Can Any MBA Admissions Consultant Be This Successful?

Highly-selective business schools are opening their doors to admit candidates to their MBA programs


Most of the firm’s clients were handled directly by Chimni, who worked with 40 candidates last year, or Niketa Desai, a 2010 Chicago Booth MBA, who guided 28 clients. Four part-time consultants worked with the remaining 25 candidates last year. Chimni founded the firm 12 years ago after his own journey to a U.S. business school. In 2005, he recalls, Chimni applied to six business schools with a 690 GMAT. “I got rejected from every school,” he says. “I said, ‘This is not working.’ I took the GMAT again and got a 750. I then made my own method of approaching the application.”

Besides his much higher standardized test score, he emphasized his experience in Africa to help differentiate himself from every other male, Indian engineer in the applicant pool. Chimni ended up going to Kellogg and rejecting offers with scholarships from Duke, Cornell, UCLA and Carnegie Mellon. He also was admitted to Michigan Ross without a scholarship. “I got into all the schools I applied to and that gave me the idea of starting my own firm,” he says. “So the firm actually came out of failure. But Kellogg also played a part in the story. It was 2006 and I was the only male from India at Kellogg. There were nearly 45 Indians in my class, but almost all of them were from the Bay Area, Chicago or Singapore. I was the only male from India, bilingual, a mother tongue speaking Indian.”

Rival firms would, no doubt, view these results with a fair bit of skepticism. “There might be this sense of disbelief,” agrees Desai who has worked with Chimni as a partner in the firm for more than three years. “There might be this sense of ‘this is too good to be true.’ Whenever I share these numbers with my classmates at Booth, they cannot believe what we do. And these folks interview candidates and know how the process works.”


Chimni and Desai attribute the firm’s success rate to several factors. “We spend a lot of time with our clients, adn every application gets five or six reviews,” says Chimni “There is an element of skill to it, but it does come down to the amount of time we spend with clients. We’ve done this for so long that we have figured out what works and what doesn’t work. Once you do it awhile you build up strong institutional knowledge about this. That is refreshed every year by the class we send out. So it is always current.”

Differentiating applicants, particularly male Indian engineers, is key. “The first step is helping people understand what they actually do at work, not what they say they do. They are often in the weeds and don’t think about the strategic picture. And if we are working with an engineer, we spend a lot of time going over their life experiences. They may be engineers but they come from all walks of life. They have personal stories. Let me just say that 100% of our engineers get in, and you wouldn’t think that could happen because they are so oversubscribed. But it is a very high engagement process. You get to know the client well and you help them brainstorm more effectively.”

Another unusual aspect of their consulting approach: They pair clients with each other for some prep and also connect them with client alumni. “If you are working with us you are competing against everyone else in the world who applies to the same school but not the other people who are working with us,” says Chimni. For interview prep, for example, a Gateway consultant will first work directly with a client but then match them with other client applicants so they can continue to prepare together.


“We work more as a community than in a silo way so it gives our clients more exposure to different people,” adds Chimni. “We are not sharing any information that is not to be shared. But in terms of the preparation, you would interview with several clients and our alumni are engaged with us. We help connect you to our previous class at the business schools so they inform your essays. Most consultants are not able to do that because you need a one-to-one ratio of admits to applicants so the students aren’t overwhelmed with requests. Luckily. we have that many admits.”

Despite concerns over the cost of the MBA in the U.S., the anti-immigration rhetoric from the Trump administration and the uncertainly over obtaining an H1B work visa, Chimni and Desai both say that interest in the top MBA programs remains high among Indian applicants. “Education is seen as a proof of future financial security in India,” says Desai. “It determines your family’s financial outcomes for a long time. I don’t see any change in the aspirations of our clients. There may be some shift to one-year programs, but that is a different clientele. Last year, we coached someone who was a civil servant in the government. He had an offer from ISB (the Indian School of Business) but got into Ross with a full scholarship and that completely changed his viewpoint. He had more incentive to spend two years in the U.S., even if he decided to come back to a similar recruiting outcome in India. The scholarship changed a lot of things.”

With the 2020-2021 admissions season about to kick off with Harvard Business School’s round one application deadline of Sept. 8, Chimni and Desai say business is at record levels. “Business is very good,” maintains Chimni. “It’s strange because with what everyone the world is going through with COVID and Trump’s policies. you would think people would be afraid to go to the U.S. But we think it is going to be a much more competitive year. The perception of risk is based on your downside. If you look at the fact that 60% of our students have gotten at least one scholarship and 30% have received a full scholarship, there’s not much downside. They don’t have to pay the full fee so the results subsidize their education in a way that takes a lot of the risk away.”

Chimni believes the results put him among the most successful admission consultants in the world. “We are the best pound for pound consultant in the world,” he maintains. “For what you pay, you can’t get more anywhere. In our market, we’re number one. We think we are number one worldwide based on these stats.”


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