Best MBA Admissions Consulting Service?

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by shen28 » Wed Feb 05, 2014 7:15 am
After long hours of research, I concluded that if you're considering INSEAD, there are 2 top consultants really, Laura Freedman from Access Education and Caroline from Fortuna Admissions. I struggled between these 2 choices and it was a though decision. I ended up working with both and I am writing this post, hopefully to provide reflexion points to anyone who is having the same struggle.

First of all, let me say that if you have a good profile, I don't think working with one or the other will increase or decrease your chances, it's just going to be 2 different experiences. I worked with both Access Education and Fortuna and I liked Access Education better and here is why:

Laura's personality and the way she shapes what you say is incredible. She was always prepared, organized, never forgot anything, our sessions were efficient and passionate. On the other hand, Caroline was very professional too but I think Laura has a passion that will inspire you. Laura is well spoken and is incredible at structuring what you want to say and making it sound pretty. Laura makes you look like a rock-star, Fortuna just improves what you write. Laura will do more, she will go that extra mile.

Also, the ability to see Laura was great. I liked interacting with her through Skype, I think it made a difference during the process. Fortuna does not use the same process.

Just a note, I also worked with Laura on reshaping my CV, while Kristi from Fortuna sent me a couple of bullet points to improve, Laura sat down with me for 4 hours until I was completely happy with the result and oh boy you should see my CV now!

I saw that Fortuna was compared to Rolls Royce, which, in my opinion is very true, I will then compare Laura to Austin Martin, young, fun and extra professional.

Finally, Laura knows the process inside out, she is not just here to improve what you say, she provides a whole career development package and valuable MBA information.

Seriously, if you're gonna spend a couple of grands, drive an Aston Martin!

PS. I am a real human being, when I was reading all the comments I honestly thought they were very similar but now that I am here, I can promise I genuinely think what I wrote, please free to PM me if you have any question.

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by Nevermind » Sat Feb 08, 2014 7:57 am
To each's own. I thought Fortuna was wonderful and I think it really depends on your fit with a consulting company. Perhaps shen28 above didn't have as strong of a connection as he/she did with Laura but these things can happen. I think it's best for you to do your research and speak to the consulting co. that suits you and is a good fit for you. The post above does not reflect my experience AT ALL with Fortuna and I was extremely pleased with the entire process and I got into my dream school and also received a substantial scholarship. I don't think it's fair to bash them like that. In fact one of my consultants (as you get 2 former admissions directors from INSEAD working with you), has a strong track record and every single one of her INSEAD clients (except 1) has been admitted to the program. So how can they be so bad?! I think that says A LOT about Fortuna ...

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by jtmoney15 » Tue Feb 11, 2014 4:25 am
I had a great experience with Matt, Caroline, and Melissa from Fortuna for my INSEAD application. They were incredibly helpful and responsive to my requests for how to best present my story to the adcom, and with their experience in the admissions office I was very confident that their advice would be fantastic. They went above and beyond what was required of them on many occasions, and I would not hesitate to recommend their services to anyone.

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by flipper » Sun Feb 16, 2014 8:02 am
Reading reviews on admission consultants is indeed very helpful before selecting one to work with on the MBA application. I found this collection of admission consultant reviews, some of them are from this forum as well.

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by whw.arg » Tue Feb 18, 2014 4:05 am

Just would like to add my 2 cents to this topic.

I am a current INSEAD MBA 2014 Dec Class student. I worked with Laura (Access Education) for my INSEAD application and I just can't recommend her enough for all applicants who are seeking a top admissions consulting service.

The main reasons I selected Laura over all other admission consultants I met with are: her extensive experience as an MBA admissions consultant, her background as a senior INSEAD alum, and her highly personalized and customized approach to each and every applicant - because after all, it's YOUR story that you want to tell!

Besides the application essays, she also helped me with the Scholarship Essays - I won the INSEAD Alumni Diversity Scholarship. Now that I am at INSEAD, she also kindly offered to review my CV before it went into the Recruiter's CV Book. I also get to meet with her to help with my job search, since she's one of the most popular coaches on INSEAD's Career Development team in Singapore.

So, to all of you who are looking for an Admissions Consultant, I can tell you that you will never go wrong with Laura!

