When Esther worked as an admissions officer at Chicago Booth School of Business, she saw a countless number of highly qualified but denied candidates who failed to demonstrate their ‘fit.’
What is fit? How do you capture it? And how do you describe it in ways that resonate with decision makers?
In the process of teaching leadership to Northwestern undergraduate students, getting her own MBA at the Kellogg School of Management, winning business plan competitions, and coaching hundreds of individual and corporate clients, Esther has learned how to help her clients demonstrate their fit. Since 2010, Esther has combined the science of persuasion and the art of storytelling, perfected in the Leadership Story Lab she founded, to help MBA applicants gain a competitive edge.
“When an admissions officer argued strongly for a candidate, it was often because he or she felt a human connection to that person, even though they may never have met; that’s the power of story.”
Storytelling, as Esther defines it, is the strategic sequencing of facts and emotion. You don’t need to be a superhero to tell great stories. All you need is a process, framework, practice and the right coach. Savvy and forward-thinking MBA applicants aren’t the only ones who appreciate the way Esther teaches storytelling. Her students in Kellogg’s Executive Education program and many institutional clients such as AllState, BP, Brookfield Asset Management, Girls Scouts, Northwestern Memorial Hospital, and US Cellular, have all benefited from Esther’s Storytelling Process.
For her MBA clients, Esther provides the opportunity to collaborate with her and her colleague Faisal, who is also an experienced MBA Prep School consultant and fellow Leadership Story Lab Story Facilitator. Their unique team-based approach provides the client with the advantage of a “team of advisors” focused solely on mining their best content, refining story flow, and telling their personal stories to create the best application possible.
If you are intrigued by storytelling and want to learn how to tell brief and brilliant stories at ALL occasions, Esther is the perfect partner for you!
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Reflections from some of Esther’s recent client success stories:
Accepted to Harvard Business School
There is so much information related to MBA applications available online that it is sometimes difficult to pick what exactly goes into a successful application. If you are lucky, then you get to work with a consultant like Esther.
To start with I filled the 360 questionnaire. While answering this 360, I felt I had to do a lot of introspection and this helped me stand in good stead when I started working on the essay and other parts of the application.
As an engineer from an over represented nationality, I needed to come up with something special to differentiate myself from other applicants. Esther was the one who provided inputs at crucial junctures and helped make me come up with a compelling application. She conducted a mock interview with me after the interview call came. The questions she asked during the interview revealed how much effort she had put in to read my application and to prepare me for this interview.
I am glad to say that all these efforts paid off and I was accepted at HBS (Class of 2018)! At some point during the application, Esther ceased to be a consultant and became more like my mentor. I have already recommended her services to colleagues and in the future too. Thank you again for helping me achieve my dream of going to HBS 🙂
Accepted to Stanford
There I was, nervously fiddling with my “Go Stanford!” pen while waiting for the Stanford Graduate School of Business program director to start her information session for prospective students.
I was already ahead of the curve. Before September, I had taken my GMAT, finalized my list of schools, and almost completed the Stanford Round 1 application. Stanford was by far my top choice. So it was vital I nail this application and make every effort to show I was interested — down to the pen I carried to the info session.
I knew the odds and it wasn’t looking good — a twelve-to-one chance if they randomly selected the applicants. As I assessed the other applicants who slowly trickled into the room, I realized it was more than an uphill battle. The director came in and asked everyone to introduce themselves, say what they did, and tell where they were from.
First up was a private equity associate from Singapore. Next, a social entrepreneur just off a flight from Africa. After what seemed like thirty out-of-this-world introductions, it was my turn.
“Hi there, my name is Nick, and I run an auto parts business in Santa Clara, just down Highway 101,” I said with a smile. However, I was not smiling inside. It was clear I was fighting a losing battle. After all, why would Stanford care about an applicant who lacked global work experience, ran a small-time auto parts business, and whose most amazing accomplishment was running four marathons?
