The MBA Admissions Playbook: Consultants, Strategies, and Alternatives

Applying to prestigious MBA programs like HBS, Wharton, and Stanford GSB is highly competitive, with acceptance rates as low as 7%. Many candidates turn to admissions consultants for expertise in navigating this complex process, aiming to enhance their chances of success in joining these elite institutions.

The Role of Admissions Consultants

Admissions consultants are professionals who specialize in guiding MBA candidates through the application process. They’re typically graduates of top MBA programs with professional experience in graduate school admissions or large corporations (i.e. management consulting at firms like McKinsey, Bain, and BCG or investment banking at Goldman Sachs or JP Morgan Chase), and have a deep understanding of what top-tier business schools are looking for in applicants.

Pros of Hiring an Admissions Consultant

Expertise and Insider Knowledge

Admissions consultants have a wealth of knowledge about the MBA application process, as well as insight into what admissions committees are looking for. They can help you identify your strengths and weaknesses, and provide guidance on how to showcase your unique story in a compelling way.

Personalized Feedback

An admissions consultant can provide tailored feedback on your application materials and share examples of successful HBS essays or cover letters for MIT Sloan. They can also guide you in choosing the right recommenders and preparing for interviews.

Time Management and Organization

MBA applications can be time-consuming, and many applicants juggle work and personal commitments while applying. An admissions consultant can help you create a timeline, keep you on track, and ensure you're meeting all deadlines.

Increased Acceptance Rate

While there's no guarantee that working with an admissions consultant will result in acceptance, some studies have suggested that applicants who work with consultants have a higher acceptance rate than those who do not.

Cons of Hiring an Admissions Consultant


Admissions consultants can be expensive, with some charging thousands of dollars for their services. This can be a significant financial burden for many applicants, especially considering the high cost of attending top-tier MBA programs.


Some applicants may become overly reliant on their admissions consultant, leading them to lose their authentic voice in their application materials. This can actually be detrimental, as admissions committees want to hear from the real you, not a polished version crafted by someone else.

No Guarantees

As mentioned earlier, there is no guarantee that working with an admissions consultant will result in acceptance to your dream school. It's important to have realistic expectations when considering this investment.

Ethical Concerns

Some admissions consultants have been accused of unethical practices, such as writing essays for their clients or encouraging them to exaggerate their accomplishments. While these cases are rare, it's crucial to choose an admissions consultant with a strong reputation for ethical conduct.

Alternatives to Hiring an Admissions Consultant

If you're hesitant about hiring an admissions consultant, there are other resources available to help you navigate the MBA application process:

MBA Newsletters

Subscribe Mthat provide tips, advice, and updates on the application process. Many business schools also offer newsletters with valuable information on their programs, admissions criteria, and events.

GRE Percentiles and GMAT Scores

Research the average GRE scores and GMAT scores for the schools you're interested in, and use this information to gauge your competitiveness. If your scores are below the average, consider retaking the tests or focusing on other aspects of your application that can offset your lower scores.


Reach out to current students or alumni from your target schools to gain firsthand insights into the application process, program experience, and post-MBA opportunities. They can provide invaluable advice and support as you craft your application.

Online Forums and Social Media Groups

Join MBA-related forums, such as GMAT Club and Poets & Quants, as well as social media groups to connect with other applicants and access a wealth of information and advice.

Free Webinars and Workshops

Many admissions consulting firms offer free webinars and workshops on topics like crafting your personal statement, selecting recommenders, and preparing for interviews. These events can be a great way to gain insights from experts without committing to a full consulting package.


Hiring an admissions consultant is a personal choice, deeply influenced by individual goals, circumstances, and financial considerations. The right consultant can provide invaluable guidance through the competitive admissions landscape, while alternative resources offer substantial assistance for those seeking different avenues. It's essential to weigh the pros and cons, conduct thorough research, and choose a path that best aligns with your aspirations to succeed in the elite MBA admissions process.

April 23, 2023

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