How coaches make champions

Or why a 700+ GMAT score is often not enough to gain you admission

MBA coaching is comprehensive professional guidance for candidates who aim to gain admission to the ever challenging MBA programmes. Just as in sports and arts, individuals who aim at high performance usually rely on structured professional assistance in order to develop their potential to the maximum.

By Iliana Bobova, MBA Admissions Consultant and Manager of Access MBA Reach – the candidate services branch of Access MBA.

MBA admission is highly competitive and success requires truly outstanding performance during the application process. Coaching is highly personalised and tailored to the goals and potential of each candidate. It is a partnership between the candidate and the coach. MBA coaches take candidates through focused self-searching, benchmarking, prioritising and skills development. Coaching is a comprehensive process and covers all stages from evaluating the relevance of an MBA to achieving candidates' career goals, through selecting the most appropriate MBA programmes, to actual work on the application package and interview preparation. Guidance on GMAT preparation may also be part of the process. Thus, coaching fully maximises candidate's the chances for admission.

The value of MBA coaching

Coaching ensures that candidates will do all that is crucial for an outstanding MBA application, and will do it in the right order, with the necessary attention, and on time. Although coaching is a comprehensive process, there are some stages at which having an expert by your side will add the highest value to your future success.

  • Coaching is indispensable when candidates evaluate the relevance of an MBA to their career goals. At this point coaches weave some career counselling in the discussion. They conduct an in-depth analysis with the candidates on their educational and professional background, achievements, lessons learnt, and their relevance to their career aspirations and to rewarding MBA experience. "Why MBA and how it will help you achieve your goals?" is a fundamental question, not just at the MBA admission interview. It is essential for the whole experience. During the discussion and soul-searching candidates may also find that the road goals diverges from an MBA. "Very interesting and constructive comments. I feel very good after the coaching session. As a result I am rethinking about the whole MBA idea. Maybe I will wait a few years and try out an executive MBA", shares Quentin, after Access MBA Reach profile evaluation and a session on the relevance of an MBA for his careers goals. Work at this stage also reveals the characteristics of the MBA programmes which best match  the candidates as there are a lot of choices to be made to fine tune your best match.
  • Selecting not just the best school, but the most appropriate MBA programmes, is another milestone in the process. This ensures that your MBA experience is worthwhile. Coaches have the expertise to evaluate whether a candidate has the right profile for the schools he/she aspires to, as well as which programmes will be the best vehicle for a candidate to achieve his/her post-MBA goals. Many factors are taken into consideration for this selection – analysis of the curriculum, student body, faculty profile, teaching methods, international exposure, industry relations, networking and career services. These details take an experienced eye to uncover quickly and analyse consistently in the context of the candidate's goals. It is often that coaching may totally change the initial school aspirations of a candidate.
  • Building an outstanding application is related to candidate's work on the resume/CV, application essays, selecting the recommenders, and preparing for the interview. Most of the work has already been done with the evaluation the candidate's goals and profile, and the school selection. However, now is the time for a fresh look and experience of the coach to highlight what is really unique in the candidate's background and how it is relevant to each of the MBA programmes. "Many MBA applicants think that their 700+ GMAT score will get them a seat at their MBA of choice. It is a wrong and dangerous assumption", warns Riadh Hamida, founder and MBA coach at Cours Colbert. He explains the value of the coaching process: "Working on the right profile helps students set up the right strategy in their application essays to convince the admissions committee they are the right person to choose among thousands of applicants". Selecting the most relevant experiences, achievement and challenges is crucial to make the application really unique. This selection aims to reveal the qualities and potential of the candidate for the selected MBA programme. It also justifies that the candidate will not only benefit from the programme, but also contribute to it.
  • Coaching ensures a focused, coherent, and well managed approach. MBA candidates are all busy professionals, while a successful MBA application takes a lot of effort and time. Guidance ensures that candidates will be on the right track at the right time. However, candidates have to commit to the coaching process and be a responsible partner to their coach as well, so that they both celebrate success at the end of this partnership. The Association of International Graduate Admission Consultants highlights "Business leaders constantly surround themselves with skilled advisors in order to make the best decisions. While the decisions are ultimately theirs, the process of bouncing ideas and talking through problems is tremendously valuable. The same is true in the admissions process where candidates may need guidance in exploring career options, identifying appropriate programs and determining the best way to position their candidacy", as described by Rosemaria Martinelli, former Associate Dean for Student Recruitment and Admissions, University of Chicago Graduate School of Business.


When coaching

See an MBA coach as early as you start thinking that an MBA might be the right vehicle to achieve your midterm career goals. If your judgement is correct, you will be able to benefit further. In the event that the MBA is not the right path, you will know it well in advance to save time, effort and money for a better way to boost your career.

Do not wait until you start preparing your application package to get a coach. Coaches are not editors of your essays and resume. Start early, as you will be much better prepared to build your convincing application, if you have worked with a coach on discussing your motivation, your profile and the best matching schools. "It seems that the essays will take longer than expected, may be 3 weeks to get them well written. Seems not an easy process" shares Mohammad who contacted Access MBA Reach for advice because he was stuck with preparing his essays.

Coaching is recommended if you target the most competitive schools, especially those ranked in the top 100. However, there are many challenging programmes not ranked that high, which might be the best match for you, as well as your highest achievable challenge. It will always be to your benefit to get professional guidance as early as you start thinking of an MBA application.

How to identify a good coach

There are two basic requirements that are a must for MBA coaches: to know the MBA experience and to have coaching skills. MBA coaches have either done an MBA, have been professionally involved in MBA recruitment and admission, or are experienced in educational advising with knowledge on the MBA field. A background in consulting, psychology or communication is relevant for the coaching aspect of the service. Since coaching is a partnership there is a lot of trust involved. This is something for which each of us has his own sixth sense. A good coach is also an ethical coach. It will not be to your benefit to enter upon a programme which will not contribute to your goals. It will be only to your expense and disadvantage to submit an application package which is not your own product.

There is an increase in the offering of MBA coaching services worldwide. Communication technologies make it possible to have a coach even from another continent. Candidates nowadays have plenty of choices. How to select the best coach for you? Access MBA Reach provides a unique service for candidates – matching them to the right coach. Access MBA Reach monitors the offerings and advises candidates on the advantages of the leading international coaching providers.

ROI of coaching

MBAs are some of the most expensive graduate programmes worldwide. The high return on investment after graduation maintains the price high ranging from 10,000 to 100,000 Euro. Coaching also comes at a price. However, if you are ready to invest in an MBA, you should be ready to invest in increasing your chances for admission to an MBA. There is a big variety of coaching offerings, pricing packages, and even scholarships for coaching to suit the diverse needs and goals of committed MBA candidates. Usually, coaching is paid in packages per school (average international prices ranging between 1000 and 3000 Euro per school with discount for more than one school). Some coaching providers offer the flexibility of payment per hour (100 – 200 Euro per hour).  Full coaching for one school requires about 12 coaching hours in sessions, plus additional preparation by the coach as well as by the candidate.

Coaching guidance brings high added value to your MBA application experience. It fully maximizes your chances for admission. However, the admission decision is out of the control of your coach. The admission decision is a privilege and a responsibility of the Admissions Committee of each MBA programme. Benefit from coaching and you will do the best you can to build your outstanding application to the best matching programmes for your goals.

The real added value of coaching is that candidates get to know themselves much better, benchmark to the challenging requirements of MBA programmes and to the most competitive managers. They end the coaching process with a much better awareness of their personal and professional qualities, accomplishments and potential,l which is a real added value for their success.


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