Luckily, I had already started working with Esther Choy, my MBA admissions counselor, earlier that summer. I knew she could increase my chances of getting accepted to the business school of my choice, but I had no idea she would help me develop lifelong communication skills.
The process started with an inventory of my life—what activities I had done, where I had worked, and what I loved to do. Esther guided me down the path and helped me mine my life experience, refine my essay ideas, and tell my story more effectively. Esther made me realize that what I viewed as a rather mundane life was actually a treasure trove of engaging stories that screamed to be told. I changed my view of myself from an auto parts salesman from Santa Clara to a passionate entrepreneur who genuinely loved what he did. I soon discovered what made me tick—a passion for cars and for my business. What motivated me to wake up at 5:00 a.m. to work out before working hours on end on the business? I discovered what interested me, why I was pursuing an MBA, and what I envisioned happening after. These were all crucial questions to every application that I had absolutely no idea how to tackle. Now I had the material and renewed confidence in my story to tackle the application and interview process.
My challenge then became how to effectively communicate this rich story. MBA applications are more than just writing essays; they are an introspective look at the past. By using Esther’s Story Telling Process, I easily constructed powerful responses that would make my application unique. Esther’s START method provided a clear framework to ensure that every essay was effective and captured the readers. At that point, they were no longer essays; rather, they were captivating narratives that answered the application essay prompt while engaging the reader.
Every Stanford applicant knows about “The Call.” That is, the call from the Stanford MBA admissions director, to congratulate you on your admissions to “The GSB.” My call came at 9:15 p.m. after a long day at work. I was tired and did not recognize the number. Reluctantly, I picked it up.
“Hey, Nick, it’s Derrick from Stanford. I wanted to ask you about my BMW M3; I have some parts I need. But before I ask you about that, I wanted to welcome you to the Stanford GSB.” What did they see in me? The truth is I will never know, but I am sure my unique story had something to do with it.
I’ve reflected on this past year since I began my MBA application. Although the application process was time consuming and frustrating, mastering Esther’s Story Telling Process has helped me develop more effective and engaging communication skills that give a clear view of my life path. I was amazed at how these skills translated from written to oral communication (and vice versa), which enabled me to nail interviews and captivate my audience with ease. I have employed this method beyond just the professional and academic setting by developing engaging talks for my Entrepreneurs’ Organization forums (www.eonetwork.org). I can’t imagine a more effective and valuable tool for impactful and engaging communication.
Esther has been a tremendous resource that has transformed me into a direct and authentic communicator. This skill set has enabled me to express myself in a powerful and genuine manner throughout my MBA application process and in professional settings. Esther’s method was hugely valuable in my MBA admissions essays by honing my message and conveying my true voice- I have no doubt this was a key factor in my admission to my top choice. With her help, I have been able to write and speak more effectively, a skill that is invaluable and something I will use for the rest of my life.
You are most likely in the same situation I was in a year ago. The admissions application process is a stressful flurry of revisions, condensing, and reflecting. But you don’t have to go at it alone. Esther’s can guide you down this path: mine your life’s experience, refine your story ideas, and tell your stories in brief and brilliant ways.
Accepted to Chicago Booth
I’d like to start by saying that I am very hesitant to refer to Esther and Faisal as admission consultants. I see them more as mentors and partners that are indispensable in my quest to gain admission to top MBA programs.
Almost everyone who chooses to go through the grueling MBA admission process is motivated, disciplined, and has a successful track record. What differentiates one candidate from another is the way he/she conveys messages. Esther and Faisal helped me to build a compelling and genuine story throughout this process.
Esther started off the process by story mining, refining, and more refining. She constantly pushed me to look beyond the norms and examine myself more thoroughly. I ended up learning more about myself than I ever did. At the same time, she was very careful about not putting words in my mouth, so what I presented to the admissions committee was truly my voice.
