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Can Any MBA Admissions Consultant Be This Successful?

Kellogg MBA Rajdeep Chimni, founder of Admissions Gateway in India, is this year's top-ranked MBA admissions consultant for the second consecutive year

Kellogg MBA Rajdeep Chimni, founder of Admissions Gateway in India, is this year’s top-ranked MBA admissions consultant for the second consecutive year

When MBA applicants hire admission consultants to help them get into prestigious business schools, the expectations are unusually high. The cost of employing a counselor to guide you along your journey to a highly selective MBA program is not cheap, and most candidates who fork over the money for advice are aiming for the most competitive graduate programs on the planet.

So what are the success rates of admissions advisers who are at the top of the food chain? It is among the most common question asked of consultants by would-be clients. In most cases, the answers you’ll get from admission consultants are purposely vague, in part, because success varies according to the quality of an individual applicant, the competitiveness of the candidate pool during an admissions season, and the subjective nature of highly selective admissions.

But Rajdeep Chimni, a Kellogg MBA and founder of Gateway Admissions, wants to increase transparency in the business so he is publishing for the first time a full accounting of every client his firm served in the past year. “We want to set the benchmark for transparency in the industry giving students a true sense into the whole uncensored story,” says Chimni, who for the second consecutive year is the most favorably reviewed MBA admissions consultant in the world. “We realize that all successful people write reviews for their consultants but no firm or consultant shares overall results and conversion percentages.”

MORE THAN 85% OF THE CLIENTS WON ADMISSION TO A TOP 10 MBA PROGRAM

Chimni says he has kept formal tabs on the firm’s progress for the past five years. “We’ve been compiling these stats for a while now,” he adds. “We share these with our clients which means if you work with us we give you full disclosure. We are just extending that and putting it out there. We also thought it is a good way for somebody to get insight into what the numbers are. There are certain metrics there that help people evaluate a consulting firm or a consultant.”

It’s not the first time an admissions firm has published such data (see MBA Admission Consulting Claims: How Credible?). And like most claims, the data has not been independently audited, though Chimni has shared with Poets&Quants a highly detailed spreadsheet with the results of all of his firm’s 83 clients last year. The names of his clients have been initialized for confidentiality purposes but he otherwise provided full disclosure on several key metrics that reflect a highly positive view of his firm’s performance for clients.

The accounting is bound to stir up controversy in the hotly competitive world of MBA admissions consulting. Asked to comment on Chimni’s data, the CEO of a rival firm said simply: “I don’t want to be publicly questioning a competitor. To me, that is as lame as making dubious claims of success, cloaked in a claim of promoting transparency.”

On the other hand, other competitors who say they have similar results are praising his success. “Full credit to Rajdeep for the admissions success his clients enjoy,” says Matt Symonds, co-founder of Fortuna Admissions. “In the past few years he has earned a well-deserved reputation in the Indian market, and his days as a Kellogg student are delivering great results for clients to Evanston and beyond. His selective client approach no doubt helps to drive such numbers. That’s why it is so important to be really honest with candidates about their chances at the top schools from the beginning.”

THE MOST SUCCESSFUL CLIENT WAS ADMITTED BY EIGHT SCHOOLS WITH TOTAL SCHOLARSHIP AWARDS OF $890,000

Yet, the accounting is compelling, given its highly detailed nature. According to Chimni, slightly more than 85% of the firm’s Class of 2022 candidates won admissions to a Top 10 MBA program. Some 54% of the admit offers received by his clients gained Top 5 offers. No less crucial, 28% of the admits were offered a full ride in the Top 10. The total scholarship offers to his clients in the past year came to $8.5 million, a number that Chimni claims is twice as large as the publicized scholarship offers of some firms that are ten times as large as Gateway.

Of the 83 clients, only two failed to get an offer of admission, and one of them failed to complete the firm’s program, according to the accounting. Some 39 applicants got into a single MBA program, 21 gained admission to two schools, 14 got to choose among three offers, five gained four acceptances, and one candidate got to pick among five offers.

The most successful client garnered eight different offers and total scholarship awards of $890,000, including grants of $140,000 each from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, Yale School of Management, and the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business. That person also received an $80,000 grant from Harvard Business School and a $120,000 award from Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business. “She comes from a non-traditional background, a non-profit cum social entrepreneurship role,” says Chimni. The standout thing is that her passion for doing good is clear throughout her journey. The other thing is, if you meet her you automatically trust her and feel like she is someone you must help on her journey. In the end, you feel that she will make a difference.”

No less impressive. Kellogg admitted 31 of the 83 clients, dangling scholarship awards totaling nearly $1.8 million, Wharton accepted 24 of the firm’s candidates, with $890,000 in total scholarship grants, and both Harvard Business School and the University of Michigan each made offers to 14 clients. HBS’ cumulative scholarship offers came to $1.3 million, while Michigan’s totaled nearly $1.2 million (see table below)

While only three of the 83 candidates won admission to Stanford’s Graduate School of Business, which boasts the most selective elite MBA program in the world with an acceptance rate of just 6.9%, all three were given scholarship grants of two for $180,000 each and a third for $60,000. The $420,000 total of those grants brought the average scholarship award to the highest for any one school: $140,000 per admit. That compares to HBS’ $93,929 average, Michigan Ross’ $82,500, Kellogg’s $57,871, Chicago Booth’s $52,727, and Duke Fuqua’s $52,222. One Gateway admit to Cornell University’s Johnson Graduate School of Management, however, was awarded a $108,000 scholarship grant.

‘IF YOU HAVE A 580 GMAT & WANT TO GO TO HARVARD, WE ARE NOT GOING TO TAKE THAT CASE’

The results are even more startling because 80% of Gateway’s clients are Indians who are among the most overrepresented part of the elite MBA applicant pool an increasing number of them are targeting only M7 business schools. Symonds of Fortuna notes that while “Indian candidates are clearly among the most over-represented,” they also show a “pragmatism to apply to a number of schools among the M7 and S7. If Rajdeep’s clients only applied to HSW the success rates would look very different,. His thoughtfulness and market knowledge helps his clients to take a broader view of the many outstanding schools that will provide such a wonderful experience and career opportunities.”

Chimni insists that the stats for this past year are consistent with the firm’s track record over the last five years. “They are a smidgeon better than last year,” he says, “but we are always in this zone. About half of Kellogg’s class and 40% of Wharton’s class form India would go to us.”

Of course, if a firm were to only take on clients with high GPAs and test scores and strong educational and work backgrounds, it could skew results. But Chimni insists that is not the case. “We don’t take dead money and we don’t give false expectations,” he says. “We don’t have a metric to decide whether you can be a client. If you have a 520 GMAT and want to go to Harvard, we are not going to take that case. But that is the only selection we make. Almost everybody who comes in gets to go to a top ten school and doing that year after year is very difficult. The results have nowhere to go but down.”

Gateway charges $7,400 for a three-school package of advice, not an inconsiderate sum for applicants from India. But Chimni says the results, particularly the number of clients who end up with scholarships, make the fees more than reasonable. Overall, his clients, he says, averaged $47,770 in scholarship funds across all 83 clients.”Our value is expressed in our results which for the fee is definitely the best in the world,” he asserts. “For every dollar our clients spend, they get $9.60 in return on average in scholarship money. We not only get you an admission, but you get 9.6 times back on your fee. To us, that ROI is the mark of success.”