How to Get Into IESE Business School: 5 Top Tips

August 12, 2021 | by Lisa Bevill

IESE campus

IESE’s star continues to rise. This year, the Barcelona-based business school ranked #1 in the Economist’s Full-time MBA ranking, where it has maintained the #1 or #2 spot since 2016, and it is rarely out of the top five in the Financial Times.

It also boasts an impressive ROI: more than 95% of the graduates of IESE accepted job offers within three months of graduation, with an average alumni salary close to $150,000 three years after graduating. And despite the global pandemic, IESE saw a 14% increase in applications last season.

Founded in 1958, IESE Business School formed an alliance with the Harvard Business School in 1963 and launched the first two-year MBA program in Europe. While the main campus is in Barcelona, Spain, IESE has additional campuses in New York, Sao Paolo, Shanghai, and Nairobi. Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is at the heart of its programs, and its roster of notable alumni includes the CFO of IKEA, the European MD of Airbnb, and the CEO of Calvin Klein. Budding entrepreneurs would do well to investigate IESE’s impressive entrepreneurial ecosystem.

The benefits for considering an international MBA are many, particularly at IESE: including an international learning experience, a springboard to a global career and mobility, a geographically dispersed alumni network, and accelerated format options. But what is the IESE admission committee looking for and what does it take to position a standout application?

As a Fortuna Admissions coach who supports international MBA applicants, I’m practiced at helping MBA hopefuls understand what IESE 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 IESE.


1. Demonstrate your commitment to excellence.

IESE is an institution with excellence at its core. The educational environment, career development, and experience are designed to impact from the strategy down to the detail. Considering, applicants should align with excellence and demonstrate how their choices allow them to excel. How is excellence demonstrated in your work? How can you take care in your application to align with this value?

2. Share your leadership story.

Career progression is important and demonstrating your ability to lead yourself and others is critical. What is your leadership journey? Consider where you are on your journey, leveraging various experiences and how IESE will allow you to further hone your leadership skills. It is important to be authentic in conveying your leadership abilities. Take time to reflect on the roles where you have been able to influence and impact decisions and teams. Showcase your leadership journey through stories, not just titles.

“Admissions officers like to “zone in on impact,” writes Fortuna’s Julia Brady in her article on honing your personal narrative for the MBA application. “Your ability to connect the dots and tell a story about what has shaped your outlook and led you to contribute uniquely to a situation is highly valuable.”

3. Provide insight into your global perspective.

IESE prides itself on its global impact and diversity within the classroom – some 85% of students are international. And with some 55 nationalities on campus, your ability to be at ease on a global playing field is key. While the MBA will further provide opportunities to gain a greater international perspective, coming with an open mindset and specific examples of being globally minded is important. Consider the companies you have worked for, the impact of the projects you have contributed to, and your own global network to demonstrate how you embrace a global mindset and approach to business.

“Internationalism can take many forms,” says Fortuna’s Emma Bond, former London Business School Senior Manager of MBA Admissions. “Have you worked on international projects or liaised often with international clients? Do you work on multi-cultural teams? Have you invested time in learning other languages? Are there any global secondment opportunities coming up at your company? Any and all of these things can add weight to your application.”

4. Convey your sense of purpose.

What are your overarching values and how they have shaped your life decisions? IESE wants holistic, purpose-driven individuals who are able to create sustainable businesses, build communities, and make positive contributions to society. Your personal interests, passion, and ability to articulate a greater sense of purpose will allow you to stand out in the applicant pool. Share who you are and why you choose the work you do. Also consider how you will positively impact the IESE Community during and beyond your MBA.

5. Show your commitment.

IESE has 5 campuses around the world and hosts Assessment Days to get to know candidates. This is a unique element to the IESE application process, showing their commitment to holistic evaluation. Show your commitment to getting to know the school and other candidates by getting involved in events and attending the Assessment Days. These are opportunities for you to shine, be who you are, and demonstrate your alignment with the school values. Go prepared to live an MBA experience and appreciate that this is a chance to show your best self in person (or virtually!), more so than on paper!

Want more free advice?

Lisa Bevill is a Fortuna Admissions expert coach and former MBA Admissions Director at IE Business School. She has extensive experience guiding international MBA applicants and is practiced at helping MBA hopefuls understand what IESE and other top European programs are looking for, as well as how to tell your unique story in a way that speaks to your fit with the program. For more free advice and a personal, candid assessment of your chances, you can sign up now for a free consultation.

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