Would-be MBA students are paying consultants up to $10,000 to get into their dream schools

It’s less than two months to go until the round one deadline at the country’s top MBA program.

Harvard Business School (HBS) has the earliest application deadline with Round One applications for Fall 2017 entry due on September 7.

This is followed by MIT Sloan, Wharton, Columbia, Stanford, and others this Autumn.

Most top MBA admissions applications have three rounds of deadlines, and according to HBS, applying in the first round is strongly encouraged. More people apply in the second round, making it more competitive, and by the third round there are limited spaces. The ability to receive financial aid as well as access to the housing lottery is also greater the earlier you apply.

The application process is pretty pricey. The GMAT, a test used by business schools, costs $250, school application fees range from $250-$300 per school, and there is the cost of travelling to and from the campus for school tours and interviews.

When you actually get in, there is the opportunity cost of forgoing two years of work and the hefty tuition fees at the world’s top schools, which average around $120,000.

Facing low acceptance rates, intense competition, and high fees, many prospective students are looking for an edge. If they have decided to spend the time and money on applying for an MBA, they want to make sure they get into the right one.

Enter the MBA Admissions Consulting industry. According to a 2016 Survey by the Association of International Graduate Admissions Consultants (AIGAC), 45% of MBA applicants use an MBA admissions consultant through the process to gain a competitive edge.

With consultants charging anywhere from over $300 per hour to upwards of $5,000 – $10,000 for the complete package, this represents a booming and lucrative business.

Stanford Business SchoolFlickr/naotakemStanford Graduate School of Business

Business Insider caught up with Stacy Blackman, the CEO of a leading MBA admissions advisory firm, to get an inside look into this booming business and how consultants can help.

Candidates reach out to her anywhere from over a year to less than a month before the application deadline, but she recommends getting in touch at least three months before the due date.

Services can range from the “All In Package,” where consultants are there for you anytime, day or night, and guide you from beginning to end, to social media management and online branding. There is also a “flight test” in which an applicant’s entire application is reviewed by a former MBA admissions committee member, interview prep, and essay editing services.

Self-awareness and diversity is key in the selection process and programs strive to admit a very diverse class with a mix of genders, races, professional backgrounds, experiences, and sexual orientations.

“One of the keys to a great MBA experience is the lively debate in the classroom,” said Blackman. While a white, male Yale grad who had a four-year career in finance might seem to be the typical ‘Joe-MBA’, schools do NOT want a class full of one type of individual.”

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