I can teach you how to get into your dream school—even if you don’t have a perfect profile.
You want to get an Ivy League graduate degree because it’s a part of your master plan to create a meaningful, memorable life and make your dent in the Universe—but you have no idea where to start.
You don’t even know if your background and qualifications put you in the running to even apply to your dream school.
You’re late-night googling for answers to your litany of questions, hoping something relevant, current, and trustworthy pops up.
You’re wading through hundreds of posts on school admission blogs and forums, trying to find the one or two useful pieces of advice among an overwhelming amount of information.
You’re procrastinating on starting your essays, because you hate talking about yourself, you don’t even know where to start, and you have no idea how to structure the essays.
You’re hardcore studying for the GMAT, but you still feel guilty whenever you go out to have fun because you don’t feel like you’ve studied enough.
You feel like you don’t have enough time to get everything done, and you’re missing out on time with your friends and family because you always have something you should be working on for your applications—even if you aren’t sure what that “something” is.
Imagine this scenario…
You get a brutally honest assessment of your strengths and weaknesses as an applicant to your target schools so that you can confidently move forward on your applications, knowing that you are squarely in the running for a place in the incoming class.
Whenever you have a question about any part of the application process, you can get a quick, trustworthy answer from an expert.
You have someone to serve as a sounding board for your essay content and this person gives you guidance on how to structure your essays so they flow well and make your case.
You are freed from the tyranny of the GMAT, because your essays are so amazing the admissions committee considers your test score an afterthought.
You don’t feel guilty going out for drinks with your friends because you have clear deliverables and a timeline for getting everything done.
You have an eagle-eyed editor that will push you to write and rewrite your essays until they are convincing, compelling, within the word limit, and the absolute best reflection of why you would be an asset to the incoming class.
You have access to an impressive group of recent admits to your dream schools who are eager to answer your questions, host you on campus, and give you insider information on what it’s really like on campus.
You have someone helping you prep for every admission event, campus visit, and interview. You aren’t just talking about what you’ll do; you’re role playing it and polishing your responses to perfection.
You hang out with your friends in real life rather than lurking on forums, because you have an expert team partnering with you to make sure you submit the best application possible to your dream school—without giving up everything else in your life in the process.
But how do you get from application frustration to application freedom?
That’s where my team and I come in. We’re here to help you through every single step of what would otherwise be a confusing, overwhelming, and frustrating process.
We make applying to your dream school low-stress, streamlined, and even kind of fun.
I’m a highly sought after admissions consultant now, but I wasn’t always confident about knowing what it takes to get into my dream school.
Let’s meet Kaneisha in Summer 2005 back when I was a clueless applicant with a dream to go to business school.
Kaneisha’s Application Story
Introducing: The Accidental MBA
It was the summer before my senior year of college and I was feeling pretty lost.
I was living at home with my parents with no car and not much to do.
Besides “move to Africa,” I had no real plan for life after college. I hadn’t applied to any jobs, hadn’t researched any potential industries for future employment (I didn’t even really know what an “industry” was!), and just hoped it would all work out.
I was volunteering at a local nonprofit, and one day the Executive Director encouraged me to apply to business school.
I listened politely, but I didn’t really know what business school was, and besides being a half-hearted member of the Future Business Leaders of America club in high school for the free breakfast tacos and field trips, I hadn’t really seen myself with much of a future in the business world.
As the Executive Director walked away, I googled, “What is an MBA?”
Harvard Business School’s admission website was one of the first sites that popped up.
I read, “Do you want a transformative education that will equip you to change the world?”
“Hell yes!” I thought as I continued to click around the website.
After some more clicking around, I realized that for the first time in decades, Harvard was admitting people right out of college. They could also apply, get admitted, and defer two years before matriculating.
Something shifted inside of me. I knew that not only was I going to apply to business school, I was determined to get in.
I just needed to figure out how.
It was already July, and I had only five months to put together a stellar application to Harvard Business School, Stanford GSB, and Harvard Kennedy School.
I felt isolated, overwhelmed, and in the dark.
How in the world do you get into business school when you don’t have any real experience in the business world and you don’t have a lot of friends who have been to business school? I thought.
