Updated August 12, 2019
Once you’ve determined your dream school(s) and scheduled or taken your GMAT, you may realize that getting your application together is a daunting process. How do you answer the personal questions? How do you want to represent yourself to admissions officers? Is there anything you should leave out? And how do you spin personal setbacks or your undergrad years?
There are so many questions that potential MBA candidates ask themselves. When it comes to your future, the right B-school can mean many thousands of dollars in earning potential, VC money, networking, etc. So, many people hire an admissions consultant to help them navigate this process.
If you have decided to hire an admissions consultant, choose carefully. Your relationship with your admissions consultant is going to be important and have a big impact on the trajectory of your education, so they should be chosen right the first time. With test prep and tutors, you can often replace the tutor or retake the course if it doesn’t work out. With a consultant, however, you need to spend time developing a relationship. You usually have a limited time to do this with admission deadlines looming. Your consultant should spend months getting to know you, uncovering your personal story, what motivates you, and why a particular set of schools are a fit. Much of this work is done in the weeks ahead of the deadline. Switching a consultant last minute is likely impossible: Most high-quality consultants will already have reached their capacity and there simply won’t be enough time left to build an effective relationship. You will likely have to wait until the next round of admissions.
But let’s look at how to organize your search for a consultant to make sure that whoever you decide on is someone that can carry you all the way to your dream school.
What is an MBA Admission Consultant?
An MBA admission consultant is either an individual, a boutique company run by a few experienced experts, or a larger firm with many consultants. They generally provide MBA program direction and application advising, which can include essay direction, resume overhaul, and interview prep. Some also provide test prep, and pre- and post-application services, as well as rejection and waitlist planning. They help potential MBA applicants put the best spin on their admissions package and tailor the package to what the individual school is looking for. Usually, they are graduates and former admission officers of top-tier MBA programs. When it comes to hiring an MBA admission consultant, checking out their professional and educational pedigree is a smart first move.
Who Should Hire an MBA Admission Consultant?
Hiring an admission consultant is obviously a monetary investment but it will also demand a great deal of your time It is important to determine early on if it is worth it to you.
An admission consultant could be of value to you if you find the MBA process daunting or if you want to maximize your chance of success. MBA consultants are there to guide you through the process, help you show off your best side, and spin the not-so-great pieces of your admissions package.
The essay process alone is often especially challenging, and many potential students are unable to succinctly explain why they might be a positive addition to an MBA cohort.
If you have a difficult time selling yourself, an MBA consultant can be invaluable. With years of experience under their belts, they’re also great resources to help prepare for problems that you may never have considered.
If you are on the cusp of your desired school’s averages, you may want to hire an admission consultant to help push your admissions package to the top of the pile. However, if you scored in the low 600s on your GMAT and your school has a median score of 700+, an admissions counselor may not be the right investment. In that case, spending a little extra on a GMAT course to boost that score would probably serve you better. There are resources available for every level of applicant, so check out my other GMAT pages to see which investment makes the most sense for you.
If you do decide that an MBA admission consultant is the way to go, know that prices, experience, and services vary widely. Doing a little up-front research is imperative in selecting an MBA admission consultant. Keep reading and you’ll see we’ve done most of the heavy lifting of that research for you.
Do Not Expect a Miracle
It is important to manage your expectations of what an admissions consultant can and can’t do. An admissions consultant cannot turn an average MBA applicant into a stellar one, and no amount of spin can change the concrete numbers of your GMAT score. There is no guarantee that hiring an admissions consultant will get you admitted, as some applicants will still get rejected from their dream schools.
While they can’t perform miracles, they are able to help you show off your greatest assets, help you sell yourself, and help you address any issues that an admissions officer might question. It might be tough to hear at times, but having an experienced admissions consultant who is realistic about possibilities and gets you into the RIGHT school will turn out better in the long run than someone who pushes for a program out of your reach.
It is also important to realize that they do not apply for you. You still have to put in a considerable amount of time and energy into the application process. Sometimes even more than you would have should you apply on your own. You will still have to fill out the application, write your essays, request recommendations (and write the post-recommendation thank you note), and interview. The consultant simply guides you through this process and makes sure that you are maximizing your potential.
Many students assume that the admission consultants will write their essays for them. While this does happen on occasion, it is unethical and potentially damaging to your application. If your admissions essay is considerably better than your standardized test essays, an admissions panel will likely see through it, and reject your application. If it seems to be almost identical in style and structure to other applicants, they might also reject your application. Regardless of how bad you think your writing is, it is never advisable to have someone else write your essay. The consultants that we have reviewed do not write essays on your behalf. They will, however, guide you through the process and advise you on different topics.
Below we’ve ranked all of the top MBA consultants in the world. For more on our ranking and review process, jump down to “How We’ve Ranked the Top MBA Admissions Consultants”.
Now let’s jump in and take a look at the top MBA consulting companies.
