A Breakdown of MBA Admissions Consultants

A Breakdown of MBA Admissions Consultants

The investment in graduate business school is so great and the competition to get into top programs so fierce that some applicants turn to admissions consultants. These coaches guide them through the application process from start to finish. While hiring a consultant can be costly, the value of getting into a top-tier MBA program can make it worth it. After all, many of the graduates from these schools go on to lead the largest multi-national organizations, nonprofits, or even nations in the world.

In their infancy, admissions consultancies had a lot to prove. Some of the business schools originally thought of them as a way for applicants to cheat. They considered the process unfair because it gave advantage to those who could afford outside help. Now, admissions consultants often partner with MBA programs. Even if they don’t work together directly, they are no longer seen as the enemy either. Many of the consultants are products of the business schools, either as being an alum or a former admissions committee member.

QS recently asked admissions consultants to share how the process works and what separates them from one another. Each firm brings its own perspective to MBA applications; just as you need to find a school that is a good fit, you need to find your match in consultant.

This list includes some of the well-known admissions consultants in the United States, and are listed in alphabetical order. This is not a ranking but rather a roundup that includes the vital stats of the organization and each firm’s best advice for applicants.

 

Accepted

Accepted

Photo courtesy of Accepted

Headquarters: Los Angeles, with consultants throughout the US and Europe

Description: A stalwart of admissions consulting, Accepted has been in business since 1994 and on the web since 1996. This firm prides itself on being able to help candidates mitigate weaknesses in their application. Barring unforeseen circumstances, consultants work one-on-one with a client without getting passed off to others on staff. The consultant’s goal is to become an expert in your story and help you effectively share it with admissions committees, according to the firm.

Consultants: The consultants are highly educated and include two PhDs, seven MBAs, and three non-MBA masters degree holders. Among them, they speak a number of languages, including English, Spanish, French, Japanese, Chinese, Portuguese, and Hebrew.

Good-fit Clients: Clients are typically high achievers, but blemishes on your record or weaknesses in your application should not deter you from working with this group. Geography poses little limit, too. The staff has worked with clients from Australia to Alaska.

Price: The hourly rate is US$315. Applicants can save up to US$350 by purchasing the five- or 10-hour plan. The time can be spent working on advising, editing, interview prep, and waitlist guidance. Application packages start at US$4,250 for one application and US$5,800 for two applications. The price increases US$1,025 for each additional application.

Other Services: No

Where Clients Have Been Admitted: Among the schools clients have been admitted are Harvard Business School, Stanford Graduate School of Business, University of Pennsylvania Wharton School, University of Chicago Booth School of Business, Northwestern University Kellogg School of Management, Massachusetts Institute of Technology Sloan School of Management, Yale University School of Management, UC Berkeley Haas School of Business, University of Michigan Ross School of Business, London Business School, and INSEAD.

Best Advice for Applicants: “Make sure your application as a whole shows that you fit in at your target school in terms of academics, career goals, and culture and that you stand out (positively) in the applicant pool. In choosing schools, know how each program's curriculum, extra-curricular opportunities, and placement strengths will help you achieve your professional and educational goals.”

 

Master Admissions

Master Admission

Photo courtesy of Betsy Massar

Headquarters: Bay Area in California

Description: Master Admissions offers highly personalized consulting for applicants of top business schools. For the last 10 years, Betsy Massar has put her personal experience as a Harvard Business School MBA to use as an admissions consultant. While she is the primary consultant, Massar also gets assistance from Frances Hochschild, an MBA from Stanford Graduate School of Business, who continues to work as a coach for the GSB career office. Massar describes her services as being akin to those provided by a sports coach. While she cannot guarantee admission to any program, she promises clients are pleased with what they submit.

Consultants: Massar is the primary consultant. In addition to her Harvard MBA, Massar worked as a communications coach at Stanford Graduate School of Business. She also worked as an investment banker for Goldman Sachs and has served as a professional writer and editor. She has experience working in Asia and knows the finance industry well. As a result, she brings a unique perspective to the process and applicants should be able to easily relate to her.