The next step was to put together an engaging story that resonates. This was where Esther’s gift in storytelling and Faisal’s incredible writing skills came in. Esther started with the basics such as the structure of stories and the art of what to leave out, which made an ordinary event sound much more interesting and engaging.
While Esther taught me how to communicate effectively, Faisal focused on how to communicate more efficiently. I was amazed by Faisal’s ability to cut down a lengthy essay to something that was very concise without losing its character. The essays demonstrated truly who I am rather than a façade tailored to the MBA admission. Their guidance was instrumental in helping me to convey a powerful message to the admission committee and securing a position at one of the top MBA programs.
However, an acceptance letter from a top MBA program is hardly the most valuable thing that I’ve gained through working with Esther and Faisal. I’ve learned through this process how to communicate effectively and efficiently, and how to connect to my audiences through powerful storytelling. This is something that will benefit me for the rest of my career.
I would highly recommend Esther and Faisal to anyone who is seeking a transforming experience, and who is looking far and beyond the MBA admission process.
Accepted to Wharton (EMBA), Columbia (EMBA), Kellogg (1Y FT w/Scholarship), and Tuck (FT)
At 32 years old with a family and after a difficult 2013 MBA application season, I realized that it was now or never for getting into business school. In 2013 I applied to three northeast schools — Wharton (FT), Columba (FT), and Stern (FT) — and was ultimately dinged from all three after interviewing at two and being wait-listed at one. I needed an edge to make sure that my next application season was successful and my last. While I spoke with several MBA admission consulting companies, after having my introductory interview with Esther I knew I had found that edge with MBA Prep School.
After my initial conversation with Esther there were four reasons I selected MBA Prep School and especially Esther and Faisal to coach me for my 2014 application season:
- Their high historical success rate
- Their school selection strategy aligned with my goals (i.e., diversify among top schools vs. go downstream with schools)
- They had the most collaborative and warm culture among the firms I interviewed (e.g., kicking off the essay writing process Esther said, “now the fun begins” — and she meant it!), and
- As a collaborative team, Esther and Faisal could provide a more rounded perspective regarding my application — Esther described it as getting both the “cup half full” and the “cup half empty” perspective.
While the application process was still a lot of work, it was a lot more fun than my previous go around and I felt more confident having a team supporting me in the process. I even looked forward to our update calls as the brainstorming process was so enjoyable. Some of the areas that Esther and Faisal helped the most were in the following:
- Capturing a compelling MBA vision,
- Brainstorming the most powerful story ideas to differentiate my vision and leadership strengths—with a team based model, this meant I got an extra “outside opinion” early in the process of writing an essay,
- Teaching me that stories can be used in many contexts beyond the most obvious ones and how to structure those stories for the most powerful effect,
- Providing editing recommendations, i.e.:
- pointing out areas warranting elaboration, but especially for
- suggesting areas to remove content and details to make room for the most powerful story elements, and
- Providing guidance about selecting the most powerful recommenders among my pool of options.
However, beyond the more immediate goal of getting accepted to business school, I feel like working with Esther and Faisal has given me tools that will make me more successful in business. The experience has made me not only both a better writer, but also more able to communicate a compelling vision in broader contexts. Currently working in consulting, I foresee this having immediate benefits with:
- Communicating my personal vision and strengths to colleagues and clients,
- Pitching our company’s vision to clients to win projects,
- Developing compelling client recommendations that clients actually want to read, and
- Creating a more compelling individual performance narrative that allows me to earn a higher performance rating and achieve a more rapid promotion timeline.
Ultimately, I was accepted to all four schools I applied to: Wharton (EMBA), Columbia (EMBA), Kellogg (1Y FT), and Tuck (FT) — and even earned a sizable scholarship from Kellogg.
While I was expecting good things to come out of this application season, after my previous year’s application season performance, I was not expecting this level of success. That’s another of the many reasons I’m so thankful for Esther and Faisal’s help, guidance, and ability to make the process more fun that made this experience so successful and rewarding.
