Hiring an MBA coach to help you navigate your way into one of the world’s highly selective business schools doesn’t come cheap. Some candidates are spending as much as $20,000 to gain the advice of an MBA admissions consultant on just three applications.
But the slim odds of getting into the world’s most selective MBA programs have only fueled the admissions consulting industry. The Poets&Quants MBA Admissions Consulting Directory profiles over 562 consultants alone, up 13% in just two years.
Not surprisingly, hiring someone to help perfect your MBA application is, by and large, much more expensive than it was ten years ago. But more than ever, technology and greater competition among firms have vastly expanded the number of options in the market: Services fall within different price points to serve vastly different circumstances. Whether it’s $16,000 for a three-school package of advice or one-on-one coaching for $195 per hour, there’s likely a consulting option to suit your needs at an achievable price.
As many firms point out in responses to inquiries from P&Q, the kind of help needed often looks different for every applicant. For this story, admissions consultants in the directory were asked to comment on their pricing and all the services offered at such prices.
COSTLY OPTIONS: THE 3-SCHOOL PACKAGE
Plenty of firms offer fully-inclusive services in packaged deals that include more than just an application overhaul, but in-depth, comprehensive support tailored to include something like crafting a personal brand. These packages might seek to help you develop long-term career aspirations and the path to get you there.
However, the bulk of services tend to run on the pricier side. The package plans provide, in most cases, unlimited counseling and includes help on virtually every realm of the application or selection process, including everything from school selection and mock interviews to your strategy on letters of recommendation. A three-school package can cost anywhere from $1,500 to $20,000.
Fortuna Admissions, Stacy Blackman and Vantage Point were among three of the most-favorably reviewed large MBA consulting firms based on 1,233 verified client reviews from the fall of 2021 to the summer of 2022. («The Top MBA Admission Consulting Firms of 2023»)
Vantage Point says their price is intentionally set on the higher-end, because consultants guarantee to spend 40-45 hours with a three-school client. The comprehensive three-school package, priced at $12,250 with a senior consultant, offers unlimited support on the following: application strategy, personal brand and career development, resume, school selection and research, letters of recommendation prep & review, school and career chats, essays for three schools, application forms, waitlist strategy and scholarship negotiation. And the list actually goes on.
Many of the firms in this price range provide this extent of such services if not exact ones. Working with Vantage means working directly with a primary coach, who according to co-founder and president Melody Jones, is also looping in feedback from their entire team of consultants, former admissions reps, post MBA professionals and current students to stay up-to-speed on MBA trends.
“We’ve found that there is such a thing as too many cooks in the kitchen when it comes to MBA applications, so we strongly believe in a primary coach model,” says Jones. It seems the only thing not included in Vantage’s package deal is GMAT or GRE test prep.
Just nine years ago, the price for a Stacy Blackman three-school package was $6,680 compared to today’s $11,100 fee. The three-school deal still includes the firm’s famous “All-in” engagement package that today consists of eight core modules and offers unlimited support from a primary consultant.
On the opposite end of the pay spectrum, for $1,500 with Ivy Grad Services the three-school model includes basic application editing for content flow, editing across all other written materials, interview prep and advice on negotiating financial aid. Though Ivy Grad’s packages might not encompass all the aspects of the application process, it comes at a more attainable price.
A POPULAR ROUTE: HOURLY RATES
Avanti Prep founder Greg Guglielmo says hourly services are by far the firm’s most-popular buy. His price still remains one of the least expensive in the industry since it was covered by P&Qs in 2020.
With Avanti’s model, clients pay less when they sign-up for 20+ hours. The median number of purchased hours per client during the 2022-23 application season was 25 hours, Guglielmo says. If not purchased in bulk, Avanti Prep charges $315 hourly for a senior consultant or $395 for consultation with Guglielmo himself.
Many hourly models offered by consultants enables clients to mix-and-match certain support options based on their own needs. You may not need help on your essays, but want guidance for the interviews. Paying hourly costs less than buying one-school or three-school packages, but sometimes a minimum purchase is required. Hours may be cheaper when bought in bulk, which can also mean spending more money.
Sam Weeks Consulting offers a 20% discount if more than five hours are purchased. Weeks notes his prices vary by consultants. Consultation with him costs $400 per hour, while a junior consultant at the firm costs nearly $280 less. The three-school packages offered by the firm also vary in pricing depending on the consultant, but each include a meeting with an assigned primary coach 2-3 times per week via Zoom.
Master Admission’s founder Betsy Massar was among other consultants in 2023 to receive a perfect 10.0 client satisfaction score, as reviewed by P&Qs. Massar’s rate runs $425 per hour and focuses her feedback and support on narrative building, recommendations, resumes and interviews. Massar says her clients may undergo interview prep with a former member of the HBS admissions committee or may have their resumes reviewed by a graduate and former coach of Stanford GBS.
PRICES FOR HIGHLY RATED CONSULTANTS
Rajdeep Chimni, founder of Admissions Gateway in India, says for every dollar spent, clients get $9.60 returned on average in scholarship money. Chimni says he and his consultants earned an acceptance rate of %85+ at Top 10 B-Schools for its 2022 batch of clients, who received a combined total of $8.5 million in scholarships. Gateway charges $9,500 encompassing a whole litany of services or $350 per hour.
Military MBA Consulting founder Emily Sawyer Kegerreis notes the pricing for the three-school package at $6,500 is purposely catering to a client base that simply aren’t making the salaries bankers or consultants are when they apply to B-School.
“Our clients are most typically active-duty service members pursuing an MBA as they transition their careers to the private sector,” Kegerreis says. In the military, you don’t need a resume, so with many clients Keggerreis starts there. But their services include the whole gamut, anything that touches the application process is covered in their packages. Time with clients is unlimited.
ALTERNATIVE MODELS: A LA CARTE OR ALL-ONLINE
Then there’s a firm like ApplicantLab, which follows an entirely different pay model that truly allows the applicant to customize their experience according to their needs.
The pricing is a hybrid model that involves having clients first read and watch videos online prior to booking services. It involves signing up for a yearly subscription on their online platform for $349 a year to work through and review exercises and modules. For any additional services, clients can pay more to reserve time with a consultant.
Based on this model, their three-school packages cost less than others in the industry and depend on whether the client wants multiple sessions of consulting after any initial, optional session. They charge for services on an as-needed basis, but on average a three-school package can run anywhere from $4,325-$5,025, which includes the $349 annual fee.
ApplicantLab founder Maria Wich-Vila says the variability in pricing is because they want to create a partnership with clients and not “punish those who put thoughtful levels of work in and may need less time.»
“Nor do we want to encourage a potentially unhealthy dynamic where expectations are unrealistic on the client side, consultant side, or both,” she says.
THE MBA BOOTCAMP: APPLICATIONS OPEN IN JUNE
Somewhere in the middle on cost is Ivy Advisors. The firm boosts a 95% success rate throughout their 14 years in business for clients who apply to four B-Schools or more. At $8,550, the three-school package helps in creating an application strategy, crafting a personal brand, essay editing, interview coaching, guidance on test preparation, and recommender preparation.
The Ivy Fellows program, specially designed for underrepresented minority applicants, allows some to get everything in Ivy Advisor’s three-school package at a subsidized cost of $2,150.
There’s one more model to mention: My MBA Path’s application boot camp. My MBA Path founder Petia Whitmore says this year’s boot camp includes applicants from 19 different countries. The coaching service is priced at $197 and enrollment for next cohort will open in June.