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My business school application coincided with a major career shift. On a whim, I left a cushy job on Wall St. to pursue an interesting opportunity in an industry in which I’d long held a personal fascination. The MBA was my plan B (and in hindsight I’m relieved to have it as a backup).
I was confident that I was a strong candidate for many of the top programs. I had a strong GMAT score, a solid GPA from a top undergraduate business school, good work experience and recommenders that I knew I could rely on. However, I also didn’t have an X factor: I am part-Asian from a traditional background with nothing that really distinguishes me from the crowd. I knew I needed to find ways to stand out and craft some great applications while balancing relocation and a new job. Ultimately, I decided to hire an admissions consultant.
After speaking with several over the phone, I decided to go with Critical Square. While each outfit touted past results and guarantees, they gave a candid assessment of my profile and provided some really great advice. There was no time limit (“We only have 5 minutes left for this call!”), nor any pushy sales tactics or deadlines. Ultimately, I felt most comfortable with Critical Square, and in the hour or so that we spoke, I gained some valuable insight into the process that already made me rethink my application strategy.
I purchased a complete package for 3 schools, and leveraged that work for 2 additional schools for a total of five applications to top 10 programs. The results exceeded my expectations: I was interviewed at, and accepted to, four programs. Would I have been accepted to one of these programs without Critical Square’s help? Probably. But all four and with a significant scholarship to a top 3 school? Not likely.
My consultant was a tremendous resource during the entire application process. From initial brainstorming, school selection and application strategy to essay review, wordsmithing, and interview prep, he was the guiding hand that made sure I stayed on the path to success. He helped me craft a compelling and consistent story across each aspect of my application, and made sure that it was tailored to fit each school’s specific profile. What I appreciated most about working with him was his honesty. He was never afraid to tell me when an idea didn’t work, or when an essay didn’t make sense. He made sure I knew when an element could be improved upon, and made concrete suggestions on ways to do so. That rang true with everyone else I worked with at Critical Square as well as they assisted with interview prep and made sure that I was ready for the real thing.
And the results speak for themselves. I was admitted to every school that my consultant worked with me on. He delivered.
To everyone considering an admissions consultant, please be aware that the application process still requires a significant amount of personal time and effort. Critical Square will be an awesome partner along the way, but 99% of the work is still up to you. My consultant didn’t write my essays for me (nor did I want him to), but instead served as a great sounding board to help extract, polish and frame my experiences in ways that I couldn’t have done on my own. It was a marathon of work, filled with reflection and introspection that was truly daunting at times. However, it was also a personally rewarding experience. My consultant challenged me to seriously dig deep about what I’ve already accomplished and what hope to achieve in the future, which proved to not only be an enjoyable endeavor, but also a level of preparation that will pay dividends as I transition back to school and my next job search.
Go with Critical Square. You won’t regret it!
– Wharton | University of Pennsylvania
Critical Square will take your application to the next level. With their help I went from WLed at Duke in Round 1 to accepted with scholarship at Darden in Round 2. I consider Fuqua and Darden to be peer schools and wouldn’t have been nearly as successful in Round 2 without Critical Square’s help.
I originally contacted several consultants in the Spring/Summer before I was to apply to business school. After a few free consultations, I concluded that given enough time I could craft a compelling story on my own and that spending a few thousand dollars on a consultant was unnecessary. I spent months writing my essays making sure each part of my application was polished. The result? I was rejected from all the schools I applied to in round one with the lone exception being Fuqua, where I was wait-listed. I was heart broken and a little unsure on what I should do next.
After returning from a Christmas trip in the Caribbean (where I was when I received the depressing news), I spent some time weighing my options. On a Saturday- December 27th – I used the GMAT Club website to post an urgent message asking for help. I received a response from these guys in less than 30 minutes – they remembered me from our free consultation the summer before. I sent over all my Duke documentation Saturday night and we set-up a wait-list review early Monday morning. The conversation lasted almost two hours and was very in-depth. My Client Manager was blunt – he pointed out shortcomings in my application and thoroughly answered each of my questions. With Round 2 deadlines rapidly approaching, he informed me that he could only provide support on an hourly, a la-carte basis. As a military veteran who wanted a “civilian’s” perspective and given my condensed timeline, I decided to purchase the hourly package from Critical Square.
Despite the fact that I had purchased only an hourly service, Critical Square helped me come up with a detailed round 2 game-plan and redo every aspect of my application for four different business schools. Because Round 2 deadlines were less than a week away I was really pressed for time, but my Client Manager was a machine. I really don’t know when the guy slept. I worked non stop all week on my applications and every time I sent him an updated essay or short answer to review he would respond in less than two hours – regardless of the time of day or day of the week. Each response would have detailed instructions on how to further shape the essay and would often include subtle changes that really took my applications to another level. During the process, it was also reassuring to have someone with limited military experience review my application. When he didn’t understand military jargon he would call me to discuss and then we would reword the story to ensure that the key points I wanted to emphasize were obvious to the ADCOM.
