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Ask the Expert: Admissions Strategies for a Premium MBA Application

We had an e-coffee with admissions consultant Tomás García to learn about his experience helping students with their MBA application and his strategies for a successful outcome during the admissions process.


Tomás is an admissions expert and truly international professional, who has led over 100 candidates through the admissions process. He was born in Argentina but grew up in Venezuela where he attended the International School of Caracas. There he had inspiring English teachers who were extremely demanding regarding writing skills, and with whom he still maintains a warm friendship. The hard work paid off. You see, Tomás knows the intricacies of the English language better than most native speakers. After studying Political Science at UCEMA he transitioned to International Relations at Universidad de Belgrano with an opportunity to spend his last year at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, Canada. 


Can you tell me more about your professional background?

When I graduated, my father was starting a software company in Brazil and I began a career in tech helping him launch an ERP for the oil industry. I worked there for 2 years, doing client engagement, product and business development and directing our communications strategy. I traveled a lot and it was a great experience but ultimately I wanted to trace my own path. I started to work for Cognizant as the right hand of an account leader which was a position quite similar to what I had been doing at my family’s business. This position was extremely enriching, both in commercial aspects and in understanding the difficulties underlying large digital transformations. I also helped put together the Colombian office, where we ensembled a 60 people team.


Because of the international aspects of my engagements, I can relate strongly to people who are going to be in a multicultural environment and, in particular, those who have a background in consulting or IT. I believe these experiences are an asset in understanding clients and guiding them to shape the strongest strategy.


How and why did you decide to become an Admissions Consultant?

When I went to Canada I was determined to stay for one year, and jumped through many hoops to make that happen. By the time I came back, everyone at the International office knew my name and that I was proficient in English. They began to call me whenever a student wanted to apply for an exchange program to help them prepare for the TOEFL. That was my first experience in this field. I took the exam a few times back when I was at school and knew it very well.


I discovered that I enjoyed teaching and motivating. Not long afterwards, a student came to me and asked me to prepare an application for an MBA abroad. He was accepted to IESE and extremely satisfied with our work and his referrals cemented the beginning of a new business.


For a few years it was a side gig, since I had my career in tech and a parallel project in music, which I thought was my real path. Through sustained growth in my client base and great results, I realized educational consulting was an extremely rewarding field where I could relate to people at the edge of their game. I left IT with no regrets.


So little by little it became your full time job.

Yes, there was one particular case that convinced me. A student who had applied to the Fulbright scholarship and had been rejected came to me for help. I took this as a personal challenge. His application was  strong to begin with but I thought it could be improved. We worked together and he ended up getting a 200K grant. That was when I decided to found Atlas Writers, my own consultancy firm where we work with candidates for undergrad and non-traditional masters. I work with people from all kinds of backgrounds. Nowadays I am happy working both on my own projects and with Merchant, getting incredible results for our MBA candidates as part of a fantastic team, who have quickly become my friends and even fellow bandmates.  


What would you advise a professional who is considering an MBA?

The way I see it, the MBA is a solution to a problem. You need to define as clearly as you can  what that problem is. I am always honest about this when I have the first interview with students. It is vital to understand why you want to pursue an MBA and also what your non-negotiables are.


When your equation is clear, you don’t hesitate in your intention and you create your best work.


In your opinion, what’s a big challenge you see with admission clients you work with?

Often clients tend to be closed off to options at the start. They come with a fixed idea of what they want to do and where they want to go, but they don’t understand where these inclinations are coming from or what the real options are. Up until the moment you make the second payment, you really do not know where you are going to attend. It’s important to talk to students and alumni to get to the core of each institution and to have a more rounded understanding of the culture and opportunities you will find there.


Why do you think Merchant has had so much success getting scholarships?

Instead of advertising candidates in a traditional manner (as a great professional, an outstanding leader, etc.), I try to show a multidimensional character.


What admissions committees usually look for is someone who is authentic, interesting and shows a personality that fits with the school’s values. I take all facts of a student’s life into account, not just their professional background. When different aspects of a candidate’s background point to the same essential qualities, there is a congruence that shines through in the application -and that is a very strong motivator for both admissions and scholarship committees.


What do you like to do in your free time?

As I hinted previously, music is a huge part of my life. I have played the guitar since I was about 11 and profoundly enjoy making and sharing music with others. These days I am co-writing an album with US based songwriter Hilary Lankford (check her out on spoty) and, when bars are open, I accompany amazing singers such as Grace Portillo from Grace & Bad Love. I am also an avid reader with seasonal interests. At the moment I am immersed in philosophy and the psychology of leadership. When I’m not telling you how to improve your essay, I can usually be found traveling in the mountains, eating good food and sipping japanese whisky.



If you need help with the GMAT or the admissions process we can help.  For more information on our different GMAT products see:

  • GMAT private classes – see the stories of Will, Teddy, Jessica and Nico and how they approached their GMAT journey with Merchant.
  • Merchant Academy – a GMAT teaching innovation that makes taking the GMAT, like an MBA. Click to find out more about the Merchant Academy format.
  • Merchant GMAT Hall of Fame – a gallery of some of our clients over the last eight years.

For admissions help see some of the client stories on our admissions page.

Take the next step in your career today.

Anish Merchant

CEO & Co-Founder

- "Preparing for the GMAT and applying for an MBA requires a tremendous commitment, and that doesn’t take into consideration the personal challenges our students must face when deciding if they want to leave their friends, families, and native cultures behind to advance their careers abroad. An MBA is not for everyone and that’s precisely what makes this advanced degree so valuable. 

For these reasons, we at Merchant only work with students we are confident have what it takes to succeed throughout the preparation and application processes.

Given an increased demand in our services, we do not have the ability to offer free consultation services to unserious applicants. If you are interested in learning more about Merchant, please fill out this form. After reviewing your LinkedIn profile, our team will be in touch with you if we feel you are a good fit for our services."