Bragging Rights: This MBA Admissions Consulting Firm Boasts The Most Former M7 Adcoms

Stacy Blackman, founder of the prominent MBA admissions consulting firm that bears her name, says her team includes the most former M7 MBA admissions officials in the world

There is not a day that goes by when Megan Stiphany doesn’t draw upon her reservoir of knowledge gained as a senior associate director of admissions at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business. In working with MBA applicants, the admissions consultant for Stacy Blackman Consulting leverages what she learned from reviewing more than 1,500 Booth candidates and her inside understanding of how the school makes admission decisions.

“Every day there are moments when I am in the nitty-gritty weeds with clients and I step back, close my eyes and ask how would I think about this if I were still at Booth,” she says. “I’ll ask how would Donna Swinford (associate director of recruitment and admissions at Booth) view this email, this essay, this resume? I think about that often.”

Stiphany believes that former Adcom officials, who have worked on the inside of the admissions kitchen, have an unusual advantage in coaching applicants applying to the same schools. “I have seen how they make the sausage,” says Stiphany. “I know what the process is once the application comes in and how the population is sliced and diced. I can speak to how many people are going to read their files and what that first review pass looks like. And once they get past that quality piece with a GMAT or GRE score, their GPA and the quality of their undergraduate experience, what that process looks like beyond that.”


Megan Stiphany, a former Chicago Booth admissions official who is now a onsultant with Stacy Blackman Consulting

The vast majority of MBA admission consultants, of course, do not have that knowledge. There are plenty of advisors without inside know-how who are as good or better than those who might bring privileged info to the game. But Stacy Blackman feels strongly that former Adcoms may well have an advantage in coaching applicants to leading business schools.

Which MBA admissions consulting firm can lay claim to having the most former admission officials in its ranks helping applicants get into top business schools? That’s why the firm can lay claim to having more former Adcom officials from M7 business schools than any of its rivals. By Blackman’s own count, there are 21 former members of M7 admissions offices, including a trio from Harvard Business School and Stanford Graduate School of Business, on her team. It is the only firm, according to its own research, that has every M7 school represented by a former admissions officer. All told, the total years of M7 Adcom experience at the firm comes just shy of 100 years at 99.

The firm’s analysis of its competitors finds that in collective Adcom experience, Fortuna Admissions comes next with 76 years and 11 former M7 Adcoms, including two from Harvard and one from Stanford, while The MBA Exchange matches Fortuna with five consultants who also worked on the inside and racked up 22 years of experience.


By no means a complete list, the analysis provides a sense of how common it has become for MBA admission officials to become MBA admission consultants. Dozens of business school admissions officers (AdCom) have made the switch, bringing with them inside knowhow of how admission decisions are made. Like Stiphany, they have sat in countless Adcom meetings deciding the fate of hundreds of applicants; they’re read thousands of application essays, and often interviewed hundreds of candidates.

Even when she’s working with clients who are applying to other schools besides Booth, Stiphany says the team’s collective knowledge if highly valuable. She often consults with her colleagues at Stacy Blackman to tap into that well of Adcom experience. “We have a lot of firepower on the team as a whole,” she says. “If there’s a question I have about a person who is applying to Harvard I can put it out to the entire group and get three to five responses within half an hour and they are all coming from people who have worked in admissions at M7 schools.”

Many find admissions consulting a lifestyle choice. “Working as a MBA admissions consultant allows professionals to have greater control over their work/life balance, avoid any travel or MBA roadshow commitments and make a more direct impact 1:1 with MBA applicants proactively,” says Esther Magna, a principal admissions consultant with Stacy Blackman. who put together the analysis.


She maintains that one way “to evaluate an MBA admissions consulting partner is to take a close look at the credentials of its team. Look past marketing claims and snazzy website design. See for yourself what the talent you’d be tapping into by looking at consultant team profiles. A word to the wise: Holding an MBA degree is 100% not the same as having worked full-time in an MBA admissions officer role. Working as a student helper during an MBA program is also not a former MBA admissions officer. Look for actual decision-makers.”

Stacy Blackman isn’t the only firm taking this position. Fortuna Admissions, co-founded by former admission directors at Wharton and INSEAD with advisors from Chicago Booth and Berkeley Haas admissions chiefs, has also taken a similar approach. In fact, when the firm was launched ten years ago, there were hardly any coaches in the industry with Adcom experience, notes Matt Symonds, director of Fortuna.

“Most firms relied on MBA graduates from a variety of top 25 schools,” adds Symonds, who says that Fortuna now has 30 admissions directors, associate deans, and associate directors from the M7 and other top U.S. and European business schools. “So with the former directors of MBA admissions at Wharton, Chicago Booth, INSEAD, Berkeley Haas and LBS on our founding team, we very quickly established a level of insider admissions experience and insight that resonated with MBA candidates. This has been a key part of our DNA at Fortuna since day one, and we’re flattered that SBC has since copied our approach.”


There are other firms that differentiate themselves on the same basis. The Admission Advisory Group, a boutique firm in California, is run by three former Stanford admissions officers, including Marie Mookini, who had been assistant dean and director of MBA admissions at Stanford from 1991 to 2001. Though not in the analysis, 100% of the firm–all three partners–have worked in the GSB’s admissions office for a combined total of 19 years. Inspira Futures, yet another firm, boasts having former admissions committee members from M7 schools, including HBS, GSB and Wharton.

In the hotly competitive field of MBA consulting, Blackman’s analysis is sure to provoke rival interpretations, if not outright bickering and snark. Some competitors call it a “marketing gimmick.” Others says that data is not quite accurate, that they have more former Adcoms than they are credited for. Depending on how you count, mbaMission says it could arguably boast five with Adcom experience instead of two, though Blackman correctly points out that one of the two was a reader at Stanford, not a director or decision-maker. (To be fair, the analysis was done by Blackman by scouring firm websites that may not be updated with the latest info). Still others, with hackles surely risen, are quick to lodge other gripes at Stacy Blackman’s firm.

David White, co-founder of Menlo Coaching, one of the most expensive admission consultants in the business, pooh-poohs the results. The analysis finds his firm dead last in M7 Adcoms. “Evaluating and creating are two different skills,” maintains White, who had worked for Yahoo and TravelZoo in his past. “Adcoms know how to evaluate applications but have no experience helping applicants create great applications.” True enough, only four of the top 20 MBA admissions consultants considered at the top of the game by Poets&Quants have Adcom experience.


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