The Round 2 results? I received interview invites to all four schools we applied to during that first week. I was accepted to three and received a significant scholarship to two. The only school of the four I wasn’t accepted to was Yale, where I was wait-listed. I think that was due to my terrible on campus interview. I didn’t use Critical Square for the interview prep, but wish I had.
If I could go back to last Spring I would purchase a more in-depth package from Critical Square. I’m extremely pleased to be attending Darden this fall, but I’m confident that if I had given Critical Square more time I would’ve been accepted to a top 7 school. They are a joy to work with and really understand the intricacies of what makes an application stand out in the crowd. I’ve already suggested Critical Square to several peers and would strongly recommend applicants spend the extra cash. It’s a wise investment. A few thousand dollars now might result in tens of thousands of dollars in awarded scholarships. Thanks to Critical Square – it did for me.
– Darden | University of Virginia
After a career in venture capital, I was ready for something different. But I told myself if I was going to get my MBA, it had to be worth the time and money. I had a lot of exit opportunities coming from my firm so it had to be a great program. I’ll admit, I was one of those H/S/W kids so I decided to get some help with my applications. Critical Square was there with me every step of the way. We spent a really long time digging into my experiences and deals. We pulled out details I had never really given much thought to!
They helped with everything. We kept working on my resume and essays until they were absolutely perfect. I still remember one of those email exchanges. We went back and forth about using a specific word 4 or 5 times. At the time I thought it was ridiculous but, looking back, that’s the attention to detail I chose these guys for. I don’t think a lot of people who say they’re going to go H/S/W or bust even get in, much less have the opportunity to CHOOSE where they’re headed. You guys are amazing!
– Harvard Business School
When I first started learning about the business school admissions process, I decided to seek help from consulting firms despite some initial hesitancy. I was still early in the process but I figured it was good to speak with experts sooner. I spoke with three different consulting firms and it was clear within the very first call that Critical Square would meet my needs the best. I was still a year or so away from applying but I realized I wanted help early on in the process to make sure I was on the right path. I chose Critical Square’s Discovery service and we got to work. Over the next week, my Client Manager and I worked to assess my candidacy from top to bottom. We figured out what my strengths were and where I needed to develop further. I am so glad I got that advice and feedback when I did because if I had gone to them right before applying, I would only have to work with what I had. This gave me the opportunity to build a stronger profile, identify which schools might be a good fit for me, and create an action plan for the next few months. My Client Manager stayed in touch with me long after our work had ended and was there to answer my questions.
So when it came time to work with an admissions consultant on my actual applications, the choice was simple and I was excited to be kicking things off. The main reason behind my selection was that my consultant at Critical Square didn’t follow a structured formula and didn’t time track every second of our conversation. They were a lot more relaxed, open, honest, and holistic in their approach rather than speeding things during our discussions or fitting me to some stale formula.
I worked with them on every major portion of my application from developing my unique story to prepping my recommenders to my resume and essays all the way to interview prep. Coming from an engineering background, I was a bit worried about my recommendations but having the recommender packet Critical Square helped me develop really facilitated the process and gave my recommenders a lot more insight into not only what I needed from them, but also answered their questions. They’re busy and this was obviously a time consuming task for them but they appreciated the preparation and the guidance. Equally important, my consultant put in a lot of effort and detail in identifying areas of improvements for my resume. I was very impressed with the final version of my resume as we were able to present my work profile in a consistent manner and highlight my best achievements. The component we spent the most time with was my essays. The consultant gave me very good pointers in doing some deep reflection to figure out the best topics to write about and also offered some honest remarks on my content, writing style, and presentation through every iteration. The latter really gave me a snapshot of my weak areas and also opportunities to present my ideas coherently and concisely.
All the hard work paid off when the interview invites started rolling in. The last area of my admissions process was the interview preparation. The mock session was difficult and tailored. The consultant prepared a list of questions that were applicable to the schools I was applying to and conducted an interview over phone which simulated my real interview. After the interview, we discussed areas where I did well and areas where I could reflect more and answer better. After the real interview, I realized how valuable that session was!
My overall experience with Critical Square has been great. I discovered a lot of things about myself along the way securing a spot at 6 out of the 7 schools to which I applied. I highly recommend new applicants to give Critical Square a chance and I am positive you will not be disappointed!
– Harvard Business School
Critical Square crushed it for me. If you are looking for a consultant, go to these guys. They are the real deal. I cannot emphasize this enough – they rock.
I’m from a non-traditional background and didn’t have many connections or insight into traditional business sectors. As a result, I didn’t really know people who had gone through the MBA process or who were familiar with it to bounce ideas off of or to review my narrative/pitch/story. I needed an independent audit of my materials from someone intimately familiar with top MBA programs about my chances, my application, and just general pointers.
