Q&A | SOM grads find success in test prep

Chad Troutwine SOM ’02 and Markus Moberg SOM ’02 devised a business plan while they were students at the School of Management. They began by offering Graduate Management Admission Test, or GMAT, preparation courses, and then expanded into admissions consulting. More than six years later — having gotten their start in a converted dining room in a New Haven apartment building — Veritas Prep is among the largest admissions consulting companies in the world. Troutwine sat down with the News to discuss the business of “getting in.”

Q: Why did you think the business would be especially relevant at the time? What trends in grad school admission were you targeting?

A: It was a combination of two things. And one was what I thought was kind of the laziness that comes with a monopoly. In this case it was a duopoly, Kaplan and Princeton Review. When I taught for Kaplan 10 years before going to business school, their courses were twice as long as when we launched, 32 hours long. They required all instructors to score at least in the 90th percentile on their exams, and the course tuition was pretty modest, $600 or so. By the time we started, the course had dropped to 16 hours, they no longer required the instructor to take the test he teaches, and the tuition had doubled. And so the first thing that inspired this idea was that there was an opportunity to create much, much better test prep.

Q: Do you have advice for people looking to get into grad school?

A: Anyone who wants to go to grad school should build a balanced background of comprehensive excellence. For law school, it’s much more about your academic record. The one thing I can also say is that because the economy has softened so much in the past year, a lot of people have struggled finding jobs they would’ve gotten a year or two ago and a lot of them are looking to grad school. They think they can improve their education and become a much more compelling potential hire once the economy improves. The problem is, it’s also become much more competitive to get in.

Q: At Yale, a lot of people seem like they’re going into nonprofits like Teach for America or going to grad school instead of to Wall Street…

A: Exactly. A lot of people in their early 20s who were looking for consulting jobs are going to law school now. And some of that it makes sense: Anyone struggling to land a traditional job, they should take the opportunity to take on something new, even if it means high-quality volunteer work.

Q: Do you ever worry about this test-prep culture that kind of says, I can pay money and get an advantage in admissions?

A: I’ll say this: The thing that troubles me the most about what we do is the differing ability of people to pay for the service. It really bothers me. So what we try to do is come up with different ways for people who lack the means but are really deserving of high-quality test prep to take our courses. We’ve given out hundreds of scholarships and discounts, some completely free packages. We’ll continue to do that. Ultimately, we’d love to come up with a way so it would never come down to finances. We want to provide our services to everyone. But I have no problem with coaching. I think it can be incredibly valuable, and I don’t think it’s any different from coaching for an athletic endeavor.

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