INSEAD and London Business School are two of Europe’s most elite business programs. From their impressive ROI to peerless global leadership experience, these powerhouse programs continue to attract a growing number of applications for the international MBA. What are INSEAD and LBS looking for in MBA candidates, and how can you position your application to stand out?
In my recent video conversation with Poets&Quants Editor-in-Chief John A. Byrne, we discussed the essential things candidates to INSEAD & LBS should know before applying – starting with what each school is looking for – along with advice for the idiosyncrasies of their applications.
View our 7-minute strategy session and read on for additional tips on positioning your candidacy, along with the benefits and distinctions of each program.
INSEAD VS LBS: BENEFITS & DISTINCTIONS
Both INSEAD and LBS are looking for future and present leaders with high intellectual and academic capacity, along with demonstrated international motivation. Each offers unparalleled global exposure by virtue of their truly diverse student communities: INSEAD lauds some 88 nationalities in its MBA program, while LBS students represent 66 nationalities.
Yet each has several points of distinction, including course length: INSEAD pioneered the one-year MBA, offering a 10-month format that’s both efficient and cost-effective for those who can handle the pace and intensity. It also has integrated campuses across three countries (Fontainebleau, Singapore, and Abu Dhabi), along with a new San Francisco hub. Meanwhile, the dynamic culture and economy of London are at the heart of the LBS experience, and its highly flexible MBA offers exit points at 15, 18, and 21-months.
5 TOP TIPS FOR APPLYING TO LONDON BUSINESS SCHOOL
Convey your passion for LBS.
In this competitive environment, the admissions office is constantly looking for evidence of your commitment to the school. If at all possible, try to visit LBS before you submit your application.
Remember that ‘global’ is not just a word, it’s a culture.
It’s no longer enough just to state confidently that you’ve backpacked across Europe – the admissions committee will be closely scrutinizing your application to see exactly what global flavor you’ll bring to the new class.
Communicate your contribution to the program and alumni network.
Admissions will want to understand how you will play a role on-campus and how you envision contributing. The more specific and authentic you can be, the better.
Convey a high level of self-awareness and ambition in the MBA essays.
The very best LBS essays give the Admissions Committee insight into what has motivated your post-MBA career goals and how an LBS education will help you achieve them. Fortuna’s Emma Bond, former LBS Senior Manager of MBA Admissions, offers detailed advice on how to tackle the LBS essays.
Apply in earlier rounds (if you can).
It’s highly preferable to apply for round one or two. While European B-schools have a more even distribution of places across the different rounds compared to the top US programs, later rounds are often used to ensure a diverse incoming cohort. The more overrepresented your overall profile, the more important it is to apply in the earlier rounds to give yourself the best shot.
5 TOP TIPS FOR APPLYING TO INSEAD
Demonstrate interest beyond your own borders.
Not everyone at INSEAD has a lot of international experience. But you must be able to demonstrate your ability to fit in well in an incredibly diverse environment, with qualities such as openness, flexibility, curiosity about other cultures, interpersonal skills, maturity – all these elements help.
Differentiate a common profile.
If you have a common profile, then you need to be strong across all elements of the application, including your academic profile, professional track record, international experience, and activities and achievements outside of work or study. Try to find some element to your profile that can differentiate you. View additional INSEAD advice for 6 common profiles by Fortuna’s Caroline Diarte Edwards, former INSEAD Director of Admissions & Financial Aid.
Career changers need to hit the ground running.
Most INSEAD students are making some significant changes in their careers, but the 10-month program doesn’t afford a lot of time for mulling over infinite options. Be ready to make decisions about your future direction quickly, and to juggle an intensive academic schedule with an ongoing and regular investment of time in your job search.
Know you may be asked to start on your second-choice campus.
The Admissions Committee takes decisions blind of campus choice – i.e. they cannot see whether you have applied to Fontainebleau or Singapore – so the chances are equal. Typically, a handful of students will be asked to start on the campus that was not their stated preference, to enable the school to achieve the right class size and a similarly diverse class across campuses.
Embrace the MBA essays.
Broken down into two parts — the career essays and the motivation essays — INSEAD guides you to showcase, in relative depth, the career choices you’ve made leading up to this point, and your post-MBA career vision, as well as the unique personal qualities and experiences that will make you a valuable addition to the class. View my related article for detailed advice on how to conquer all 7 INSEAD essays.
Cassandra Pittman is an expert coach at MBA admissions coaching firm Fortuna Admissions & a former member of admissions teams at London Business School and INSEAD. She is also a Columbia MBA alumna. For a candid assessment of your chances of admission success at a top MBA program, sign up for a free consultation.