I worked with CP Tseng at Stacy Blackman Consulting ("SBC") on 3 schools (Booth, Wharton, and Columbia all via R1) and got interview invite from all of them. I was admitted to Booth with scholarship.
CP was very thorough in her review and her advice was very on point and made a huge difference in the way I portrayed myself in my essays. I had preliminary writings in the summer that I thought would make great application essays. Looking back, I couldn't be happier that I took the advice from CP vs. using those writings as they didn't hit any of the key points the admission officer would be looking for in an essay. Yes, there are universal things that you have to address as an applicant. Just like you need to speak a certain language to communicate with someone. You have to speak the "language" that the admin people understand.
For those of you who question the value of hiring a consultant for your applications, reach out to SBC and schedule a free chat with one of their consultants. You will be surprised at how much work you need to put into an application and how much time you could save yourself by working with a SBC consultant. As a banking analyst spending 15+ hours/day in the office, I found CP's help extremely valuable. The biggest nightmare for me would be not knowing what to work on or working on things that are not important. CP's comments were always clear, timely and specific. By the time I got home, I could use a very productive 2-3 hour to address her comments and send back a new version. Even I had crazy work schedule, I did not feel overwhelmed in the application process because I always know what to do and how to get it done.
The biggest concern for me as an applicant was time and uncertainty. SBC really helped me use my time wisely and reduced the level of uncertainty significantly. By the time I submitted my application, I was comfortable because I had worked on 20+ versions with CP and someone else on her team who used to work as an admin officer had also reviewed it.
The last thing I would add to this review is that you eventually will need to manage your own application. Getting a consultant doesn't mean that you can sit back and relax. Instead of having them reach out to you (and they will) with feedback, you should be proactive. Getting your drafts done earlier than later and taking every opportunity to get your questions answered either on the call or via email are very important strategies to take. The consultants often have multiple clients and they take requests based on the time of receipt. If you could get a new version done in less than 2 days, don't wait for 3 days. The more feedback you can get, the more value you can get from your service.
Last but not least, getting extra help from a consultant doesn't change your fundamental strengths and weaknesses as an applicant. That's why the kick-off call, which is part of the all-service is important. It is an opportunity to discuss your school choice with your consultant so that the two of you can work towards a goal that is realistic and achievable.