Good-fit Clients: Certainly, Master Admissions sees Bay Area clients frequently. But Massar says geography doesn’t ever get in the way, and she has helped people from as far away as Afghanistan. In fact, she regularly works with applicants from Saudi Arabia, 80% of whom are women. “They will change the world, I promise,” Massar says.

Price: US$295 for 10-plus hours (fewer hours are negotiable).

Other Services: In addition to MBA application consulting, Massar also provides services for those applying to MPP programs and other graduate programs, including those applying to the Harvard Kennedy School. Career coaching, job interview prep, and stand-alone resume reviews are among the services Master Admissions offers.

Where Clients Have Been Admitted: Every school in the top 25 and most of the part-time MBA programs, too.

Best Advice for Applicants: “Take the process seriously – by doing the work required on all fronts and by executing well. But don’t take yourself too seriously. Have fun with it. You’ll learn a lot.”

 

mbaMission

mbaMission

 Logo courtesy of mbaMission

Headquarters: New York (with consultants worldwide)

Description: This firm interacts with clients in a number of ways. It offers some free events at cities around the world, and free content online, including some 30-minute consultations. Clients can get the total package – help with the process from brainstorming to submitting applications – or help on an hourly basis with specific tasks. What the consultants want you to know is they congregate often to determine best practices and news and trends in admissions. In addition, researchers on staff speak regularly with admissions staff at top schools to gather information for the team, 17 Insider’s Guides, and blog.  

Consultants: mbaMission reports it has rigorous hiring practices that include “strict minimum requirements,” several rounds of interviews, and passing multiple written tests. Once getting through this initial phase, consultants train with an experienced member of the team. Among them are business school students and graduates. More specifically, you will find a former Stanford Graduate School of Business admissions reader, an award-winning business reporter, a former director of admissions at Rice University Jones Graduate School of Business, and the author of 65 Successful Harvard Business School Application Essays.

Good-Fit Clients: Clients at various stages of the application process and budgets may find part of the firm’s offerings appealing. Someone looking for a bit of help may casually peruse those free workshops, whereas another client might want to deep dive into consulting with one-on-one help throughout the process. The firm says it has helped clients from New York to Dubai, so geography does not seem to be an issue.

Price: The complete package ranges in price from US$4,400 to US$11,100, depending on the number of schools the client is targetting. Hourly services cost US$325 per hour, and mock interview sessions start at US$650.   

Other Services: Post-MBA career services; it does not offer GMAT or GRE test prep, but has an exclusive partnership to direct clients to Manhattan Prep for those services.

Where Clients Have Been Admitted:  The list is long, according to mbaMission, and it includes Stanford Graduate School of Business, Harvard Business School, University of Pennsylvania Wharton School, University of Chicago Booth School of Business, and Columbia Business School. “A noteable percentage” targets the top 20 US business schools, according to the firm. Others enter elite schools abroad, part-time, and EMBA programs.

Best Advice for Applicants: “Applicants sometimes make the mistake of trying to pander to an MBA program by saying what they think the admissions committee wants to hear or read, rather than being authentic. When they do this, they end up obscuring their greatest merits. ‘Being yourself’ is not a cliché in this case—it is absolutely critical. Writing sincere and personal essays, being open and honest in interviews, asking recommenders to provide real examples of your past performance, and crafting a straightforward, results-driven resume that reflects the truth of who you are as an individual and what you have to offer will give you your best chance to compete.” 

 

MBA Prep School

MBA Prep School 

Logos courtesy of MBA Prep School

Headquarters: Berkeley, Calif.

Description: The company describes its consulting services as “highly customized.” Typically, clients first work with consultants on determining strengths and weaknesses. Next, they develop a strategy for addressing any perceived shortcomings and flaunting positive attributes. Finally, the firm helps clients prepare for the admissions interview.

