There are a host of benefits – and unique considerations – when it comes to applying for an international MBA. Why now is a great time to apply, plus top tips from admissions insiders on LBS, INSEAD, HEC & IE.
When you’ve decided the MBA is for you, you may want to make it happen now. With round 2 deadlines now behind us, the window for fall entry at top US schools is closing. So where does that leave you? It’s a great time to consider international options.
In the last Financial Times Global MBA Ranking, five of the top 10 are European schools, and the increasingly popular one-year MBA dominates ROI measures for fast-track professionals looking to explore opportunities in the world’s second largest economy.
The 2017 Forbes MBA ranking confirms this fast-track return. It takes HBS students an average of four years to pay back their investment, the 13 European schools in the one-year ranking had a pay back that ranged from 2.2 years to 3.2 years. Wharton topped the US ranking with a five-year gain of $97,100, but seven European programs emerged with a stronger ROI over the same period. IMD in Switzerland topped the list with an impressive $194,700 gain.
European business schools are still accepting applications for a September intake, including London Business School (LBS), INSEAD, HEC Paris, Cambridge Judge, Oxford Saïd, IESE, Bocconi and Imperial College Business School. If your preference is a two-year MBA in Europe (the pace and intensity of the one-year format isn’t for everyone), LBS and IESE are the places to start. Their admissions deadlines also arrive soonest – round 3 closes March 2 and 6 respectively (although both have a round 4, too).
If you’re favoring the one-year option, it’s timely to consider a January intake at top tier schools like INSEAD, IMD, IE Business School, RSM and HEC Paris.
There’s a host of unique benefits – and considerations – for pursuing an international MBA. I polled my colleagues at Fortuna Admissions for their advice on applying now to four top European b-schools: LBS, INSEAD, HEC Paris and IE. 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.
Tips from admissions insiders on four top international MBA programs:
1.London Business School, London, UK
LBS has four rounds for each application cycle, and it gets progressively more competitive as the class fills up. Fortuna’s Emma Bond, who served as a senior member of LBS’s MBA admissions committee, affirms that 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.
“At this stage, the admissions committee will be looking to ensure cultural and professional diversity, so someone with a more unusual profile and strong underlying stats could do well,” says Emma. “I always recommend that candidates 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 and why the school can’t possibly turn you down.”
2.INSEAD, with campuses in France, Singapore and Abu Dhabi
For two consecutive years, INSEAD has topped the Financial Times Global MBA Ranking, which consolidates its position as a leading top tier program. According to my Fortuna colleague Caroline Diarte Edwards, former Director of MBA Admissions at INSEAD, the school serves benefits that you won’t get at the M7 schools, from unparalleled international exposure by virtue of its diverse community to the cost savings and efficiency of a one year format (vs. traditional two year program). Not to mention the opportunity to study on the school’s campuses in France, Singapore and Abu Dhabi.
Caroline’s advice is to leverage INSEAD’s lengthy application to showcase your story. “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,” she says. “Think 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.”
3.HEC, Paris, France
HEC occupies a unique space 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 offers the
intensity of an accelerated program while allowing students to pursue an internship or fieldwork project for one of the four-month segments.
“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,” says Brendan. “HEC looks for ambitious career aspirations and backgrounds, so you want to articulate how a global vision for your future will both benefit from and contribute to the alumni network of HEC.”
4.IE Business School, Madrid, Spain
IE is a one year program with a very dynamic, rolling admissions process. Applications are reviewed as soon as they’re received, notes Fortuna’s Lisa Bevill, former Director for MBA Admissions at IE. There is typically a rapid turnaround time, an advantage of rolling admissions, as the admissions team works quickly to review applications, coordinate an interview and communicate a final decision to candidates. That said, cautions Lisa, while IE will work with candidates for their intake of choice of September or January, you should apply well in advance as it’s typical to reach class capacity months before the intake start.
Lisa also emphasizes the importance of doing your research, getting well acquainted with IE’s culture and values to credibly convey your fit with the school. “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,” says Lisa. “Then think about how your strengths and values will contribute to the IE environment and learning process.”
It can’t be overemphasized: The key to a successful application to any international school at this stage is your careful due diligence and research – don’t put in a lazy application that suggests to a European school that it’s an afterthought after getting dinged from US schools. You’ll also want to think about timing-related factors, from financing the program to plotting your move abroad. Language classes for programs, like the IE MBA, begin more than a month before the program begins, so it is wise to forecast these and other details in advance. The unique logistics of launching your MBA journey on another continent mean September (or January) will arrive sooner than you think.
Matt Symonds is a Director at MBA admissions coaching firm Fortuna Admissions, a dream team of former admissions directors and business school insiders from 12 of the top 15 business schools. He is the author of “Getting the MBA Admissions Edge,” and co-organizer of CentreCourt MBA Festival with Poets & Quants.