2. She believes in your candidacy.
You don’t ever want to put your time, money, and energy toward someone who doesn’t think you’ll actually get in to one of your target schools. If someone discourages you from applying to the schools you are aiming for, she may be giving you some tough but true news—or she may just not be the right consultant for you. Every year, I have clients come to me after having their hopes dashed at a different consulting firm. If I take them on, I spend a lot of time upfront boosting their confidence and giving them specific advice on how to elevate their profile. As long as they do their part, things turn out well and they head off to graduate school. There are a ton of admissions consultants out there. Make sure you pick one who believes in you and makes you feel confident and encouraged.
3. She will give you specific, candid feedback.
Having an admissions consultant that believes in your candidacy doesn’t mean she’s always going to give you great news. A huge part of my job is giving people news they don’t want to hear: that I don’t think they’re ready to apply this season, that I don’t think they’re a good fit for their target schools, that they have to take more courses to make up for a low GPA, that they need to completely rewrite their essays, and more. One of the ways I can be most helpful to clients is by not just delivering bad news but giving specific feedback on what to do after they receive the so-called bad news. I do my best to try and give the client a path for moving forward so that s/he isn’t left feeling discouraged and directionless.
4. She has experience helping people like you get into schools like the ones you are applying to.
It’s important that the admissions consultant you choose has dealt with cases similar to yours in the past. Whether you’re battling a low GPA, low test scores, an erratic work history, or some other challenge, you want to make sure that your admissions consultant isn’t just “winging it” and figuring things out as you two work together. Yes, there is a lot of problem-solving and even a degree of improvisation that happens in admissions consulting, but you want your consultant to have as strong a foundation as possible in helping people get admitted to the schools you are targeting. Don’t be fooled by shiny, impressive admission rates; ask about their experience working with people with backgrounds similar to yours.
5. She will be there with you every step of the way.
If you are able to afford it, you should work with someone who will be available to help you from start to finish with your application process. You don’t want to turn in a strong application, land an interview at your dream school, and then lose your chance to snag your spot in the incoming class because you were insufficiently prepared for your interview. If you engage an admissions consultant, try and get someone who will be available to you—via phone, email, etc.—throughout the entire process. The journey isn’t over until you’ve been accepted at one of your target schools and figured out the funding to pay for it. An admissions consultant with an eye toward helping you get fellowships for graduate school is an even more treasured find. Here at The Art of Applying, fellowships is a huge focus for us, because we know how freeing it can be to graduate with minimal levels of debt and be able to take on whatever kind of job most fits your career goals rather than chasing the highest-paying gig.
6. She is open to receiving feedback.
If someone isn’t working for you in the admissions consulting engagement, you should feel comfortable enough with your consultant to speak up and let her know. Perhaps the calls are at extremely inconvenient times. Perhaps you need clearer feedback on your essays. Maybe you’ve realized you don’t actually want to apply to some of the schools she has suggested for you. Whatever it is, you shouldn’t feel like your consultant will get irritated or defensive if you disagree with her. I’ve had some clients be particularly feisty and opinionated, and while they are a little more challenging to work with, we still make it work. Some degree of tension and conflict may arise throughout the process, since applying can be stressful, but you should have an open line of communication with your consultant.