Consultants: Co-founded by a Harvard Business School MBA with a master’s degree in writing, the firm puts an emphasis on storytelling. The team of consultants includes former admissions committee members and graduates from top programs. The majority have more than five years’ experience in the admissions space, but they also have worked at companies, such as Amazon, Bain, McKinsey, BCG, IBM, Deloitte, KPMG, EY, Ogilvy, and Teach for America.

Good-fit Clients: Clients have included both American and international candidates, so geography isn’t a factor. While the firm has worked with traditional clients, it also has helped those who fall into the unconventional category, such as off-Broadway actors and social entrepreneurs. The firm works exclusively on MBA admissions and career coaching.

Price: Comprehensive consulting packages start at US$4,295 for one school. Hourly services start at US$300 per hour for consulting and US$150 for editing. The firm also offers a free, self-paced platform for business school applicants. It helps with identifying strengths and career goals to generate application materials.

Other Services: MBA career coaching

Where Clients Have Been Admitted: The top 20 US and international programs, including Stanford Graduate School of Business, Harvard Business School, University of Pennsylvania Wharton School, University of Chicago Booth School of Business, Columbia Business School, Massachusetts Institute of Technology Sloan School of Management, Northwestern University Kellogg School of Management, Yale University School of Management, UC Berkeley Haas School of Business, New York University Stern School of Business, University of Virginia Darden School of Business, Dartmouth College Tuck School of Business, London Business School, INSEAD, Oxford, Cambridge, IE, IESE, HEC Paris.  

Best Advice for Applicants: “Self-awareness is your most powerful competitive advantage in the MBA application process. You need to be able to articulate what you would contribute to an MBA community and several ways that your addition to the class will benefit your future classmates.”

 

Stacy Blackman Consulting (SBC)

Stacy Blackman 

Photo courtesy of SBC

Headquarters: Los Angeles (with teams in New York, London, San Francisco, Boston, Chicago and Washington, D.C.)

Description: SBC has more than 18 years of experience helping applicants get into business school. About 75% of the team at SBC represent experience at the top seven business schools, according to SBC. Clients work one-on-one with consultants, who promise to provide mentorship. The guiding principles of SBC are: “Caring is our most powerful tool; everything is figureoutable; we bust anxiety and overwhelm; we don’t do anything just for the money; and we believe in you.”

Consultants: The team includes MBA graduates and former admissions committee members from top schools. Specifically, consultants include one Harvard Business School MBA, who also spent more than five years on HBS’ admissions committee. In addition, three former admissions officers at Northwestern University Kellogg School of Management, who earned Kellogg MBAs, and three former admissions officers at University of Pennsylvania Wharton School, including two from Wharton Lauder, round out the roster.

Good-Fit Clients: SBC says it has a diverse clientele that includes people of different backgrounds. Among them are doctors, teachers, military, entrepreneurs, and more, in addition to traditional candidates from finance and consulting. The firm limits the number of clients working with each consultant to ensure quality relationships develop and clients get the necessary attention, according to SBC. People are only paired with a consultant once the team has “evaluated and validated” candidate strength.

Price: SBC’s all-in comprehensive service ranges between US$4,675 and US$9,995, based on number of schools within the engagement.

Other Services: Career coaching, customized GRE and GMAT test prep

Where Clients Have Been Admitted:  Top programs, including University of Pennsylvania Wharton School, Harvard Business School, Stanford Graduate School of Business, Northwestern University Kellogg School of Management, University of Chicago Booth School of Business, Dartmouth University Tuck School of Business, INSEAD, London Business School, UC Berkeley Haas School of Business, UCLA Anderson School of Business, Columbia Business School, Duke University Fuqua School of Business

Best Advice for Applicants: “No matter how unique and impressive your resume is, there will always be someone who has a similar (or more outstanding) profile. The way to make yourself stand out is to focus less on WHAT you did, and more on WHY. When you ask yourself WHY over and over, you hit upon that unique story: the insights, thoughts, and decisions that will help the admissions committee to understand what you, and only you, can bring to its program.”