One day during a random late-night Google search, I stumbled upon the blog of Marquis Parker, a Stanford MBA applicant who eventually got admitted to Stanford, attended, and graduated into his dream job.
I could see myself in Marquis as I read about his joys and triumphs, and this one encouraging role model helped me see myself getting admitted to and doing well in a top business school. I devoured every single one of his posts, and continued on my application journey.
Over the next few months, I wrote essays and lost them all in a computer crash at 2 am.
I wrote more essays and sent them to an acquaintance who had graduated from HBS. He told me my essays were too personal and not relevant enough to what business schools were looking for.
So I scrapped all of them. I wrote more essays and more essays and more essays—until I finally felt great about what I had to submit. And this was back when the HBS joint degree application had eight essays. Eek!
I left campus for winter break, went home to Austin, and took the GMAT in early December. When I finished taking the test and my score flashed on the screen, my heart sank.
It was the exact same score I had on my diagnostic test: 620.
I was crushed. That was at least 80 points away from the target GMAT score for the Ivy League. It was too late to retest before the deadline, so it was this score or nothing.
I knew that I had come too far at this point to turn back. I was going to apply to my dream schools with a low GMAT score.
And it turns out I was going to apply with a newly minted C on my transcript as well.
That’s right. First semester grades came in and I had gotten a C in one of my major classes. I had been so focused on my GMAT prep, essay writing, and on-campus job, I’d let things slack in that class, and I’d gotten the grade I deserved.
Here’s where the tears came. I could see the schools overlooking a low GMAT score— but a fresh C on my transcript as well? (I already had a C on my transcript from another class that had kicked my ass my junior year of college).
Low GMAT score, red-flag grades and all, I was going to apply and I was going to do my best.
I submitted my applications to my dream schools, and I waited.
The interview invites came in from both Stanford and Harvard, and I was elated.
My interviews came and went. They were extraordinarily different, but I felt great after both of them.
Then the news came in. Accepted at HBS. Accepted at Harvard Kennedy School. Waitlisted at Stanford.
I was elated. After my one-year deferral to spend a year volunteering and taking classes in Ghana, I was going to head off to Harvard, my dream school. I’d made it—and the adventure was only just beginning!
Common Worries and Concerns about Applying
Are any of these thoughts holding you back from applying to your dream school?
“I’m not sure if I even stand a chance of getting in.”
I remind every single client that I work with that you’re definitely not going to be able to get into your dream school if you don’t apply! I often get asked by people how I’ve been able to take advantage of so many once-in-a-lifetime opportunities—living five months in Cuba while in college, an all-expenses-paid year in Ghana, two Masters degrees at Harvard without any full-time work experience, and getting HBS to hand me $10,000 to start my business—and I always remind them that I wasn’t just magically granted these things by a genie. I applied for every single one of those things!
“I’m not ready to start working with a consultant until I have a good test score.”
Having a strong GMAT score is important, but you should definitely not wait until you’ve mastered the GMAT or even taken the test to start getting serious about the rest of your application. An amazing GMAT score with weak essays won’t get you in; but you may get in with a mediocre GMAT score and amazing essays. You have much more control over the quality of your essays than you do over your GMAT score. Some people are great test-takers, and the GMAT is a walk in the park for them. Other people (like me) are super-smart but just can’t crack the 700 ceiling. Whether you’re a test ninja or test-phobic, you need to have a plan for cracking the entire application process as soon as you know you’re applying to your dream school.
“I can find all the information I need online for free or in admissions books.”
You’re right and you’re wrong. There is a ton of useful information online and in books on how to get into your dream school. The problem is figuring out which of that information is actually good and which of it is someone’s random crap advice they heard from “a cousin who went to Wharton.” There’s also the issue of just how overwhelming all that information can be. When you work with us, we give you the information you need to know to get in—nothing more, nothing less—so you can focus on implementing rather than endlessly gathering information.
“I can just have my coworker, friend, or parent edit my essays.”
Submitting great essays that get you in isn’t just about having well-placed commas and being in the word limit. You have to use your admissions essays to convey a compelling vision of why YOU need to go THIS particular school to get THIS particular degree at THIS particular time to study and practice THIS particular career to make THIS kind of impact for THESE kinds of people.
