MBA Admission Consulting Claims: How Credible?

AUDITING THE RESULTS OF A FIRM’S SUCCESS 

As for the Ivy MBA Consulting assertions? For one thing, the audit was conducted by Tel Aviv-based Brightman Almagor Zohar & Co. The company is “a member firm of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Ltd.” For another, the audit letter provides “a reasonable measure of assurance” that the admissions firm’s statement “does not include a materially misleading presentation”—not a 100% guarantee that the actual results are correct. Ivy also defines a top MBA program as one offered by any one of 27 schools, including SDA Bocconi in Italy and ESADE in Spain.

And finally, the audit is for only a single year, the 2011-2012 application season. The audit actually excludes any of the firm’s clients who failed to apply to at least four schools as well as those who applied in the third or fourth rounds, where the odds of success often diminish. Explains David: “For international students rounds III and IV are pretty much irrelevant due to Visa issues, so in general we focus on rounds I and II.”

The percentages, moreover, apply to a relatively small number of applicants. David says it is about 60 clients of slightly less than 100 the firm served last year, with the average scholarship award for an Ivy client approximately $33,000. David added that the firm, initially founded as a part-time venture in 2008, has worked mostly with Americans and Europeans, but also with Chinese and Indians.

Consultant success rates also can vary depending on how aggressively a firm manages its client base. “I can admit that one of the reasons why our statistics are quite good is because, over the years, we rejected about 300 people who wanted to work with us,” says Dubowski of Aringo. “Yes, not just by smart advice, but also by selecting the stronger candidates, the ones that we believe in, we were able to achieve strong statistics.”

Even so, Ivy MBA Consulting’s 100% success rate is nothing to sneeze at—even if there’s also a likely bias in such claims because they reflect the accomplishment of applicants who are among the more diehard and serious in the applicant pool. “It’s a different breed of candidate who uses a consulting firm,” concedes Iddo Sternberg, a business development coordinator for Ivy. “People who come to us aim really higher. They do raise the acceptance rate overall.”

‘WE ARE COACHES, NOT MAGICIANS’

However credible a successful track record might be, there’s no assurance that it can be applied forward to everyone. As Blackman puts it, “If they use these numbers to claim that if you sign up with them for four-plus schools you have a 100% chance of being admitted, next year their success rate will fall. Because we are coaches, not magicians, and if someone relies too much on a prior success rate and is not personally realistic, they will not get in. One needs to have confidence in their own package, not the success rates of those that preceded them.”

Ivy co-founder David concedes that publicizing a 100% success rate can raise unrealistic expectations. “That’s why we work together with clients on realistic choices,” he says. “If you want to apply to Stanford and are not Stanford material, I’ll be very honest and say you have absolutely no chance. This will convince them to put safer schools in their portfolio.”

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