Why now is a good time to apply for an International MBA

March 26, 2017 | by Matt Symonds

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Once you know an MBA is right for you, it’s understandable to want to be there as soon as possible. So where does this put you? While the window has closed to apply for fall entry to most top US schools, if you still want to apply to now, consider the international b-school options.

In the FT Global MBA Ranking for 2017, five of the top 10 are European schools. And the increasingly popular one-year MBA program dominates ROI measures for those seeking to enhance their career while opening up opportunities in the globe’s second largest economy.

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

You might want to think about a January intake at top tier schools such as INSEAD, HEC Paris, IE Business School, IMD or Rotterdam School of Management (RSM). While applications for INSEAD’s September entry has closed, the school has recently opened application for the January 2018 start date, and there are four rounds that run until July 26th. The final deadline at Switzerland’s IMD for joining its select class of 90 students falls on September 1st.

IE Business School in Madrid, whose grads enjoy a weighted salary above those of MIT Sloan, Berkeley Haas, Booth and Kellogg, has rolling admissions with two intakes—a January start with graduation in December and a September start with graduation in July. RSM is another top 10 European school, with an MBA that underscores sustainability and responsible management connected to the UN Global Compact. If entrepreneurship appeals to you in the continent’s largest economy, consider ESMT Berlin. Both programs accept apps until November 2017.

There are many more reasons to think about an international MBA. I asked my colleagues at Fortuna Admissions for their take on applying now to four top European b-schools: INSEAD, LBS, IE and HEC Paris. As former heads of MBA Admissions and/or graduates from these respective schools, they share their insider tips on making the most of your application:

1. INSEAD (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 head of MBA Admissions at INSEAD, who recently posted a story 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 Tip: Showcase your story by leveraging INSEAD’s lengthy application.
Here’s the bad news: INSEAD has the longest MBA application. But here’s the good news: INSEAD has the longest MBA application.

Allow me to clarify.

There’s no escaping that it’s a heap of work to prepare a great application for INSEAD. But the upshot is the scope the program gives you to tell your story offers more opportunities to highlight the dimensions that differentiate you from candidates with a similar profile.

INSEAD is getting more and more competitive, so use this space (and the accompanying video questions) strategically, and give considered thought to making your application stand out from the pack, as well as demonstrating your fit with the school’s global mindset. Working on the INSEAD application is a commitment, but those who seize the opportunity to more fully convey their story often feel a unique sense of satisfaction at the end of the process. Given that MBA applications are trending to shorter, it can be much more difficult to convey a multi-dimensional profile to other programs.

2. IE Business School (Madrid, Spain)
IE is also a one year program, and it has dynamic, rolling admissions. Your application is reviewed as soon as it is received, notes Fortuna’s Lisa Bevill, IE’s former head for MBA Admissions. The admissions team works quickly to review all application materials, coordinate an interview, and convey a final decision to applicants. There is normally a fairly fast turn-around time, a big 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 Tip: Convey your fit and authenticity by knowing IE’s values and culture.
Consider the IE values and what appeals to you about the school and program. Then explore how your values and strengths will benefit the IE community and learning environment. Check out IE events in your area and reach out to alumni who can share their valuable perspective. This helps you to prepare a strong application as well as to credibly demonstrate your fit with the program. Authenticity is key: Articulate who you are, what you care about and what motivates you, and, finally, how you intend to make an impact.

3. London Business School (London, UK)
Each LBS application cycle has four rounds, and it gets progressively more competitive as the class fills up, cites Fortuna’s Emma Bond, who served as a senior member of LBS’s MBA admissions committee. A great candidate still has a solid chance, but there are fewer seats, and applying at this stage means being up against waitlisted candidates from previous rounds. In R4, the admissions team will be looking carefully to balance professional and cultural diversity within the class profile, so candidates with a more unusual profile may do well–provided your 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 Tip: Know what LBS has to offer, and what you will offer it.
This means start learning about LBS culture and what makes the program unique. Reach out to admissions, contact LBS alumni, and build an understanding of what makes the school tick. More than ever, LBS is looking to re-embrace the international aspect of its curriculum, so ensure your profile reflects this value. And if it doesn’t, start thinking about how you can make yourself a more global citizen.

I always encourage my clients to identify something interesting about themselves and write the second ‘optional’ essay–it’s a golden opportunity to talk about how you will engage with the school, what your USP is, essentially why LBS can’t possibly reject you.

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, graduate of HEC’s MBA program and former UK Director of Development at INSEAD. “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 international scope and reputation have swelled over the last few years – the FT consistently rates HEC amongst the top three European business schools and 90 percent of its students come from outside France. The school has also formed impressive double degree partnerships with others like Yale and NYU in the US, Chinese University of Hong Kong and Tsinghua University in Beijing, and LSE in the UK, offering diverse global experiences on top of leveraging the full alumni networks and career services of two international schools.

Brendan’s Tip: Convey an informed, global vision for your future.
Focus on how your goals and aspirations complement HEC’s international scope, program structure and academic rigor, and access to a global network. HEC is looking for ambitious career aspirations and backgrounds, in addition to solid GMAT scores (690 is the 2017 average) and academic performance. Consider what distinguishes you from peers and how a global vision for your future career will both contribute to and benefit from HEC’s alumni network, then convey this strongly in your application.

Motivated by the prospect of an international MBA? There are also timing related factors to plan for, such as financing the program, transitioning out of your current position and relocating abroad. Language classes for schools such as the IE MBA start at least a month before the program itself, so it’s important to plan in advance (even though IE doesn’t have set app deadlines). For anyone feeling urgency to begin now, the uncommon logistics of starting your MBA on another continent mean September (or January) will arrive sooner than you imagine.

A version of this blog originally appeared on March 15, 2017 in Poets & Quants.

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