A WRITTEN ENDORSEMENT IS THE ULTIMATE IN CUSTOMER SATISFACTION AND LOYALTY
Skeptics may argue that consultants who rack up the most positive reviews are merely more assertive in encouraging their clients to write favorably about their experiences. But MBA applicants who take the time and effort to write their expressions of praise are the ultimate endorsements of superior consulting work. The more reviews any consultant has, the more credible and authoritative the result. When a client writes a positive referral for a consultant, that action goes beyond customer satisfaction: It becomes a measure of customer loyalty.
The reviews, moreover, often go into the kind of convincing detail that reveal the extent of a consultant’s commitment to client service. Admits to leading business schools generally convey how important it was to get honest, candid feedback on their efforts, to have a coach, mentor and cheerleader in their corner at every turn of what is often a grueling journey to a highly selective MBA program where the vast majority of applicants are routinely rejected.
They praise their advisors for gently leading them through an introspective examination of their personal and professional lives and for drawing out of them the most compelling narratives and the lessons drawn from them. (You can now search our consultants’ directory by the number of reviews a counselor has received from clients. Just go to search parameters in the left rail of the directory and click under candid reviews to “highest number of reviews.” Consultant profiles will pop up in order of the number of assessments from clients each has received).
THE TOP CONSULTANTS ARE NOW CHARGING BETWEEN $400 AND $300 AN HOUR
None of this comes cheap, which is why hiring a consultant can sometimes be a difficult decision for an MBA applicant. At the high end, White’s services come in at around $400 an hour, though Menlo Coaching, the firm he and his highly reviewed wife Alice van Harten, is one of the few firms that doesn’t even publish its rates. Instead, Menlo coyly states on its website: “After consultation, we’ll design a package just for you. Most clients pay a low five-figure amount.” In general, hiring a top ten consultant will cost between $400 (for White or van Harten) to $299 (Paul Bodine) an hour.
Estimates of how many MBA applicants use consultants vary, but many consultants claim that as many as a third of the candidates who apply to top ten MBA programs use their services. Some merely get advice on their essays or do a mock interview to prep for the real thing. Others hire consultants from the very start of the process and seek their guidance through every phase of the application process.
And the steps a solid consultant takes a client toward a successful outcome can be challenging. What’s telling about some of the consultants who make the best list is that they can be tough on clients. In an extremely positive review of Betsy Massar, founder of Master Admissions, an applicant who will be entering a top MBA program this fall, noted: “Betsy is not going to make you feel warm and fuzzy all the time. It is her critical eye, honest feedback and ability to pull stories of value out of you that you didn’t even know you had that makes her so great at what she does.”
HE DOESN’T MINCE WORDS AND HIS COMMENTS WERE TOUGH TO SWALLOW
Indeed, prospective students heaped praise on other tell-it-like-it-is consultants on the list. An applicant who was just admitted into both Wharton and Kellogg said of Harshad Mali of mbaMission: “Harshad doesn’t mince words, but he explains himself clearly and logically. His first set of comments on my first essay attempt were tough to swallow (but accurate) – this approach let me quickly kick it into gear and start making progress! When I was holding back and my responses were suffering as a result, Harshad would always kindly but directly call me out.”
Beyond the top ten, there are many superb consultants whose work is equal to these standout counselors. Often times, it may make more sense to hire someone more aligned with your goals than someone on the top ten list. “The irony of your list last year is that people wanted to work with Melissa (Jones) without really thinking why,” adds Symonds. “She spent six years at INSEAD, and has a near perfect record with clients applying to top European schools. But we would typically match inquiries targeting HSW and the M7 with our former admissions officers from HSW and M7.”
Jeremy Shinewald, founder and CEO of mbaMission, cautions that such lists should only be used as a starting point. “Reviews have value, but they are blunt instruments,” believes Shinewald. ” I would still recommend to all MBA applicants interested in consulting services to try to go deeper and find a true fit with their consultants. And, frankly, we feel that applicants should try to sniff out a consultant’s level of commitment to the field – which is hard to do with reviews. Is this a part-time, after hours ‘gig’ or is this a professional calling? The same way we would never tell an applicant to read rankings and then choose a business school, we would recommend that applicants look to reviews as a starting point and then really dig in and get to know who will be fully available and spiritually committed to their mission.”
As was the case on our first list, some of the top ten work for a few of the largest consulting firms in the business. A few are solo practitioners, and a couple work in boutique firms. The group includes a fair number of MBAs as well, including those who have Harvard Business School, Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management, Chicago Booth and INSEAD stamped on their resumes. In their previous lives, they were consultants at such firms as McKinsey, Bain and BCG as well as executives at Yahoo and Sony. Many of them do this work because it offers the flexibility of working from home, or because they are moonlighting for extra cash.
MEET THE TOP TEN MBA ADMISSION CONSULTANTS
1. David White: Part of the husband-wife duo at Menlo Coaching, White has been working on MBA admissions for the past five years since 2012. Before helping MBA applicants, the Berkeley-trained engineer had racked up a 15-year career in the tech industry, with roles as a senior vice president at Travelzoo, a senior director at Yahoo, and general manager for Europe at a startup acquired by Adobe. White finished in fourth place last year.
Five-Star Review Excerpt: “While I have had the plan of attaining my MBA since high school, only recently did I have an idea of why I wanted to do so. David helped me immensely in crafting my story for the application process especially considering my non-traditional (engineering) background. He provided me with an unbiased opinion of areas to improve to give me the greatest results from the process. While I had done my own research initially into application strategy, David helped to clarify the goal of each individual piece, i.e. what I should be communicating in the essays or how to present myself in the interview. Even from the initial sessions, I could tell that David was concerned with my success throughout the entire application process. David is also extremely knowledgeable about the different programs’ strengths and weaknesses, providing observations that are not biased by the lens of current students or the admissions office. This led me to apply to programs that I had not originally considered. Overall I cannot recommend David enough!”
1. Paul Bodine: Based in San Diego, Bodine cut his teeth in the admissions business with Accepted.com long ago after working as a freelance writer for the Orange County Register and having his own writing consulting shop, The Operative Word. He’s been helping MBA applicants for the past 20 years and is the author of six admissions books including of Great Applications for Business School. Bodine finished in second place last year.
Five-Star Review Excerpt: “Thanks to Paul, I am heading to MIT Sloan!! This was my first choice for a top MBA program and he guided me well through the entire application process. Paul has an impressive ability to help you with valuable introspective analysis; much needed especially as you prepare your essays and overall game plan. Always attentive and responsive, Paul has in-depth knowledge about each MBA program and uses this knowledge to help you build a sharply focused strategy for applying to your school(s) of choice. I highly recommend Paul’s services to anyone who’s serious about applying to a top-ranked university. Thank you Paul!”