 

The MBA Exchange

Alex Min

Photo courtesy of The MBA Exchange

Headquarters: Worldwide

Description: Dating back to 1996, The MBA Exchange offers MBA admissions help, but also provides a myriad of other services, including help for those seeking other degrees. Applicants to MBA programs can get assistance with their applications but also other aid while enrolled in business school and with their career afterward. The experienced consultants receive training. And clients can expect to learn frameworks and tools to help them best present their candidacy, says CEO Alex Min. What makes the company unique, adds Min, is the fact that the independent CPA-reported client success rate is 87%.  

Consultants: The team consists of 14 former MBA admissions professionals from Harvard Business School, Stanford Graduate School of Business, University of Pennsylvania Wharton School, Massachusetts Institute of Technology Sloan School of Management, Columbia Business School, Northwestern University Kellogg School of Management, University of Chicago Booth School of Business, UC Berkeley Haas School of Business, University of Michigan Ross School of Business, and UCLA Anderson School of Management. Other consultants have been student admissions volunteers or alumni admissions interviewers. Many have had other professional experience, such as consulting, banking, technology, healthcare, private equity, venture capital, consume products, energy, hedge funds, entrepreneurship, family-owned business, and/or the military.

Good-fit Clients: Diversity is the key word when it comes to describing the client roster, says Min. He adds that clients come from all over the world and represent the types of students you will find at top business schools.

Price: Ranges from a US$295 hourly consultation to US$8,100 for a comprehensive consultation for four applications. 

Other Services:

  • GMAT & GRE tutoring
  • Test anxiety counseling
  • Social media audit
  • LinkedIn profile optimization
  • Merit-based financial aid consultation
  • Video essay coaching
  • Interview coaching
  • Team-based discussion prep for Wharton, Michigan (Ross), and IMD applicants
  • Waitlist coaching & support
  • AppCheck™ application review
  • Post-admit background verification
  • MyAdcom™ application test
  • Ding analysis and feedback
  • Career advisory services
  • Management consulting career training
  • Admissions consulting services for Executive MBA, Part-time MBA, Master of Public Policy (MPP) and Public Administration (MPA), Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), and Law (JD)

Where Clients Have Been Admitted: Top programs, including Harvard Business School, University of Pennsylvania Wharton School, Stanford University Graduate School of Business, Massachusetts Institute of Technology Sloan School of Management, INSEAD, Columbia Business School, University of Chicago Booth School of Business, Northwestern University Kellogg School of Management, UC Berkeley Haas School of Business, London Business School, Cornell University Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management, IMD, University of Michigan Ross School of Business, Carnegie Mellon University Tepper School of Business, Yale University School of Management, UCLA Anderson School of Management, New York University Stern School of Business, Duke University Fuqua School of Business, Dartmouth College Tuck School of Business, University of Virginia Darden Graduate School of Business, UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School, University of Texas Austin McCombs School of Business, Cambridge Judge Business School, University of Oxford Said Business School, IE, HEC Paris, CEIBS, Indian School of Business, Western Ontario Ivey Business School, and more.     

Best Advice for Applicants: “Be authentic. Don’t try to say what you think the adcoms wants to hear. By design, the cohorts at top-tier schools are very diverse in just about every way imaginable.”

 

Vantage Point MBA Admissions Consulting

Vantage Point
Photo courtesy of Vantage Point MBA Admissions Consulting

Headquarters: New York City and Park City, Utah

Description: Vantage Point focuses solely on MBA applications in its consultancy. The founders say this is what makes the company so successful. They handpick every consultant and ensure they have serious experience in the MBA admissions world. In fact, they incentivize their consultants to get the best results possible for clients. What makes their firm stand out, say the founders, is what they call the “360-degree perspective.” It refers to the fact that they offer advice to clients from a number of sources, including consultants, former admissions directors, and a network of advisers featuring current MBA students and post-MBA professionals.

