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Which size admissions consulting firm is best for your MBA candidacy?

September 10 2019 By The MBA Exchange
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There’s no shortage of options for business school applicants when it comes to choosing an admissions consultant. Since The MBA Exchange began working with clients back in 1996, dozens of other firms have arrived on the scene – some have grown, some have remained stable, and many have disappeared.

In observing various industry players, we’ve noted certain characteristics based on their size that serious MBA applicants should consider when shopping for an admissions consultant. Here’s our perspective on the benefits and limitations found with firms in each category.

1. Extensive, corporate organization
These firms can have as many as 100+ professionals on staff. They may be funded by a private equity firm, have several equity partners or one CEO/owner. Offering a wide array of services, these firms have deep and broad expertise to target multiple market segments. In most cases, they look, think and operate like a “mini-McKinsey or Bain” management consulting firm.

Pros: Ability to leverage extensive learning from past client engagements through streamlined processes, financial stability, a large team of experienced, potential lead consultants, 24/7 service backup and specialized support staff. Established firms are more likely to welcome “challenging” and “less-traditional” applicants because they have the flexibility to assign fewer clients per consultant.

Cons: Slower response time and/or less agility to respond to unique client needs, pricing must cover higher overhead, may assign clients multiple specialists (one for resume, one for essay, one for interviews) vs. getting to know each client individually. May be distracted by the need to market their brand.

2. Small, intimate boutique
Comprised of only 2-5 professionals, these admissions consulting firms are usually owned and led by their founder. Such firms provide a much narrower array of services and support only MBA applicants with more “standard” profiles. Such companies look, think and act like an established retail store.

Pros: More perceived personal attention as each client is a bigger contributor to the firm’s bottom line.

Cons: Limited options for choosing a lead consultant, consultants can become overloaded and/or burned out from having a large roster, consultants may have limited insider knowledge of all top MBA programs, clients may be unable to expand initial engagements or to request special services (tutoring, stylistic editing, career coaching, etc.)

3. Solo practitioner
These practices are truly one-man or one-woman shops, often founded by a former university admission professional. They deliver the core elements of an MBA admissions campaign – resume and essay development plus interview prep. Such entities look, think and act like a home-based entrepreneur.

Pros: Total attention of the principle consultant/owner.

Cons: Consultant is easily overloaded or overwhelmed by an excessive client roster, no backup service in case of illness or emergency, less financial stability, narrow knowledge base from which to draw (may lack deep school-specific knowledge/experience), past results may be hard to verify.

The reality is firms in each of these three categories offer some benefits and some disadvantages. But what if you could work with a firm that defies these labels? A firm that provides the most important strengths and eliminates the most significant drawbacks of each category to give you the personalized attention AND leading industry insights you deserve? Isn’t that an admissions consulting resource that deserves serious consideration?

Well, we – and more than 5,000 past clients – believe that The MBA Exchange is exactly this kind of firm. We’ve seen competitors come and go. We’ve learned from three decades of immersion in admissions consulting exactly what it takes to be successful and, more importantly, to help our clients be successful. Yet, our core management team remains small and agile. Our goal is to personally match you with the best lead consultant on our team who will get to know you and your unique profile. He or she will partner with you throughout the entire admission process and leverage our specialists as needed. With 24 hour or faster response, your consultant is as invested in your success as you are.

If you’d like to hear more, there are at least 18 strong reasons – summarized on our website – for making us your top choice. If this list aligns with your priorities and resonates with your values, give us a chance to demonstrate our competitive advantages. Start with a free, expert evaluation of your candidacy. Then you can make a confident and informed decision.

“Giant, midsize, or little” is an essential consideration when it comes to buying a car or renting an apartment. But choosing an admissions consulting firm is more a matter of “good, better, or best.” Your MBA candidacy deserves only the best guidance and support – and we’re here to deliver it to you.