How Do I Find the Best MBA Admissions Consultant…for Me?

The best MBA admissions consultant is all relative and there are many options.

If you’re planning to apply to business school and looking for a partner in the process, your head might be spinning from all the firms you see on MBA forums, Poets & Quants, etc. It’s hard to cut through the noise and be confident that you’ve identified the best MBA admissions consultant for your needs.  

Why Do People Hire MBA Admissions Consultants (and How Many Do)?

Before we dive into how to find the best MBA admissions consultant for you (that last piece being key), let’s talk about why you might want to hire one in the first place. Depending on what number you believe, roughly 20% of applicants choose to work with an MBA admissions consultant (GMAC) or over 50% (MBA Admissions Consultant trade association). Let’s average the two and assume that 1 in 3 applicants to the top MBA programs are getting professional help with their applications.

They do so for a variety of reasons, but here are the reasons we hear most commonly from our clients:

  • I want to get insights from people who know what the adcom is looking for and have deep knowledge of the specifics of the programs themselves.
  • I want help discovering what makes me unique as an applicant, fleshing out my goals, and deciding what stories to tell in essays.
  • I want someone to keep me on task, provide structure to the process and be a second (critical) set of eyes on my application materials.

How to Hire the Best MBA Admissions Consultant

Our first word of advice is to invest sufficient time and energy into this important decision. Do your research, ask the tough questions, and determine whether a prospective consultant is someone whose guidance you trust. Think through whether you can see yourself working with this consultant and their team, not on a couple of drafts, but on v15, when you’re tired, frustrated and just want ‘everything to be done already’.

Key Questions to Ask MBA Admissions Consultants

With that, here are some key questions to ask as you’re talking to potential consultants:

How many years of professional experience do you have working with applicants?

Like every other profession, experience matters. There’s no magical number that qualifies as “enough” experience, but you should have reasonable evidence that your consultant has a track record of success. At Vantage Point MBA, we’re fully transparent about our team’s experience and every new consultant on our team undergoes multiple rounds of shadowing before she/he is available to work with clients one-on-one. 

Have you ever worked with an applicant like me?

MBA admissions is a nuanced process, and each school is unique. A consultant who advises applicants to Harvard, Stanford, and Wharton all day long may never have worked with someone on an LBS application. If LBS is your top choice, this is an important thing to consider. Similarly, advising an MBB consultant, for whom differentiation from their peer set is key, is different from working with a non-traditional applicant or someone coming out of the military. The same logic applies to post-MBA goals, nationality, profile ‘weaknesses’ like low a GPA/GMAT. Find someone who has specific experience – and evidence of success – with applicants similar to you. That’s what will make them the best MBA admissions consultant for you.

What is your work style?

Consultants are people just like you and they can have vastly different personalities. Think about coworkers, managers, and mentors you’ve worked particularly well with in the past. What were their personalities like and what made the partnership so successful? Perhaps their direct communication style matched your own or they knew exactly how to reassure you during moments of doubt? Asking a potential consultant about their style will tell you a lot, as will reading client reviews of how they work.

How many clients do you take per round? 

This is a critical question when you look to hire the best MBA admissions consultant and is so often overlooked, in our experience. If you’re going to be one of too many, then it will be impossible to receive that ‘high touch’ service that everyone markets. Make sure your consultant has time for you, especially as you get down to the wire. We are proud to maintain the lowest consultant-to-client ratio in the industry.  

A Few Caveats About Finding the Best MBA Admissions Consultant

MBA admissions consulting is a crowded space (and expanding each year, it seems). There are hundreds of firms ranging from one-man (or woman) shops to multi-million-dollar conglomerates that can also sell you GMAT prep classes, help you with your law school personal statements if the MBA doesn’t work out, and provide business school loans.

They’re ALL ‘the Best’

If you’ve looked at more than a handful of these companies, you’ll see something in common – somehow, they’re all ‘the best’ MBA admissions consultant. One place to start assessing whether they are ‘the best’ for you is by looking at reviews on third-party blogs and forums. However, a lot of companies, particularly the smaller ones, aren’t listed on many of the more popular sites. Does that mean they don’t have a track record of success? Absolutely not. To be eligible for reviews on certain (very popular) sites, you guessed it, consulting companies have to pay. Paying doesn’t mean these companies aren’t as good as they seem (full disclosure, we participate with many of them), but it does mean that some other firms are excluded, and you shouldn’t hold that against them.

Beware of the Metrics

A common metric that is thrown around is the number of clients that a firm/consultant has helped through the process. Is volume a good thing because it reflects experience? Or is it a bad thing because it shows that the company/consultant is churning through applicants and likely won’t have the time to develop a personalized approach to your application? Be sure to ask about individual consultant capacity. Realistically it’s hard to provide “high touch” service to 50 clients per round, so you’ll want to get a straight answer on how many clients each consultant works with at a time.

And of course, there’s the even more common one: the success metric. The problem with this metric is the fine print – the data is often self-reported and limited to certain clients. Additionally, there are two types of firms out there: a) the ones who focus on success and thereby have adverse incentives to guide clients towards “easier” schools; and b) the ones who focus less on success metrics and are incented to get you into the best school that they can. So, if you see a metric, ask for the background on it like you would with anything else.

Bottom Line

MBA admissions consultants can be a huge advantage in helping you navigate the complex and stressful MBA application process. They can help strengthen your application by building a relationship with you and leveraging their own experiences to help you position yourself optimally. And there are great consultants and a lot of firms out there to help.

But of course, the short answer to your question remains that there is no silver bullet to find the best MBA admissions consultant for you. Take your time, do your research, talk to multiple people, and ask the questions we referenced above.

If you’d like to speak with our team and ask us some of these same questions, we’d love to hear from you. Simply request an initial consultation by filling out our brief questionnaire and we’ll be in touch. 

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