There are some higher-end packages on the market where the consultant will hold your hand and walk you through the process. I didn’t want that for two reasons: 1. I couldn’t afford it and 2. I felt confident in my narrative and didn’t want someone to try and change that. So I was looking at packages where the consultants would review my materials and help smooth out the rough edges.
I called up most of the major consulting services and spoke to some really insightful and smart people who I am sure are on their A-game and will be able to help someone out. However, I think this process is not just about finding someone who is competent, but also about finding someone who you connect with and who understands your background, story, and future and what/why you are going to business school. Ultimately, I got that connection with Critical Square when we spoke and emailed. Frankly, I feel lucky to have rung them up. My Client Manager’s guidance on not just the application, but about industries and business school life in general was invaluable.
I’ll break this down into three sections: work product; timeliness; and attitude.
Work Product: Obviously the most important factor. I’m going to use “crush” a lot, because that’s the best way to describe it without going into expletives. They crushed it. My Client Manager brought out the best in the story and experience I was trying to capture. Deleting a clause here, adding an adjective here, sprinkling some business school jargon here, he helped my essays flow better and convey my message clearer. I’ll be honest: despite having already finished my essays, some of them were weak. Critical Square was like steroids, my consultant helped strengthen my essays.
Also, throughout the process, my Client Manager was honest with me. If something sounded like BS or fluff, he would call me out on it. He also explained why he suggested changing X from Y and how it could help my case. I definitely appreciated the realness and candor.
Looking back at my application, substantively it didn’t change. However, in terms of execution, they are killers. I wouldn’t have been able to crush it without them. I knew that the schools I was applying to were extremely competitive and although I felt confident in my pitch, I knew execution would be key.
Timeliness: Some Asian applicants have asked me about response time from a different time zone. However, their response time is amazing. There even came a point where I was considering taking a new job and asked my Client Manager for his opinion – I got a response from him within minutes laying out pros, cons, and how it fit into my narrative. I was blown away by the thoroughness and promptness of the response. He was invested in my success. I never had to worry about getting feedback from him on an application. For example, he had to travel internationally one week, but he was still emailing at his breakneck speed. Great customer service.
Attitude: Picking a top tier consultant is a lot like picking a top tier business school: you’ll get a similar quality of product, but you won’t get the same experience. I felt like my Client Manager understood my vibe and reason for an MBA better than any other consultant. He crushed it for me. When we were locking down the contract I asked to only work with him and he obliged willingly. I felt that if I’m paying for a consultant, I want a consultant to review my materials, because their time at elite MBA programs and selective jobs gives them a different perspective. That’s how Critical Square works.
He also provided advice on business school life and culture, and how different industries shape out. For someone without a lot of business connects, this was incredibly useful. After I received my admits, I was torn over two schools. My Client Manager told me to sleep on it, but to give him a call afterwards to think it over. Even after our engagement had completed, he was still invested in me. Seriously, he CRUSHED it.
Bottom Line: Do I think I would have gotten into a school without them? Maybe. Do I think I would have felt as confident about getting into my top choices without them? Definitely not. If you are considering a consultant, I highly, highly, highly, recommend Critical Square.
– Yale School of Management
After having read profile after profile on the forums, I knew there wasn’t anything particularly wrong with my application. I was a bit on the older side but there were no flags. But, that said, I read some amazing profiles too. I figured having a little help – ok, a lot of help – was probably a good idea. I chose another firm to work with on my Round 1 applications – after all, they seemed to have good reviews. It was a costly mistake – 0 for 8 in Round 1 with the Top 15 schools (not even one interview invite).
After a demoralizing Round 1, I decided to take the advice of a trusted acquaintance and utilize the services of Critical Square for Round 2. Hands down the best decision of my life!
Critical Square helped identify where I had went wrong with my Round 1 apps – mainly focusing on my career goals and objectives. At 31, my professional experience had been mainly in Financial Services and Consumer Products, but both heavy in business/data analytics/operations. That said, my story in Round 1 focused on venture capital and finance. Both were far-fetched given my lack of any direct work experience in those specific job function(s) and lack of the tools needed to have a shot at attaining these goals. Critical Square wasn’t afraid to call me out on these problematic issues. So, we honed in on my best skill-sets, rather than more general industry experience, and crafted my Round 2 apps to highlight these skill-sets and choose career goals that would incorporate them. Looking back, not only were my Round 2 applications better in the stereotypical ways (better resume, better essays, etc.), but they were also more “me”. My consultant forced me to dig deep into what made me who I am. What I brought to the table. He didn’t just package some common story up with a bow and throw it across the wall. We really worked hard to figure out that specific aspect that set me apart. I hadn’t thought to ever look at my story that way and, without my consultant, I never would have.
