Category Archives: International MBA

To be, or not to be, an MBA applicant in Round Three?

As readers of this blog site and its wider resources will know, I most value information from the horse’s mouth. When it comes to admissions, if this or that “expert” says it, it’s like-yeah-whatever; if an elite Adcom says it, it’s worth listening to.

We are in round 3 of the class-of-2013 MBA admissions cycle. On the current topical question of should you or shouldn’t you waste your time and money on R3 apps, here’s what the HBS Admissions Director has to say:

“As the Class of 2013 application season rounds the corner toward the finish line, you may be asking yourself whether it’s worth your time and money to submit an application. Is it too much of a long shot?

“You may be surprised to learn that we ask ourselves the same question every year. Should there even be a round 3? Why can’t we just wrap the class up in two rounds? Answer: even though we could – we always conclude that we like Round 3 enough to keep it as an option.

“Although we have admitted about 90% of the class by this time, we always – ALWAYS – see enough interesting Round 3 applicants to want to do it again.

“I know you wish I could define “interesting” with pinpoint accuracy but I can’t. Sometimes it’s work experience, sometimes it’s an undergraduate school we wish we had more students from, sometimes it’s a compelling recommendation and sometimes it’s just ‘something’.

“I will say that it’s always that we have absolutely no doubts about a candidate’s leadership talent, character or academic capabilities – the same hurdle we have for the earlier rounds…

“Don’t apply to HBS in Round 3 if:

  • You are an international candidate and have serious concerns about the likelihood of getting a visa in a timely manner.
  • You really want to come in September, 2012 and are hoping to be granted a postponement.
  • You are counting on getting on-campus housing.
  • You are using this as a “trial” application and are hoping for feedback on this application to increase your chances of success next year.”

Postscript: You may say, “what do they have to lose? – of course they would advise me to apply anytime!” and you’d be right there. Round 1 and Round 2 remain undoubtedly a better time to apply to most elite MBA programs, including the Harvard MBA. But if you’re faced with the reality of R3, and you’re objectively special for one reason or another, it’s you vs. the waitlist — so the door is not yet closed.

Top-3? Top-6? Among elite MBAs does it really matter where you go?

I found myself following a discussion on the Businessweek “Getting into B-School” forum. The thread is headed: “Does rank really matter among top 6?”

I select extracts to present here because the comments — before they descend into the flaming and slanging that bedevils these forums — deal with important (and corrective) thinking about what matters with rankings, and to whom, and helps understand how US program rankings are perceived internationally too. It finishes with common sense that I endorse.

Original question: “Does rank really matter among Top Business schools? With my European point of view, I consider that there are only 6 Top Schools (in descending order): HBS, Stanford, Wharton, Columbia, Booth and Kellogg. Actually, I don’t really care about rankings here: my only criteria is prestige (which in my view is the only thing you can’t ignore when applying to business schools). In Europe, these schools are famous: if you say Stanford or Columbia, everybody knows what you’re talking about. [But]If you say Tuck business school (at random), very few people will have heard of it regardless of the quality of the school.

“So my question is: among this prestigious top, does is REALLY matter if you go to one or another? On this forum we can often read that if you go to HBS it is infinitely better that if you go to Wharton but Wharton will change your life so much more than Kellogg, and so on and so forth.”

Response: “In France [among] 100 person taken randomly in the street and educated in France, 100 will know about HEC, 90 about Harvard, 3 to 5 about Stanford, Wharton, Kellogg, Columbia and 10 maybe will know about INSEAD. But I would say that 90 will know about Yale, Princeton, 100 about Oxford, Cambridge.”

Response: “As a Frenchman I feel the need to throw in my 2 cents on this one. INSEAD is hands down the strongest MBA brand in France. Does every random person on the street necessarily know the name? No, but who cares? The employers do.”

Response: “I would like also to add that the education at the top business institutions is quite the same. I highly doubt that you will learn better investment management in Chicago or Wharton than in Yale, Haas or Fuqua. If you visit those schools, you might get surprised by the background of the faculty. You might take a class at Berkeley taught by a Yale alumni or even receive Michael Porter at Tuck.”

Response: “Although I agree with the notion that the value of an MBA drops as the ranking drops, I do not agree that there is a substantial difference between similarly ranked programs. Every objective metric I can think of (starting salary, quality of recruiting companies, average salary of graduates after 20 years etc.) clusters most top 15 programs closely together. The main exception seem to be HBS and Stanford. Another objective metric are the GMAT and the GPA. Those two metrics are hardly distinguishable in the top 15 programs, including HBS and Stanford.”

Original: “I’ve reached my conclusion I believe: go where you think you belong regardless of what people say/think. I chose to apply to Wharton and CBS finally even if i totally agree HBS/GSB are more famous and Booth/Kellogg are great schools simply because i think it will teach me what i want to learn in my specific field…And education among them is NOT that different, apart from some specialties that should ultimately lead your choice.”

‘Ivy League East’ MBAs unite to brand themselves as ‘Top 4 Asia B-schools’

Many industries have seen a shift from the US / Europe to Asia, yet, somehow, education has been one of the slowest sectors to make this transition. Certainly at the elite level there has always been, and remains, a significant migration westward to attend brand-name universities. Institutions such as Harvard and Oxford have unbelievable prestige across the Orient and this is not going away any time soon.

But there are straws in the wind, and the wind is blowing the other way.

As an admissions advisor I’ve started to hear Americans and Germans and Canadians and Italian nationals saying this kind of thing: “My target schools are Harvard, MIT, LBS, and HKUST, and Nanyank.”
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Now four Asian schools have gotten themselves together under the banner “Top 4 Asia B-Schools” to solicit applicants from North America and Europe. The Top 4 are the Indian School of Business (ISB), Hong Kong University of Science & Technology (HKUST), China Europe International Business School (CEIBS), and Nanyang Technological University (NTU, Singapore). The programs are all well-ranked, all accredited by AACSB (US) or EQUIS (Europe) or both, and feature prominent Western faculty.

The admissions implications: First, none of these schools are easy to get into. Part of their growing exclusiveness, part of reaching the top-tier and staying there, is having admissions policies that turn away similar percentages as those dinged by top US / EU schools (about 85% on average.) So there won’t be any “gimmee’s”. But, having said that, the Asian programs are very keen to balance their intake between East and West, so for now a foreigner stands a much greater chance of admissions than a local, all other things being equal.

Second, these four (and other) Asian schools are going to grow further in prestige. This is similar to what I said about the new Johns Hopkins Carey School MBA here. Look ahead and realize that while CEIBS et al does not sound as good as UCLA now, during the span of your career it no doubt will, and the MBA branding, alumni network etc., will be just a strong.

Footnote: According to the CEIBS site, teams from the Top 4 Asia B-schools will attend QS MBA fairs this fall as a group. The dates are:

North America
• Los Angeles: September 11th, Wilshire Grand Los Angeles
• San Francisco: September 12th, The Fairmont San Francisco
• Toronto: September 19th, Metro Toronto Convention Centre
• New York: September 25th, Hilton New York

Europe
• Paris: October 9th, Palais des Congres
• London: October 23rd, QEII Conference Centre
• Madrid: October 26th, Husa Princesa