Business Administration

How Much Should You Pay for MBA Admissions Consulting?

How Much Should You Pay for MBA Admissions Consulting?
An MBA consultant can make the difference between getting into a top 10 school and not getting in. Image from Unsplash Photo
David White profile
David White April 3, 2020

For help applying to a top-10 or top-20 MBA program, you might hire an MBA admissions consultant. Here's why choosing a "cheap" MBA admissions consultant can be an expensive mistake.

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If you are applying to top MBA programs and want to maximize your chances of admission and scholarships, you’re probably thinking about hiring an MBA admissions consultant—especially if you’re targeting highly selective schools or if you have a non-traditional background and need help telling your story in a way that MBA admissions committees understand.

What does MBA admissions consulting cost? And what do you need to know before you can figure out which MBA admissions consulting service might be the best value for you? As an MBA admissions consultant myself (founding partner at Menlo Coaching), I know a lot about this.

This article explains the pricing options offered by MBA admissions consulting companies, actual prices of major firms, and a few sneaky reasons why “cheaper” services are often more expensive in the long run.

But first, a basic question.

What do MBA admissions consultants do?

A good MBA admissions consultant can help you through the entire business school application journey.

Pre-MBA planning

Some steps in the MBA application process begin months or even years ahead. An MBA admissions consultant can help you:

  • Figure out whether you should pursue an MBA
  • Build your MBA profile through extracurriculars, professional advancement, and guidance on GMAT/GRE study
  • Develop your post-MBA career plans
  • Identify which business schools are likely to admit you and meaningfully advance your career

MBA applications

The most time-consuming part of the MBA application is usually the written application materials. Creating great applications is about the quality of the thinking that goes into them—not about the quality of the writing. Don’t worry if you’re not the next Ernest Hemingway. That said, don’t assume that you can fix a bad application through editing. Your career goal and personal story need to make sense before you’re in a position to write great applications.

An MBA admissions consultant will assist you to:

  • Plan a strategy for how to network with your target MBA programs
  • Navigate the written application, including your resume, MBA essays, recommendations, and application forms

MBA interviews & offers

You’re not done once you’ve submitted the applications. Even after you receive your offers, the right negotiation strategy can sometimes unlock tens of thousands of dollars of scholarship money.

An MBA admissions consultant will help you:



University and Program Name Learn More

Why should you hire an MBA admissions consultant?

Now that you know what MBA admissions consultants do, you’re in a good position to understand why MBA applicants hire them. Candidates are almost always aiming to achieve the following benefits:

  • Figuring out a cohesive way to tell your story to MBA admissions committees
  • Getting into a better MBA program than you would have on your own (which can mean hundreds of thousands of dollars of future earnings)
  • Getting larger scholarship offers than you would have on your own
  • Saving time; you can begin executing on your applications NOW, rather than spending dozens of hours on basic research
  • Reducing the stress and uncertainty of the MBA application process

Two basic philosophies on hiring an MBA admissions consultant

Given the above, most MBA applicants fall into two camps:

  • You want to maximize your chances of admission by doing everything correctly, and have no regrets once you submit your application
  • You figure that you’re a good candidate anyway, and just want a bit of help to avoid basic mistakes

It is true that numerous MBA applicants win admission (and even scholarship offers) with no coaching. But because winning admission to a higher-ranked program can translate into hundreds of thousands of dollars of additional lifetime earnings, we advocate strongly for the first approach.

Imagine how you’d feel if you saved $5,000 by hiring a cheaper MBA admissions consultant, but then ended up admitted to a Top 20 school instead of a Top 10 school! The $5,000 would have been paid back within the first year (source: Poets&Quants), let alone the superior long-term career advancement that a more prestigious MBA program can deliver.

So, with this in mind, let’s look at the typical pricing structures of MBA admissions consulting firms.

MBA admissions consulting pricing structures

Most admissions consulting firms offer one or more of these three major pricing structures:

Hourly MBA admissions consulting

On the plus side, hourly gives you flexibility. It also means that if you put your best effort into your drafts, you will save money because they require fewer revisions. Finally, this is the most practical option if your budget for MBA admissions consulting is strictly limited.