At the end of the day my consultant read through the B.S. and never sugar-coated his commentary…this direct and honest feedback is invaluable. They write comprehensive reviews of your essays and have great “adcom” perspective. It was hard work – when a consultant pushes you to think harder or rips apart your essays, it means more work. A lot of it. So if you’re looking for someone to pat you on the back, fix some grammar, and send you on your way, this is definitely not the firm for you. In the end, the results speak for themselves.
While my application journey was a rocky road, I did considerably better in Round 2. Of the 4 top 15 schools we applied to together, I was invited to interview at 3 of them resulting in 2 acceptances. I’m heading to the Bay Area this fall and I am really excited to be starting this next chapter!
– Haas | Berkeley
After going through all the hoops to get sponsored by my company to go to graduate school, I thought the MBA application process would be a breeze. How wrong I was! Applying to five Top 10 programs in Round 2 became an overwhelming process that left me unsure of how to tackle the series of essays that would be the defining aspect of my application.
Critical Square was with me from the very beginning to help me refine my resume, brainstorm essay topics, and even reconsider whether or not to retake the GMAT. My admissions consultant invested a significant amount of time to get to know me on a personal level and pull out insights about my application that I had not even considered. This personal touch was evident in just how quickly I would receive incredibly detailed feedback soon after submitting each of my essay drafts. My drafts often came back to me with substantial notes and suggestions, but the edits always kept true to who I am and compressed my thoughts into an impactful story. At the end of the process, I felt confident that my application was the strongest it could be and had articulated the compelling reasons why I deserved a spot at each of my respective schools.
In the end I was invited to interview at all five of the programs I applied to and knew Critical Square’s preparation was a key reason why. I could not be happier to be attending Haas this fall!
– Haas | Berkeley
My business school admissions journey was not easy. In fact, it was two years of hard work, disappointment, and uncertainty. However, it was also an incredible learning experience and tremendously rewarding. Looking back, I only have one real regret, which is that I did not work with Critical Square from the beginning.
Growing up, I had been a competitive tennis player — I played through the juniors and in college and professional events. After attending a top 25 public university, I spent two years working in equity research and consulting and then left the finance world to pursue professional tennis aspirations. I discovered a real passion for coaching and worked with competitive junior players for the next couple years. From coaching, I transitioned to entrepreneurship, starting my own sports consulting, sponsorship sales and activation, and athlete/event marketing business. Nearing the end of my twenties, I decided to pursue bigger challenges and greater intellectual fulfillment outside of sports and joined the business development team at a rapidly growing, late-stage startup in the digital marketing space. Though I had been successful in a number of disciplines, translating my disjointed work history into a compelling business school application proved no easy task. I focused all of my attention on the GMAT, upon which I did well, and I hired a number of consultants as the round 2 deadline approached, thinking that I could circumvent some of my uncertainty by throwing money at the problem — big mistake. My high-priced, well-known consultants had no idea how to synthesize my story effectively. They hastily inserted a few facts and metrics into my essays and helped me churn out some mediocre-at-best applications, resulting in two wait lists and ultimately zero acceptances. I was disappointed and momentarily considered giving up, or at least targeting part-time programs exclusively. Having been close to getting into some great programs, I decided to give it another go and had the incredible good fortune of discovering Critical-Square through a blog post. From my initial conversation, the experience with Critical Square was head and shoulders better than with any previous consultant I had worked with.
The differences were obvious. Most of the consultants I had worked with or spoken to focused on the weaknesses of my application: my age (now 30), non-linear work history, and difficult to attain/justify career goals. I always left our consultations/initial conversations feeling like my chances of getting into good schools were grim and without any sense of direction or of a cohesive strategy that highlighted my strengths. While my case manager at Critical Square acknowledged that there would be challenges associated with my story, he was positive and focused on the aspects of my story he liked. More importantly, he immediately pointed out elements of my background that he felt had been underutilized and fit well into a larger narrative. I chose Critical Square based on their enthusiasm, confidence, and ability to articulate what they thought they could do with the “raw material” I provided.
The fact that my case manager was knowledgeable, experienced, and confident enough to immediately begin to synthesize a strategy that we both believed in did not mean our collaboration was easy. In fact, I found that I had to work much harder with the staff at Critical Square than with any of the previous consultants — I would say the thing that they did best was to tolerate mediocrity less than I did, which was no small feat. In having me download from memory all of the relevant details from my professional and academic background onto paper, they were relentless, pushing me farther than I would have thought possible. We explored every stretch at an academic institution, every extra-curricular activity, and every job with an extraordinary attention to detail, something profoundly more extensive than anything I had encountered, but it was their insistence on getting everything out that would set the stage for our future success.
