Oxford Saïd, the business school of the University of Oxford, is one of the UK’s oldest and most prestigious Universities. This bastion of British excellence has maintained the #12 slot for the past two years in Bloomberg Businessweek’s European MBA Ranking, and the Financial Times ranked it #17 in 2021. Meanwhile, Oxford’s Saïd applications spiked 35% in 2020 compared with year-earlier levels. From the impressive ROI to peerless global leadership experience, more candidates are taking notice and targeting the Oxford MBA.
The MBA cohort is comprised of just over 300 students, making it larger than its main rival, Cambridge Judge, but slightly smaller than London Business School. In addition to increased emphasis on social impact and entrepreneurship, Saïd continues to put a premium on smaller class sizes that foster interactive engagement. Bloomberg recently reported that Saïd cut class sizes from 80 to 40 during the pandemic in response to social distancing needs and may persist in keeping it that way.
Leveraging its links to the wider University, Oxford Saïd offers two full-time MBA tracks: a one-year MBA and a two year 1+1 MBA which in which participants combine a master’s degree from one of the partnering departments at the University of Oxford with an MBA. A community within a community, Saïd’s connections within the greater Oxford campus and its 45 colleges are a huge draw for incoming students looking to forge a diversity of connections and relationships.
As a Fortuna Admissions coach who supports international MBA applicants, I’m seasoned at helping MBA hopefuls understand what Oxford Saïd is looking for, and how to tell your unique story in a way that speaks to your fit with the program. Read on for my five top tips for maximizing your chances of admissions success at Saïd.
5 TOP TIPS FOR APPLYING TO OXFORD SAÏD
Showcase responsible leadership, emphasis on responsible.
Oxford Saïd says its purpose is to “prepare business leaders for the task of making the world a better and more equitable place.” A lot of schools want you to showcase your leadership, but for Saïd, it’s critical that you demonstrate how your leadership positively impacts society. This can seem a tall and intimidating order if you’re not already at the helm of a global not-for-profit, but thinking just a few points down the value chain can help here. How is the business you’re in, ultimately, a force for good? How have you helped develop people and projects so that lives are affected in a positive way? How will your Oxford MBA enable you to make an even greater impact on issues that matter? Answering these questions before you sit down to write your essays will help set you up for success.
Start your post-MBA career search right now.
One year does not leave a lot of time for career exploration, and the admission committee knows this. Saïd asks you to detail not just your precise career goal, but also what your sector looks for in MBA talent, how you meet those requirements, and how the Oxford MBA will help you achieve your goals. Answering these questions well requires a significant amount of networking and research, so before applying make sure you have reached out to people in your target industry and location (and Oxford Saïd alumni if you can) to ensure you can demonstrate a depth of understanding about what it will take to achieve your goals.
Most schools will tell you that your chances of getting in in later rounds is more or less equal to earlier rounds. Not so with Oxford Saïd. Saïd operates four admissions stages running from early September through early April. However, they are open in saying that they offer good candidates as they come in, rather than holding spaces for all rounds, and that they cannot guarantee places will be available in the later rounds of admission.
Do your research on the university.
One of the MBA program’s principal strengths is its integration with the wider University of Oxford. The admission committee appreciates candidates who can show that they know and appreciate the value that comes with Oxford University’s world-class learning community. Think here about how you will engage in the college system and how you will benefit from thinking and innovations that are happening across the wider university.
Find your inner entrepreneur.
Entrepreneurship is one of three over-arching themes of the new MBA curriculum at Oxford, and the entrepreneurship module is one that cuts across the entire MBA curriculum. Not everyone has entrepreneurial ambitions per se, but this module is about entrepreneurial thinking in its widest sense — innovations in businesses and within society as a whole. To demonstrate your fit with the school, it will be helpful to think about the times you’ve innovated or approached a problem or project in a novel way. And also, how you will bring this thinking to your future career.
To learn more about the landscape and admissions strategies for the top international MBA programmes, view this recent webinar with Fortuna directors Caroline Diarte Edwards and Matt Symonds. See also Caroline’s recent article, Why Now Is a Good Time to Pursue an International MBA.
Cassandra Pittman is an expert coach at MBA admissions coaching firm Fortuna Admissions, a Columbia MBA alumna, and a former member of the admissions teams at both INSEAD and London Business School. For a candid assessment of your chances of admission success at a top MBA program, sign up for a free consultation.
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