MBA Admissions Consultants Reviews & Exclusive Discounts
|MBA ADMISSIONS CONSULTANT|
|EXPERIENCE||18 years||20 years||12 years||11 years||25 years||23 years||17 years|
|ADDITIONAL RESOURCES||Social Media Review, Interview/Essay Prep, GMAT/GRE Prep||Interview Prep, Peer Discussion, Career Coaching||Books, School Guides, Essay Prep||Wait list Guide, Interview Prep, Letter of Recommendation Support||Essay Review, Wait List Guide, Interview Prep||English Accent Services, School Guides, Essay/Interview Prep||School Guides, Tips Blog, GMAT Prep|
|TOP-TIER ADMISSIONS EXPERIENCE|
|GET STARTED||Start Now||Start Now||Start Now||Start Now||Start Now||Start Now||Start Now|
Stacy Blackman Consulting (Rank: #1)
Over the course of almost two decades, the Stacy Blackman Consulting team has built a successful track record using time-tested techniques and best practices. They offer deep experience with every top-tier school and a variety of industries.
Their All-In package is one of the best truly all-inclusive packages available, with access to your consultant day and night. We love their team approach with individual partnerships as well as the meticulous nature of their consultant matching and application review. Overall, we rank Stacy Blackman Consulting as our number one MBA Admissions Consultant.
mbaMission (Rank: #2)
We recommend mbaMission. They offer experience and excellent customer service. They have excellent online reviews and we like their individual approach, supported by the entire mbaMission team. There are limits to their most comprehensive package, though. While it is not advertised as an all-inclusive or unlimited package, we wish they offered something a little more robust.
They offer a free 30-minute consultation with your chosen consultant before a commitment, which is necessary because they ask you to choose your own consultant. We prefer a more extensive matchmaking process than this, but some applicants would rather choose their own individual consultant and this method can lead to great results and applicants feeling more empowered and confident about their role in the process.
Admissionado has a unique way of putting together an MBA application. They pair each client with an MBA expert consultant as well as a storyteller. In doing this, they are able to take an average applicant and tell their story in a compelling way. We love this style.
While their Deluxe package offers a lot of support, it isn’t truly an all-inclusive plan. They do offer a few other budget-minded packages and tailored services as well. While Admissionado’s consultants represent every top-tier school and have extremely impressive resumes, they don’t have many former admissions committee members or directors on their team.
Personal MBA Coach (Rank: #4)
Scott Edinburgh, founder of Personal MBA Coach, has been an admissions consultant for over a decade. He has experience in several different industries and is a Wharton MBA grad.
Personal MBA Coach offers quite a few services, which is great if an all-inclusive one is not in your budget. Plus, if the all-inclusive package IS what you’re after, PMB’s all-inclusive package is truly all-inclusive.
Personal MBA Coach also has some top-tier school experience, with 13 former interviewers from most of the top schools on staff. This breadth of experience comes in handy when you want to do mock interviews for a specific school.
The Personal MBA Coach team provides a lot of individual attention to each applicant, and ensures multiple sets of eyes see every application. Set up a consultation and see if they’re the right fit for you.
Accepted (Rank: #5)
Accepted has the most diverse product offering we’ve seen, which we love. Most services are a la cart, and there isn’t an all-inclusive package, but if you want a more specific service, like just a final check or a waitlist service, Accepted might be for you.
Their team has quite a bit of top-tier admissions committee and director experience, which we love. Each applicant is assigned to one consultant, but has the backing of the entire team, our preferred approach.
MBA Exchange (Rank: #6)
MBA Exchange employs 75 former admissions officers to their staff, (from schools like Harvard, Stanford and Wharton) which is an impressive amount of direct experience in the MBA admissions game.
When it comes to advising, MBA Exchange opts for a team-based approach. While this ensures that each student gets the backing of a number of experts ready for most scenarios, you lose the benefits of having a personal coach with eyes on your specific application—which is something we rate really highly.
Veritas Prep (Rank: #7)
Veritas Prep offers new students a free consultation for students looking into their services. They also provide multiple levels of services, from hourly to packages you can purchase for up to 8 schools. Veritas also offers a number of GMAT + admissions packages, so that you can carry their services from the very beginning of your MBA applications.
Many of the online reviews for Veritas Prep GMAT resources are positive. Veritas excels not only at helping students score what they need on the GMAT but also working to make sure that you have all the resources you need to prepare for your specific school.
Other MBA Admissions Consulting Options
The top 7 MBA admissions consulting options listed above all have great things to offer, whether it’s personal 1-on-1 coaching, professional consultants with top-tier admissions experience, or consulting packages that provide unlimited access and extra resources for the GMAT, essay tips, and individual school admissions. Here are some other popular choices for MBA admissions consulting.
Square One (Rank: #8)
MBA Prep School (Rank: #9)
Stratus Prep (Rank: #10)
MBA Admission Consultant Alternatives
If you are weighing the option of hiring an admissions consultant but cannot decide, or if the fees are too high for you at this time, consider the alternatives.