And if you have any question for me, please do not hesitate to PM me.

Good luck to everyone!

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by Pavel84 » Fri Feb 21, 2014 2:44 pm
A few words about, me: I am Russian with 6 years of experience in engineering positions in leading international O&G service providers and worked across South-East Asia, Far East and Middle East. My decision to pursue MBA was evolving for the last 3 years. I targeted European schools with short programs (max 1.5 years) mainly to fill my knowledge gaps in general management, finance and organizational behavior, and to have a boost into management positions within the O&G industry. This thinking led me to shortlist several European schools, and INSEAD was one of them.

Keeping INSEAD as my main target for application I stared searching for a consultant with great experience in INSEAD applications and a deep understanding of INSEAD's student culture. I decided to get in touch with Access Education (, and Laura in particular, based on the testimonials posted here on beatthegmat and I have not regretted my choice.

Though I needed only limited services in essay review (I cleared GMAT and TOEFL by myself), Laura still dug deeply into my personal and professional backgrounds, helping me to understand my unique value for my INSEAD application.

Most of the information on MBA admissions is geared toward recent graduates applying to American business schools. For mature professionals of 28-32 years, applying to INSEAD requires different "selling points" and a deeper understanding of your short and long-term goals. Laura is a career counselor at INSEAD with 25 years of professional experience and really helped me figure out my post-MBA plans. That was one of the most important lessons I learnt while working with her on my application.

She was very flexible - she currently lives in Singapore, I'm in Saudi Arabia and we both work odd hours, so it was easy to arrange coaching sessions at convenient times.

I highly recommend Laura for applicants from Russia and CIS, as she worked in consulting and finance positions in Russia through the 90's. This experience helped Laura to understand my cultural background and establish good relations with me (she also shared some great stories about prominent Russian business leaders she knew when they were just starting their careers). Her caring approach in particular really impressed me.

Though I decided to postpone my application for one year because attractive opportunities opened for me in my current company, I will definitely come back to Laura for her advice when I resume my application next year.

Hearing about other people's experiences was really helpful in evaluating consultants. Please feel free to PM me with any questions about my experience. And good luck with your application!

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by Izomer » Wed Mar 26, 2014 5:27 am
In March 2013, my girlfriend and I decided to ask admission consultants for help in our applications. By that moment, we still were uncertain which schools to choose at all and had absolutely no knowledge about how to write essays.

As for our background, we are average-aged for MBA students and are based in emerging market country. We worked in country-scale finance company and then parallely started our own project in the same field. We both scored 710 on GMAT and have 3.82 and 3.94 GPAs in universities that are almost unknown in the world (one of them is in top10 in our country).

We were seeking for the consulting firm for a while - read some reviews and searched their websites. Even though there were only few positive reviews and only one negative of StratusPrep, we booked initial call with Shawn, CEO of StratusPrep. What we liked was their collaborative consulting approach - both Shawn and an assigned consultant work together on your admission. Shawn constructs overall strategy of applications and controls the whole process, and an assigned consultant works with you very actively on every single part of your applications. We decided to apply to HBS, MIT, Kellogg and Duke.

We started working with Vinod, who was amazingly supportive on every part of our applications. Very soon we realized that we would have had much less chances to be admitted if we had had no consultants.

First, I had only few ideas WHAT to write in my essays (why MBA), and my girlfriend had totally NO idea what to write in her ones. In the very beginning, Shawn constructed overall strategies of applications for each school, and during our work, they both (with Vinod) were making us brainstorming to come up with good examples.

Second, we found out that we absolutely had no idea of how to write an essay - how to start, how to conduct thoughts, how to connect them, what sounded good and what sounded risky. Vinod helped us immensely in all that stuff.

Third, our english was (and unfortunately is :)) so poor that our "try essays" sounded as they had been written by children. Active and collaborative work with Vinod ended up in absolutely perfect essays (they actually looked like those in the books such as "65 Successfull Harvard Essays"band sounded at least as strong).

Forth, being non-native speakers, we had problems even with fulfilling our resumes and online applications. And here, Vinod explained many questionable moments to us and helped to formulate many points.

