Leading Firms in MBA Admissions Consulting

MBA admissions counseling has become so common that there are now as many as 300 firms around the world with more than 500 consultants helping applicants get into the best business schools. The average MBA applicant applies to 3.2 schools, so someone who signs a comprehensive consulting package with a firm generally pays about $6,000 to get help with applying to three MBA programs.

The explosion of the business is an outgrowth of the Internet, which allows consultants easier access to potential clients, the increasing numbers of people eager to get a prestige MBA degree, and the growing popularity of undergraduate consulting which has made it ever more natural to seek advice when pursuing a gradate degree.

The vast majority of the players are one-person boutiques, such as Sanford Kreisberg of Cambridge Essay Service in Boston who pretty much specializes in helping applicants get into Harvard, Stanford, and Wharton (See “The Rebel Savant of MBA Admissions Consulting.”) But MBA consulting has become such a large and lucrative business that a few highly sophisticated and professional service firms have emerged. These companies have dozens of consultants on staff (usually part-time contractors) and work with clients around the world. The largest of them is The MBA Exchange, with 40 consultants, many of them former admission officials from the top schools.

One advantage these larger firms have is that they match clients to consultants. If you’re from India, you’re more likely to get a consultant who specializes in Indian applicants and may even speak Hindi. If you’re a private equity analyst, you might get a consultant who once worked with PE types and knows how to best position them for a given school. If you’re applying to Stanford, you might get a Stanford MBA or former admissions officer from the school to guide you through the application process.

Here’s a brief and incomplete directory of six of the leading players, which together employ a total of some 120 consultants, in order of the number of consultants they have on staff.

THE MBA EXCHANGE

Dan Bauer, founder and managing director of The MBA Exchang

Dan Bauer, founder and managing director of The MBA Exchange

Background:

Founded by Harvard MBA Dan Bauer in 1996, The MBA Exchange says it has helped more than 2,300 applicants unlock the doors to get into prestige business schools. The company claims a 97% success rate, a number that is verified by an accounting firm that conducts an audit of its client business. Before launching his firm, Bauer’s career includes management positions with Citicorp, MasterCard International, and DDB Needham Worldwide.

Based in Chicago, the firm has some 40 consultants all over the world that includes MBAs from all the top schools including nine MBAs from Harvard, a half dozen from Wharton, and three from Stanford. More importantly, perhaps, among its consultants The MBA Exchange boasts former MBA admissions officials from Columbia, Kellogg, Wharton, Chicago, Michigan and UCLA with inside knowledge of how elite admissions offices work. Its consultants are either fluent or conversational in Hindi, Mandarin, Marathi, Gujarati, Italian, Spanish, and French. One differentiating service is that customers can have sessions with a career coach who had worked with Chicago’s Booth School of Business.

Pricing:

One-application package: $4,400

Two-application package: $5,100

Three-application package: $5,800

Four-application package: $6,500

Five-application package: $7,200

Six-application package: $7,900

Contact Info:

Phone: 888.305.5553

Website: The MBA Exchange

For a free evaluation of your chances of getting into a top-ten school

STACY BLACKMAN CONSULTING

Stacy Blackman, founder and president of Stacy Blackman Consulting

Stacy Blackman, founder and president of Stacy Blackman Consulting

Background:

Founded in 2001 by Kellogg MBA Stacy Blackman, this firm is among the largest in the business, with 30 consultants. Blackman counselors  have worked in the admissions office at Columbia, Fuqua, Kellogg, INSEAD, Tuck and Wharton. Most of the on-staff consultants hold degrees from top MBA programs including six from Stanford and Harvard, five from Kellogg, four from Wharton, two from Booth, and one each from Anderson, Columbia, Haas, Rice, Ross and Tuck.

The firm claims that with comprehensive clients, those who have bought its full package of services from $3,750 for help with a single application to $7,700 for five schools, it has a 92% success rate in getting applicants into at least one of their four top schools (at least in terms of clients it had heard back from).

Pricing:

One-school package: $3,750

Two-school package: $4,950

Three-school package: $5,950

Four-school package: $6,850

Five-school package: $7,700

Hourly fees: $270

Contact Info:

Phone: 323-934-3936

Website: StacyBlackman.com

MBAMISSION

Jeremy Shinewald, co-founder of mbaMission

Background:

Founded in 1999 by University of Virginia MBA Jeremy Shinewald, mbaMission works exclusively with MBA candidates. All 19 senior consultants have degrees from top MBA programs including seven from Harvard, three from Wharton and Columbia, two from Darden, and one each from Booth, Haas, Ross and Stern.  Before starting the firm, Shinewald was a speechwriter for the ambassador of Israel and a student member of Darden’s admissions team.

