MBA Admissions Committees have needs… do you meet those needs?


Maria Wich Vila ApplicantLab MBA Admissions ConsultantAIGAC Stamp of Excellence for MBA consulting
Hi! New around here? Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Maria Wich-Vila, and I’m an HBS graduate and a proud member of AIGAC (who has helped people get into MBA programs for over a decade). I considered opening a high-end boutique admissions consulting firm. But high prices would prevent me from helping people from all walks of life. So instead, I “scaled myself” by creating ApplicantLab.
ApplicantLab is a software tool that provides the SAME advice at a much more affordable price. ApplicantLab is the only admissions product officially endorsed by Harvard Business School’s student newspaper, The Harbus. (and has helped people get into top schools like HBS)
Learn more about ApplicantLab now, and feel free to reach out with any questions. Thanks!


There is a LOT OF HAND-WRINGING on a zillion MBA message boards from candidates anxious to know:

What are my chances of acceptance to the MBA program of my choice? My GPA is pretty low, so I’m super-nervous…“.

Frequently, messages like this are often accompanied by similar messages along the lines of:

I can’t believe I didn’t get accepted! I have a 780 GMAT and a 3.9 GPA …what went wrong?

The answer to both of these questions might be found in a concept I call the “AdComs’ Hierarchy of Needs“.

Certain things (like academics) are a hurdle to be cleared. Just like in track and field, it doesn’t matter if you clear the hurdle by 1 mm or by a mile; it just matters that you clear it. Once you do that, then you need to move your way up the hierarchy of needs to gain admission.

The higher up the hierarchy you go, the more work it takes to “prove” it, and thus the bulk of your application should focus on the top of the “pyramid.”

I made a video explaining the Hierarchy of Needs here:

To summarize the video: 

– MBA Admissions Committees will have a first-glance, gut-check reaction to your profile, based upon certain major elements of your background (e.g. industry, GPA, etc.). If your background comes with any negative stereotypes (e.g. engineers are anti-social; people with low GPAs are stupid), then you need to work to counter those weaknesses in your profile (the entire strengths & weaknesses module of ApplicantLab does exactly that)

– Schools are not simply looking at academics:  basic academics get your foot in the door, but a 790 GMAT from someone with a boring work profile will never, ever get in over someone with a 690 who has moved mountains.

– Once you prove that you can handle the academics — well, that’s just the first step. THEN you need to prove: 

– Basic “EQ”  / people skills

– Post-MBA employability

– “Leadership potential” (an often-used term that we describe in detail in the ApplicantLab — we help you find your best leadership stories)


The more competitive the program you’re applying to, the higher the burden of proof is at the top of the pyramid.

And — once you prove the “basics” lower down in the pyramid (eg. “Yes, I can handle the coursework”), then the other 3 factors will come more into play.

Academics simply make you “qualified” to attend;

EQ / Employability / Leadership is what separates acceptances from rejections. 


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I hope you found this concept useful. I often find that MBA message-board posts focus too much on basic statistics like G.P.A. or GMAT — and while yes, there is a certain minimum threshold of a minimum GMAT score that will probably result in instant rejection, GPA is subject to much more thoughtful consideration, and as such, just the raw number doesn’t mean much in terms of predicting acceptance.

If you liked this article, please check out my virtual consulting platform, It is guaranteed to guide you through the same MBA essay-writing process that other admissions consultants want to charge you thousands of dollars for. I am trying to level the playing field by offering this advice digitally, and thus at an affordable price-point. Because: frankly, you don’t need to spend thousands on consulting if you’re willing to put in a little of the work yourself. Check it out and please let me know what you think.

8 thoughts on “MBA Admissions Committees have needs… do you meet those needs?

    1. Hello! You’re only allowed to apply to each MBA program once per “year” (by which I mean, application season, not calendar year). So, if you apply via the Consortium in the early round, and are then denied, I do not believe that you could then re-apply in Round 2 or Round 3.

  1. Hi Maria,
    Thank you very much for bringing in the so much required disruption to the costly admissions consulting business. As someone who has undergone the consulting process and paid thousands of dollars without any success (My consultant was amazing but very costly), I am genuinely curious to understand it better. I would like to know if ApplicantLab will provide few hours of personal 1:1 support if I purchase the USD 299 course. Thanks for letting know.

    1. Hi Uzi,

      Thanks for reaching out! If you’ll allow me one rhetorical question 🙂 …if your previous consultant was so “amazing”, then why are you re-applying this year? 🙂 Can you go back to that person and ask for either a partial refund, or dramatically reduced rates for this year’s schools? I’m not trying to be mean, I just have to chuckle a little when I get notes like this — one person once said, “Well, I’m not sure how ApplicantLab can be as good as the previous consultant I used. I used him two years in a row, and he was great. Granted, I didn’t get accepted anywhere in those 2 years, but still. He was top-notch!” Huh? (note that this person went on to use the Lab and be accepted to a program in London that he is extremely happy to be attending).

      In terms of ApplicantLab, the $299 covers the online course with unlimited schools (choosing from the world’s top 20 – 30 programs). That is, I do not charge per school. Admissions consultants of my caliber (HBS graduates; 10+ years of experience; members of AIGAC), easily charge $300 for just one hour of time. The fact that ApplicantLab provides advice on everything you need for that cost is incredible value — to be honest, my happy customers often tell me I should charge a lot more and it would still be a bargain (read my reviews on GMATClub that often say this!) (In particular, you may find this review to be of particular interest?)

      If, after going through the Lab, you’d still like additional guidance, you have several flexible options:

      1) I have a limited number of hours available; you can hire me for a-la-carte services (usually high-level strategy)

      2) I have editors that I have trained on my methods; you can hire them for document editing (essays; resume)

      3) At that point, you are welcome to go back to any other consultant you like (perhaps this person you liked from last year?) but instead of requiring a costly “comprehensive package”, this time around, you can hire them for an hour or two for a “polish package”, or something far more affordable.

      Why not give my free trial a try? You can get started right now here!


  2. I am an Indian with Engineering background (passed out in September 2012) from one of the best institutes of India with work experience of 3 years in Australia (mining firm) and presently working as a Product Manager (last 1 year) with a FMCG data analytics firm based in India.

    I have gone through the video of hierarchy of needs (from Adcom perspective), read the FAQs and the testimonials.

    How helpful will a paid ApplicantLab be if I am preparing myself to apply in September 2018 ( 11 months away) ? Secondly, on taking the paid service how long does the service lasts for (duration of the expiry of my online access) ?

    At present I am preparing for GMAT and plan to take it by January end and than focus upon on my profile.

    1. Hi there! Thanks for reaching out. I think using ApplicantLab this early in the process could be very beneficial, as it can help you really learn what admissions committees are looking for and that way you can spend the next year bolstering your leadership profile (at work and/or community) accordingly. Access currently does not expire (though we may re-consider that policy in the future). It may be worth it to spend a week or so reading the Lab’s advice on leadership, recommenders, etc. so you can start cultivating experiences, relationships with recommenders, etc. that you’ll need a year from now. Thanks!

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