FindMBA Article Latests Articles Thu, 22 Feb 2018 09:44:01 +0100 <![CDATA[Do Entrepreneurs need MBAs? The Benefits of an MBA in Entrepreneurship]]> If you’ve watched the HBO television series Silicon Valley, then you will have seen just how difficult it can be, even for the most talented entrepreneurs, to succeed without an adequate understanding of business and management.

Indeed, although today’s entrepreneurs need a good level of technical skills—and let’s face it, a healthy dose of luck—business acumen can go a long way towards getting a successful startup off the ground. That’s where an MBA comes in.

An MBA, since it covers all the essential parts of business, from finance to operations management, will give an up-and-coming entrepreneur a good grounding for a successful startup.

But do you need an MBA in order to succeed? What’s to stop somebody with a big idea to skip the MBA and jump right in?

One thing an MBA can do is expose students to the nitty-gritty of entrepreneurship, without the risk that normally comes with launching a startup in the real world.

Darden School of Business offers an MBA in EntrepreneurshipAnd, luckily for the would-be entrepreneur, business schools are offering an increasing number of relevant courses. According to Sean Carr, the executive director of the Batten Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business, MBA students at Darden have access to at least 28 entrepreneurship classes. 

“These are highly experiential, hands-on courses across a broad range of entrepreneurial activities. Everything from finance to developing new ideas to marketing to operations and so forth,” says Carr.

Likewise, the MBA at the University of Cambridge’s Judge Business School offers a number of courses—including a full-on concentration in the field—that are aimed to expose students to the breadth of what’s required as an entrepreneur.  

“One of them is on design thinking and innovation management, another is how to start a tech company, another one is venture capital and entrepreneurship, plus financial management for startups,” says Carla Keen, MBA Marketing and Communications Coordinator at Cambridge Judge Business School.

Keen says the core course in entrepreneurship—which every MBA student is required to take—was developed to enable every student on the Cambridge MBA program the opportunity to learn key entrepreneurial skills.

“It’s an introduction to entrepreneurship, it gets students developing their thinking in a more entrepreneurial way,” says Keen.

%link_box_sc_{"text": "See the Top 10 MBA Programs for Entrepreneurs", "link": "/lists/top-business-school-by-speciality/top-business-schools-for-entrepreneurs"}%

“Because we find even if students don’t want to go on and become entrepreneurs and start their own companies, a lot of companies are saying they want graduates to come with an entrepreneurial mindset.”

“They want intra-preneurs, they want people within the company with that thinking.”

Learning to be an entrepreneur, outside of the classroom

Cambridge Judge Business School, where MBAs can study entrepreneurshipBut it’s more than just books and lectures: today’s MBA programs are helping students become entrepreneurs by getting them out of the classroom and, effectively, into startups.

For example, business school-hosted accelerator and incubator programs provide ‘safe spaces’ for new startups, where students can often work with mentors to hone their business plans and turn them into reality.

Cambridge is home to a startup incubator called Cambridge Accelerate, which helps support new ventures; Darden hosts the i.Lab incubator, which provides funding, office space, legal help, and other support for startups.

Other schools offering accelerator or incubator options include Harvard Business School, The University of Chicago Booth School of Business, plus Copenhagen Business School in Denmark, among others.

Sometimes, business schools also run startup competitions as well; the MBA-led startup with the best business plan can come away with substantial funding.

For those MBA students who aren’t ready to jump into an accelerator or a startup competition, some business schools also provide internship and consulting project options, where they can get entrepreneurial experience, while working in somebody else’s startup or small business. Students in the Darden MBA program, for example, have two different opportunities to pursue internships in startups.

Likewise, students in the International MBA program at France’s EMLyon Business School can participate in a nine-month long Entrepreneurial Leadership Project, where they can work with startups on new product development and other activities.

Founding a startup during your MBA

But do all of these offerings really help new entrepreneurs? For at least one recent graduate, the answer is yes.

Portia Asli is the CEO of health tech startup Vocalens, which she founded with a classmate during her time on the Cambridge MBA.

Asli, whose background is in civil engineering, says that the resources that the business school provided were indispensable during the startup process.

“One of the things an MBA can do for you, as someone who wants to launch a business, is give you access to resources you would not otherwise have access to,” says Asli. 

Asli lists the access to entrepreneurship competitions – and being able to get in front of companies, investors and potential future customers – as valuable opportunities she could take advantage of during her time at Cambridge.

“The most important thing an entrepreneur can have at the beginning is accessing as many free resources as possible. I could never have been part of the incubator, Accelerate Cambridge, if I wasn’t a student at Cambridge University.”

Asli says the time the MBA gives you to explore potential new ventures is something that can make an MBA worthwhile for hopeful entrepreneurs.

“The fact that you have one year off to work on your business idea is actually quite a blessing. You can dedicate all your study, all your extra-curricular work, to be aligned with whatever you want to launch,” she says.

