He doesn’t work for one of the leading MBA admissions consulting firms in the world. His unimpressive website is the opposite of slick. And this admissions counselor hardly ever works with MBA hopefuls from either the U.S. or Europe.
But Rajdeep Chimni can now rightly lay claim to being among the best MBA admissions consultants in the world—at least when it comes to garnering the kind of jaw-dropping, fanatically enthusiast reviews from his many grateful clients. In our third annual analysis of the most favorably reviewed MBA consultants, the founder of Admissions Gateway not only broke into the top ten; he has risen to the top of the heap with a bullet.
Though he failed to make our top ten list last year (see Ten Of The Best MBA Admission Consultants In 2018), Chimni has now racked up a total of 103 rave reviews, more than any other of the nearly 500 counselors in the Poets&Quants directory of MBA admission consultants, an indispensable guide to sorting through the admissions field, with more than 2,000 client reviews of consultants.
A KELLOGG MBA WITH MOST ADMISSION CLIENTS IN INDIA
If Chimni has escaped notice before, it’s because his clients are almost exclusively based in India and China. And despite the fact that he graduated from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, an MBA program known for its marketing prowess, he’s frankly lousy at marketing. His firm’s website looks like something from the dial-up era of the Internet.
Yet, Chimni is awfully good at delivering results. Just listen to what one client say about him. “Talking to Rajdeep felt like talking to a friendly, super-approachable advisor rather than a strict professional consultant,” writes one client who enrolled at Harvard Business School last fall with a $108,000 scholarship. Chimni guided the applicant through nearly 15 drafts of his essays, causing the candidate to do a deep dive into his life to surface “crucial life-elements and values. At the end of it, the essay is still 100%-authentic you, but you’ll realize that it is far more enriching and informative.”
Yet another client, a Class of 2021 admit, claims a 20X return on investment with Chimni. The applicant, who concedes having a less than a stellar undergraduate academic record, worked for a private equity firm but the candidate’s profile “touched ‘gold’ yet felt silver. Applying to five top business schools, the applicant won three admits, including a Kellogg invite with a $120,000 scholarship, a Columbia Business School admit with an $80,000 scholarship, and Dartmouth College’s Tuck School of Business.
THREE NEWCOMERS TO THE TOP LIST OF CONSULTANTS
Chimni’s also not exactly shy in bragging about results himself. In 2017, he and his small firm claims to have helped 58 clients gain admission int a Top five business school, with a total of 32 admits at Harvard, Stanford and Wharton alone, 26 at Kellogg and Booth, 17 at Columbia, MIT, and Tuck, and 38 admissions at Yale, Michigan, Duke, UVA, and NYU Stern. He also claims that his Top 20 admits in 2017 were awarded $6 million in scholarship grants, up from $4.7 million a year earlier.
Chimni is not the only newcomer to this year’s list, newly expanded to 15 due to the overwhelming response to our earlier rankings. Three other counselors–Scott Edinburgh of Personal MBA Coach, Eli David of Ivy MBA Consulting and Katharine Lewis of mbaMission–also made the list for the first time. Five of the most favorably reviewed landed on the new list for the third consecutive year: Paul Bodine of Bodine Consulting, David White and Alice van Harten of Menlo Coaching, Alex Leventhal of Prep MBA and Jessica Burlingame of The MBA Exchange. The remaining consultants have now been on the honor roll twice: Caryn Altman and Sherry Holland of Stacy Blackman Consulting, Betsy Massar of Master Admissions, Angela Guido of Career Protocol, Jessica Shklar and Kate Richardson of mbaMission. To be among the finalists on our list essentially means that these consultants are in the top 3% of the profession.
This year, for the very first time, we’ve also crunched the data to come up with the most highly reviewed MBA admissions consulting firms. At the top is mbaMission, with 398 reviews. Some 23 of mbaMission’s 25 consultants have been reviewed by their clients. Stacy Blackman Consulting was second with 214 total reviews, The MBA Exchange was third with 202 reviews, while Fortuna was fourth with 159. Obviously, a simple count of positive reviews favors size over quality. So we’ve looked more closely at the number of reviews per consultant to come up with a list which will be published shortly. And if you want to weigh the pros and cons of hiring a firm vs. a solo consultant, here’s advice from Linda Abraham, founder of Accepted.com (see Should I Hire An MBA Admissions Consulting Firm Or An Individual Consultant).
