How MBA Admissions Consultants Charge and How to Decide What Service is Right for You
If you’re in the process of interviewing firms like ours, you might find yourself confused about how MBA admissions consultants charge for their services. We get it! In today’s article we’ll do our best to lay out the way our industry tends to package and price its services so you can decide for yourself what is best for you.
We also want to acknowledge upfront that, as MBA admissions consultants ourselves, it feels a little weird to be opining on topics like how MBA admissions consultants charge and whether hiring an MBA admissions consultant is ‘worth it’ (of course we think it is). The intent of this article is not to ‘sell you’ on anything, it is meant to be informational and as unbiased as possible. Ok, PSA over, let’s move to the content.
We’ll start here as hourly services are the most straightforward, on the surface at least. With hourly services, just as they sound, the client pays an MBA admissions consultant for time spent on calls, editing documents, responding to emails, etc. MBA admissions consulting prices for this type of work are generally $300+ per hour.
- While firms may have a minimum number of hours they require (we start at a minimum of five hours, for instance), you can usually add more hours as needed. This allows you to ensure you like the firm and/or your consultant before committing an even larger sum of money.
- You can allocate the hours as you see fit. Your consultant will help you determine the best use of your time but should ask for your ok before completing any billable work. This means you can devote a larger number of hours to your top choice / stretch programs and fewer to other schools, if you are so inclined.
- A big (and underappreciated) downside to hourly services is that, when working ‘on the clock’, it can be tempting to shortchange the early stages of the process where your consultant invests in getting to know you and helping you define your ‘story’. This upfront work is SO critical to a compelling application, but the benefits often aren’t readily apparent until your applications come together. Some MBA admissions consultants don’t even offer hourly services because they feel it’s hard to do their best work when they can’t take as much time as they’d like at every step of the process. In fact, this is exactly why we require a minimum of five hours to work with clients on an hourly basis – we’ll urge you to spend at least two of these hours on application strengths / weaknesses and story development.
A la Carte or Pay by Service
Here we’re referring to services like resume reviews, final application reviews, mock interviews, etc. Generally speaking, the consultant will do one review of your materials (resume, essays, etc., depending on the service you’ve selected) and note areas where they could be improved. A mock interview entails a live session and written or verbal feedback afterwards. The service may allow for a limited amount of back-and-forth communication with your consultant via email or phone.
At Vantage Point, we offer a unique variant on this service type through our Amplify Hourly Packages, which bundle step-by-step support in certain high value areas at a price that is less than a comprehensive package (described further below). These are great for clients who have started on the application process on their own but want help taking their materials (resume, essays) to the next level.
How MBA admissions consultants charge for a la carte services is generally tied to the consultant’s hourly rate times the number of hours they expect to devote to the service you are purchasing.
- Certain services can really lend themselves to a ‘one off’ approach, such as mock interviews where it’s almost better if the person you speak with has only the information your actual interviewer will have, like your resume. The same goes for something like our ‘Re-Pack’ service, where a member of our team will review an application that was unsuccessful to identify areas you should improve upon for a reapplication.
- If your budget is tight but you want professional input, this is a lower cost option than a comprehensive package and there is 100% clarity into what you’re getting upfront (although a good consultant will be very transparent as to how you will work together with any type of service arrangement).
- The big con with this type of service is the fact that, for the most part, there is limited iteration with the consultant. With a resume review, for instance, your consultant will provide feedback on the version you send them, but it will be up to you to incorporate that feedback effectively. For reference, we often iterate 10 times with comprehensive clients on their resumes and up to 20 times on a set of essays. Understanding feedback and putting it into practice are two different things (and the latter can be much more difficult).
Unlimited or Comprehensive Packages
Unlimited or comprehensive packages offer hands-on coaching throughout the MBA application process. At Vantage Point, we often begin working with clients applying in Round 1 in the spring (around now!) and the engagement continues until they’ve signed on the dotted line with a school. We work with them to select the schools to which they will apply, zero in on their career goals, define their ‘story’ or what differentiates them from other applicants, draft their MBA resume, select and prepare their recommenders, write their essays, practice for interviews, and more.
You can choose how many schools you would like to partner with the consultant on. The first school is the most expensive because a lot of the heavy lifting (setting career goals, defining your story, drafting your resume, etc.) is done whether you are working with them on one school or six. After that, there is a relatively smaller fee for each additional school you include in your package.
- Working with a consultant on a comprehensive basis is truly the gold standard for a reason. At every juncture, they will help ensure you are ‘doing all the right things’ from networking with schools to appropriately preparing your recommenders to position you in your best light. They know what schools are looking for and will help ensure these characteristics are brought to the forefront of your application in a way that is authentic to you.
- Applying to business school is stressful and there are endless questions that come up along the way. From the mundane (‘Should I attend this info session?’) to the not-so-mundane (‘How do I (and can I) negotiate scholarship offers?’), it’s reassuring to have someone on call to ask.
- Working with a consultant comprehensively is (necessarily) a very personal engagement. They will want to know a lot about you to help you craft an authentic and differentiated application. Do the leg work upfront to ensure you find someone who is a good fit for you. It’s not only important that you get along with them, but they should also have experience with clients like you.
- (Note: this is not really a ‘con’ but more of a caveat.) Despite what the term ‘unlimited’ implies, there are many things consultants do NOT do. They don’t write your essays for you, hit submit on your applications or make sure all the components are in by the deadline. They can’t guarantee you will be admitted to your dream school (if they say they can, run). Applying to business school is a lot of work, there’s no getting around it.
These packages are not cheap, and we know that you may have sticker shock when you see the investment required to engage an MBA admissions consultant, particularly on a comprehensive basis. Keep in mind, however, that it is a lot of work on the part of the consultant (that we love doing). Another perspective that resonated with us when we were in your shoes (and engaged consultants ourselves) is that you, ideally, only want to go through the MBA application process once so it makes sense to ensure you give it your all. Attending a top tier MBA program offers significant upside in long-term earning potential and, in the grand scheme of the cost of business school, making the upfront investment in an admissions consultant might be worth considering.