Questions to Ask MBA Admissions Consulting Firms

Getting into a top business school has only gotten more challenging over the years. The competition can be fierce, so many candidates turn to MBA admissions consultants to help them prepare their best possible application. As you speak with different MBA admissions consulting firms to determine which one to work with on your applications, here are a few important questions you should be asking:

1. What is your firm’s hiring process like?

Can anyone become a consultant with the firm? Must they have certain qualifications, such as an MBA degree themselves or writing/editing experience? At mbaMission, we hire approximately one out of every 200 job applicants. After submitting a resume and cover letter, some applicants are invited to interview. Those who do well in that initial interview are then interviewed by at least two additional consultants on our hiring committee. If all three interviewers agree to move forward with the applicant, the candidate completes several writing and editing exercises to demonstrate their skills in those areas. The hiring committee reviews the competed exercises, and applicants who perform well are then interviewed by our CEO. If he and the hiring committee agree on a promising applicant, that individual is invited to join our firm. We are committed to hiring only highly qualified consultants, and in fact, applicants who have not fulfilled our exacting standards have sometimes gone on to join our competitor firms, whose hiring processes are not as rigorous.

2. What kind of initial training do your consultants complete? How long after a consultant is hired do they begin working with clients?

Once hired, do new consultants undergo any sort of training? Do they begin taking on clients right away? At mbaMission, our admissions consultants complete a three-month, closely supervised training program that addresses how to evaluate, craft, and edit all components of an MBA application and involves learning thoroughly about the admissions field. During these three months, the new hire does not work on or interact with any real, current clients. At the conclusion of the training phase, the new consultant must complete a capstone exercise that is reviewed by a committee. They can start accepting clients of their own only after they successfully pass this review, and for their first full year, they have a dedicated mentor who reviews their essay edits and feedback before they are returned to the client.

3. What ongoing training does your firm offer its consultants?

This question will reveal whether a firm’s consultants are up-to-date on admissions trends and the characteristics of the current applicant pool. The admissions process changes constantly and has especially done so in recent years, which means that if your consultant is not constantly learning and growing with the field, their advice might be stale. At mbaMission, we have a staff meeting every two weeks to share updates and discuss concerns and trends that consultants are hearing from their clients. Twice a year, each consultant is responsible for conducting a “teach-in” through which they explain and explore a particular aspect of admissions consulting for their colleagues. Pre-COVID, mbaMission held an annual in-person conference, bringing together all our admissions consultants from around the world to meet in person and participate in targeted workshops and exercises. (We will resume this yearly conference when conditions allow.)

4. What is the background of the consultant I will be working with? What kind of admissions experience do they have?

Make sure you find out who exactly would be your dedicated consultant and what their background is. Have they gone through the MBA admissions process themselves? Did they graduate from a top business school? How long have they been in the admissions field? Do they have experience working with applicants like you? Are you able to choose the consultant you will work with, or will you be assigned someone?

All mbaMission consultants are graduates of elite MBA programs and have therefore gone through the same application process you will be going through. We have profound writing and editing experience, which makes us especially qualified to guide you in crafting your application essays. All of our consultants are listed on the mbaMission web site, and you have the freedom to choose which one you work with, provided your preferred consultant has availability. As we explained earlier, every mbaMission admissions consultant undergoes a comprehensive hiring and training process, and our team stays constantly up-to-date on the admissions process.

5. Are your consultants full-time or part-time?

Do you want your consultant to be someone who helps you on their lunch break or after an eight-hour day at another job? Or do you want someone for whom helping you get into business school is their professional calling? A part-time MBA admissions consultant might also work with only a handful of applicants each year, but that does not mean they will give you more attention than a full-time consultant with many clients would. In fact, it means the opposite. A part-timer not only has a separate full-time job they must juggle but also much less experience to draw from, given that they work with substantially fewer applicants. Someone who advises only two to five applicants per round or per year simply cannot be an expert in applications or the applicant pool.