The Top 15 Most Favorably Reviewed MBA Admission Counselors
|Consultant||Firm||Hourly Rate||Earlier Work Background|
|1. Rajdeep Chimni||Admissions Gateway||Packages Only||Product marketing at tech firms|
|2. Paul Bodine||Admitify.com||$299||Author of six admissions books|
|3. Caryn Altman||Stacy Blackman Consulting||$365||PepsiCo|
|4. Scott Edinburgh||Personal MBA Coach||$390||Deloitte|
|5. David White||Menlo Coaching||$400||Tech exec at Travelzoo, Yahoo|
|6. Alex Leventhal||Prep MBA||$345||Consultant, life sciences tech|
|7. Eli David||Ivy MBA Consulting||$230||Strategy consulting|
|8. Jessica Shklar||mbaMission||$350||JPMorgan, Amex|
|9. Alice van Harten||Menlo Coaching||$400||Bain consultant|
|9. Sherry Holland||Stacy Blackman consulting||$365||Duke Fuqua admissions|
|11. Angela Guido||Career Protocol||Packages Only||BCG consultant|
|12. Betsy Massar||Master Admissions||$300||Goldman Sachs|
|13. Jessica Burlingame||The MBA Exchange||$400||Healthcare consultant, i-banker|
|13. Katharine Lewis||mbaMission||$350||McKinsey consultant|
|15. Kate Richardson||mbaMission||$350||Axiom consultant|
THE TOP CONSULTANTS HAD TO PASS A RIGOROUS EXAMINATION SCREEN
To make our annual honor roll of top MBA admission consultants, every counselor’s reviews had to pass a rigorous two-step process. Unlike some other pay-to-play and unverified lists on the Internet, where advisers actually have to pay a fee to allow reviews on their profiles, this is a pure journalistic endeavor, not a pay-to-play model. In our database, you’ll find both positive and negative assessments of consultants and firms (if you have had a bad experience, we strongly encourage you to share it with others so that they can avoid those issues). Whether positive or negative, no review is published unless it passes through a fine screen.
First, every published review up until our deadline of April 15th had to be independently verified by Poets&Quants with both the client and the service provider. Secondly, every appraisal was then painstakingly reviewed so that only MBA consulting assignments were counted. Eliminated from the count were reviews for undergraduate or Executive MBA applicants, free introductory consultations, career counseling, and case prep advisement, and group sessions for such organization as the Forte Foundation. Those restrictions often brought down the number of favorable reviews for the top consultants and kept others off the list. Chimni, for example, has 111 reviews in our database but gets credit for 103. By the way, Bodine, in second place, is credited with 73 reviews, 10 fewer than exist on the site. An honorable mention, for sure, should go to Maria Wich-Vila, a Harvard MBA, who has received 56 appreciative appraisals from clients who have used her ApplicantLab software platform (see ApplicantLab: A Cheap, Virtual Alternative To A Pricey MBA Admissions Consultant?)
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. Or that the list would exclude part-time counselors who could be just as good as full-timers but aren’t exposed to as many clients. 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.
COSTS TO HIRE A CONSULTANT VARY BUT THEY TYPICALLY DON’T COME CHEAP
The reviews, moreover, often go into the kind of convincing detail that reveals 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).
Not everyone can afford to hire an MBA admissions consultant, of course, and many candidates certainly don’t need one. At the upper reaches of the costs are the counselors who make $400 an hour at Menlo Coaching and The MBA Exchange. The least expensive consultant on our list is Eli David of Ivy MBA Consulting who comes in at an hourly rate of $230 and Paul Bodine who charges $299 an hour. The cost for a three-school package of consulting from first place Chimni is $6,000, which compares with Bodine’s $9,995 pricetag, no doubt because most of Chimni’s clients are in India.