Pricing:

One-school package: $3,500

Two-school package: $4,750

Three-school package: $5,550

Four-school package: $6,350

Five-school package: $7,200

Hourly fees: $250

Contact Info:

Phone: 646-485-8844

Website: mbaMission.com

ACCEPTED.COM

Linda Abraham, founder of Accepted.com

Linda Abraham, founder of Accepted.com

Background:

Founded in 1994 by Linda Abraham, the firm has worked with more than 3,500 applicants to business, law, medical and other graduate programs. Accepted has 14 editors, including founder Abraham. Four of them bring insider perspective from  such admissions offices as Cornell University’s Johnson School of Business and  Duke University’s Law School.

Pricing:

Accepted’s has an unusual pricing approach: its consulting packages differ in price by school. If you’re applying to Columbia Business School, for instance, the consulting fee is  $2,425, while help with an application to New York University’s Stern School is $3,075 and an application to MIT’s Sloan School of Management is $3,625. On two or more applications, there is a $1,000 per school additional fee. For a la carte services, Accepted charges a $260 hourly rate.

Contact Info:

Phone: 310.815.9553

Website: Accepted.com

EXPARTUS

Chioma Isiadinso, co-founder of EXPARTUS

Chioma Isiadinso, co-founder of EXPARTUS

Background:

Founded in 2002 by Chioma Isiadinso, a former Harvard Business School admissions board member and assistant director of admissions, and her husband, Obinna Isiadinso, a Harvard MBA. She spent three years as an admissions official at Carnegie Mellon University before going to Harvard. EXPARTUS is based in New York and serves the MBA market. Isiadinso, a regular contributor to Poets&Quants, is also the author of The Best Business School Admissions Secrets.

The firm has eight admissions consultants, including those with MBAs from such tops schools as Harvard, Stanford, and Columbia. “We don’t take on every client that applies,” says Isiadinso. “I put every prospective client through a consultation to understand their story, ensure there is a fit, before taking them on.” The company claims a success record of 85% to 90% for clients “gaining admission to their dream schools.”

Pricing:

$350 for an initial one-hour consultation

Contact info:

Phone: 212-802-7580

Website: EXPARTUS.com

 

Return to main story: “Suddenly Cozy: MBA Admissions Consultants and Business Schools”

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  • Alex

    I’m a 32YO male, I’m transitioning out of the Navy as a 10-year aviator, and I was honestly kind of terrified about the transition. I’m now at the end of my application process and I will be attending Booth in the Fall. This was my #1 choice and I couldn’t have done it without the team at Admissionado.
    Bottom Line: once you have decided that an admissions consultant is critical to your success in the application process, Admissionado will be your best friend and your professional guiding light. The stress level comes down by orders of magnitude with these guys on your side.
    I will echo what other reviews have previously stated: find the right group that will meet your specific needs. And set your expectations appropriately for the advertised timelines because the company is very open and honest about exactly what they can provide for you (and oftentimes they go way above and beyond that level of support). Admissionado broke out from the pack and they have been authentic and consistent ever since I hired them. The initial interview with Shawn, my counselor, provided tangible suggestions for tailoring my application packages. He followed up after our interview to see if I had any additional questions or concerns (as did Claudia and Lauren, which was a great touch). This team has a legitimate desire to see you succeed. And since receiving my acceptance I have kept in touch with all three and they have offered friendly advice for transitioning to a new city. This group is as good as it gets.
    Their bevy of products to support the process are very useful as well. These products cover everything from essay edits to crafting a resume, and I will probably put them to good use beyond just this application marathon. I will also keep every version of the essay edits because I found the whole experience refreshing and it fine-tuned my ability to deliver a good message. You may think you’re decent at writing … and you may even be above average (believe me, I thought I was too, I got a 46 on the Verbal section of the GMAT) … but they will make you better. Bet on it.
    I’m game to answer anyone’s questions if you would like more information about how I chose which Admissionado products I wanted or the timeline I put together for myself in order to put those services to good use.