Your essays are the most important part of the application. They have a huge part in determining your educational and professional future, and you don’t want your Aunt Tina imposing her well-meaning but misguided ideas of what works in a present-day application to Harvard when she graduated twenty-plus years ago when the rules of the admissions game were completely different.
Why work with us?
Here’s why The Art of Applying is the ideal company to help you:
I’m picky about who my company works with.
I’d love to help every single person who reaches out to me, but I don’t have the bandwidth to take on every single person who reaches out to me—and not every person is a great fit for my company’s coaching style. Be assured that I’m not going to take your money if I don’t think you can get in and I don’t think we can help you.
I’m willing to take on the difficult cases.
That said, I have an outstanding track record of helping smart people with imperfect profiles get into their dream schools.
I helped a straight White guy with an awkward gap in work experience eloquently explain what he’d been doing since his last job and land a spot at Harvard Kennedy School.
I helped another straight White guy with a 3.1 from a well-respected state school apply to and fight his way off the waitlist at NYU Stern.
I helped an African-American veteran with a GMAT score in the 500’s get into Harvard Kennedy School (with money!).
I helped a super-young Indian-American client who had been turned away by another admissions consulting firm due to her age and the fact that they didn’t think she was “unique” enough, and she is now living it up at Harvard Business School.
I helped a female Indian engineer with a 2.9 GPA get into her top choice school: London Business School.
I helped an Asian-American guy with a so-so GPA from a state school and a 620 GMAT score get into University of Michigan Ross—and he’s now at his dream job working as a venture capitalist.
I helped a Pakistani couple get into their dream programs on the same campus (University of Pennsylvania): Wharton for MBA and the Fels Institute for Government for the MPA.
I love a challenge, and I will be 100% upfront with you about how much of a challenge—from “it’s in the bag” to “it’s gonna be real hard”—it will be for you to get into your dream schools.
I will tell you the truth—even when it’s awkward or painful.
It’s no fun working with someone if I don’t think s/he’ll get in. If you have a very low chance of being admitted to your dream school, I will let you know that upfront.
Let me tell you a story about one of my favorite clients.
I had a Chinese-American client with a low GMAT score and a so-so GPA come to me after being rejected from every single business school she applied to the previous year.
While reviewing her profile during her Deep Dive session, I realized that if she reapplied this year, the exact same thing would happen again: rejections across the board.
I gave her a long list of professional and extracurricular changes she needed to make in order to be a competitive applicant and told her to come back the next year.
While she was disappointed to not be applying to school that year, she was grateful I hadn’t taken her money and pretended she had a fighting chance when she really didn’t.
A year later, she came back to work with me, and I was astounded. She had done every single thing I had told her to do.
We worked together and got her into University of Michigan Ross MBA with a $20,000 fellowship.
She’s now getting established in her dream career in the tech sector.
I understand how to help the non-traditional applicant frame his or her story.
I was a nontraditional applicant (too young, no full-time work experience, nonprofit background, humanities major, no quantitative coursework in college, etc.), but I got myself in.
Many of my clients are nontraditional applicants who seem like oddball candidates for their dream schools, but they get in.
We work together to turn the things that may make you seem like an outsider into assets to your application
Being different is a great thing when you’re applying to your dream school; you just need to know how to turn that difference into the winning “x factor” quality rather than the losing “doesn’t fit in here” quality.
I know how to make anyone sound interesting, engaging, and a great fit for their dream school.
Think you’re boring? Not to me!
I’m a lover of people, I can find something interesting and engaging about anyone, and I love to hear people’s stories.
No matter how run-of-the-mill you think your story is, I will help you discern and describe what makes you a unique applicant who deserves a spot in the incoming class.
I know how to help you get money for grad school—even if you don’t need it.
Even if your year-end bonus is enough to pay for all of school, why use your own money —or your parents’ money—on 2-3 years’ of tuition if you don’t have to?
Because I am still reeling from the havoc of taking out $130,000+ in student loans as a wide-eyed 23-year-old, I never, ever want to send a naive person off to their dream school with no real way to pay for it.
My team and I stay on top of every single possible fellowship you can apply for, so that you can snatch the free money that everyone else is too busy to even research and apply for.
