Reviews from Beat the GMAT forums
Total messages by user: 3
Posted on: Jul 29, 2011
As I posted on one of the other threads on here, I worked with Stratus Prep and had a really positive experience. They are professional, responsive, and know the top schools inside and out. It’s a relatively small company that seems to have grown a lot through word of mouth (that’s how I heard about them). I felt like since they were smaller they offered more personalized attention and customization than what I saw other friends receive from the bigger counseling firms which seemed more like an assembly line.
I am heading to HBS this fall and have no doubt that I would not have gotten in without their help. A number of my friends/colleagues have also used Stratus. Not everyone has gotten into HBS, but they have all been admitted to very top schools and feel like Stratus went above and beyond to help them craft the best possible application.
I am from a more consulting/finance background so I can’t speak to how they work with clients outside those industries. But from my experience they definitely earned 5 stars.
Total messages by user: 1
Posted on: Oct 2, 2012
Yep. I worked with Stratus Prep last year, and had an incredible experience through and through. Shawn helped me come up with a really compelling strategy that I hadn’t even considered before. He helped me with a bunch of different edits on my essays and was always patient and confident. He was incredibly responsive with emails, and flexible with my schedule, able to meet on weekends, evenings, and even early mornings. I worked with them on 4 schools (HBS, Wharton, CBS, and Kellogg). I got into all 4, and just started at HBS this semester. While I had a finance background, my best friend (who has a non-profit backgound) used them to apply for Round 1 this year, and he also had a great experience. He also mentioned the compelling strategy they came up with, as well as the open availability and responsiveness. If you have any questions, hit me up, or I’m sure I can put you in touch with my buddy who used them too.
Total messages by user: 3
Posted on: Dec 31, 2012
I reviewed and spoke with many different consultants when making this decision. I ended up going with Stratus Prep based on all the positive feedback I was able to collect. Finally, I was really impressed with Shawn on an individual level – he was just a straight up nice guy that (i) I felt comfortable working with and (ii) trusted enough to make a meaningful investment (time and money).
For my actual process, I worked with Shawn + Vanessa for fall 2013 admissions, round 1. My experience was exceptional and resulted with my successful application to Harvard Business School. For context, I am a white male, slightly sub-700 GMAT, work in finance (a tough demographic).
Shawn + Vanessa had a very thoughtful approach to applications but customized it to my schedule and goals. Highlights include:
1) Stratus’ Introspection process helped me map of my story (professionally, personally, academically), which became the backbone of the material that I used for my essays, applications and interviews
2) School Selection and Strategy: I had a targeted list of schools. Shawn and Vanessa did a great job of setting expectations, focusing on the schools that were important to me, developing the right application strategy, picking the best person to write a recommendation, etc
3) Essay Outlining + Writing: I can’t emphasize enough how helpful they were here – unlimited editing / review, tactical advice, constructive feedback, etc.
Shawn and Vanessa instilled the confidence and focus that were absolutely critical to my success at HBS. They were always available and were simply just nice people to work with. I trusted them and it certainly paid off.
They both clearly have deep insight and rich experience, which showed in how they handled all of my questions throughout the process. They were always available for questions – whether in person, email or phone. I give them my strongest recommendation – it was time well spent and a well worthwhile investment.
Total messages by user: 3
Posted on: Nov 2, 2013
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.
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.
Total messages by user: 4
Posted on: Nov 5, 2012
Hi everyone, I worked with Stratus Prep last year and wanted to post about my experience. Stratus Prep was an outstanding consulting company to work with, and while realistic, my consultant never made me feel I had to give up on my goal of going to a top b-school. My background is in education and teaching and I want to transition into charter school management. I went to an ivy league undergrad and was a student-athlete…I also did Teach for America post college.
I can’t tell you how glad I am that I worked with Stratus Prep. I knew people who worked with bschool consultants before, and I was skeptical and uncertain about the costs like most people…it ended up being the best decision I could have made and definitely a huge part of the reason I got into Kellogg. The consultant I worked with, Samantha, was very
meticulous, incredibly knowledgeable, and always accessible. I started working with Stratus Prep in November (for January due dates); Samantha was really great about responding quickly especially with the time crunch. I really liked the collaboration between my consultant and Shawn (the founder) who was very involved in every step of the application process. Shawn is really smart and knew how to leverage my TFA experience as well as stuff I would never have known or thought to write about (such as: my thesis for my masters in education, an independent study project I did in undergrad, working through an eating disorder, traveling to India for a summer etc.). Because I was so preoccupied with studying for the GMAT, I assumed that since I was a pretty good writer, the essays would be no big deal. If I had done it on my own, I don’t think I would have made myself
very well-rounded because I would have probably written a lot more about teaching, which Shawn heavily advised me not to do. I also didn’t realize how valuable some of the other stuff I had done was. Before you begin your essays, Stratus Prep makes you do these outline exercises where you brainstorm all your leadership positions, character traits, learning
experiences etc. which I found very worthwhile.
