MBA Admission Consulting Claims: How Credible?

by John A. Byrne on

Acceptance rates at the world’s best business schools remain stubbornly low. They range from just 7% at Stanford and 11% at Harvard Business School to 32% at the University of Michigan’s Ross School. No matter how you slice it, when it comes to applying to the prestige business schools, the odds are set firmly against you.

So how it is possible that an MBA admissions firm is claiming an astonishing 100% success rate for clients who last year applied to at least four top MBA programs?

Ivy MBA Consulting, the firm making the claim, also is asserting that its MBA applicants won more than $2 million in scholarship grants last year. And the firm, which had been operating out of Hoboken, New Jersey, but is now based in Tel Aviv, Israel, says that for all its clients, including those who applied to fewer than four schools, its overall success rate was 93.5%.

ONE RIVAL CONSULTANT WOULD REFER 100% OF ITS CLIENTS IF THE CLAIMS ARE TRUE

“If they are what they claim they are,” quips a rival consultant who asked to remain anonymous, “I would refer 100% of my clients there.”

Of course, the firm—founded by a pair of 2008 MBA grads from Kellogg and Tuck—is hardly the first to trumpet unusually high success rates. MBAPrepAdvantage, based in Miami, Fla., claims that more than 95% of its applicants have been accepted. The MBA Exchange, a Chicago-based firm that is among the largest in the admissions market, reports that 97% of its applicants have gained admission to one or more of their four targeted schools. New York-based Stratus Prep claims “unprecedented success rates, including an 80%+ lifetime admissions rate to Wharton and a 60%+ lifetime success rate at HBS.” And Los Angeles-based PrepMBA contends that over 90% of its clients get into one of their top three schools.

Some firms are even more detailed in their claims. Aringo, which publishes the success rates of its clients for specific schools over the past seven years from 2005 to 2012, claims that it has gotten MBA clients into Kellogg, Columbia and INSEAD at more than double the acceptance rates of those elite schools. On its website, Israeli-based Aringo maintains that 72 of 103 clients who applied to INSEAD were accepted, a success rate of 70% versus INSEAD’s typical 33% acceptance rate (see table of claimed success rates at left). The firm acknowledges being less successful with applicants who targeted Stanford, reporting that only 21 of its 134 Stanford applicants have been accepted, a success rate of 15% versus Stanford’s 7% acceptance rate. Of the 201 clients who targeted Wharton, Aringo claims that 65, or 32%, have received invites to attend the school, a 32% success rate that is nearly double Wharton’s 18% acceptance rate.

Ivy MBA Consulting also publishes on its website detailed breakdowns of its success rates. During the 2010 application season, for example, Ivy MBA Consulting says that it won acceptance for nine of the 18 clients who applied to the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business, a 50% success rate at a school where the acceptance rate is about 25%. Ivy says that 89% of those clients, 16 of 18, got invites to interview with Chicago Booth (see table at left for two years of data).

The firm claims that it helped to get three of the seven clients who applied to Harvard Business School accepted for a success rate of 43%, well above Harvard’s 11% acceptance rate. Ivy MBA also says that two of the three received full scholarships from Harvard.

Publishing school-specific success rates may well be a function of the hyper-competitiveness of the consulting market in Israel. Ivy MBA Consulting co-founder Eli David says his firm was the first to publish the information two years ago and is “flattered” that rival Aringo followed their lead soon after. Aringo, however, says it has published client outcomes by school from its beginning in 2002—six years before Ivy was founded. “So we are the ones who are flattered,” quips Gil Dubowski of Aringo. Adds Dubowski, “One of their founders used Aringo consulting services to get into business school and more than 20 of their admission consultants were Aringo clients in the past.”

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  • Tom


    Ivy MBA also says that two of the three received full scholarships from Harvard”

    HBS provides need-based “HBS Fellowships”, depending on students’ past 3 years’ income, which maximize at around 70-80% of tuition coverage per year.  Students can also apply loans from the University affiliated programs; however, full scholarships from the school do not exist.

  • Huh

    I don’t know where Aringo or Ivy MBA got their school selectivity from?
    Some schools like INSEAD don’t even post how many applied and applicants like myself get worried about their language requirement even before applying!