It’s one of many compelling reasons for budding entrepreneurs to take on an MBA.

Sean Carr at Darden agrees. “If you think that having a great education around entrepreneurial thinking and developing your ideas, if you feel that getting a network of colleagues who can challenge you on your ideas and maybe join you as a teammate, having access to mentors, low-cost incubators, access to the capital, early-stage technology, and the support of an institute like ours, if none of that is important to you, then no, you don’t need an MBA to become an entrepreneur,” he says.

“But that’s an incredibly powerful package that I believe can accelerate your success.”


  • Server room by CC BY 2.0 (cropped)
  • Darden School of Business by tldagny CC BY 2.0
  • Cambridge Judge Business School by CGP Grey
]]> Thu, 25 Jan 2018 00:00:00 +0100
<![CDATA[5 Questions for an American MBA Student at HEC Paris—Margaret Hoffecker]]> Can you tell me a bit about the experiences and thought processes that led you to Europe for your MBA? 

I started my undergraduate at UCLA, and transferred a year and a half later to [The College of] William & Mary; I was paying out-of-state tuition at UCLA—97% of the students there are in-state, so I was paying a lot for education. A lot of people don’t know that William & Mary is a state school. 

I majored in international relations with a French minor, and when I graduated, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do—I applied to the Peace Corps, got far along in the process but hadn’t received a proper invite yet. In the meantime I’d applied to a PR agency, got that job, and figured that New York in my 20s only happens once. A month after I moved to the city, I got the invite from the Peace Corp for a position in Morocco, so I had to turn that down. I worked in New York for 7 years, mostly in market research. 

One of my bosses had gone to London Business School, and planted the idea of business school in my head; I didn’t even know what an MBA was at that point—I didn’t have much exposure to it. So I thought about business school for a long time; I had different dreams I wanted to chase, like living overseas. Three years ago I moved to London with another employer, but was getting to the point where I was trying to figure out my next step; I was not feeling like I wanted to go back to US. I felt a bit stagnant in my role, and was determined that I didn’t want to work in PR in an agency anymore. 

After talking to my two bosses who went to LBS, business school seemed like the perfect opportunity to expand my horizons and really have a transformational experience in terms of my career. I wanted to stay in Europe; I actually never considered American business schools—it just wasn’t something I was interested in. LBS and HEC just seemed like the right fits for me. LBS was very finance focused, and INSEAD was similarly great in terms of engaging people—I went to an event of theirs and really liked it—but the school is very consulting focused, and I wanted a little more generalist background with the possibility of getting into marketing. HEC seemed like a really good fit, and it was the only school I applied to. 

How would you say the education systems or traditions differ between European programs and US ones?

Having grown up overseas, I gravitate toward environments with diversity. At HEC, there are roughly 44 different nationalities in our class. I’m surrounded by people who are not like me. In an office, you are often around people like you—you’re striving for same goals, maybe you have different clients, but you're all hiring each other, in a sense. Here, we’ve all been selected by various admissions officers who are themselves from different places and trying to create the most diverse group they can. We all have totally different backgrounds, and I know that’s how business school is, but I don’t think the international aspect comes through as much in the US. 

Our professors are similarly, from all over—Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Croatia. For me that’s the most enriching thing; it’s teaching you to work with people who are just not like you, which is just the reality of the world. I think that for me the biggest advantage of HEC has been the truly diverse nature of it—and since we’re more generalist, not everyone wants to get into consulting or banking, so there doesn’t seem to be that cutthroat nature.

Also, my class is 137 people; all-told, the school is around 400 students—that’s a lot smaller than a single intake at INSEAD, or any US school. This way I’ve gotten to know my classmates more. You get more interaction in the classroom.

Anecdotally, would you say that a lot of peers are following your path? 

From talking to my American friends and even people here, I hear a lot of focus in general on the fact that European programs are much shorter; HEC is only 16 months, and at INSEAD it’s even less, with the 15 to 21-month option. That was a big consideration for me. In the US, you’re out of the workforce for 2 years, and that’s a huge loss of wages. If you really want to get a solid education and get on with your career, a shorter program like the ones in the EU can be a really good option; it allows you that flexibility to explore. For me, value for money was big driver. What I’m paying for my entire program is what US students pay for a year, and it’s 2 years.

In terms of job opportunities, what’s your horizon like—will you stay in Europe, or head back to the States? 
I’d like to stay here; I realized that sponsorship is challenging, especially in the UK; anecdotally, I hear from friends that once you say you need sponsorship, some companies just shut down. But I also know people have been successful with that, so you never know. I figured for me, I’ve gotten jobs in the US in past—I think I’m going to be employable, even if they have no idea what HEC is. But I’d love to stay in France if I can; HEC is extremely well-known here. 

