Last month, HEC Paris ascended two spots to #2 in the Forbes 2019 Ranking of International MBA programs. Last year’s HEC graduates enjoyed the highest median base salary ($127,410) and signing bonus ($28,943) of any international program. Forbes also emphasized that with its $70,400 tuition fee, HEC is one of the more affordable options for anyone considering top-ranked programs.
Part of HEC’s allure – besides a 340-acre forested campus on the outskirts of Paris – is that it occupies a fine balance between one-year MBA programs like INSEAD and the traditional two-year track. HEC’s 16-month program allows for the intensity of an accelerated program while allowing you to do a fieldwork project or internship for one of the four-month segments, gaining real-world experience during business school. Many students take 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, and 90 percent of students hail from outside France. It has 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 opportunities to experience two international schools with their full alumni networks and career services. (This week, HEC announced yet another dual-degree partnership with famed cooking school L’atelier des Chefs, touted to be the first double degree in French cooking in France for Masters in Management students.)
So what is HEC looking for in its candidates? In addition to academic performance and solid GMAT scores (2018 average is 718), HEC wants to see ambitious career aspirations and backgrounds. You’ll want to focus on how HEC’s international scope, deep academic rigor, program structure, and access to a worldwide network connects with your goals and aspirations.
Here are three things to know about HEC Paris for crafting a standout MBA application:
Articulate an informed, global vision for your future.
HEC has become a very international MBA program, and global experience is both important and a real differentiator for candidates entering the program. If you have lived or worked outside your own home country, think about what you learned inter-culturally and how it has influenced you both as a person and a professional. If you haven’t left your own country but have interacted with global teams, clients, service providers or vendors, consider one-to-two prominent examples of how you learned to work with people across different cultures, backgrounds, and languages. How did you adapt your own style of working and outlook in order to achieve mutual success? This can be very powerful as part of your application.
You’ll also want to consider what differentiates you from your peers. Articulate your uniqueness strongly in your application, along with how a global vision for your future will both benefit from and contribute to the alumni network of HEC.
Caution: While experience traveling to other countries for vacation or short stints is valuable, avoid listing a series of places you have visited like an itinerary. HEC wants to know what you’ve learned from international exposure, how you changed, and how this is related to your career and life objectives. It’s always most powerful to use a specific example, such as someone you met or an experience you had that changed the way you relate to the world and yourself.
Know how HEC is unique.
HEC is different than many of its European counterparts because, like many US schools, the MBA program runs alongside a larger population of college-aged students studying business for a Masters in Management at the Grande Ecole. The HEC Grande Ecole is one of the top-rated programs in the continent, which is a tremendous benefit to the MBA. For one, many professors teach in both the MBA and Grande Ecole, in addition to attracting top speakers, recruiters and more to campus. HEC has also distinguished itself by organizing the yearly MBA Tournament (MBAT), a months-long, class-wide project that involves volunteers, committees, gathering resources, teams and more. It’s one of the features and bonding exercises that make the HEC MBA unique and a real hands-on learning experience.
In terms of translating this to your essays and interviews, it’s advantageous to tie your interests and plans to people or companies that demonstrate HEC’s impact in the world. It can work well in your application to mention a few HEC alumni who have risen to leadership positions at the kinds of companies or organizations that appeal to you. Do reach out to any local HEC alumni in your area working at different companies to glean firsthand insights on the program and what they thought about it. Mentioning how you learned more about HEC directly from alumni gives you both perspective and an authentic edge when you write about some of the program aspects that appeal to you most.
Connect your narrative and career vision to HEC’s values.
While HEC is looking for certain key competencies and achievements from candidates, it goes beyond your ability to get in and do well in the program. Every school wants candidates who will contribute to the school in the long run through your work, career progression, future leadership positions, involvement and more. You are selling your future vision as much as your current skills, GMAT scores, and accomplishments, so it’s essential to know how your career goals intersect with the school’s values and link them across your narrative about your reasons for pursuing the MBA.
Think about how your life and career will look if everything goes the way you plan, and how that will also be of value to the school. Do you plan on starting your own company one day? Do you want to lead change in the way we source energy? Do you have a passion for using technology to solve a previously intractable problem? All of these are great stories about your future, and they become even better when you tie them to the specific characteristics of the school and how the program will help you get to that goal. This is also something that the school will enjoy highlighting when you get there, demonstrating the life-long value and impact that an MBA from HEC can make.
For more advice on HEC, view Brendan’s recent article on how to tackle the HEC essays and interview presentation, or explore why it’s a great time to apply for an international MBA.
Brendan Kramp is an expert coach at MBA admissions coaching firm Fortuna Admissions, who earned an MBA from HEC with a semester spent at NYU Stern and previously served as the UK Director of Development for INSEAD. For a candid assessment of your chances of admission success at a top MBA program, sign up for a free consultation.