My case manager maintained this commitment to excellence at every stage, overcoming push-back and frustration from me on numerous occasions. He pushed me to select better recommenders, conduct more informational interviews with students, student body leaders, and alumni, and participate in more campus and class visits. The MBA admissions process is arduous, and it is only because of Critical Square that I now understand what a great application looks like — the payoff of the partnership with my case manager became evident as I completed my first essay drafts. By motivating me to dig deep into my past and approach researching schools and collecting experiences/talking points with the same tenacity that I had approached the GMAT, I began to see the mountain of raw data refined into concise, compelling, and effective writing. I had done all of the work myself, but what I saw in front of me could never have been achieved without the collective expertise of the staff at Critical Square to show me how to allocate my time and efforts.
Armed with all of this information, the essay writing process was far easier. My previous consultants had advised me to stay away from using too many words to describe things and encouraged me to insert facts and metrics wherever possible, but this is only part of the truth. Without spending time really considering every step of one’s life and career journey, conducting career/goal research, talking to people, and visiting schools the metrics and specifics are just clutter and do little to make the essays more persuasive and forceful. I cannot emphasize the importance of this enough and how regrettable it was to have wasted time alone and with other consultants without this in mind. Moreover, my case manager displayed incredible patience in reworking all of my essays until I felt we had assimilated all of the facts and metrics into my writing in a way that did not compromise the flow of the narrative.
When I finally submitted my applications, I can honestly say that I was at peace with the fact that I had done everything I could do to further my candidacy.
Even after all of the hard work, I was not particularly optimistic. The disappointment of the previous year was still fresh in my mind, and I just wanted to get into one of the six schools I applied to. In fact, I only applied to two top ten schools. My top two choices were Columbia and Wharton, and I received word that Columbia wanted to interview me only a few weeks after I submitted the application. I have always been fairly confident in interviews, and I did not expect to get too much out of the practice sessions with my case managers. I could not have been more wrong. Their process of having me tell my story a few times and getting me more comfortable with the transitions on my resume was incredibly valuable, and every time we went through a prep session something new came to light – the logic behind a decision, wording that I wanted to stay away from, a subtle tie in to something from my past. By the time we had finished, I had mapped out a story that replaced disjointed clutter with a linear, well-thought-through career progression that led to my targeted roles with a gap just large enough for an MBA degree to bridge.
I selected an interviewer through Columbia’s web portal and completed the interview a few days later. About thirty-six hours later, I got the call — I was accepted into the class of 2018 of my dream school and am moving to NYC in a few months. I received interview invites from Yale and Michigan and a ding from Wharton, and I withdrew the rest of my applications. I can honestly say that I would not be going to Columbia next Fall if it were not for my case manager and the staff at Critical Square. Had I gone with Critical Square from day one, I would have saved myself thousands of dollars, tremendous disappointment, and a great deal of time. More importantly, our collaboration and the guidance of the staff gave me an opportunity to really evaluate my goals and ambitions, understand myself better as a professional, and learn life-long resume writing, interviewing, and business skills.
Applying to a top school is daunting – I was always asking myself if I was good enough or if I would get in. With a background as an equity research analyst for a decently well-known bank with an average GMAT score and a good undergrad background, I knew there wasn’t anything wrong with my profile. But I didn’t feel there was anything particularly strong either. Pretty vanilla. I felt my odds of getting into a top MBA program were pretty good but the elite programs? That was a different story. My dream school was Stanford and getting in would be no walk in the park.
I initially didn’t plan on using an admissions consultant for my Stanford application. I was going to sign up for a couple of free consultations with two or three firms to get some thoughts on my profile before giving it a go on my own. That all changed when I had my free consultation with Critical Square. There were two things that stood out to me. While everyone agreed I wasn’t a shoe in by any means for Stanford, Critical Square was the only firm that still supported my goal. We talked a lot about risk and strategy, but they brought my hope back. And our call went beyond the stats and we honed in on my story. Simply put, I was told my goals of becoming a tech product manager were inadequate and weak. I had spent a lot of time researching them and to hear that caught me by surprise. Rather than end the conversation there, we continued to explore my motivations and that really got my attention.
A few days after completing all of the free consultations that I signed up for, I decided that some extra help on my story wouldn’t be such a bad idea after all. Especially since I was just assigned a new project at work that was going to limit the amount of time I had to dedicate to my applications. The free consultation gave me a lot of confidence in Critical Square’s ability to help me with my story so I decided to pull the trigger. I ended up purchasing the Comprehensive package to make sure we did everything together. As they say – in for a penny, in for a pound.