I’d ideally like to look for Paris-based jobs. Honestly when I moved to London from New York, I was totally confronted by the craziness of New York—the rat race is real. In London they leave the office at 6pm and go to the pub; and going from 10 vacation days to 25 is not a bad bonus. I loved the lifestyle in Europe, and also the opportunity to travel.

%link_box_sc_{"text": "Read: Europe: The Next MBA Frontier for Americans?", "link": "/articles/europe-the-next-mba-frontier-for-americans"}%

In terms of career, I’ve had an interview at a consulting firm, and applied for a few internships at companies. I’d love to get into pure marketing; I’m passionate about the consumer, and would like to work somewhere in-house—I don’t want to be the market research girl anymore.

If you could give advice to an MBA applicant looking to non-US alternatives, what would it be? 

Consider where you want to end up! That’s one of the biggest considerations. That said, you can always do exchanges with other US schools, so if you don’t want to end up in the US or rely on the US network, that’s okay too. It’s not for everyone; I think my own background played a big role in my choosing to go abroad; my family moved to Riyadh when I was 7, then India, so we were overseas until 1998. When I moved to States, I thought, ‘I’m not American, I don’t feel American.’ Eventually I got over that, but there was always something in me that was itching to get overseas again.

I would also consider how valuable your time is. Do you want to take two years off from work? Can you afford to do that, or do you want something a little more accelerated? I haven’t been to US business school, but it feels very full-on—activities every day. I would also just advise that you kind of have to be open to learning from people who are not like you, and your opinion is not going to be the dominant one. And you’re going to end up with a global network at the end of your time here—you might butt heads along the way, bt if you’re open to the diversity, then it will be open to you. 

Headshot courtesy of Margaret Hoffecker

]]> Tue, 23 Jan 2018 00:00:00 +0100
<![CDATA[Europe: The Next MBA Frontier for Americans?]]> After seven years of working in market research between New York and London, Virginia-native Margaret Hoffecker started considering an MBA to expand her career horizons.
An MBA had never really been in her plans, but after talking to a couple of bosses who’d gone to London Business School, the idea starting sinking in. And when she seriously started researching programs, she looked directly to Europe.

“I actually never considered American business schools—it just wasn’t something I was interested in,” Hoffecker says. “Having grown up overseas, I think I gravitate toward environments with more diversity.”

Hoffecker is now at HEC Paris, one of the better-known business schools in Europe that, like many others on the continent, are gaining visibility and appeal to US students looking for something outside of the traditional MBA path. Employers are also increasingly look to hire candidates with a more diverse experience; in a recent study by the Financial Times, employers pointed to the ability to work with a wide variety of people as the most important skill they looked for in management candidates.

Combined with more flexible visa policies and shorter programs, an education abroad could give US programs a run for their money. According to surveys by the Graduate Management Admission Council, more prospective students are interested in studying outside their country of citizenship for their MBA.

“What we see here is an increase in the number and quality of applications, particularly from the US,” says Andrea Masini, dean of HEC’s MBA program. “Over past couple of years, we saw American students who were not only above the bar, but better than predecessors—and I’m sure that some of those candidates who in the past would look primarily at US schools, are now looking beyond the States.”

European MBA appeal

As Hoffecker noted, European MBA programs tend to recruit far more international students than business schools in the US.92 percent of HEC’s MBA class is international, with students from more than 52 nationalities; Harvard Business School, in comparison, admitted just 35 percent international students for its MBA Class of 2019. ESMT, a business school in Berlin, is 95 percent international; only 10 to 15 percent speak German, according to Rick Doyle, head of marketing at ESMT.

“Germany is coming into its own in the MBA market these past years,” Doyle says, noting that while the country had never traditionally been the “go-to” location for MBAs, the launch of ESMT in 2002 kickstarted the competition between private schools and MBA degrees in Germany.

“Before, if you didn’t have a PhD, you couldn’t have a c-title position in Germany,” Doyle says. “German students always wanted to go somewhere else, to have an international experience. But we had a German student who recently said she’d wanted to study in Germany because she wanted to see how international students saw German business; so it was an interesting bit of reverse psychology.”

This element has held a lot of appeal for US students looking to gain a more diverse exposure in their MBA education.

“For me that’s the most enriching thing—it’s teaching you to work with people who are just not like you, which is just the reality of the world,” Hoffecker says. “We all have totally different backgrounds, and I know that’s how business school is, but I don’t think the international aspect comes through as much in the US.”

Cost and duration are also huge factors that differentiate programs; US programs are typically two years, and can easily cost over $150,000 122,610), while top European programs range from a year to 16 months. HEC is 16 months at a cost of €62,000 ($75,850), while INSEAD has a 15-month and 21-month option at a cost of roughly €80,000 ($97,870). An MBA at IMD in Lausanne, Switzerland, which is taught in English, is around €72,000 ($88,080) for the one-year program.

