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Should You Attend a European MBA Program?

There’s an old story about a man who leaves New York City. On his way home, he bumps into another man moving to the Big Apple. After swapping stories, they give each other the same piece of advice: “Go back.”

It’s no secret that American MBA programs carry a strong allure to international students. Between the academics, alumni networks, and employment opportunities, the United States remains a magnet for the most ambitious young professionals. But the pull of overseas institutions can be equally strong for American students, as the axis has shifted overseas for growth and leadership opportunities. Not to mention, companies are always looking for talent who understand foreign languages and customs.  And there are few better ways to gain that than to study and work in another country.

And you’ll find the best concentration of top overseas MBA programs in Europe. In fact, nine of the top international programs are based in Europe according to the latest Poets&Quants ranking. So what differentiates a Harvard or Booth from an INSEAD from a SDA Bocconi?

That was the subject of Stacy Blackman’s latest column for U.S. News & World Report. Blackman, a Kellogg MBA founder and manager of Stacy Blackman Consulting, outlines four factors to consider when evaluating American MBA programs against their European counterparts.

First, Blackman advises students to examine global networking options. In particular, she asks students to weigh the types of industries, companies, and localities where they want to work. “If you know you want to work in Europe, you’d be better off choosing a local school where you can network directly with employers.”

Diversity is another factor, with Blackman noting that 96 percent of students at some top European classrooms come from outside the country. Such numbers, in Blackman’s view, “[enrich] class discussions, as well as creates networking opportunities that span the globe.”

GMATs should also be considered according to Blackman, as European programs often admit students with lower scores. For example, the average at Wharton and Booth were 728 and 723 respectively. Place that against the London Business School and HEC Paris, where the numbers were 700 and 685. Blackman suggests that this is due to many enrollees at European programs being “not native English speakers, so the admissions committees allow applicants a bit more wiggle room with their scores.”

Finally, Blackman encourages applicants to consider professional experience and maturity. “Students at European business schools also tend to have more years of work experience under their belts than those attending U.S. schools,” writes Blackman. This is one reason behind the one-year MBA programs common in Europe. “Most of the programs are one year in length, saving both time and money for older candidates with families who don’t want to be out of the workforce too long.”

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Source: U.S. News & World Report

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