Paul Bodine has been helping MBA candidates get into the nation’s most elite business schools for over 15 years. He is also the author of several authoritative professional school admissions books including Great Applications for Business School, which received GMAT Club’s “Best MBA Book” award in 2010. Learn more about Paul in this “5 Questions” interview.
1. Before becoming an MBA admissions consultant, you headed a successful publishing services firm called The Operative Word. How and why did you transition from publishing into admissions consulting?
Well, my publishing focus was already business — I wrote and edited articles and books on business subjects — but I discovered the admissions consulting world serendipitously. I was working for Stanford University Press when a Stanford employee applying to business school asked the Press if they knew anyone who could help him edit his MBA application essays. I thought it sounded interesting and it was — also fun. That first client got into Michigan, sent me a Harry & David gift basket as a tip, and a new career path was born.
2. How do you feel your background in publishing and education in English (Paul received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in English from the University of Chicago and Johns Hopkins University, respectively) have informed or influenced your approach in helping clients get into their dream schools?
Their influence has been very direct. The writing and analysis skills I learned during my education in English literature enables me to help my admissions clients express their stories effectively — that is, clearly, honestly, succinctly and with personality and self-understanding. Many business school applicants have never had to approach a written document with these expressive values in mind. They understandably need some guidance. My writing/editing background is not the only influence on my success as an admissions consultant. As I mentioned, I’ve had a longstanding interest in business and careers, and I’m very curious about what people do and what they’ve experienced.
3. How do you think students can compete and stand out in their applications as elite business schools get increasingly competitive?
First, they must be the best applicants they can be in terms of the ‘hard’ application components like GMAT/GRE scores, GPA, and career success. Second, they will ideally start early to demonstrate leadership and impact in their lives, because applications that have strong ‘numbers’ but lack demonstrated leadership are usually not competitive at top schools. Third, they will be themselves and pursue their non-professional passions as fully as they can. At the top schools, differentiation is what separates all the applicants with outstanding ‘numbers’ and resumes, so applicants should be sure they have well rounded lives that show real passions. Finally, at the top schools, ‘brand’ can often help applicants, so applicants should — within reason — be cognizant of the ‘brand value’ of the schools and organizations they consider joining.
4. What are the latest admissions trends and how is it affecting students?
First, the value of an MBA from a lower-ranked business school is eroding so the competition to get into the top schools is more intense than ever. Second, shorter-term programs like the one-year MiM are growing in popularity as the cost of management education continues to climb. Third, certain post-MBA career paths (social entrepreneurship, data analytics, healthcare, energy) are growing in popularity as others (finance) wane in attractiveness, at least in the short term. Fourth, the “internationalism” and quality of qualified applicants to top schools continues to intensify. All these factors tend to make the application process more confusing, intense, and competitive for applicants.
5. Looking ahead, what challenges do you see for students applying to elite business schools and how do you plan on adapting to help them?
Because the trends I just mentioned tend to heighten the complexity and stress of the application process, they represent challenges as well as opportunities. This is where I come in as applicants’ partner in the admissions process — helping them weigh all the choices, handle all the stress, and present themselves as genuinely and distinctively as possible.
To learn more about Paul and his services, visit his website: www.paulsbodine.com