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Kofi Kankam received his Bachelor of Art degree in Biology from Harvard College, his Masters in Education degree from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, and his MBA from Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania where he was a Joseph Wharton Fellow.
At Wharton, Kofi was the Chairman of Wharton’s largest student-run conference, a Strategic Marketing teaching fellow, and the founder of the Wharton Comedy Club among several other activities. Kofi is a former Vice President of Marketing and Communication for The Wharton Club of NY and is a former alumni interviewer for The Wharton School and Harvard College. He has successfully coached several clients to gain business school entry since 2004 and Kofi co-founded of Admit Advantage in 2008.
Admit Advantage assists clients through the application process by building a convincing story to position clients for acceptance into the MBA, law, and undergraduate programs of their choice by enhancing strengths, mitigating weaknesses, and highlighting their unique value to each programs.
MO: What was your inspiration for starting Admit Advantage?
Kofi: Two things principally: Each of us was getting inundated with requests for help from people wanting to know “the inside’ scoop on what it took to get into a great school and further career opportunities. Secondly, when we actually were in these programs, it was clear that while everyone came from a range of socio-economic levels, mostly everyone had a very rich understanding of how to package and market themselves. I had a lot of concerns about this kind of advantage, especially as I saw the opportunities that folks in these kinds of programs were offered versus some of my friends and peers back home in Ohio. That knowledge coupled with a burning desire to build something was really motivating.
MO: Why did you decide to found a start up and face the risk of a new business instead of following a more conventional path? How did your partner take the news of your decision to become an entrepreneur?
Kofi: Well, I knew I wanted to follow my own dream ever since I got a real idea of the journey my immigrant parents took to get to America. As I got older and heard the stories of how they each came here with relatively nothing in a turbulent time in North America in the 50s and 60s, I realized that their sacrifice of being here to give their kids a chance to do anything had to be honored. I would have a hard time looking my parents in the face and telling them I settled doing something I didn’t love. There are other related reasons, but essentially that is the pillar.
My wife is pretty phenomenal. Actually both together and separate, I suppose. But, when we met, she knew that I was committed to this path to building something in technology and/or education and that it would require some sacrifice in terms of glamour. But, while’s she fantastic and glamorous in lots of ways, she isn’t materialistic. At all. And, she is a wonderful supporter. So, in some sense it has been easy to have her along this path. There have been tough times, especially with regard to her having limited control over the operations of the company, but yet having to live with the good and bad consequences. That’s been tough sometimes for both of us. But, she is a vital piece in terms of advice and support for our build. And, I’ve been working very hard to include her.
MO: How have you managed to create a network of over 30 consultants and how important are they in your process?
Kofi: A few things: 1) We have been in their shoes as consultants elsewhere, so we knew some of the frustration and pain points of being a consultant and have tried to eliminate those elements (i.e. operational issues like being organized with information sharing, giving them authority and yet offering structure, etc…); 2) We have made a decision to have them share in the company’s success. Period. It’s been a mantra of ours to try to make this a fantastic place to grow and build and share in the upside. So, we try to pay more, and we also try to honor their ideas/suggestions as best we can. This is kind of our chance to build the company in which we always wanted to work and we’re going all out to do it.
MO: How hard has it been to demystify the application process and then break it down into a business model?
Kofi: We have had to be thoughtful, but it’s not been impossible. It hasn’t been that hard because we have also been our clients: I mean that we have all had to apply to schools, overcome our fear, and struggle through certain parts of the process. So, in knowing those pain points and knowing where we would have liked to have gained support, we had some really solid instincts on where to start. And then, of course, over time we have refined based on our successes and failures and indirect and direct customer feedback. Sometimes, unsolicited!
MO: What tips can you give our readers that will provide them an advantage when applying to the school of their choice?
Kofi: Spend a lot of time focusing on what you’re going to bring to the school. Too many people get ‘star struck’ by the program and don’t take the perspective of an admissions officer who is trying to assess what you will bring to your classmates and how you will enhance the experience of being a student AND alumnus over time. Also, candidates should really give an honest assessment of their backgrounds and shore up any weaknesses. It’s sometimes hard to be brutally honest with yourself, but this process of applying to school is very revealing and detailed: It’s always better to be that way with yourself first as opposed to wait for an admissions committee member to tell you. The former will give you a path to improve yourself and a framework to evaluate your candidacy. The latter will often result in disappointment and lot of feelings of ‘what if’. Also, get help if you need it because many, many people are doing so.
MO: What can we expect next from Admit Advantage?
Kofi: Growth and expansion in terms of offerings such as undergraduate and law. Also, we’ll be a bit more international and work towards showcasing different offerings for various price points. We will be on the road a bit and offer more of our free webinar series which were really well received when we did them near the end of last year.
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