Things got off to a bit of a rocky start at first. My project at work was turning into a giant drain on time that should have been spent on my application and the stress was mounting quickly. I didn’t make enough of an effort to prepare for the strategy calls that really kickoff the process and my client manager wasn’t afraid to call me out on it. Looking back, I really needed that. I guess I thought the process would be easier – auto pilot almost. I was corrected – quickly. My consultant pushed me every step of the way but he was always a part of the solution – never the problem. The advice he gave really shaped my application – especially the annoying “What matters to you most and why?” prompt. I was challenged to take some risks in my response since playing it safe with Stanford usually results in a ding. My team’s comments on my essay drafts pushed me to be more expressive and vulnerable in my writing. I ended up writing about a magazine article I read on technology reuniting a family in Africa separated by war. It was crazy to me how many feelings I would be sharing with my consultant and the admissions committee in my essay response.
When I got the call from Stanford that I was in, I did a quick dance around the office and then immediately sent a text to my consultant to let him know the good news. He played such a big part in my success, and I don’t think I could have done it without him. From my free consultation to submitting my application, Critical Square was amazing to work with. Their professionalism and ability to understand me as a person kept me sane during the application process and brought out the best of me in my essays. I would highly recommend working with them.
Having grown up, attended school, and worked in the same city for my whole life, I had never dreamed that I could have been admitted to two top international business schools – IESE and INSEAD – with a 100% success rate. And when I had only slightly more than 1 month to prepare.
Given I “thought” that I already had my essays frameworks in mind, I chose to enroll in Hourly services with Critical Square. However, my consultant still tried to understand my complete background and objectives to sort out the differentiating elements in my life. It turned out to be a detailed diagnosis of not only my drafted essays, but my MBA objectives and even my life goals. It was so much more than just sending your essays in an email and getting back an edited draft. It was a truly collaborative process that forced me to rethink quite a few things. He even stretched his schedule so that I could still manage to enjoy a 1.5 week vacation during the application period!
I am really thankful to Critical Square for enabling me to achieve a goal I could hardly have completed on my own. Their care for their clients even extended after our engagement. My consultant was very keen on following up my application results and arranged a Skype con-call to discuss my pre-MBA career arrangement once the results were released. His insights into the roles and industries that would be open to me and the ones which might make the most sense for my goals were invaluable. I’ll be attending INSEAD and I could not be more happy with these results!
When I first started the process, it was a tough decision to decide whether or not to hire a consultant and, if I did, who to work with. I had countless conversations with several of the firms out there. However, after my first 1:1 session with Eddie, it became quickly obvious that Critical Square was definitely the right decision. The expertise Eddie brought to the table was amazing – he was so knowledgeable about the admissions process end to end as well as the programs I was applying to. He even provided tips and recommendations for things I would never have even considered!
The tools and overall approach that Critical Square had for me were clearly tailored to my needs and background. Eddie spent countless hours with me (much more than I expected!) making sure that my application truly conveyed my story and no one else’s. Even when I thought we made significant progress and figured we were ready to submit, Eddie took it a step further to ensure my application would end up in the right pile. The process was difficult and working on essays at night after work or during the weekend was the last thing I wanted to do but Eddie was right there every step of the way. When I got the call from Kellogg, it was a dream come true! I am super glad I chose Critical Square and I really appreciate everything Eddie and the team did – it made all the difference and I am happy to give them an A+ on my review!
– Kellogg | Northwestern
I found the support I received from Critical Square to be invaluable in my MBA applications. When I first spoke to Bhavik and the team I was feeling daunted, if not overwhelmed, by the process. I knew that I wanted to study an MBA and had the right credentials but didn’t really know how to go about deciding where to apply much less what it would actually involve. The plethora of sites giving advice online only made my confusion and anxiety worse.
It was a great relief to speak to someone who had been through the process many times before and was able to give direct and candid advice as well as reassurance when I needed it. We discussed my options and the criteria that are important when considering which business schools to apply to and came up with a list that would help me with my post-MBA goals. We chose a mix of programs and I didn’t feel like I was being advised to apply to safer programs. Bhavik made sure we included stretch programs – as he put it, “You only do this once. If you don’t apply, you’ll never know!” This pattern of helpful and practical support continued throughout the application process from how to choose the right recommenders to knowing what to expect from my interviews and stood me in good stead throughout.
Things have worked out even better than I had hoped! I was accepted into all three schools to which I applied and I am currently deciding whether to attend Berkeley Haas (my top choice) with a scholarship or Michigan Ross where I have been offered a full fellowship. To say I am delighted by this outcome is an understatement!
– Haas | Berkeley
I had the absolute pleasure of working with Bhavik from Critical Square when applying to several top-10 MBA programs. From the beginning, he took time to critically analyze and understand my unique candidacy in a holistic way. Bhavik had tremendous knowledge and insights into the admissions process and knew the unique strengths and attributes of the top MBA programs. He helped to refine my goals and develop a coherent story for my application and then worked diligently to provide clarity and feedback to take my applications to the next level. The best part of working with Critical Square was that, unlike other consulting firms, he continued having phone conversations after the initial assessment call, which helped answer my questions without ambiguity throughout the process. Overall, I was accepted by a top-10 MBA school of my dreams and I have to thank Bhavik and the team at Critical Square for helping elevate my application to a successful tier!