Check this out: I helped one of my clients get so much money for graduate school, he was actually making money. He took all the money he had saved to pay for graduate school and used it to buy a house!
In 2014, my clients were awarded more than $1.2 MILLION DOLLARS in merit scholarships and fellowships to go to their dream schools.
In 2015, my clients were awarded more than $1.36 MILLION DOLLARS!
In 2016, my clients were awarded more than $1.6 MILLION DOLLARS!
Now, that’s what I’m talking about! Party at your place?
How we work together to get you into your dream school
Now that we’re both excited, let’s talk about how we work with you to get you into your dream school.
This is the order we usually work in, but if you’d like to move some parts around, we can do that too. We’re a small shop, so while we have proven systems for getting everything done, we don’t have a rigid way of working with our clients.
We’ll determine how your academic, professional, and personal background and career vision fit with your targeted schools. We’ll create a prioritized list of to-do’s for you to elevate your applicant profile in time for application submission.
If you’re still figuring out where you want to apply, I will help you run each school through the “yes” test to make sure you’re only applying to schools you really want to go to—not just schools you think you can get into. If you’re already 100% sure where you want to apply, that’s cool too.
Test prep planning
I’ll help you choose the best test prep option for your time, ideal investment, and learning style. If you already have a test prep option, I’ll give you tips and strategies for getting the most out of your test prep solution.
Here’s where we really start to get to know one another. We will go through your resume line-by-line together. I will ask you to explain to me your responsibilities and accomplishments as if I’m your grandmother to make sure that anyone on the admissions committee will be able to understand and appreciate just how awesome you are. We will also work together to make sure that your resume sufficiently quantifies your achievements and is extremely reader-friendly to please tired, overwhelmed admissions readers.
Recommender selection and preparation
We will figure out who to ask, how to ask them, and how to make sure they tell the best stories as possible about you that will convey just how strong of a candidate you are for your dream school. We will wow your recommenders with our ultra-organized recommender packet that makes it super-easy for your recommender to write a raving review of you.
Prepping for admissions events and campus visits
I’ll guide you in how to show up as your best self at admissions events. We’ll cover everything—from what to wear and what to ask to how to make an impression on recruiters. I’ll help you get the most out of on-campus visits, including hooking you up with one of my prior clients to take you to class with them, answer questions over lunch, and show you the social scene on campus.
You’ll pitch potential ideas to me, and I’ll give them the thumbs up or thumbs down. I’ll give you guidance on ways to make sure you’re fully answering the question so that your first draft is a strong jumping off point.
Once you submit a draft of your essay, we began the iterative editing process. We go back and forth editing your essay until it is absolutely perfect. When my team and I edit, we are editing for persuasiveness, conciseness, syntax, spelling, grammar, punctuation—everything. Don’t expect to get your essays back with a few small changes to them (that is, unless you wrote a really awesome essay on the first go—which rare).
We’ll have an interview via Skype to practice for every single interview invite you receive. Whether it’s the 30-minute HBS interview that includes a reflection essay required 24 hours later, a group style interview, or a high stakes fellowship interview for Harvard Kennedy School, you’ll be fully prepared for anything that gets thrown your way. Once you’ve made it this far, you want to make sure you are fully prepared to close the deal and snag your spot at your dream school.
Even if you bathe in dollar bills, this part matters to you. Fellowships aren’t just about the money; they carry a tremendous amount of prestige as well. You get access to exclusive networking opportunities with the top students of campus-wide degree programs, the rock star professors, and close-up access to high-profile leaders visiting campus. You also get included on secret mailing lists that have the best jobs as well. Imagine not only going to your dream school—but going on VIP status.
Financial aid negotiation
Once you get in and you get your financial aid package, the journey ain’t over. Unless you’ve just received a full ride, you should ask for more. I’ll teach you exactly who and how to ask for more money while keeping everyone happy—even the school happily giving you more money.
Getting waitlisted can be torture—if you don’t know how getting off the waitlist works. If you get waitlisted at one of your dream schools, I’ll be there with you every step of the way, helping you with every email correspondence and supplemental material you submit. It ain’t over til you get that acceptance!