In the end, I was invited to interview at every school I applied to (Duke, Michigan, Columbia, and Kellogg- interviews everyone) with the exception of Yale, which I found surprising. I got into both Kellogg and Duke. I am absolutely humbled, honored, and excited to go to Kellogg this fall .This has been said before and it is necessary to say again, the GMAT does not mean everything and a huge amount of focus must be on your essays. If you want to go to a top MBA program, regardless of your profile, I cannot emphasize enough how valuable I think you will find working with Stratus Prep on every part of your apps (essays, resumes, recs, and interviews).
Total messages by user: 1
Posted on: Mar 22, 2013
I worked with Shawn and Vani at Stratus Prep. 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.
Total messages by user: 60
Posted on: May 2, 2013
Hello fellow members. As many of you who have followed my GMAT posts and used my GMAT study guides know, I have had a near 4 year long journey to MBA school. I finally finished this journey today when I accepted my invitation to the Wharton School at University of Pennsylvania class of 2015.
I would like to take a few minutes to provide you a quick summary of my background, journey, and also a brief review of Stratus Prep, the admissions counseling firm I used for guidance.
Background: Finance, real estate, at boutique firm. Undergraduate: top 50 school.
First, I wrote my first GMAT in 2009 upon graduation from college in anticipation of the need for an MBA for the career path I desired. I scored a 680, and was highly disappointed as I wanted a 700. I worked for a few years, and in 2012 I signed up with Stratus Prep for MBA consulting.
I actually knew nothing of the MBA process prior to emailing Shawn from Stratus Prep. I had previously met Shawn one year earlier when I attended Stratus Prep’s LSAT course (very good), though I never sat for the LSAT, as I decided I did not want to do a JD/MBA anymore. I knew that Shawn was bright and personable (read: gives you actual attention and cares about your success) from this excellent class experience, which is why I decided to reach out to Stratus Prep over the other MBA prep companies. He’s also smart: check out his education and work background.
It happened to be good timing that I emailed with Shawn, because I was actually about 4-5 months behind schedule for what I needed to get done. If you’re reading this now, and you have less than 6 months to write essays, I wouldn’t wait any longer to sign up with a firm like Stratus. If you have to take the GMAT, add a few more months months. The last thing you want to do is study for the GMAT while writing essays, or have to apply Round 2 (trust me, I did both of these and while I had great results it was incredibly time consuming).
I went to Shawn’s office within a few days of reaching out to him, and met with both him and the consultant assigned to me, his protege Vanessa (Wharton MBA). I only wanted to go to a top 10 school. We decided that though I could take a chance with a 680, Shawn and Vanessa recommended that I take the GMAT again and shoot for the 700+ if I thought I had the ability in me.
I wrote the GMAT for the second time, only to score below a 700. Determined, I re-wrote the GMAT 30 days later for a third time, and scored a 710. I am glad I listened to Shawn and Vanessa, because trust me… you’re just fighting much more of an uphill battle without a 700. It is possible, but I am glad Shawn and Vanessa didn’t give any B.S. about how a 680 vs a 700 makes no significant difference. They were very straight up from the beginning about the entire process as well as my unique strengths and weaknesses vis-à-vis each school.
I purchased a 6 school package from Stratus Prep, and selected MIT, Wharton, Tuck, Columbia, and NYU to start. I was invited to interview at 4/5 of the schools (I applied really late to one of the schools, against Stratus Prep’s advice, to be fair). As I mentioned, I accepted my invite to Wharton, my number one choice.
Essay consulting at Stratus Prep works like this: You sit and discuss your background with Shawn and Vanessa, and shape your “strategy”. The story is all totally true, there is no embellishment or funny stuff, but they help you pick stories that complement each other as well as the programs your applying to. They know what is important to tell each business school Ad-Com and what isn’t. Acting strategically before sitting down to write was one of the greatest value-adds Stratus provided.
