Thoughts from the First Annual AIGAC Conference

Last week several of us at Veritas Prep were lucky enough to attend the first annual conference for the Association of International Graduate Admissions Consultants (AIGAC), in Chicago. Although the organization is only a couple of years old, it’s clear that it has already made great strides in establishing high standards for ethics and professionalism in the world of admissions consulting.

On the morning of the first day we visited the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business, where we heard from admissions director Rosemaria Martinelli about what the school looks for in applicants. While she didn’t go into too many specifics that I can share here, she did promise us that Chicago’s 2008-2009 application essays are coming soon, and that more changes are afoot. Expect to see some significant changes to the school’s admissions essays, although the PowerPoint presentation remains! We also heard from Chris Iannuccilli, the school’s Executive Director of Marketing, who shared some interesting insights about where the GSB plans to go in the next couple of years.

That afternoon we headed north to Evanston, where we visited my favorite business school, the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. There we heard from Beth Flye about the latest trends the school is seeing. Think about this: In 2007-2008 the school saw a 20% increase in application volume, on top of years of already strong growth. Keep that in mind when you think about going severely over your word limit in your MBA application essays. Additionally, we heard that Kellogg’s incoming 1-Year class is 45% international — something to consider if you’re looking for an especially international flavor to your business education in the United States.

The second day featured some stimulating panel discussions, the first of which featured some of our peer admissions consultants as they tackled interesting topics such as managing unreasonable client expectations, dealing with unethical clients (we heard some VERY interesting war stories), and — what I found most interesting of all — the rising tide of the Millennials generation and their over-involved “helicopter parents.” Yes, it seems that these parents are now infiltrating even the world’s top MBA prorgams.

Another panel featured admissions officers from Tuck, Haas, Anderson, LBS, and Kenan-Flagler. They expressed many of the ideas and concerns that we also heard from Kellogg and Chicago, but interestingly, they also mentioned the trend of more and more parents being involved in the admissions process. I consider this to be a disturbing trend (Will we ever let our children grow up?), but one that we’re all going to have to live with, from applicants to admissions consultants to admissions officers.

We closed the two-day event with a more informal mixer with admissions representatives from these and other top schools. In many cases, it was great to simply be able to put faces to names, and the casual environment was perfect for letting everyone get to know each other a little better.

I left the first anunal AIGAC conference even more excited than ever about the prospects for our young young industry. As Veritas Prep and other leading admissions consultants continue to take the high road and maintain an open dialogue with admissions officers, I expect that the industry will continue to grow, and clients (and even schools) will continue to benefit.