Here’s the most fun part! If you don’t have a clear winner among your schools, we will put all your offers side by side and I will help you think through each one of them in relation to your future personal, professional, and academic goals. I will give my recommendation, and of course, the choice is up to you. Then we clink clink our champagne glasses and drink to your future.
Does getting into your dream school without killing yourself in the process sound too good to be true?
Let’s hear from some of my recent clients who are now at their dream schools. These are real emails with their identifying information removed.
Note: HKS means Harvard Kennedy School. HBS is Harvard Business School.
Next Step for Working Together: The Deep Dive
What happens during a Deep Dive?
A Deep Dive is a 50-minute call via Skype with Kaneisha where we get to know each other and create a game plan for your application process.
I assess your candidacy.
You tell me about your professional, academic, and personal background as well as your professional, academic, and personal goals. I ask you lots of questions to help you determine if you have a strong chance of getting into your target schools—or if you shouldn’t waste your time.
I help you gain confidence in your candidacy.
I look for holes in your candidacy and give you specific action steps for improving those areas—whether it’s a GPA below 3.6, GMAT below 680, being “too old” or “too young,” not having clear career goals, switching from private to public sector, gaps in employment, nontraditional career path, or not having “big names” on your resume.
I encourage you to dream big.
We discuss which schools and/or degrees you plan to apply to, and I make suggestions for additional or alternative programs to consider based on what you’ve shared.
You ask me questions—lots of questions.
The early stages of applying to graduate school are fraught with questions. Rather than spending hours googling or lurking on forums, let me know what’s on your mind and I’ll give you some expert answers and straightforward advice.
Investment for the Deep Dive Session: only $500
Why NOW is the time to begin
Here’s what could happen if you keep letting time slip away:
You could end up applying and get rejected from all your schools.
Every year, I get a few clients who come to me after being wholesale rejected from every single school they applied to. Even if you went to a top-ranked school for college, getting into the world’s top MBA and policy programs can be utterly baffling and is a whole different ball game. Don’t waste your first time applying on a crapshoot, cross-your-fingers strategy. If you’ll be a reapplicant this year, the stakes are even higher for you.
You get into some of your schools but you get waitlisted or rejected from your dream school.
The only thing worse than not getting what you most want is getting what you kind of want. Then, you’re stuck wondering, Should I settle for second best—or is this a sign that I could have gotten into the very best? Bring every resource you can to bear on your application process so you don’t ever have to wonder What if…?
You don’t apply at all, and you’re one year older, and still no closer to going to your dream school and having your dream career.
As you probably already know, there is such a thing as “too late” when it comes to applying to your dream school. Schools have target age ranges and years of work experience that they’re looking for, and you don’t want to get too far away from that range. If earning a prestigious degree from a world-renowned university is your dream, don’t let it slip away due to fear, overwhelm, or procrastination.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can you guarantee me admission? What is your success rate?
I can not and do not guarantee you admission to any school or fellowship program. Any company who says they can guarantee you admission to a school is lying, so watch out for that. I can guarantee that if you take action on the advice I give you, you will submit top-notch applications to your target schools. Out of the 11 clients I worked 1-on-1 with in 2013-2014, I gave 10 of them the “green light” to submit their applications. All 10 of them got into one of their dream schools. (We’re still waiting on results for 2014-2015 but I think they’re going to be great!).
When is the best time to start working together?
The earlier we begin working together, the better. It gives us more time to make sure you have enough time to strengthen your candidacy (i.e. volunteering, test prep, supplementary coursework, job promotions, etc.). Starting early also gives us plenty of time to get the many moving parts of your application together.
I am currently accepting clients for the 2015-2016 season. Coaching lasts from when you sign up through May 1, 2016.
How do I best prepare for a Deep Dive?
People come to their Deep Dive sessions with varying levels of pre-session prep completed. Feel free to come super-prepared or just show up as you are.
Some things you can do to get the most out of your session are:
- Create a preliminary list of schools you are interested in applying to and have them ready to share.
- Craft a list of 3-4 people who can serve as recommender writers for you with a few bullet points for why you chose each person and any concerns or questions you have about choosing them.