It all comes down to logic and creativity. You need to be very logical and create in your essays, explaining why you need an MBA, why you want to go now, how the school your applying to fits in, how your background and history is sort of proof of your future abilities and goals, etc. It’s a bit more complicated than this, but that is why you get expert feedback from a leading, reputable place like Stratus Prep.
To be clear: None of the legitimate consulting companies write your essays for you, or rewrite essays for you. Stratus Prep will not write, or rewrite anything for you. This is unethical and immoral from many aspects. Stratus Prep is like having your best friend read your essays, resume, and short answers and tell you what’s good and what’s not, the crucial areas you may want to consider addressing… only here, your best friend is brilliant and has done this thousands of times so their advice is invaluable. Quite frankly, I think you are doing yourself a disservice if you don’t work with a highly experienced, professional, ethical firm.
I can’t recommend (and thank) Stratus Prep enough. Oh, by the way, Vanessa was available to me whenever I needed anything and even came in to help me prep for an interview on a Saturday, her off day.
Hit me up on PM if you have any more detailed questions. I usually answer them within a week or two.
Total messages by user: 6
Posted on: May 16, 2013
Thought I would chime in on this one…
I also happened to work with Stratus Prep this past year. I didn’t think I wanted to use an MBA Admissions consultant at all, since my profile was fairly strong, 3.7 GPA from a strong undergrad institution, 680 GMAT, female, 3 years of consulting experience at a top firm. I knew I would be able to get into a top 10 school on my own, but really had my eyes set on a top 3 school, for which I knew I would be a bit of a stretch.
Once I decided to use a consultant, I did tons of due diligence, interviewing all of the consulting firms to ask about their process and the qualifications of their consultants. What really stood out to me was the structured approach they had to the process. There was a clear process that would be followed. I felt like other consultants I spoke with, I was just randomly matched with someone, and we would just kind of “wing it,” sending along drafts of essays for their review. I knew that would not work for me.
Also, from the initial meeting I had with Shawn (their founder), I felt that he really believed in me as an applicant and was genuine about helping me. Honestly, that meant a lot to me. I was a little nervous when I found out Shawn would not be my direct consultant. I was paired with Samantha though, and she was truly outstanding. She became my friend and mentor throughout the process. She was a grad of Columbia Business School, where she was also an admissions interviewer. So she knew all about the process. And the great thing is that Shawn was still involved in the process along the way to help construct the overall strategy of the application. I thought that Samantha and Shawn had a great balance, and would really suggest her if anyone works with them. They helped me come up with a really innovative strategy to my application and guided me along the way with a bunch (I think 4 or 5) essay reviews, communication with my recommenders, etc. Also, the interview preparation was really phenomenal. I am a super confident, fairly articulate person, but they made me feel like I was prepared for anything when I went into each of the interviews through their intense interview prep.
I worked with Samantha and Shawn on my applications to Stanford, HBS, Wharton, Columbia, and Kellogg. I was admitted to, and will be attending Stanford in the fall, and am ecstatic. My mother won’t stop bragging to all of her friends and our family, which is a nice problem to have. While I know I would have gotten into a good school without Stratus, I seriously doubt I would have gotten into Stanford. I am really thankful for their help in being a part of this process, and guiding me to a place I know will transform my career opportunities and future in general. If anyone wants to chat with me directly, I would be happy to do so!
Good luck to everyone!
Total messages by user: 4
Posted on: Jun 28, 2013
I’ll chip in here as a happy Stratus Prep client…
I worked with Stratus Prep and had a really positive experience. I worked with Shawn and Jeff to apply to the major schools HBS, Wharton, and Stanford. They have a bunch of packages so you can choose exactly how much support and advice you want. I did the full service, school packages which I highly recommended.
They spend a lot of time getting to know you as a candidate and work to highlight your unique capabilities. I was nervous about my prospects as generic male finance professional from a state school and a =<700 GMAT Score. They have an incredible admissions rate which is unique so you know they consistently deliver results for their clients.
I hear you on the price tag and I felt the same way. My justification was that this decision was too important to cut corners on. There are a lot of solid applicants to the most competitive programs and getting in turns on your polish at the margins. It’s about and A+ application not and A and you need the best advice to do that. You would hate to get rejected and be left wondering if the outcome could have been different.
They also worked really well with my busy work schedule and took calls, responded to emails and met with me at weird hours and on weekends when I was free. They helped me craft my story, outline my essays topics, edit the essays (they are awesome at this btw), practice for interviews, review short answer questions, etc. If it’s part of the process, they will help you do it.
Really enjoyed working with them, would have not been successful without them.