Many students reach out to B-school alumni for advice. Alumni can be a valuable source of information about the culture of the school and the best way for you to present yourself. Former and current admissions officers will often also offer feedback and tips to best apply. Many schools have alumni interviewers. Try to get in touch with them for free (but limited) advice. Sometimes you’ll find that a source with no personal stake in the game can give some of the best advice, even though they aren’t professionals.
Some of the firms we’ve ranked also have individual services that aren’t as expensive as their packages. If you just need some brushing up on your resume or want advice on reapplying to your dream school, take a look at their a la carte packages.
If you are most worried about your GMAT score, consider getting a top GMAT prep course to maximize your score. Have a look at our comparison chart for an in-depth breakdown of each of the top GMAT prep courses and how they stack up against one another.
How We’ve Ranked the Top MBA Admissions Consultants:
After reviewing the top five MBA admissions consultants, we have ranked them based on the following criteria:
Like any service, there are many reputable providers and others that aren’t. It is often difficult to easily determine which one is which, but one way we’ve found is how long they’ve been in business. There are many startups that are around for only one or two applications cycles. One sure way to determine if an MBA admissions consultant is worth the price is if they have been in the business for many years.
Like every candidate, every admissions consultant is different. It is important to be matched with someone that works with you. Larger companies will have a large enough team to match you with the right person. If you work with a smaller company, be sure that the individual is a good fit for you and your goals. The matchmaking process should include criteria like target-school expertise, industry alignment, personality, and demographic knowledge.
It is so important to get this right immediately. The consultant-applicant relationship must be strong in order to put together the best application. Consultants typically spend months getting to know the applicant before the application package is completed.
If you decide to work with a smaller company, be sure to interview a few to get a feel for the type of consultant that you need and will be the best fit for you. We have no preference for large companies v. small companies, as long as the relationship works.
Some firms will use a more decentralized, team-based approach to admissions counseling. While we like the idea of a support team, we prefer each candidate to have a one-on-one relationship with a consultant and have ranked this style higher. We really like firms that offer a dedicated consultant, with the backing of the entire team.
Is Unlimited Truly Unlimited?
Most MBA admissions consultants offer an unlimited package. These are comprehensive packages that are designed to give you tons of face time with your consultant and team. However, some firms offer a comprehensive package, only to limit the number of hours the individual consultant is paid per contract. This type of compensation structure disincentivizes the consultant from offering services beyond that number of hours. Other firms expressly limit the number of hours in their “unlimited” packages. We value the firms with a truly unlimited package.
Top-Tier Admissions Committee Representation
Most applicants will apply to four to six programs, so representation across many schools is important. When ranking MBA admission consultants, we ranked those firms with consultants from many or all of the top programs higher than those without. However, if you are only applying to one school, finding the firm or consultant with that school’s expertise is more important than broad experience.
We have come across admissions consultants with no top-tier experience on their team. Without experience, these firms have no inside intelligence and knowledge of what the admissions committees are looking for.
Limits on Consultant Load
Most applications are due around the same time, so MBA admission consultants find themselves incredibly busy during this time. If a firm allows individual consultants to take on many clients at a time, the clients may find that the consultant is not as available as the due date looms.
Some firms expect their consultants to take on more than 20 clients per round. The consultants are spread too thin and are not able to offer the attention that might be necessary.
We ranked firms higher if they limit the individual consultant’s client load to ensure that each client is given the attention that they deserve. We also rank firms higher if the consultants are not expected to take on every single client sent their way.
Team vs. Individual Approach
Ask any potential admissions consultant what services and resources they offer. Many just offer one consultant, and that is it. Some will have a decentralized team-based approach. Others will have a point person with an entire team working with you. This could include client liaisons, who are available to answer more general questions, former admissions officers with school-specific expertise, and a reviewer to go over your final application package. These additional services are incredibly valuable.
We prefer a team headed by an individual consultant. We have found that this offers the deep relationship necessary for the most success with additional accountability along the way. Additional eyes on your application, especially from someone with your dream school expertise is invaluable.
The admissions process is fairly cookie cutter. While each candidate is different, there are certainly best practices for each individual school. MBA admissions consultant firms should have resources that include prior essays, interview transcripts, guides, and best practices for each school. They should also have relationships with current admissions committees and industry elites.
What do Yelp users have to say? Yelp seems to be one of the only sites without fake reviews (at least not many, and you can usually tell which ones are not entirely scrupulous). When ranking firms, we looked at the quality of reviews over time. We ranked firms with great reviews over the years higher than those with very few or only recent reviews.
As we mentioned, MBA admissions consultants are not miracle workers. And they are not all going to be a perfect fit for you. We rank firms with a free evaluation or analysis higher because we think it is necessary to get a feel for not only the style and experience of a consultant, but also their personality. After all, you will be spending quite a bit of time talking to them.
What We’ve Left Out:
- Self-Reported Success Rates.
You’ve likely noticed that many MBA admissions consultants advertise their success rates online. We have left these numbers out of our criteria. That is by design. We think that self-reported success rates are often misleading. Almost all consultants advertise a 96%+ success rate, so it isn’t a differentiator.