- If you’ve taken the GRE, convert your score to the GMAT scoring scale.
- Read my blog post about supplementary coursework to determine what coursework you will need to take to improve your candidacy before our call.
Do you work with international students?
I have experience working with international students from all over the world, and I love working with people from all kinds of backgrounds and experiences. The coaching happens via Skype and email, so as long as you have internet access, we’re good to go.
Do you work with reapplicants?
Yes I do! I love helping people who struck out the first time around transform their applications and get into one of their dream schools. An important part of my work with a reapplicant is thoroughly reviewing your applications from the first time you applied to teach you what was working for you and what was ineffective.
I have a very high-profile job, and I feel uneasy sharing my confidential information with you and your team.
Confidentiality for all my clients is extremely important to me—whether you are a public school teacher or a publicly elected official. About 50% of my clients have high profile parents (e.g. Fortune 500 Executives, diplomats, and politicians) or have high profile jobs (e.g. Chief of Staff to a C-level executive, high-level employee of a Hollywood celebrity, etc.). I treat these clients just like I treat all of my clients—with love, respect, and a hefty dose of “get your stuff done” motivation.
If you’re one of these high-profile people, I make sure that we discuss the sensitive aspects of your profile so that we can use it to their advantage when appropriate in their applications and play it down where it is best to not draw attention to this particular aspect of yourprofile.
I’m not really competitive for the top programs. Will you still work with me to apply to my target schools?
My expertise is in helping people get into the top 10 policy, public affairs, public service, international relations graduate programs, top 25 MBA programs, and Top 25 law schools.
If you’re applying to schools outside of that range, I’m happy to help you—but I’ll probably encourage you to apply to at least a few of the super-competitive schools, because I bet I could help you get into one of them!
Do you offer payment plans?
Yes I do! Payment plans incur a 5% additional fee on top of the upfront payment price and can be spread out over several months. All payment plans must be paid in full before the service begins, so you should reach out early to figure out which package is right for you.
How quickly will I get my materials back?
When you turn in an essay or resume to us to be edited, you’ll get it back in 3 business days at the latest—and usually by the next day. You can also choose to have me live edit something during a coaching call if you need something edited the same day as a scheduled call.
For packages that include “unlimited” calls and editing, what do you mean by that?
I mean unlimited! To be clear, I do not want to edit your essay 3,998 times or talk on the phone every single day, because that would be crazy. We will talk 2-4 times a month, depending on how much we have to discuss and how close we are to the deadline. Calls usually last 20-60 minutes.
What I mean by unlimited editing is that we will edit your essay and resume until it is as amazing as it possibly could be. It will be your words, your voice, your vision—but like the very best version of you. One of my HBS professors once said that when I work with clients, my work is like that of a top-notch plastic surgeon; it’s still you and nobody knows you’ve had work done. I like to think of it like that.
Will you write my essays or recommendation letters for me?
Absolutely not—and please don’t try and get anyone else to write your essays for you. We will help you think through what to write about, we will help you figure out how to structure your essays, but you will write the essays. We will edit them again and again until they are polished to perfection. But nope, we don’t write essays or letters of recommendation.
Will I receive an honest assessment of my chances for my dream school?
Yes. I don’t like pumping people up to think that they can get into a school if they have no real chance. The best way to get an assessment of your chances for a school is to have a Deep Dive session with me early enough in the season so that there is still time for any sort of interventions needed (e.g. new test prep solution, supplementary coursework, additional volunteer work, etc.).
I have some “red flags” in my past. I’m nervous they’ll keep me from getting in.
Handling red flags and “oh no” parts of applicant profiles is something I’m especially experienced in doing. The key to handling red flags is to openly and honestly own up to them and then elegantly and confidently help the AdCom understand why they shouldn’t be worried about these things in your past. This usually happens in the Optional Essay and this is one of the first things we’ll work on that together.
I have more questions. How can I get them answered?
No question is too small, too big, or too stupid. All questions welcome. Send me a message via the contact form or email me at email@example.com and we’ll get back to you quickly.
The only thing standing between you and your dream school is knowing how to get there.
Click below to sign up for a $500 Deep Dive session with me.
Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or send me a message via the Contact Us page with any questions, comments or concerns.