If you’re looking to learn the tools that will make you more successful in the b-school application process and in business in general, look no further than Esther and Faisal at MBA Prep School.
Accepted to MIT Sloan
Enlisting the help of Esther Choy and Faisal Khan for my business school admissions process was simply one of the best professional decisions of my life. I firmly believe that without their help, I would not have gotten into a top-5 MBA program. While there are many MBA admissions consultants out there, I believe that Esther and Faisal differentiate themselves in the following ways:
1. Robust client work plan: If I had to mention one item that sets Esther and Faisal apart from other admissions consultants, I would have to say it is their comprehensive client work plan. They rely on a framework that breaks the MBA application process into its discrete components and that is truly the best way to brainstorm and figure out how to portray yourself to the admissions committee.
2. Powerful storytelling process: Not only will Esther and Faisal provide you with timely and detailed feedback to help you polish your essays, but they will also help you craft a compelling story that will touch the admissions officers on an emotional level. They pushed me to edit and re-edit my essays until all of them tied together in a way that my overall application actually had a unified theme and a powerful underlying career purpose.
3. First-hand experience as both students and admissions officers: Esther and Faisal can offer incredible insights into the MBA applications process as they have both attended a top-tier MBA program AND they have both served on a top-tier MBA school’s admissions committee. Their unique background offers them a holistic and comprehensive view that was immensely helpful for me. For instance, when I was waitlisted at one of my schools, Esther was able to provide me with some insider knowledge about how the process works behind the scenes and then gave me advice on the best way to proceed.
4. Kindness and generosity: During my MBA application process I was waitlisted at a school that was not part of the our consulting arrangement. Despite this, Esther was kind enough to offer her services in helping me get off the waitlist, free-of-charge, because she cared about me and my future beyond that of a typical admissions consultant.
Overall, I couldn’t be happier with the whole admissions process and attribute a lot of my eventual success to the help that Esther and Faisal provided to me. I definitely recommend them if you are looking to take your MBA applications to the next level!
Accepted to Chicago Booth Part-Time Program
Working with Esther Choy and Faisal Khan on my business school admission application was one of the greatest decisions I’ve ever made!
Before my application began, I had no idea where to start and what to write in my application essays, but Esther helped me to get to know myself, brainstorm ideas, and develop a framework for storytelling. After the initial draft, I was surprised that I had so many great stories about my life. Faisal, on the other hand, helped me polish my essays and he was able make my application essays to tell the story more effectively.
I learnt so much from Esther and Faisal during the admission process, but the most valuable thing is the storytelling framework they have taught me. It not only helped me to get accepted to my dream school but also drastically improved my interview and communication skills which helped me land a dream job.
I would highly recommend Esther and Faisal to anyone who is looking for a life changing experience beyond the MBA admission process.
Accepted to MIT Sloan
Business school was the best decision I made in my life, and I know I could not have gone through the application process without Faisal and Esther.
Not only did they teach me about the schools I was applying to, but they taught be a great deal about myself and how to portray myself in the best light. I learned how to tell the right stories in the right way, and this “story-telling” was integral to not only the admissions process, but also to the rest of my life.”
After school, I will be working as a management consultant, and I know I will use the skills I learned from Esther and Faisal, as well as the MBA degree that they helped me achieve. I highly recommend working with them. Oh, and they’re awesome people too!
Accepted to Harvard MPP and Kellogg MBA
Esther was my coach, is my mentor, and has become my inspiration to march forward. These are heavy words, so let me explain: I met Esther in the middle of my MBA application process. While I read plethora “How to…MBA” books, none of them kept me organized through the process as Esther did; from brainstorming content to shaping story—her coaching was invaluable. Furthermore, what made Esther different is that she actually cared that I find what will make me really happy and aligns with my goals—like a mentor would. Finally, Esther pointed me in the direction I should start going in order to reach my post-MBA goals—she really followed through way past the point when I hit submit.