  • Anonymous Applicant Round 2

    Liz Bender (Lead Consultant) of The MBA Exchange helped me tremendously with my overall application strategy and interview preparation. Liz took the time to understand who I am and my perspective, and integrated that with her own wealth of knowledge and experience to help me articulate my story as an applicant. For application strategy, Liz helped me navigate through all the noise and focus my efforts. For interview preparation, she moved me from feeling moderately nervous and unsure to feeling extremely confident and prepared. Furthermore, along with Liz, Dan Bauer and Dollaya Chaibongsai and the entire MBA Exchange Team were AWESOME. They all answered every question I had (as well as my many follow-ups), responded to emails insanely quickly, and truly made me feel like they valued my business. That’s the kind of outstanding customer experience that makes a difference. I highly recommend Liz Bender and The MBA Exchange.

  • AC

    I have a very similar profile and would love you talk to you about your experience if your able.

  • Burcu Ash

    I highly recommend Admissionado. I used them for three round 1 application essays from June-September this year. Anne-Marie was my consultant; she was extremely helpful, whether it was helping me articulate my goals to final essay edits. The price is lower than a lot of competitors, and it’s a great service overall, in my opinion. Essay edits came back to me within 72 hours, usually 48 hours, and were usually very helpful and constructive!

  • AnonymousMBAer

    I used MBA Exchange, Jessica Burlingame was my consultant, and I really enjoyed working with her. I got into Columbia (my top choice). Jessica was very knowledgeable and responsive and the company’s pricing was competitive. Would recommend.

  • 47123s

    Liz Bender, the lead consultant I worked with for the past few months with MBA Exchange, was terrific! She provided great insight, and channeled strengths and weaknesses together to create a well-balanced, well-rounded application to business school. I would strongly recommend her advice in your preparation to create the best b-school application you can!

  • Chip

    I worked with The MBA Exchange and Caryn Levine was my lead consultant. She was excellent and I could not have gotten into Kellogg without her help. The pushed me to a level I could not have reached on my own. She is very knowledgeable about the admissions process and knows the types of things adcoms are looking for. She is readily available and turns drafts around quickly. I highly recommend her.

  • Got in

    I wasn’t looking to use a consultant, but when I was offered an interview at a Stern, I thought the opportunity to discuss my experience and “portfolio” to an experienced consultant was totally worth it. I worked with Michelle Bacharach at the MBA Exchange, and am so appreciative for her/their help. The MBA Exchange provided a lot of helpful resources, and my mock interview and feedback session with Michelle was extremely helpful. She was thorough, helped me creatively think through some concerns I had, and provided some great feedback on my content and execution.

    It paid off, and while I don’t know much about the other firms, MBA Exchange, and Michelle’s interview preparation support, was worth every penny.

  • Melissa

    You know all these MBA Exchange reviews are false right? No accounts, and there are SO MANY! You guys should lay off, it just looks suspicious.

  • Doak 2011

    I recommend Jon Harari with the MBA Exchange. Jon was my
    guide and mentor through the 7-month process of applying to Columbia Business
    School. I couldn’t be more grateful for his assistance.

    I had doubts about my qualifications for CBS, primarily
    because I attended a state school and worked at a small boutique investment
    bank, but Jon shored up my confidence and encouraged me to press ahead with my
    application. He helped me buy into my vision and pursue the degree I desired.

    Jon was always extremely prompt, professional, and
    responsive. He nearly always replied within 24 hour and replied instantaneously
    on time-sensitive matters. He was very thorough and thoughtful during all the
    nuts-and-bolts activities: reviewing my resume, interview preparation, essay
    drafting, etc. Jon never made me feel like a number, and he always gave his
    undivided attention whenever I needed it.

    In addition to Jon’s professionalism, I want to highlight an
    undervalued aspect of Jon’s service: time management. Jon helped me quickly
    parse through ideas to get from talking to action. With Jon as my guide, I was
    able to focus 100% of my time on execution – I never had to read a blog or
    spend hours seeking advice on what I “should” be doing – I already
    knew what to do. Jon’s advice saved me dozens, if not more than a hundred, hours
    of my time that I was able to refocus on studying for the GMAT, networking with
    alumni, and joining community service organizations. Having a coach and a plan
    brought order to a chaotic process, focusing my time and energy on the task at
    hand. If you’re a busy professional, the time saved alone is worth the fee.

    Thanks to the support Jon Harari, I can now look forward to
    attending Columbia Business School in the fall of 2016.