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Korea’s Grad School Consulting Boom

Posted March. 14, 2006 03:37,   


A Korean black market that forges resumes and ghostwrites essays for MBA applications is flourishing. With more than 3,000 applicants for overseas MBA schools yearly, MBA admissions consulting businesses are spreading like wildfire.

Because of this phenomenon, people who have emptied their wallets only to be rejected by MBA graduate schools are on the rise, and U.S. MBA schools are beginning to crack down.

“We’ll Make Anything”-

“We’ll make anything you need. Besides package services, we’ll customize services to your needs,” claims one MBA consulting business advertisement. One package offers an essay and recommendation letter for one school for 2,500,000 won, and the same company offers a package deal of five schools together for 7,000,000 won.

These consulting agencies are doing good business in dozens of places in Seoul alone. Because they are part of the underground economy, it is difficult to get an accurate read on their numbers.

The agencies can sometimes make it seem as if applicants have been continuously employed during the time they were studying for the TOEFL or GMAT, and sometimes even forge documents to make it appear that the applicants were recruited by businesses. Admissions essays can be ghostwritten, and the cost of five MBA graduate schools applications is around 5,000,000 to 10,000,000 won.

Applicants who have blown millions of won on applications written by MBA consulting websites are now complaining that they have wasted time and money on rejections, however.


American MBA schools have concluded that applicants from Asia have problems actually speaking English despite excellent TOEFL scores, and are placing more weight on essay evaluations.

Those who lack writing skill or have no experience writing essays are flocking to consulting agencies.

But as essays have proven to be unreliable, famous MBA schools have started to emphasize interviews in recent years, and are verifying applicant work experience through specialized services.

Out of the 23 Koreans who went through interviews at a well-known MBA school, one was disqualified for counterfeit documents.

A source at the University of Pennsylvania MBA program said, “We are doing all we can to do background checks on candidates. At a top-flight MBA school, cutting corners on applications will not work.”

Representative Jeong Byeong-chan, from one of the biggest domestic MBA consulting service companies, says, “The belief that essay consulting is mandatory should be changed. There have been many applicants who have been denied because of bland, stereotyped essays.”

Jae-Myoung Lee egija@donga.com