Accepted to Kellogg MBA
Esther helped me navigate the time consuming and difficult task of applying to 4 top MBA programs. She helped me establish a realistic timeline, identify interesting topics for my essays and synthesize my ideas into a cohesive story. Esther utilized her experience as a former admissions officer to provide unique insight that greatly improved my applications. With her advice and help I was able to make myself standout among my very qualified peers and fellow applicants. Additionally, she conducted a mock interview for me that was exactly like the real thing. With her guidance, feedback and tools, I was able to gain admission to my top choice MBA program!!! I could not be more happy with the results that Esther helped me achieve.
Accepted to Tepper MBA, with Fellowship
Your services were invaluable, you are more than an admissions counselor, you are really a life coach. You helped me define myself and find my way and this admissions experience started a new me, I feel like I am really being authentic now and it is so freeing. I can’t thank you enough, the fact that I have choices is amazing, there is a colleague of mine at work who applied this year and didn’t get in anywhere, guess he didn’t have team Esther behind him.
Accepted to NYU w/Scholarship
I considered a number of consultants prior to partnering with Esther and Faisal. From our first conversation it was clear that Esther is someone who genuinely cares about her clients’ success and has the skill set to push them to deliver the best and most genuine stories about themselves. I knew that I would need to deliver a refined narrative on my application to find success given that I came from a non-traditional background without a well-known employer on my resume.
What I especially appreciate is that Esther and Faisal do not impose their idea of what the perfect story is for you, but challenge you to figure it out yourself. This is valuable not only for the application and admissions interviews but also for future career discussions. I was able to authentically and articulately convey my story to other students and admissions staff.
Esther and Faisal were also accommodating to my tight timeline. We completed the entire process in just a few short weeks. They were both very responsive to my questions and ready to talk at any time. I strongly recommend Esther and Faisal to anyone who is looking for an MBA consulting team.
Accepted to UCLA Anderson with Fellowship
I will always be grateful to Esther and Faisal for the guidance and insights that not only made my applications the best they could be, but helped me learn a lot more about myself.
My favorite part of Esther’s program is the initial brainstorming and self-discovery session through a probing questionnaire. This allowed me to find my own voice and explore my deepest passions in life, helping me discover schools that I didn’t previously consider or possible subject matters for my essays that were not obvious to me. After the questionnaire and a few calls with Esther, I felt like she had a great understanding of who I am/what motivates me, and she was able to tailor my school selection, along with applications and essays accordingly. She pushed me to discover my own inspirations and I learned more about myself than I ever did. I felt that Esther truly got to know me as a person and was fully invested in my well being and learning, not just on my application. The storytelling methods I learned from her were invaluable — I was able to transform my leadership experiences into compelling stories. Esther even recommended TED talks or books that were relevant to me and I did benefit from. Beyond my applications, Esther did way more for my personal growth than I could’ve imagined.
I can’t thank Faisal enough as well. While Esther established the brainstorming, storytelling technique, and basic focus of my essays, Faisal focused on fine-tuning my essays and making them flow as well as possible. Faisal’s writing skills are top-notch and his turn-around time is always fast. He is a great communicator as well. When I was stressed about the deadline of a particular essay/app, he helped me establish a timeline and reassured me that it can be done.
Overall, I’m grateful to have had Esther and Faisal’s help throughout the process and it was a tremendous learning experience. I wouldn’t have gotten to one of my top choice schools with fellowship otherwise. Most importantly, I do not see them as admission consultants but as valuable friends and mentors going forward. Thank you!
Accepted to UCLA Anderson
After an initial tough round applying to an MBA, I am grateful to have had Esther and Faisal as my advisors the second time around. Esther has been invaluable in helping me find my voice within my applications and be a better storyteller within my interviews. All the while Faisal consistently encouraged and supported me throughout process as he meticulously polished every aspect of my application. I have thoroughly enjoyed the experience and have gained invaluable skills that I will continue to use throughout my career. I am happy to say I will be attending one of my top choices this fall!