At $20K A Pop, Alice van Harten’s MBA Admission Advice Doesn’t Come Cheap

best MBA admissions consultant

Alice van Harten with a Menlo Coaching colleague. Photo by Jeroen van Heijningen

It was while she was a consultant at Bain & Co. that a colleague asked for her help applying to Stanford’s Graduate School of Business. Alice van Harten had no business background to speak of but she had lectured in the humanities at Stanford University for three years before joining Bain, partly by leveraging a Ph.D. in the classics from Cambridge University.

“From the very first time I helped someone with her MBA application, I loved it,” she recalls. “I loved all of the components of it, the storytelling, the planning and helping her to win. She was happy with the service. She bought me a meal and started to refer colleagues.”

Though van Harten would go on to Elsevier as a strategic manager in 2018 and then back to Stanford as a lecturer in 2011, she was hooked. “One day I was thinking about my next move and took the plunge,” says van Harten.”I left academia for good and started Menlo in 2012.”


Now entering her 12th year after serving nearly 300 clients, van Harten is one of the most in-demand MBA admission coaches in the world, so much so that she is raising her consulting fees to a record $20,000 for a three-school package, a 25% jump from last year’s $16,000 level and nearly double the going rate in the business. That sum would likely make her the world’s most pricey MBA admissions coach.

“The demand is high because some people just want to work with the founder,” explains van Harten, the founding partner of Menlo Coaching who is also the only MBA admissions consultant who has made all seven of Poets&Quants‘ annual lists of the best coaches since 2017 (see below for our MBA Coach Hall of Fame). “I firmly believe that our rates are high but we offer excellent value because of the personal tie. It’s not just a game of pricing ourselves high to seem elite. It’s because we put so much time and resources into it.”

Asked if she knows her fees are the highest, she pauses and then says, “I am not sure. If you know someone who charges more, maybe I have to up it more,” laughs van Harten. She points out that this is the first increase in her rates in four years since 2019.


Alice van Harten of Menlo Consulting

If she did, it probably wouldn’t push all that many people away. Past clients consistently give her rave reviews for her nuanced guidance on their behalf. Of the 99 assessments from her clients posted in Poets&Quants‘ extensive directory of MBA coaches, she comes across as the person you would want in your corner at all times.

“Alice and her team are truly phenomenal,” wrote one candidate recently who won acceptance to both Harvard Business School and Stanford GSB. “She is a thought partner and was critical in my admission. From day one, it was clear that Alice had the business school application process down cold and was unafraid to tell me things as they are. We spent countless hours together better understanding my background, refining my responses, and best positioning me for my dream schools.”

And yet, the candidate who posted his comments anonymously worried that his fairly typical finance background would make him look like so many other applicants. “Those fears were washed away once I started working with Alice,” he adds. “She helped me tell my story in a way that was authentic and unique all while maintaining the edge I needed for applications. Alice is like no other – she possesses the best combination of intellectual horsepower, heightened emotional intelligence, and sheer dedication to getting things done.”


What also makes van Harten stand out is her own unusual background. After all, she had won admission to the Ph.D. program at Cambridge with a 100% scholarship. She had secured a postdoc at Stanford through a highly competitive application process. And then she passed the grinding case interview process, ultimately receiving offers to become a consultant from McKinsey, Bain, and BCG.

MBB, moreover, wanted van Harten even though she had no business experience. Instead, she was a serious intellect who while at Cambridge studied Plato’s philosophical writings and wrote a few papers of her own, including one on Socrates on Life and Death. Van Harten tutored undergraduates in writing as part of Cambridge’s intimate “tutorial system.”

“Alice is the daughter of a minister in the Dutch Protestant church and studied ancient ethics for her Ph.D.,” notes her husband, David White, also a founding partner of the firm. “She brings her moral values to everything she does. I am proud of how this influences the way she works with clients, and also how she’s used this to help us recruit a team who share similar values.”

When she left academia for good to start Menlo Coaching in Silicon Valley in 2012, van Harten had the support of her husband, who was then working in the tech industry at Yahoo as a senior director of product operations. White would ultimately join the business when the couple moved to the Netherlands in 2016. From a perch in North Holland, they have built one of the most successful mid-sized firms in the business.


“Early on we did really well and could have hired quite easily more people to grow faster,” she says. “We decided not to sell out and instead to wait until finding the right people with the same values as ours.”

