What really makes an MBA admissions consulting firm “#1”?

consulting team working together

A leading publication recently ranked what they describe as the “Top 10 MBA Admissions Consulting Firms.” The basis for their listing was the numbers of positive reviews submitted to and total consultants reviewed by their publication. The higher these numbers, the higher the ranking.

As the publication readily admits, their approach is “simplistic.” While we’re proud to be included in this list (at #4), their criteria don’t reflect the priorities of serious MBA applicants, as observed during our three decades of advising over 5,000 candidates.

To validate our perspective on what actually makes an admissions firm “#1,” The MBA Exchange took a deep dive into the websites of the three higher-ranked firms to see how they compare with us on the six factors that MBA applicants tell us are most important to them.

1. Verified Admissions Performance
It’s easy for a consulting firm to either self-report a lofty success rate or to attempt to discredit those that have such documentation. However, the only firm that merits the total trust of an applicant is one that can verify its performance.

Does the firm have independently verified admissions success?
• Firm #1: No.
• Firm #2: No.
• Firm #3: No.
• The MBA Exchange: Yes. Our success rate is reported by a professional CPA firm in compliance with accounting industry standards. We’re the only firm to do so.

2. Prompt Responses to Clients
MBA applicants are busy people with full-time jobs, friends, families, and other demands on their time. Making them wait more than 24 hours for responses to questions adds stress and can even derail an admissions campaign.

How quickly does the firm commit to respond to client questions?
• Firm #1: Within 1 business day.
• Firm #2: Does not specify.
• Firm #3: Does not specify.
• The MBA Exchange: Within 24 hours, 7 days a week, including evenings and holidays.

3. Client Protection via Guaranteed Time Allocation
Any firm that promotes “unlimited” consulting time is placing its best clients at the mercy of the least efficient, most demanding applicants on the roster. This risk is even greater if the consultant is a full-time employee juggling 30 or more clients just to earn the same annual compensation as a fresh MBA grad.

Does the firm protect its clients by establishing a time allocation for each engagement?
• Firm #1: No.
• Firm #2: No.
• Firm #3: No.
• The MBA Exchange: Liberal time allocation established in advance for each engagement.

4. Blue-chip MBA Admissions Credentials
The insights and knowledge of former admissions officers from the most selective b-schools is an asset to every client of a firm. Furthermore, having such experts on the consulting team is strong evidence of the firm’s integrity, ethics and professionalism.

Does the firm have former full-time admissions officers from the “M7” business schools?
• Firm #1: No.
• Firm #2: Only Wharton and Chicago.
• Firm #3: Only Chicago, Kellogg, and Columbia.
• The MBA Exchange: Harvard, Wharton, Kellogg, Chicago, Columbia, and MIT.

5. Total Commitment to Clients
MBA applicants rightfully expect to gain a competitive advantage by working diligently with an admissions consulting firm. However, this advantage vanishes if the firm also provides free guidance to non-clients seeking the same seats at the same business schools.

Does the firm limit its personalized advice to contracted clients only?
• Firm #1: No. They provide free consultations and free admissions guides for non-clients
• Firm #2: No. They provide free consultations for non-clients
• Firm #3: No. They provide free consultations for non-clients
• The MBA Exchange: Yes. Consultations for clients only.

6. Verified Client Satisfaction
Anonymous, online reviews are not always legitimate. Some consulting firms even pay individuals to post testimonials. And many satisfied clients prefer to keep their admissions campaign private. So, the only reliable metric for service satisfaction is official reporting by an independent agency, such as the Better Business Bureau, based on actual customer complaints.

Is the firm’s client satisfaction monitored by an independent agency that accepts, verifies, and reports complaints?
• Firm #1: No.
• Firm #2: No.
• Firm #3: No.
• The MBA Exchange: Yes. We have an “A+” service rating, 13 annual “Zero Complaint” Awards, and full accreditation for trust and integrity by the independent Better Business Bureau

Based on the above analysis, we believe there’s no doubt as to which admissions consulting firm is truly #1. The MBA Exchange is eager to demonstrate our leadership by providing you with a free, expert evaluation of your candidacy. Then, if you like the way we assess your competitiveness, we invite you to assess ours!