If you’re applying to a highly selective MBA program at a world-class business school, the odds are against you. You’ll be competing in a self-selecting pool of largely exceptional candidates. Stanford’s Graduate School of Business, with the world’s most selective MBA program, rejects 93% of its applicants. At INSEAD, the highest-ranked school outside the U.S., two of every three candidates are turned down for admission.
Those daunting odds, along with the ROI on a prestigious MBA, have fueled a massive industry of pricey admission consultants who counsel and advise many candidates. Poets&Quants directory of MBA admission counselors now boasts 497 profiles of active consultants who help to put applicants in the best possible light. The directory now features more than 3,500 verified assessments–both positive and negative–of consultants by their clients.
Who stands out in this ever-enlarging crowd of professionals? In our fourth annual review of the world’s most favorably reviewed MBA admission consultants, we’ve singled out the best of the best on the basis of reviews they have received in the past year. These are the professionals who are most likely to shift the odds in a candidate’s favor. Their reviews overflow with effusive praise. One example for Lulu Curiel, a Harvard MBA and founder of Ivy Advisors, who is eighth on this year’s list: “She is more than a consultant,” wrote a 2022 admitted candidate who used her service. “Lulu is always available. She is well studied, takes genuine time to learn about her fellows and helps to decipher trends in your story, educational, and work experiences that help you compose a strong application. She also helps you see your blind spots. Her relationship with several alums and admissions personnel is a differentiator because it provides unique access and insight into the process. Lastly, Lulu is a problem solver. I hit a challenging moment in my process, and she found a solution.”
20 OF THE TOP MBA ADMISSION CONSULTANTS OF 2020
The consultants on our 2020 list all obviously gain similarly enthusiastic reviews. This year’s list features many familiar names, most of whom have appeared on our three earlier rankings of the consultants who get the most kudos for their service. But only four consultants–Paul Bodine, Alex Leventhal, David White, and Alice van Harten–have made our honor roll every single year. Another two–Jessica Shklar and Sherry Holland–have made the list on three different occasions. Yet, the new list had plenty of newcomers, too, with nine of the 20 never having made an earlier ranking.
For the second consecutive year, Rajdeep Chimni, the founder of Admissions Gateway in India, takes top honors with 66 favorable reviews in the past year. His firm’s Class of 2022 clients racked up an enviable record of success. He says that 85%+ of the class accepted a Top 10 admission, 54% of the admit offers clients received were from Top 5 business schools, and 28% of their admits have a full ride to a Top 10 MBA program. All told, Admissions Gateway clients received combined scholarships offers that totalled $8.5 million.
Not far behind Chimni on our list is Scott Edinburgh, a Wharton MBA and former Deloitte consultant who leads Personal MBA Coach, with 55 reviews. Rounding out the top five are Eli David of Ivy MBA Consulting, Katharine Lewis of mbaMission, and Liza Weale of Gatehouse Admissions. Weale broke into the top five as a newcomer, no less.
This year’s list, newly expanded to 20 due to the overwhelming response to our earlier rankings, features a vast array of highly talented advisors (see table below). They come from some of the biggest firms in the business, including mbaMission, Fortuna Admissions and Stacy Blackman Consulting, and also consulting boutiques, including Personal MBA Coach, Ivy MBA Consulting and the Ivy Groupe. Of them all, mbaMission can lay claim to having the most consultants among the top 20: five different counselors, accounting for one in four of the most favorably reviewed consultants in the business.
None of this comes cheap. Weale, an MIT Sloan grad and a former Bain & Company consultant, charges $500 an hour for her advice or a hefty $14,000 for a three-school package of consulting. Yet, the highest hourly rate of the consultants we’re highlighting this year goes to Devi Vallabhaneni, a former member of the Admissions Board at Harvard Business School who has interviewed hundreds of applicants in Boston, London, and Paris for HBS. Her hourly rate at mbaMission? A breathtaking $900 for 60 minutes of advice. Among the top 20 advisers, the least expensive is Greg Guglielmo of Avanti Prep who charges $275 an hour, while Rishabh Gupta of GyanOne Universal in India boasts the most affordable three-school package at just $3,000.
26 MBA ADMISSION CONSULTANTS BOAST PERFECT 10.0 SCORES ON CLIENT SATISFACTION
This year, for the very first time, we’ve also crunched the data to show an overall satisfaction score for consultants in addition to the number of favorably reviews from clients each has received over the past year. We asked clients how likely is it that you would recommend this consultant to a friend, family member, or colleague? A score of 10.0, the highest possible, included the answer “without hesitation.” A score of one, the lowest possible, expressed the client’s view that he or she would not recommend their consultant. The metric gauges both the loyalty of a consultant’s relationships with clients as well as how the consultant met client expectations. When consultants on our top 20 list shared the same number of positive reviews, their satisfaction measurements were factored into their numerical rank.
Only one of our top 20 received a perfect 10.0 score: Shaifali Aggarwal, a Harvard Business School alum and founder of New York-based Ivy Groupe. Across 21 separate client reviews, she gained the highest satisfaction ratings possible. Her clients gave her rave assessments. “In addition to helping curate the content of my applications, Shaifali was a crucial part of my support network when things inevitably did not go my way,” wrote one admiring applicant who will be attending Stanford’s MBA program this fall. “She coached me through these hiccups in an elegant and comforting way.”
To make our annual guide even more helpful to potential users of consultants, we’ve also included a list of the consultants who scored a perfect 10.0 on this metric, as long as they have more than five positive reviews from clients in the past year. This list brings attention to 26 admission advisers who may consult on a part-time and therefore cannot rack up larger numbers of annual reviews. Some applicants may prefer these low volume providers of savvy advice.
The Top 20 Most Favorably Reviewed MBA Admission Counselors
- Number of favorable reviews posted between April 15, 2019, to August 6, 2020