Today, that team totals some 30 people, including eight GMAT and GRE tutors, and support staff in marketing, operations, and editorial. The group includes her husband who is an accomplished coach himself and the former head of admissions for IESE Business School Pascal Michels. Van Harten works most closely with Leslie Monstavicius, a fellow Ph.D. who has studied at Stanford, UC Berkeley, and the University of Oxford and had been an academic director at Stanford when van Harten was there.

In a typical year, van Harten will directly work with up to 20 full-time clients (if you’re doing the math, that will now come to $400K annually alone). In the most recent 2022-2023 cycle, she served just 13 comprehensive MBA clients. Van Harten expresses a preference for early sign-ups so that she can “bake” the candidate. “Almost everyone on my client list started working with me one year before the deadline,” she says. “That gives me the opportunity to bake them. When people come early we can help shape their career decisions and extracurriculars.”


An applicant who hires van Harten as a coach will often work with as many as three other specialists on the Menlo team, including a communications coaching staffer and another consultant who would do a second review of essays. “But I am in the driver’s seat and responsible for the storytelling and everything they end up submitting,” says van Harten. “The system is intended to add value. We work with the applicants very holistically, from the professional decisions they have to make both before as well as after they get the offer to how to tell your employer you are leaving for business school.”

Some of her favorite clients include a former auditor and engineer who lacked the pedigree of an elite university degree. “He was a bright guy but had gone to a third-tier university and did auditing and programming work which is not your standard pre-MBA experience,” she says. “It started by telling him to increase his GMAT score from 740 to 760. After all, Harvard gets to pick from a 750 from McKinsey or a 750 from another firm. He came out with a 770. He sent me an email every day and he ended up going to Booth with a scholarship that was several times the cost of my fees. He now has a top job in San Francisco. The experience has been life-changing for him.”

Or, she says, there was a recent woman who had worked for a second-tier consulting firm and wanted to get into Harvard. “She was not from MBB but her personal story blew me away. I helped her tell the story of how she worked incredibly hard through very difficult circumstances. She got into Harvard. And that has been life-changing for her. It is up to me to find the sharp end of the spear that they can drive into the admissions committee’s heart.”


And while her rates have gone up, van Harten says she recently got off the phone with a prospective applicant who she advised not to hire her. “I said, ‘Don’t insist on working with me. Work with us but not with me because you’ll get the same value if not better.’ We very much believe that every single one of our consultants offers value, otherwise, we would not have hired them.”

Who benefits the most from admissions consulting help? “All of our clients benefit,” insists van Harten. “Sometimes it is taking someone along the way, all the way, and sometimes just tipping someone in. I really want the people who sign up with us to get value from my service. If at any point I think they would be worse off, we tell them we are not the right firm for them.”

After 11 years in the business, van Harten says she is as enthused about helping her clients as ever. “I am not getting bored and I am not getting tired,” she says. “I love it. My clients are almost like my children. I don’t mind it when they are demanding or are a bit naughty. If they were all easygoing and did exactly what I advise it would get tedious. So I sometimes like the sharp edges they bring.”

The MBA Admissions Coach Hall Of Fame

Of the 567 MBA admission consultants in Poets&Quants‘ extensive directory, Alice van Harten is the only one who has been on all seven of our lists of the most favorably reviewed counselors published since 2017. In all, just 11 coaches have appeared on the majority of our annual honor rolls (see below). Three other consultants–who have made the list for the past three consecutive times–have great momentum: mbaMission’s Devi Vallabhanen, Stratus Admissions Counseling’s Susan Cera, and Candy Lee Laballe of Laballe Admissions.
MBA Coach Firm Times On Best List Total Reviews Client Satisfaction Rate
Alice van Harten Menlo Coaching 7 100 9
Alex Leventhal Prep MBA 6 151 9
Paul Bodine 6 143 9
Rajdeep Chimni Admissions Gateway 5 239 9
Scott Edinburgh Personal MBA Coach 5 226 9
Eli David Ivy MBA Consulting 5 143 9
Katharine Lewis mbaMission 5 125 9
Jessica Shklar mbaMission 5 111 9
Angela Guido Career Protocol 4 109 9
Betsy Massar Master Admissions 4 93 9
David White Menlo Coaching 4 91 9


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