Europe Calling: Why It’s A Great Time To Apply For An International MBA

Matt Symonds, Director Fortuna Admissions

Once you know that business school is for you, it’s logical to want to get there as soon as possible. So where does that leave you? While the window is closing to apply to top US schools for fall entry, if you are looking to apply to business school now, consider international options.

Five of the top ten in the FT Global MBA Ranking 2017 are European schools, and the increasingly popular one-year MBA program dominates ROI measures for those looking to boost their career and open up opportunities in the world’s second largest economy.

European MBA programs are still accepting applications for a September intake, including London Business School, Cambridge Judge, HEC Paris, Oxford Saïd, Imperial College Business School and IESE. If you are looking for a two-year MBA in Europe, IESE and LBS are the place to start, and their admissions deadlines arrive soonest – round 4 closes April 18th and April 21st respectively. Cambridge Judge has a round 5 deadline on May 5th and Oxford Saïd has six rounds, running until a final submission deadline of June 9th.

It’s also timely to consider a January intake at top tier schools like INSEAD, IE Business School, IMD, RSM and HEC Paris. While applications for its September entry have closed, INSEAD has just opened application for the January 2018 start date and there are four rounds, running through to July 26th. At Switzerland’s IMD the final deadline is on September 1st to join a select class of 90 students, while HEC Paris also has a January intake for would-be entrepreneurs and corporate leaders.

IE Business School in Madrid, whose MBA graduates enjoy a weighted salary higher than those of Booth, Kellogg, UC Berkeley Haas and MIT Sloan has rolling admissions with two intakes—a January start with graduation in December and September start with graduation in July. Rotterdam School of Management (RSM) is another top 10 European school, with an MBA that emphasizes sustainability and responsible management tied to the UN Global Compact. And if entrepreneurship appeals in the continent’s biggest economy, look no further than ESMT Berlin. Both schools accept applications until November 2017.

There’s a host of other compelling reasons to consider an international MBA. I polled my colleagues at Fortuna Admissions for their insights on applying now to four top European b-schools: INSEAD, LBS, IE and HEC Paris. As former heads of MBA Admissions and/or graduates of their respective schools, they offer insider tips on how to make the most of your application:


1.INSEAD, with campuses in France, Singapore and Abu Dhabi

“INSEAD has ranked number one in the Financial Times Global MBA Ranking two years in a row, which consolidates its position as a leading top tier program,” says Fortuna’s Caroline Diarte Edwards, former Director of MBA Admissions at INSEAD, who recently published an editorial on What INSEAD’s Repeat Means For The School. “INSEAD offers benefits that you won’t get at the M7 schools: the efficiency and cost savings associated with a one year format rather than the traditional two year program, unparalleled international exposure by virtue of its diverse community, and the opportunity to study on the school’s campuses in France, Singapore and Abu Dhabi.”

Caroline’s Top Tip: Leverage INSEAD’s lengthy application to showcase your story. The bad news for prospective INSEAD applicants is it has the longest MBA application. The good news for prospective INSEAD applicants is that it has the longest MBA application.

What do I mean?

Well, there is no escaping the fact that it is a lot of work to prepare a good application for INSEAD; on the other hand, the scope that the school gives you (and your recommenders) to tell your story gives you more opportunity to showcase dimensions of your profile that distinguish you from others with a similar background.

INSEAD is getting increasingly competitive, so you need to use this space (as well as the video questions) more wisely than ever, and think very carefully about how you can make your application stand out from the crowd, as well as demonstrate alignment with the global mindset of the school. Working on the INSEAD application requires commitment, but candidates who feel a sense of satisfaction at the end of the process have utilized the chance to really get their unique story across, in a way that can be much more difficult with other schools.


2.IE Business School, Madrid, Spain

IE is another one year program, which has a very dynamic, rolling admissions process. As soon as an application is received, it is reviewed, notes Fortuna’s Lisa Bevill, former Director for MBA Admissions at IE. The admissions team works quickly to review applications and supporting documents, coordinate an interview, and communicate a final decision to applicants. There is typically a fairly fast turn around time, an advantage of rolling admissions.

“IE will work with candidates for their intake of choice of September or January,” says Lisa.  “However, it’s typical to reach class capacity months before the intake start, so you should apply well in advance. Keep in mind that an acceptance to IE can be deferred to the next intake as well.”

