  Odds are, Sammy considered doing something personal and warm—but rejected the idea. Without someone to give him permission to get real, he backed off because admissions is scary. The more your put yourself on the line, the harder it is if you get rejected.

You may be Superman, but you have Kryptonite buried somewhere in your candidacy, and it will suck all the power out of it if you let it.  We all have a blind spot—you, me, everybody.  We all need a coach to be great.

I have a confession to make: I have a bit of an ego.  That is why it is extra hard for me to admit what I’m about to admit: I’m not a Mac.  I’m not slick, or polished.  I wake up every day and ask myself, “Was I a phony yesterday? Does anyone really care what I have to say today?”
That fear is not “slick” or “polished”—it’s just the truth.  My media consultant, Hank, otherwise known as my personal pain-in-the ass, is my secret weapon that never lets me merely be good. He helps me be great. That’s why I hire him.  And that’s why you should hire us, or another educational consultant that is the right fit for your personality and needs.

You worked hard to give yourself a shot at a top program or school.  Why settle for second best in your candidacy and your applications, the final and most telling stage of the entire process?  That’s why you need a GREAT educational consultant.  The good news is, I have a couple suggestions about where to start looking.  HECA, IECA … I’m looking at you!

—Auntie Evan

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