MBA admissions consulting is a fiercely competitive business. Nearly 500 different consultants are listed in Poets&Quants’ directory of MBA admission counselors, and there are quite a few firms dispensing advice as well. For the past three years, we’ve published a ranking of the most favorable;y reviewed admission consultants (see The Most Favorably Reviewed MBA Admission Consultants Of 2019).
But there’s another way to look at this business: By firm. Whose firm’s consultants get the most rave reviews? We’ve taken a close look at the data by examining the average reviews per consultant for each firm with ten or more consultants listed in our directory. The results: The top firm on this basis is mbaMission, which boasts nearly 400 positive reviews for its 25 consultants, far and away ahead of any other firm in the business. mbaMission, founded by Darden MBA Jeremy Shinewald, will celebrate its 20th anniversary in September, making the firm one of the oldest MBA admissions consulting companies in the business.
Behind them is Fortuna Admissions, a company launched in 2012 by Matt Symonds, the founder of the World MBA Tour, and several former admissions pros from Wharton and INSEAD. From its start, Fortuna has been differentiated by hiring ex-admission officials from the leading business schools who have personally reviewed tens of thousands of applications. Fortuna, which boasts more international depth than most of its rivals, has 159 upbeat assessments for its 26 consultants.
The Ten Leading MBA Admissions Consulting Firms
|Firm||Founding Year||3 School Package||Positive Reviews||Consultants Reviewed|
|1. mbaMission||1999||$7,400||398||23 of 25|
|2. Fortuna Admissions||2012||$7,775||159||26 of 26|
|3. Vantage Point MBA||2016||$7,000||59||8 of ten|
|4. The MBA Exchange||1996||$7,400||202||39 of 73|
|5. Accepted.com||1994||$7,200||38||8 0f 13|
|6. Stacy Blackman Consulting||2001||$8,700||214||25 of 98|
|7. MBA Prep School||2009||$6,995||22||4 of 11|
|8. Stratus Consulting||2006||$6,950||21||9 of 13|
|9. Admissionado||2007||$7,195||40||17 of 28|
|10. Veritas Prep||2002||$7,300||25||10 of 60|
THREE OF THE TOP FIVE FIRMS WERE LAUNCHED IN THE 1990S
Rounding out the top five on our list are Vantage Point MBA, the smallest of the ten leading firms co-founded only three years ago by Kellogg MBA Meredith Shields and Columbia Business School MBA Melody Jones, and The MBA Exchange, founded by Harvard MBA Dan Bauer in 1996, has the second largest number of listed consultants in our directory (73) with more than 200 rave reviews for its consultants, behind only Stacy Blackman Consulting with 98 listed consultants. The firm was recently acquired by a former client and MIT MBA alum, Alex Min. No. 5 Accepted.com, is the oldest of the top ten firms, launched in 1994 by Linda Abraham. co-author of MBA Admission for Smarties and host of the graduate admissions podcast, Admissions Straight Talk podcast.
Outside of Vantage Point, the youngest firm in the top ten, longevity seems to count for something. Three of the top five firms were founded in the 1990s–mbaMission in 1999, MBA Exchange in 1996 and Accepted.com in 1994. All of the remaining seven firms in the top ten have been launched in the 2000s.
All of these firms put a healthy price on their services. Generally, a three-school package of counseling will set an applicant back about $7,500, though the range goes from a low of $6,950 at Stratus Admissions Consulting to a high of $8,700 at Stacy Blackman Consulting. And at some firms, the most experienced consulting veterans charge even more: At mbaMission, founder Shinewald gets $10,000 for a three-school package, $2,600 more than the firm average, while at Stratus, the top consultant gets $9,350 for advising a candidate on a three-school package.
AN IMPORTANT ISSUE TO CONSIDER ABOUT OUR LIST
It’s important to note that our admittedly simplistic approach to singling out these ten firms has its drawbacks. For one, some firms rely almost exclusively on contract or freelance consultants who by their part-time status would have fewer clients who could review their performance. That is certainly true at The MBA Exchange and several other firms. It’s also true that some firms are more aggressive than others in encouraging highly satisfied clients to post positive reviews for them.
Even so, the willingness of a client to offer an endorsement of his or her consultant is a meaningful indicator of quality, particularly because we encourage unsatisfied applicants to post negative assessments of their experiences. For the purpose of this analysis, 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.
Of course, each firm typically has its own approach to consulting. The MBA Exchange, which also has a dozen former MBA admissions officers on its consulting staff, boasts of its proprietary tools, frameworks, and resources developed over all its years in the business and the more than 5,000 clients the firm has served since 1996. Larger firms often have resources unavailable to solo practitioners or boutique outfits. Among other things, MBA Exchange offers simulated “team-based discussions” for four to six client applicants to help them prepare for those exercises at Wharton and Michigan Ross.
And many larger firms in the business often complement one-on-one consulting with other experts they may have in their organizations. At Fortuna, for example, the work of each coach is supported by a team of directors, the former gatekeepers at Wharton, INSEAD and other top schools. Resume experts who have worked at big brand schools to put together the resumes of MBA students also assist in shaping an ideal narrative of professional growth, achievements, and personal engagement.
AT MBAMISSION, THE CONSULTANTS ARE ALL FULL-TIME PLAYERS
The upshot: Applicants often rave not only about a singular consultant in large firms but several when writing their assessments of the consulting experience. One example: “I can’t imagine what the application process would have been like without the Fortuna team,” wrote an applicant named Vanessa in her review of Fortuna’s Emma Bond, a former senior member of London Business School’s MBA admissions committee. “They made everything tangible, and much more enjoyable even from the first call. I worked with both Melissa Jones and Emma Bond–a great duo. They are both extremely professional and helpful, had great insights on the process, paid great attention to detail and knew how to position my profile in the best way possible. They went above and beyond to help me prepare for my interviews and always available for questions.”
mbaMission’s Shinewald says that his consultants form unusually close bonds with applicant clients. “Our consultants have been invited to our clients’ weddings and graduations,” he says. “We have clients from years back who reach back out to their consultants to seek career advice or just give us personal updates.
“As a team of full-time consultants, we are able to invest in the client experience like no other firm. And, I really do think that this is a huge advantage: by only hiring full-time consultants – and to my knowledge, no other firm follows our standard — we have a team that sees this not as a ‘side-gig’ but as a professional calling. So, our consultants are always training and upping their games and our clients feel this in their interactions – we are able to be more hands-on because our clients are our only professional focus and we are available and thinking of them at all times.”