All mbaMission consultants are full-time MBA admissions consultants. This enables us to offer dedicated training to our consultants and build a truly collaborative organization. We live and breathe MBA admissions, and as a firm, we have worked on literally tens of thousands of applications over the past decade, giving us the expertise needed to help you succeed in the MBA admissions process.

6. What types of services do you offer? What is your approach to admissions consulting?

You have many different types of admissions consulting firms to choose from—larger firms, boutique firms, solo operations, those that specialize in certain application elements, international specialists, and so on—so you need to understand exactly what a given firm can and cannot help you with, as well as what is included in their services. Does the firm offer only hourly services? Or does it also offer an unlimited service? Do its consultants help just with the core application, or do they also provide support with mock interviews, the waitlist, and/or other aspects of the application process?

mbaMission’s flagship Complete Start-to-Finish Package is truly unlimited, and for candidates who want support on just one or two aspects of the application process, we also offer hourly services. In addition, mbaMission can assist with general mock interviews and offers more specialized interview prep services as well, including Harvard Business School intensive interview simulations (with former HBS interview Devi Vallabhaneni), Wharton Team-Based Discussion simulations, and help with recorded video interviews.

7. What makes you different from or better than other firms?

MBA admissions consultants can all seem like “the best,” especially when you are reading reviews that are all five-stars and raving. This definitely makes choosing the right one for you very difficult. Any admissions consulting firm you consider should be able to clearly tell you what makes them different and/or better than their competitors. If they cannot—or if they simply denigrate other firms—that should be a red flag.

mbaMission has many differentiators. As noted, we are the only significant firm with full-time admissions consultants who have all gone through exacting hiring and training processes, but we also have the exclusive recommendation of the leading GMAT prep provider, Manhattan Prep, Powered by Kaplan. mbaMission is the number-one firm on GMAT Club, with more than 1,500 verified five-star reviews—more than double the next-ranked firm. Plus, Poets&Quants has named us the top MBA admissions consulting firm “far and away ahead of any other firm in the business,” and we have more team members in the publication’s top individual consultants ranking than any other firm, year after year.

8. When will my consultant be available? What is your turnaround time?

A part-time MBA admissions consultant might be available only after traditional work hours and/or on the weekend, which might not be ideal for you, especially when deadlines are looming. You also want to find out when you can expect edited documents to be returned to you.

mbaMission has a guaranteed two-business-day turnaround time. Because our consultants are full-time, they are available to help you during regular business hours and often after hours and on weekends as well. Although they are not available 24/7, they always do their best to accommodate clients and their schedules.

9. If your consultants do not know the answer to a client’s question, where do they go to find it?

This question is particularly important if you are speaking with a smaller firm or solo operation. mbaMission’s team of full-time admissions consultants interact with each other all day long via a very active Slack channel and a constant exchange of emails. We also read client essays for each other. We are deeply immersed in the MBA admissions field, and if you have a question your consultant cannot readily answer themselves, they will very quickly get a response from a colleague who can.

10. Do any outside organizations endorse your company?

Having external validation for a firm can be really meaningful when you are trying to choose the right one for you. Manhattan Prep, Powered by Kaplan has exclusively recommended mbaMission to its students for the past decade, based on the consistently positive feedback about our firm they receive from students who work with us on their business school applications.

11. Do you find success rates to be a meaningful metric?

Many MBA admissions consulting firms advertise their success rate, and honestly, we have to wonder why. We believe that a company that is concerned with its success rate has taken its eyes off the ball with respect to our primary goal—helping MBA applicants get accepted to the program of their dreams, not to schools that will boost the firm’s acceptance or success rate. A focus on success rates disconnects the consultant’s goal from the client’s goal, and to us, that is not acceptable. Plus, does an admissions firm’s advertised “success rate” include all of its clients or just its most competitive clients? Does it include all the schools its candidates have applied to or just some? If a firm gives you a success rate, we strongly advise you to ask for and consider the data behind it before factoring it into your decision.

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