  • http://www.mbaspain.com/ Candy Lee Laballe

    Hi all, 

    I
    run an admissions consultancy based in Spain and am a member of AIGAC. I too
    can boast a 90%+ acceptance rate for my students entering top programs
    (Harvard, Tuck, Booth, Columbia, INSEAD, LBS, etc). Add in the tier-twos and
    that figure goes up to 97%. This article, as well as a bit of googling around,
    reveals that many admissions consultants are boasting similar success rates.
    Deloitte approved or not, these figures need to be considered in context:

     

    1)
    As Sternberg said, “It’s a different breed of candidate who uses a consulting
    firm.” Most of my students are indeed WOWs (nice acronym Chioma!). They have
    the education, work experience, extracurriculars and hard stats (GPA/GMAT) to
    qualify for any top MBA. They most likely could apply on their own and get
    accepted to any top school. BUT, being the self-aware, high achievers that they
    are, they want to cover their bases and they turn to people like me for exactly
    that reason. Yes, by helping them I am helping my success rate, but that is not
    what drives my work with them. I immensely enjoy working with these amazing
    young people who truly want to (and most likely will) change the world for the
    better. That is success worth shouting about (or at least boasting about on our
    webs!)

    2) Not everyone who wants to join an elite MBA program has the qualities to
    make it. Each year, I meet many students who are enthusiastic, eager and with
    potential for success, but their profile is simply not WOW. It is my job to
    help them be realistic and discover options beyond the elite programs. Do I
    “force clients” to apply to tier-twos? No, but I give them a realistic overview
    of the process and help them find programs that fit both their profile and
    their goals. As a result, I have students who are extremely happy at schools such
    as Babson, Geogetown and Judge. Is this a success? You bet it is—for me, for
    the students, for the schools where they are succeeding—and I am proud of it.

    3) And then, there are the non-realistic, elite-enamored students who just
    don’t get it. They don’t have the profile, commitment or self-awareness to
    apply for a top MBA much less get accepted. These are often the ones who want
    someone to write their essays for them or who use family connections to secure
    recommendations from CEOs they never met. Guess what? I turn them down. Not
    because I want to preserve my high acceptance rate, but because working with
    them would be a waste of my and their time and, in my opinion, would border on
    the unethical. Sure, not accepting these folks helps keep my acceptance rate
    high, but I would prefer to spend my limited time helping people who are
    self-aware, focused and prepared to succeed in the future.

     

    So,
    my advice to students seeking an admissions consultant and wondering “are their
    acceptance rates credible?” The answer is yes. But keep in mind, that success
    rate is strongly affected by the above factors. Rather than debating the
    credibility of their claims, I suggest you start by being honest with yourself.
    Do you want a consultant to mentor you through the process, from choosing schools
    to hitting submit? Or, are you looking for a miracle-worker to get you over a
    problematic profile and into an elite program? Maybe you are somewhere in
    between. A good admissions consultant is there to “consult” with you, to help
    you find the best program for you, whether it is an elite MBA, a tier-two or
    something else. To find one, check collaborators with this website, the GMAT
    forums and the membership list of AIGAC.

    Good luck! And thanks to John Byrne and P&Q for keeping the admissions
    consulting industry on its toes and in the know!

    Candy
    Lee LaBalle

  • JohnAByrne

    Thanks for sharing Candy. Those are well-reasoned insights, and I appreciate you sharing them with our readers.

  • Reggie

    Is it ethical to use a consultant? Isn’t putting together a quality application a part of the challenge of getting into a top b-school. Seems to me the use of consultant is like the use of PEDs in sports.

  • MT

    Expartus are all big talk with and don’t deliver what they promise.
    Won’t go into detail – For an hour paid consulting, the consultant spent half an hour understanding my grades and British Grading System in particular!
    The advice to improve my candidacy was nothing more than what I already read on internet! What a was of Time!

    And now they have even stopped responding to my emails.

  • Guest1

    Your competency in English is obviously questionable given your post. They may have decided that you would be too much trouble.

  • SP08

    I firmly believe consulting firms are unethical by their existence. Ad Coms are seeing the same cookie cutter applications from applicants with good stats, and these consultants only see such results because they systematically steer those candidates they deem to be substandard from applying to top tier schools. If the process was so ethical why are so many people secretive about using a consultant? These firms give those with money and privilege access to their services, while potentially outstanding candidates are stuck with little to no guidance for their applications. Newsflash! Everyone cannot afford to give a consultant thousands of dollars, therefore giving those who are well off financially a partially unfair advantage in the admissions process. No wonder minority candidates, who are more likely to come from disadvantaged backgrounds, account for a dismal percentage of B-School students.