Finally, even though we found out much information about interviews ourselves, Vinod's mock interviews and following advices were totally priceless (I am almost certain that some of them were determinant in my success on, for instance, the MIT interview).
As for results, we were accepted in MIT, Kellogg and Duke, but denied without the interview in HBS, although I am certain that our HBS essays were totally perfect. The reason of deny was, I bet, in our relatively weak background (as one of current HBS students told us, they don't like those guys from our country who don't work in world-known companies). So, I think HBS just considered us risky applicants.

To sum up, we both think that applying with a help of StratusPrep was our best investment. Without consultants we could barely count on admission to any school in top20. I suppose that european and american people are much more skilled in writing essays, than we are (our country's universities do not demand that applicants write essays), so I don't know whether they need help from admission consultants in the writing itself. But still I'm certain that the approach of StratusPrep to admission consulting and its experience is a killer combination that would help anybody to come up with good thoughts, to formulate them and to apply to business school successfully.

Special thanks to Vinod and Shawn!

P.S.: We are totally happy!!!

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by billybishop » Thu May 29, 2014 12:15 am
My experience with Stratus Prep was overwhelmingly positive. My position as a reviewer is unique because I am a re-applicant and had previously used a different admission consultant my first time around. This allows me to evaluate Stratus Prep's capabilities and differentiating factors, compared to other admissions consultants on the market.

I worked mostly with Vanessa Gil and a bit with Shawn O'Connor - these guys are truly the best at what they do. Here are some highlights from my experience with Stratus Prep and examples of what they do differently (and what they do extremely well):

Getting to know you

In my previous experience, we dove right into brainstorming topics. It was just my second meeting and we were already throwing around essay ideas. With Stratus Prep, during my entire first month, we did nothing but go over my background. Shawn and Vanessa felt it was best to understand my experiences and personality first. This was extremely useful because not only did it force me to remember and think harder about things I've done, but it also allowed Vanessa to get a feel about me, as a candidate, so any advice was extremely relevant and personal.


These guys are hard workers. I remember their ability to give well thought-out feedback with exceptional turnaround times (we're talking 12-24 hours!) Due to my schedule, sometimes we would schedule meetings for Saturday morning or Friday night. Shawn and Vanessa never complained about odd meeting times and their dedication shows just how committed they are to seeing their candidates succeed.


Shawn and Vanessa are both experts in the application game. They think logically, but are also aligned with how the school's adcom thinks. Their suggestions are always on target and at the end of the day, it's what the school's perception that counts. When they originally quoted that 60% of their applicants gets accepted at HBS, I thought the number must be overstated. However, after working with Vanessa, I'm surprised it's not higher!

Detailed and Thoughtful

Their processes are super detailed and structured. As an example, each essay goes thought 5-7 rounds of critique first. Afterwards another consultant reads it and makes comments, and then a third consultant checks for grammar and sentence structure. Lastly, Shawn reads it and makes some final comments. When it's all over, 4 different pairs of well-trained eyes would have read your essay. This is truly remarkable and their attention to detail is a key differentiating factor.

In the end, I was admitted to Chicago Booth, my dream school. Admittedly, I did not stand a chance without Shawn and Vanessa's help. If you want to be successful - go with these guys. I only wish I could have done my applications with Shawn and Vanessa my first time around.

Vanessa/Shawn - thanks again for all your help, it was a memorable experience working with you.

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by mjphillips88 » Thu May 29, 2014 3:48 am
I had an incredible experience working with Caryn and Stacy Blackman Consulting. From the initial phone call through successful admission to one of my target schools, SBC made the process as smooth as possible. Caryn helped me structure my application strategy and always delivered helpful, constructive feedback. Caryn had a wealth of knowledge about each of my target schools and about the application process in general. The most helpful part of working with SBC was the consistent, helpful feedback. Caryn did not shy away from giving the tough feedback that I would not have gotten from family members, friends and colleagues. The MBA application process is challenging and stressful, but it was a pleasure working with SBC. I highly recommend SBC and Caryn to any prospective MBA students.