On the minus side, most applicants require dramatically more help than they expect. A good MBA admissions consultant needs to get to know you and your background before they can give advice, and this takes time. (You wouldn’t want cookie-cutter advice that’s not even based on your specific background, would you?)

This means that you may end up spending so much time that hourly billing winds up more expensive than comprehensive services. Or, you stick to a small engagement and don’t have the time to fully maximize your applications.

Second, the best MBA admissions consultants rarely offer hourly services—it’s a lot of administrative work, and there is no incentive for a consultant to offer this option when the consultant’s positive reputation already attracts overwhelming demand for their comprehensive services. So, in some cases, you may find that hourly services are being provided by second-tier consultants.

À la carte MBA admissions consulting

À la carte MBA admissions counselors allow you to select specific services (e.g. “Resume Review”, “Strategy Session”). The pros and cons are similar to hourly pricing—it’s affordable and slightly more predictable than hourly services, but if you are not careful you will end up buying a half solution, incurring costs but not actually getting the admissions outcome you want.

The notable exception here is that stand-alone MBA interview prep services are very logical. If you’ve already secured an interview invite, then you can expect that interview prep services will enhance your chances of admission.

Comprehensive MBA admissions consulting

This is what it sounds like: end-to-end help on all aspects of your MBA applications. But be careful–some MBA admissions consulting firms have hidden limits on the number of phone calls, the number of essay iterations, or the number of mock interviews. Make sure that you really understand the definition of “comprehensive” before you sign up.

Actual prices of MBA admissions consulting firms

These prices were collected in March 2020 directly from each firm’s website.

Price ranges represent different pricing levels for junior vs. senior staff, the number of hours purchased upfront, or rush delivery vs. standard delivery.

  • mbaMission
    • Hourly rate: $350-$500
    • 3-School Package: $7,600-$10,000
  • Fortuna Admissions
    • Hourly rate: $335-$460
    • 3-School Package: $7,775-$9,975
  • Stacy Blackman Consulting
    • Hourly rate: $325-$365
    • 3-School Package: $8,700
  • Accepted
    • Hourly rate: $295-$430
    • 3-School Package: $7,320
  • Aringo
    • Hourly rate: $212-$260
    • 3-School Package: $7,200
  • Why are some MBA admissions consultants more expensive than others?

    Supply & demand

    If a consulting firm’s clients consistently achieve great results, demand (and prices) will be high for their services.

    Scope of work

    Does the firm provide you meaningful assistance in answering the big questions, like figuring out your post-MBA career goal and how business school will help you achieve it? Or do they see themselves as an essay-editing service that will simply polish whatever you put in your draft?

    Different business models

    As explained in a separate article, 4 Dirty Secrets of the MBA Admissions Consulting Industry, business models differ dramatically among MBA admissions consulting firms.

    As you consider your options, ask the following questions:

    • Are the coaches committed full-time employees? Or do they work remotely on a freelance basis?
    • How many clients will each consultant handle for each application deadline? If a firm offers a low per-package price, are they making up for that by taking a larger number of clients (this means less time for each client)?
    • How is the firm’s process structured? Do they do everything using basic tools like email and Google Docs? Or, do they have an online project management system, private forums for clients, and high-quality educational materials?

    Asking these questions can help you figure out which MBA admissions consultant can help you to achieve your true goal: acceptance to a top MBA program and career advancement.

    David White is a founding partner at MBA admissions consulting firm Menlo Coaching. His 15-year tech career included executive roles at startups (Efficient Frontier, acquired by Adobe) and publicly traded companies (Yahoo, Travelzoo), during which time he hired, trained and developed dozens of young professionals. He has been coaching MBA applicants since 2012 with a special focus on developing the right career goals.

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    About the Editor

    Tom Meltzer spent over 20 years writing and teaching for The Princeton Review, where he was lead author of the company's popular guide to colleges, before joining Noodle.

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