– Ross | University of Michigan
Hire these guys. Seriously – do it. You won’t regret it. I came to Critical Square because my friends at the firm I worked for had used them and were heading off to some amazing programs. I signed up for a free consultation and Bhavik took it from there. Given my background, he assigned me to John and made sure he and I spoke before I signed up anything. It was really transparent and I can’t say the other firms I spoke to were that forthcoming. I could see why Bhavik had partnered me with John – he understood my background and work experience better than I did. He also wasn’t afraid to call BS when he saw it. The entire process was professional and thorough and even my recommenders noticed. I’m excited to be starting at Wharton this fall and I wanted to thank John and his team for helping me get there!
– Wharton | University of Pennsylvania
Critical Square delivered. I came to them two weeks before most R2 deadlines with the holidays right around the corner. I hadn’t done anything except take my GMATs and skim a couple of forums late at night. I realized I had no idea what I was doing. I was assigned to Eddie and he laid out an aggressive plan. Even though we were racing against the clock it never showed once. I sent Eddie more emails than I probably should have but he responded to each one quickly and thoroughly regardless of the fact it was Christmas. Two weeks and four applications was really hard but, with Eddie’s help, we knocked it out. He made it so easy – he really helped me think through things. I’m starting at Booth this fall and, looking back at my applications, I know I wouldn’t be here without Eddie and Critical Square. You guys rock!
– Booth | University of Chicago
I thought my essays were good. No, actually, I thought they were great. I had no idea! I’m so glad I had Critical Square take a look at my essays – they were amazing! The comments were much more than just grammar. They helped me re-imagine the structure and present myself in a really exciting way. Those essays played a huge role in getting me into my dream school. Thanks Critical Square!!
Being invited to interview was like a dream come true. I had been waiting for weeks and getting the email was a huge load off my shoulders. After the excitement, however, came the anxiety. I have never been very good at interviews and my nerves get the better of me. It had also been quite a while since I had interviewed back in undergrad. I figured a little practice couldn’t hurt so I started looking around and found Critical Square. The experience I had with them not only got me into bschool, but also prepared me for my internship interviews during my first year. It was tough and they did a great job. Before I had my interview, I had to speak to Bhavik and share my story and application. He didn’t ask any questions or probe anything, just made notes and explained the process to me. After that, I scheduled my mock interview with the consultant assigned to me and five minutes into our session I realized what Bhavik had been looking for in our initial conversation. My consultant started with a couple of easy questions to get my feet wet and then the gloves came off. He honed in on weaknesses in my application that I didn’t even realize existed! The detailed report he sent afterwards was extremely helpful. I rocked that interview and I was shocked at how similar the real thing was to my mock session.
My GPA really concerned me and my transcript included a couple of grade related probations. The rest of my profile was pretty average with a couple of cool things but it wasn’t enough to make up for my undergrad transcript. Critical Square had me approach it head on. We didn’t put it in an optional essay but wrote about it as the subject of a full essay. I wasn’t too sure of the approach but my consultant was patient and persuasive in his justification and I trusted him. It worked! It came up during my interviews but, between the essay and the extensive prep, I was ready to address it. I really thought my undergrad would keep me from getting a top ranked MBA but that was before Critical Square got involved!
– Tuck | Dartmouth College
Critical Square was one of the best decisions I’ve made. Admissions consulting isn’t cheap and I wanted to make sure I hired the right firm. I’d shortlisted it to a few and went with Critical Square because they really cared and were excited to help me. All of the companies I had shortlisted had the expertise I was looking for but the vibe is what made the decision for me. The entire process was painless and fun even though it was challenging at times. I got some pretty harsh truths thrown my way. Some I didn’t see coming, some I had known but had chosen to ignore. It was during those conversations I was glad I chose Critical Square. My consultant was candid and honest but he was my friend and advisor, and I knew I could trust him. Thanks for being awesome John!
– Darden | University of Virginia
I was restricted to two schools due to location and only one school was my top choice. I just didn’t want to take any chances with my application and spoke with all the consultants out there. Out of 11 consultants I spoke with, I chose four. I opted hourly services with all of them to make sure I can control my spending for the essays. I submitted the final work product to Bhavik just to make sure. I was very surprised that he ripped it all apart and gave me a very simple and clear outline. I liked his approach of just not following the “MBA Application Recipe” by writing things for the sake of checking things off.
His goal was to make my application as authentic as possible and above all something that I am comfortable with talking about in any setting without any preparation. It is very true that only the right consultants can be helpful. I am glad I finally got the right one. I also used the interview prep package and it was helpful to have my ideas bounced off of two consultants. I got admitted to the school of my choice….Critical Square helped me through it and I doubt my application would have been as strong as it was if not for them…mainly Bhavik. You won’t go wrong with Critical Square!
