THE HALL OF FAME MBA COACHES
Because this is the fifth consecutive year of evaluating the best MBA admission consultants, we also wanted to tip our hat to the few coaches who have consistently demonstrated their ability to deliver exceptional advice to a large number of clients. Only three consultants have made every single ranking since the inaugural list of the Top 10 in 2017: Paul Bodine, Alex Leventhal, and Alice van Harten. Accomplishing this feat is especially noteworthy because in the first two years of our rankings only ten consultants made the lists each time.
Of the trio of coaches who defied those odds, only Leventhal has an MBA on his resume. He earned it from Harvard Business School in 1998. Some 122 of his clients have posted reviews of his work at Poets&Quants. Bodine and van Harten have backgrounds that bring evidence of their high-level thinking and writing abilities. A one-time freelance journalist for the Orange County Register newspaper, Bodine has a master’s degree in English from Johns Hopkins University and a bachelor’s in English language and literature from the University of Chicago. van Harten, meantime, has a Ph.D. from Cambridge University in the classics, having been a lecturer in the humanities at Stanford University and a consultant with Bain & Co. before starting Menlo Coaching in 2012. Bodine has 115 reviews to his credit, while van Harten has 82.
Several other consultants have landed on the top list a majority of times, if not every single year. David White, van Harten’s husband and partner at Menlo Coaching, has made the ranking four times. Another five coaches have been on three of the five years: Rajdeep Chimni, Eli David, Scott Edinburgh, Sherry Holland, and Katharine Lewis. All of them deserve a spot in our Hall of Fame (see table below). With 206 assessments from clients, Chimni has racked up more positive reviews than any other consultant in the Poets&Quants directory.
PERFECTION: A PERFECT 10.0 CLIENT SATISFACTION SCORE
This year, for only the second time, we’ve also crunched the data to show an overall satisfaction score for consultants in addition to the number of favorable reviews from clients each has received over the past year. We asked clients how likely is it that they 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 Cera in our Top 20 received a perfect 10.0 score. But 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 seven or more positive reviews from clients in the past year. This list brings attention to 20 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 (see table below).
The standouts on the perfect score list include Fortuna Admissions' Emma Bond, a former admissions staffer at London Business School, who achieved 10.0 scores from a dozen different clients last year. Bond brings a unique twist to her role as a director of Fortuna for the past nine years; she also is a consultant to the admissions team at Imperial College Business School where she has been interviewing and selecting British and international candidates for the school's full-time, weekend and global online MBA programs. Four other coaches accomplished perfection, getting perfect scores from 10 different clients: Caryn Altman of Stacy Blackman Consulting, Harold Simansky of mbaMission, Melissa Prevost of Stratus Admissions Counseling, and Angela Guido, of Career Protocol.
Like the main ranking, making the perfect score list is no layup. One highly-rated admissions consultant, who has been among the top for a couple of years, missed the list because a client she helped on a pro bono basis, no less, gave her a score of 9, even though the client got into her first choice business school. As in everything in life, it proves that luck is always a factor.
CONSULTANTS WHO EARNED A PERFECT 10.0 CLIENT SATISFACTION SCORE
Notes: Average client satisfaction score is based on the 1,164 verified client reviews published from June 1 of 2020 to June 1 of 2021.
PASSING 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.
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.
The addition of an actual client satisfaction rating also puts the focus more on the quality of a coaching assignment and less on the quantity of them. Publishing what amounts to a net promoter score, something every MBA will ultimately learn in marketing, also allows the spotlight to shine on excellent consultants who prefer to give more hands-on attention to fewer clients or who make admissions advising more of a part-time endeavor.
CLIENT TESTIMONIALS OFTEN GIVE CONSULTANTS CREDIT FOR GETTING THEM ADMITTED
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 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. Despite the high costs, however, few of the clients who have written reviews show any remorse. One after another, their testimonials often support the notion that they would not have gotten into their target schools without the guidance and help of a admissions professional.
Most Favorably Reviewed MBA Admission Coaches