Category Archives: International MBA

The 6 Dimensions In Choosing a Business School

As we exit the dormant months, and minds start to turn to applications season of Fall 2016, I’m starting to get the question: “which schools should I apply to?”

Choosing which business school MBA or EMBA to apply to requires knowledge of each institution, its culture, curriculum emphasis, extramural activities and recruitment opportunities, among many other things. The key parameters to consider are:

1. Fit. You’re paying the money and you’re going to be doing the work, so you want to put yourself somewhere you’ll be happy. Only you will know the answer to whether you want a small or big program, urban or rural, US or Europe or Asia, entrepreneurial or financial, etc. Sometimes it’s okay to knowingly put yourself in a slightly alien environment too, for the growth challenge. Either way, know thyself. Know the school. Choose fit consciously, don’t just apply to the “top” programs and take the highest offer.

2. Brand. Forget rankings. School brand is what matters. That’s what is going to give you your short- and long-term career boost. While rankings bounce around, real brand value of the top b-schools changes very slowly, if at all. If you genuinely don’t know a school’s brand strength, how do you get a sense of it? Every school publishes a list of companies that come to campus, how many graduates they hire, placement rates, and average starting salaries. Quality of recruiting firm and average post-MBA salary is a much better guide to a program’s real prestige than any magazine ranking.

3. Location and recruitment: Location strongly affects the industry orientation of the school and the companies recruiting on campus offering internships and jobs. You will get different exit opportunities in New York than you will in Texas, or Lausanne, Switzerland (IMD). Pick a school with an eye to your exit opportunities.

4. Profile of participants: Make the effort to understand the subtle differences in the type of person each school attracts. INSEAD and LBS both offer MBAs, and there is overlap in the student profile, but there are clear differences. This is true of HBS and MIT, Booth and Kellogg, and everywhere else. Go somewhere where you will more easily make real friends and you will be a lot happier and productive. Better still,  in 15 years, your alumni network will be real.

5. Length, structure, and flexibility: The time it takes to get an MBA can vary from 10 months to almost two years. Longer programs offer more electives, exchange options, and other forms of enrichment including summer internships. If you are younger, chances are you need the time to figure out what you want to do and will benefit from an internship or two on your resume. If you are older, speed of completion may be your highest priority.

6. Electives and options: The core curriculum is effectively the same everywhere and it doesn’t drastically matter where you do it. Electives however, differ significantly from school to school, according to faculty interest and expertise. External projects, “treks,” and exchange opportunities will also vary.

In short, the more you know the better your decision-making will be. Some of the information about schools is easy to find out via the Web. The rest will be more difficult to judge without visiting the campus or talking to current and recent past students.


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.”