– Booth | University of Chicago
Given my plans to apply to MBA programs in 2016 / 17 I used Critical Square for their Discovery Package to assess my profile and develop a game plan for the next couple of years. I found the service to be of exceptional quality. The initial phone consultation gave me a chance to introduce myself and ask whatever questions I had pertaining to admissions, the GMAT exam, and the MBA process in general. I instantly developed a good relationship with the consultant as he covered more than areas for discussion than what other consultants of equal firms offered. The consultant was able to provide me with a balance of detail and advice for questions or concerns I had to help me move forward.
The second phone consultation was an even more in-depth conservation which we had a little while later. This allowed me to provide enough background about myself with regards to work experience, leadership roles, academics, etc. The consultant asked specific questions regarding my goals and why I wanted to do an MBA. More than the consultant, this was of a very helpful service as it allowed me to measure and review my existing profile from various angles, determine where I stood relative to other applicants, and how I fared with regards to admissions at potential schools of my interest. The report prepared by the consultant after the phone call was given me within a couple of days and it provided a very detailed analysis of my profile as well as how to carve a path ahead so I can better position myself when the time for applications is near.
Overall, I had a great experience with Critical Square. The consultants are readily available to answer any questions and also the quality of service provided so far has been up-to mark and superior. No matter the stage one is at with regards to MBA pre-planning process, I definitely recommend working with Critical Square!
– Discovery Package Client
I was referred to Critical Square by a friend of mine at another bank. I’d been thinking about hiring an MBA consultant for a while but after speaking to a few different firms, I didn’t feel confident that they could help me. I wanted the help and expertise but I wanted to feel comfortable with the company I chose and feel like they really got me. Well, after speaking with Bhavik during the free consultation, I was impressed! He not only understood where I was coming from, but also where I wanted to go and he could articulate it better than I could! He got me. He took the time to ask the right questions and his insights were spot on.
After we spoke, he put me in touch with the consultant that would be the best fit for me. John and I hit it off right from the start. He was honest – brutally so at times – but he was my partner through the process and I knew he had my back.
I worked with John on four schools: Kellogg, Booth, Columbia, and Stern. I got interviews at three and acceptances from two! I’m glad my friend recommended CS to me – I honestly wouldn’t have been able to do this on my own. The best part wasn’t just that I got into my top choices. It was that the entire process was FUN! I enjoyed talking to John and working with him through the applications. He was always right there when I needed him! I’ve stayed in touch with him and he’s been awesome with giving me little tips and tricks about business school too.
I’ve recommended Critical Square to a lot of my friends and that’s the strongest testimonial I can give!
– Kellogg | Northwestern University
Every admissions consulting firm I talked to told me my chances of getting into a top bschool were slim because of my entrepreneur’s profile. They explained schools might say they liked entrepreneurs but generally they were hesitant to accept any. Critical Square was different. They didn’t tell me it would be a piece of cake, but they understood why I wanted to get an MBA. During the free consultation, Bhavik put forward some pretty creative approaches to the application and they ended up paying off! I’m heading off to Haas this fall and I can’t wait! Heading out west to the Bay Area was my only goal and Critical Square got me there!
– Haas | University of California, Berkeley
Male. Asian. IT. Consultant. I thought I didn’t have a chance. I’d been browsing the forums for a while and what I read wasn’t comforting. I decided I needed help and I figured I would hire a consultant to help me. But, being a consultant myself, I wanted to make sure I made a good choice so I spent countless hours on the phone with a dozen different firms. When it came time to make a decision, I really liked the fact that the people at Critical Square knew my industry. With some other firms I felt they either didn’t get what I did or they were just trying to plug me into a formula, but after chatting with Bhavik, I knew he understood. He looked at my resume and a few moments later he had a complete grasp on what was and wasn’t important.
I had a pretty standard goal – I wanted to go from IT to strategy. I can’t say enough about the Story Framework process. We came out of the conversation with a unique and exciting approach – I was blown away! I hadn’t ever thought about my experiences that way. The whole process was broken down from prepping my recommenders to writing my essays to preparing for my interviews. It was great.
I’m starting at Stern this fall and I just wanted to thank Bhavik for helping me get there!
– Stern | New York University
Thank you for taking the time to get to know me before reviewing my essays. I was expecting to send my essays in and get them back a couple of days later. I wasn’t expecting a phone call! The consultant reviewing my essays spent about 30 minutes on the phone with me understanding my story, goals, and overall strategy before he even touched my essays. The feedback and comments he provided not only made the essay better, but my application as a whole. He didn’t just fix grammar and make things sound better. He actually restructured content and highlighted different experiences than I had originally included. I hadn’t thought them to be anything special but the results speak for themselves!
– Booth | University of Chicago