Lisa’s Top Tip: Get to know IE’s culture and values to convey fit and authenticity. Think about the IE values and what attracts you to the school and program. Then think about how your strengths and values will contribute to the IE environment and learning process. Learn about IE events in your area and build relationships with alumni who can share invaluable perspectives. This will help you as you prepare your application as well as to demonstrate your fit with the school. And be authentic in your application: Convey who you are, what you believe in and are passionate about and finally, how you want to make an impact.

3. London Business School, London, UK

LBS has four rounds for each application cycle, and it gets progressively more competitive as the class fills up, comments Fortuna’s Emma Bond, who served as a senior member of LBS’s MBA admissions committee. A strong candidate still has a good chance, but there are fewer spots, and applicants at this stage will also be going up against waitlisted candidates from earlier rounds. In R4, the AdCom will be looking closely at the class profile and trying to ensure professional and cultural diversity, so someone with a more unusual profile could do well (as long as their underlying stats are strong).

“My main advice to candidates applying in R4 is to do careful due diligence in their research – don’t put in a lazy application that suggests LBS is an afterthought after a bunch of earlier dings from US schools,” says Emma. “The AdCom will sniff that out in a second, so spend time to be thoughtful.”

Emma’s Top Tip: Understand what LBS offers, and what you can offer to it. Start learning about LBS culture now. Reach out to the admissions team, use your networking skills to sleuth out and contact LBS alumni, and try to get an understanding of what makes the school tick. The school is looking to re-embrace the international aspect of its curriculum more than ever, so make sure your profile reflects that. If not, start thinking about ways you can make yourself a more global citizen.

I always recommend to my clients that they find something interesting about themselves and write the second ‘optional’ essay – it’s a golden opportunity for you to talk about how you will engage with the school, what your USP is, basically why the school can’t possibly turn you down.


4. HEC, Paris, France

“It’s a good time to consider HEC now because it occupies a very fine balance between the one year programs like INSEAD and traditional two year programs,” says Fortuna’s Brendan Kramp, former UK Director of Development at INSEAD and graduate of HEC’s MBA program. “HEC’s 16 month program allows for the intensity of an accelerated program while allowing students to do a fieldwork project or internship for one of the four-month segments, thus gaining real world experience during the program. Many students have taken advantage of this option to gain entry to their post-MBA employers in cities like London, Paris, New York and Hong Kong.”

HEC’s reputation and international scope have grown in recent years – it’s regularly rated amongst the top three European business schools by the Financial Times and 90 percent of students hail from outside France. Its also formed significant double degree partnerships with schools like Yale and NYU in the United States, LSE in the UK, and Chinese University of Hong Kong and Tsinghua University in Beijing, creating diverse global opportunities to experience two international schools with their full alumni networks and career services.

Brendan’s Top Tip: Articulate an informed, global vision for your future. Focus on how HEC’s international scope, deep academic rigor and program structure, and access to a worldwide network fits with your goals and aspirations. HEC looks for academic performance and solid GMAT scores (2017 average of 690), in addition to ambitious career aspirations and backgrounds. Think about what differentiates you from your peers and also how a global vision for your future will both benefit from and contribute to the alumni network of HEC and articulate that strongly in your application.

Feeling motivated to pursue an international MBA? There are also timing related factors to consider in terms of planning, such as financing the program, transitioning out of your current role and, of course, your move abroad. Language classes for programs like the IE MBA begin over a month before the program starts, so it is always wise to plan in advance (even though IE does not have set application deadlines). For anyone feeling the urgency to start now, the unique logistics of launching your MBA journey on another continent mean September (or January) will arrive sooner than you think.

by Matt Symonds, Director at MBA admissions coaching firm Fortuna Admissions, author of “Getting the MBA Admissions Edge”, founder of Kaplan Test Prep in Europe and QS World MBA Tour

Fortuna Admissions is composed of former Directors and Associate Directors of Admissions at many of the world’s best business schools, including Wharton, INSEAD, Harvard Business School, London Business School, Chicago Booth, NYU Stern, IE Business School, Northwestern Kellogg, Duke and UC Berkeley Haas.


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