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by CAMEL » Wed Jun 18, 2014 8:23 am
Stratus Prep is the best!!! With the invaluable help of the admissions advisors at Stratus Prep, I was admitted to the school of my choice, the Stanford GSB. Given the extremely competitive business school admissions environment and my generic profile, as a white male working at a large investment bank, I quickly realized the importance of having the strong and capable admissions consultants in place to provide counseling and support with the crafting and framing of my story to the various schools. The advice I received from Shawn and other counselors was what I believe to be critical in distinguishing me from other candidates applying to b-school. Working with the team at Stratus Prep gave me a variety of perspectives, which were crucial in navigating the application process. Without their help my chances of getting into Stanford would have been significantly decreased. I certainly believe I had the raw goods critical for admissions (grades, test scores, etc.) but many applicants applying to the top schools (S/W/H) have similar credentials, so differentiation is very important and Stratus was monumental in assisting me with that.

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by Anna21 » Mon Jun 23, 2014 10:20 pm

I utilized services of DreamMBA that turned out to be worthy decision at the crucial point, while applying for round Two. Actually it was a referral from my friend who got admission in HBS under consultancy provided by DreamMBA. Although my engagement with DreamMBA wasn't just because of some referral, but it was also the non-materialistic attitude shown by consultant at my very first interaction.

What made me stick with DreamMBA was their initial demonstration that helped to understand "real me" with core focus on exploring strong points. I found them very professional and welcoming with all sort of queries. Best part of their services was mock interviews and demonstrations that really boosted my confidence in a good way. DreamMBA helped my optimism to find a way in one of the most prestigious schools such as Stanford. To wrap it all up, I could conveniently say that I'd happily recommend DreamMBA to anyone looking for sparkling results.

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by josbilou » Wed Jun 25, 2014 10:16 pm
I worked with Aringo only in a partial manner, after I turned to them late and there was no room for me. I was very sorry that I did not work with them fully, as it would probably have helped me get accepted to other places and saved me a lot of heart palpitations.
Given this, I think that if I would not have worked with them at all, I would not have been accepted anywhere, Aringo helped me avoid a few mistakes that would have ruined my application and taken away any chance for me. Their guidance, professionalism and speedy response made all the difference and deserve appreciation and got me into Wharton!

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by kivavik86 » Sun Sep 21, 2014 7:43 pm
I worked with Fortuna last year and I can say that they were by far the strongest admissions consulting firm out there. I did initial consultations with nearly every major company, but it was Fortuna's depth of experience that really sold me. Unlike some people, I knew without a doubt that I needed help with my applications--I come from a tree-hugging, non-traditional background--so I was prepared to spend.

There was some sticker shock when I looked at the price of the school packages, but once I got into my dream school, it immediately was written off as a drop in the bucket. If you are even on the fence about needing a consultant for any help whatsoever, choose Fortuna and don't look back. You can't put a price tag on your Sleazy Spammer school. PM me for any questions, I'm happy to help.

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by Monika Sen » Wed Oct 08, 2014 3:23 am
Well, I'll be honest here. I have tried out essay and application services from both Manhattan and General Education but until and unless you yourself won't give that best shot and show some serious effort no, consulting service can do it for you. You have to take your own responsibility, they will provide the best no doubt.

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by adityag » Thu Oct 30, 2014 6:13 pm
I worked with Laura Freedman (Access Education) on my applications. I had some good stats helping me (IIT, GMAT 750, Global experience) but I didn't have brand name companies behind me, no real pinnacles of success and I had always struggled with self-marketing :). I worked with Laura for 3-4 applications and I got a final admit from Ross-Michigan (which I took) and interviewed with Wharton. Now enough about me...
Laura has a number of attributes which make her an amazing consultant. She has integrity - she doesn't promise the moon, but sets very realistic expectations. She is very frank and tells you how it is. She brings a completely new perspective on your application and I think this is where she becomes invaluable. She has a knack of seeing your background in a very positive light. She is amazing at creating (very true) stories about your life when all you saw where boring facts before. Let me warn you - don't expect her to write your applications. If you're looking for being spoon-fed, this is not the place to come. You will have to push yourself (and sometimes plan your time to match hers very often - she's busy!) so that the best comes out. However at the end, you'll be a much better person than before. If you're keen on bettering yourself AND getting into a top MBA school, she's one of the best.
Note: I still talk to her. She still sets my head straight and I still feel like taking her coaching even during MBA school - she can honestly be as much a life coach as an MBA coach if you'd like. Either way you win :). She is one of the best, most intelligent and deep people I have met in my life.