MBA Admission Consulting Claims: How Credible?

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 Admissions Counseling 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.”

About The Author

John A. Byrne is the founder and editor-in-chief of C-Change Media, publishers of Poets&Quants and four other higher education websites. He has authored or co-authored more than ten books, including two New York Times bestsellers. John is the former executive editor of Businessweek, editor-in-chief of Businessweek. com, editor-in-chief of Fast Company, and the creator of the first regularly published rankings of business schools. As the co-founder of CentreCourt MBA Festivals, he hopes to meet you at the next MBA event in-person or online.