Consultants: All consultants are either former students and/or former admissions committee members at top business schools. Many of them had professional experience outside of admissions in industries, such as banking, consulting, brand management, private equity, technology, nonprofit management, entrepreneurship, and education.

Good-fit Clients: Again, geography does not limit the client roster. Clients have come from a range of destinations, including South Korea, China, Russia, Australia, Luxembourg, the United Kingdom, Canada, Brazil, Japan, India, Kenya, and the United States. Most of the consulting work is accomplished remotely via phone, email, and teleconference (Skype, FaceTime, etc.). Applicants that work with this consultancy are highly ambitious and successful. In fact, the firm describes them as “gunners.” While the firm is only about MBA admissions, it does sometimes  work with undergraduates applying to deferred admissions programs, such as Harvard 2+2.

Price: Comprehensive packages (which include identifying strengths and weaknesses, brainstorming essay ideas, feedback and editing on essays and resume, and interview preparation) start at US$4,250 for one school. The hourly fee (for a la carte options) is US$295 per hour. The firm will refund 25% on a four-school package or greater if you don’t get in.

Other Services: None

Where Clients Have Been Admitted: Top business schools in the United States and Europe, including Harvard Business School, Stanford University Graduate School of Business, University of Pennsylvania Wharton School, Columbia Business School, Northwestern University Kellogg School of Management, University of Chicago Booth School of Business, UC Berkeley Haas School of Business, INSEAD, and London Business School.

Best Advice for Applicants: “We go back to the Oscar Wilde quote, ‘Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.’ Authenticity is so critical in a successful MBA application, but candidates are often hesitant to show their true, personal selves. More often than not, MBA applicants get caught up in trying to figure out what the admissions committee wants to hear instead of focusing on how to express their unique stories and goals. So don't do that. We always advise our clients to take the time to think about their personal motivations and values and let those drive their narratives.”

Veritas Prep

Logo courtesy of Veritas Prep

Headquarters: Malibu, with consultants worldwide

Description: This admissions consultancy often provides help to competitive applicants pursuing admissions at the top business schools in the world, but it also serves niche groups, including part-time/EMBA applicants, older applicants, and those who have scored low on the GMAT or have low GPAs. In addition, the consultants have helped international candidates and those who are pursuing joint degrees. In business since 2003, Veritas Prep offers a comprehensive package that includes working with a team of consultants. You will have a head consultant, school specialist, and Ultimate Admissions Committee. Together, they create a game plan that’s a good fit for you. This includes deciding on schools to which you should apply, approach to essays, and all the rest.  

Consultants: With more than 80 consultants on board, this operation is bigger than some other well-known firms. Every head consultant has experience in MBA admissions at a top business school, according to a questionnaire from Veritas Prep. In addition, the firm promises to help clients find the best match in consultant for their needs.

Good-fit Clients: Veritas Prep is available to a large group of applicants. And it is open to helping those who might have some weaknesses in their candidacy but still want to pursue an MBA degree at a top program.  

Price: Comprehensive school packages start at $4,700. They include a head consultant, school specialist, and Ultimate Admissions Team, composed of former directors and associate directors from top business schools. Hourly services start at $950.

Other Services: GMAT and GRE test prep is available through Veritas Prep. Some clients bundle test prep and admissions services.

Where Clients Have Been Admitted: The list is comprehensive, and includes top MBA programs worldwide, according to Veritas Prep.

Best Advice for Applicants: “Really dig deep to discover what makes you uniquely you. Admissions committees are trying to get to know you through your applications, so do your best to convey through the stories you tell, and really every piece of your application, what you will bring to the class and why they should choose you.”

Francesca Di Meglio

Francesca Di Meglio has written about higher education for two decades. She covered business schools and all aspects of management education for what became Bloomberg Businessweek from May 2004 to December 2013. Di Meglio was the consultant editor for the book Admitted: An Interactive Workbook for Getting into a Top MBA Program (85 Broads Publishing, 2011), which was written by admissions consultant Betsy Massar. In addition, she is a family travel and parenting blogger at the Italian Mamma website

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