Admissions Pointers for MBAs Around the Globe

The QS World MBA Tour offered a chat recently on navigating the MBA admissions process. Here are some of the highlights of that session, led by Zoya Zaitseva, manager of the European leg of the world’s biggest international MBA fair.

What is a real difference between European and US MBAs? What are the reasons to choose each of them?

We all have different reasons for choosing the schools. Somebody doesn’t want to travel too far and prefers to study in Europe; others need guaranteed loans and apply to top American schools only. I would put it this way: if you want to be able to work in the US, Europe or any other part of the world, American schools would be your choice. It is much more challenging to find a good job in States after a European or Asian business schools (but I am not saying it is impossible). Most of the American schools offer two-year programs; students are a bit younger than in Europe. At the same time, there are two-year program in Europe and one year programs in States.

Do the top schools have seats for applicants from different counties? If I’m a Filipino and 25 years old, is that diverse enough for the admissions committee from the top 10 schools?

Being just “a Filipino and 25 years old” might not be good enough. Think of yourself as of the candidate who needs to get in, but stand out. You will be competing with hundreds of international candidates from around the world, so your age and nationality is not what you sell. Before you start working on your application package, write down five-six selling points that make you different from other candidates. While working on your essays or getting ready for the interview always remember these points and prove your uniqueness in all possible ways, not just by the ethnic background.

I face some financial difficulties. What are my chances for them to offer me a considerable scholarship that could cover at least 3/4 of my tuition fees?

Scholarships are rather limited in the MBA world, but at the same time there are millions of dollars of unclaimed scholarships so please do your homework and study the web for the opportunities. QS World MBA Tour offers over $1M in scholarships, schools do it every year on need-based or merit-based grounds; independent providers are there for you:,, etc. In the US most of the top business schools will be also able to provide you with the loan, which is also a great option for an MBA candidate.

If I want to stop being an employee and start my own business, which Executive MBA is the best choice for me?

Executive MBA programs are actually not that great for career switchers. Why not do an Executive MBA while you are still working and then set up your own business? The school will give you not just knowledge and tools, but also a fantastic network that might generate new ideas for your career future.

If you plan to combine work and study, check out modular MBA programs. For the candidates located in Central Europe or ex-USSR countries something like one week every two months works better than every second weekend in London. Chicago GSB in London, INSEAD in Paris, IMD in Lausanne, Duke-Goethe in Frankfurt, IESE in Barcelona – this is not the full list of the modular MBA programs that you may consider. IE Business School in Spain and Ashridge in the UK are good in entrepreneurship, check them out, too.

I have good school and college background and can get LoRs (letters of recommendation) from both my deans. However, when it comes to an LoR from my workplace, my client, who is a senior project manager, is one difficult fellow who might give me just a “Good” LoR, while my direct manager would give me a “Great!” LoR but is just a team lead and not a very high ranked person in the organization. Whom should I take an LoR from?

Which one of your prospective recommenders has wider experience with you and had a chance to observe you in a team environment or stressful situations when you had to demonstrate your leaderships skills, creativity, problem solving talents, etc? I mean, the recommendation is not about the title, but about how well the recommender actually knows you. A good LoR from a client with whom you’ve been working for over a year will be better than a great LoR from a team lead who has known you for just a couple of months. Besides, you can always balance good recommendation with great essays – just tell about what you think would be missing in the recommendation there.

What would be your personal advice about the best European/UK EMBA program?

Depends upon where are you based, how flexible you are in terms of the traveling, your background and career goals. There are a lot of strong Executive MBA programs in Europe – European, joint international, American, so it is up to you which one you pick up.

From my previous experience I can say that the candidates from Russia and Ukraine usually prefer modular programs that allow them to travel for not more than six weeks a year or so (except for IMD). Here are some of the Executive MBA programs that you may consider: Chicago GSB – London, IESE, INSEAD, IMD, TRIUM, One MBA, LBS/Columbia and LBS Executive MBA, Duke Fuqua, IE Business School.

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