    With all of this in mind, I am becoming disillusioned with the entire process, and thinking of dismissing the notion of pursuing an MBA. I could put a down payment on a home with the amount of money it takes just to get in the door of these business schools, and that is just the beginning. So, you can pay a consultant more money than I make in a month to “help” you with your application? Must be nice…

  • Erika

    I don’t typically write reviews, but I understand how stressful MBA applications can be so I wanted to share my experience.

    While I debated hiring a consulting company for a couple of months, I
    couldn’t be happier with my ultimate decision to do so. I now think I
    was wrong to view it as an expense since it’s really more of an
    investment in you. My consultant, Caryn (previous admissions experience
    at Kellogg), was amazing from start to finish. She was extremely
    dedicated and responsive, with a turnaround time of less than a day most
    of the time. Her help on my resume, essay mapping and editing,
    interviews and school selection was instrumental to my success and
    sanity. I was accepted to 3 of 4 schools (I withdrew from the last
    school prior to accepting their interview invitation), and will be
    attending my top choice (Kellogg!) with a 75% scholarship. I also
    received the full tuition Consortium fellowship to Ross. There is no way
    this would have ever been possible without Caryn’s help, and I mean
    that sincerely. I know a lot of applicants hesitate due to cost (trust
    me, I was one of them; also, SBC offers flexible payment plans), but at
    the end of day I truly believe that money was a very small investment
    that earned me a significant amount in scholarship money. Also, many
    people decide to use their friends and/or mentors for essay editing.
    However, Caryn knew exactly what stories would work and how their
    effectiveness could be maximized. I don’t think many people could have
    shaped my essays as well as she did.

  • Reapplicant

    Having just finished the MBA admissions process, wanted to share a bit of my experience in case it is helpful for any other candidates out there. I originally applied to MBA programs round 2 for the entering class of 2015. I was admitted to one of the top programs, but none of my top 3 choices. The first time I applied I did not use an admissions counselor. However, I was determined to reapply and decided to pursue an admissions counselor to help guide me in the reapplication process and honestly could not have been happier with my choice for multiple reasons. Due to a demanding work schedule I have very little free time, thus she helped me build a timeline of what I needed to do for each school and by when and was amazing about helping me keep on track. My consultant, Erika, was an great extra pair of eyes on my resumes and essays. Most importantly she got to know me and provided guidance on selecting stories/experiences to recount in essays and data forms that best showcased the different sides of my background and personality. This was a phenomenal help and one of the key differences I felt in my application package between the first and second time I applied. Erika was instrumental to my success and I was admitted to 2 of the 4 schools I applied. Receiving a scholarships to both Kellogg & Wharton (one was even a full scholarship)! This was beyond anything I could have asked for and I have Erika and Stacy Blackman group to thank for my tremendous success.

  • Stephanie

    Hi everyone, I thought I would share my experience working with an admissions consultant. No I didn’t go 6 for 6, I got into 4 schools with significant aid and was wait listed at the other two. I owe these facts due to my experience working with Stacy Blackman consultants.

    When I first started researching MBA admission consultants, I had no idea of how I would go about making my choice. After a couple of free consultations I was still undecided until I spoke with Esther Magna at Stacy Blackman. Instantly we made a connection, she didn’t candy coat my weakness – BS from a state college, low GPA- rather she discussed the positives I had and how they should be promoted. Esther helped match me with my consultant Lisa Anderson. From the beginning Lisa was a great resource, very communicative and at times my own personal cheerleader. She helped guide me with school selection and was an adamant cheerleader for me through my THREE GMAT attempts.

    I wrote my own essays, but Lisa was there to not just help with grammar, but more importantly she kept me on task with what the question was asking. I have to admit that at times I strayed away from the question and she was extremely helpful in pointing me back in the right direction.

    As I said earlier I worked with her on applications to six schools. In the end
    I was waitlisted at two schools and received admittance to the other four, all
    of which offered me scholarships. Three of the schools gave me merit aid that
    amounted to full tuition and fees in either scholarships or fellowships or a
    combination of both. The fourth school gave me half tuition Forte Fellowship. I
    know that without Lisa helping me to market myself to these schools I
    would not have received as many admission offers nor the substantial amount of
    financial aid that I was awarded. I highly recommend SBC; the amount of return is substantial for your investment.

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