“For me, value for money was big driver; in the US, you’re out of the workforce for two years, and that’s a huge loss of wages,” Hoffecker points out. “If you really want to get a solid education and get on with your career, a shorter program like the ones in the EU can be a really good option. What I’m paying for my entire program is what US students pay for a year, and it’s two years.”

European MBA students also tend to be older, with more experience. At ESMT, the average age is 30, with six years of work experience, says Doyle. The average age of HEC applicants is 29, and the school typically takes students with between three to six years of work experience, according to Masini.

%link_box_sc_{"text": "Video: The MBA Experience in Europe", "link": "/articles/video-the-mba-experience-in-europe"}%

“This implies that the exchange and dynamics in class are different,” he notes. “You come here to learn from faculty, but also your peers.”

And it’s not just Germany and France; Americans are gravitating to MBA programs all over the continent. Business schools that are popular among Americans include Spain’s IE Business School and Esade Business School, IMD and University of St. Gallen in Switzerland, and Vlerick Business School in Belgium. And of course, the UK, with its English-speaking environment and globally-known business schools, is consistently popular.

Post-MBA employment in Europe

Many students are able to find opportunities in Europe after graduation, with visa regulations in places like Germany being much more flexible than those in the US. Doyle points out that ESMT graduates, for instance, can easily receive an 18-month residence permit after graduation, and a two-year work permit upon signing a contract, without company sponsorship. Past school graduates have gone on to work in startups in Germany—where there’s a burgeoning technology scene—and other positions in the finance, marketing, media, and corporate world, as well as at smaller companies in fields like sustainability. But most alumni tend to stay in Europe, Doyle says.

Likewise, Masini says that roughly half of its graduates end up staying in the European Union for work. HEC’s curriculum takes a more generalist approach than other schools—which often lean toward certain niches like finance or entrepreneurship—so its graduates are placed across a rather broad spectrum of industries and positions. “We don’t like to put all our eggs in one basket,” Masini says.

Non-EU citizens who want to work in Europe after their MBA should note that each country has its own visa policies.    

So what are some things to research and contemplate when deciding where to do an MBA?

“Think about where you want to end up! That’s one of the biggest considerations,” Hoffecker recommends. “I would also consider how valuable your time is. Do you want to take two years off from work? Can you afford to do that, or do you want something a little more accelerated?”

As Doyle says, it always comes down to individual decision. “Maybe there’s a personal relationship to someone from the country, or the student has worked for a company from that particular country,” he says.

“Quite often someone just wants something different; sometimes we get US students who’ve left the States for the first time, and want to explore.”

For Hoffecker, HEC was an obvious choice, and the only school she applied to. She acknowledges it’s not for everyone, but says that her background—a childhood in Riyadh and India—played a large role in her decision to go abroad. If Europe does end up being your choice, she says, be prepared to go a bit out of your comfort zone.

“I’d advise that you kind of have to be open to learning from people who are not like you, and your opinion is not going to be the dominant one,” she says. “And you’re going to end up with a global network at the end of your time here—you might butt heads along the way, but if you’re open to the diversity, then it will be open to you.”

]]> Wed, 17 Jan 2018 00:00:00 +0100
<![CDATA[5 Questions on the GMAT with Michelle Miller, CEO at Aringo MBA Admissions Consulting]]> Why do you think the GMAT score is such an important part of the MBA application?

Aringo CEO Michelle Miller. Source: Private.

I find that it is important simply because it has only shown to grow in importance to admissions committees year after year.

Every year when the class profiles come out, particularly at the top 10-20 schools, which is where we focus, the importance of the GMAT has continued to climb. 

Usually it's a small climb, but we have examples like last year at Kellogg, Northwestern University's business school, where their average GMAT score climbed – ok this is off the top of my head – but I would say over 10 points in one year. That's a huge jump in the average. 

So it's important because the schools keep showing how important it is. 

And we would really like to take it at face value when we hear that it is just one part of the application, but I believe the admissions trends show that it continues to be a very important piece of the application.

When you meet applicants for the first time have they already sat the GMAT, or are they more likely to be heading towards that?

The candidates come to us at all different stages of the GMAT process. Just yesterday I spoke to a candidate who had only graduated with a bachelor's degree two months ago, so he hasn't even bought a GMAT book yet. 

He just wanted some tips on "how should I be preparing myself over the next few years?”

And then I get candidates who are applying this year so they're studying for the GMAT right now, they have their test dates scheduled. I also have quite a few candidates where it’s already behind them, plus even more candidates who have taken the GMAT but they're preparing for a retake. 

So if we go back to the guy who’s only just graduated with his bachelor's degree, what are of the first things you tell him about the GMAT?

I tell him that it's a bear. Don't take it lightly. I tell him, “this is not a test you should go in and take cold. This is something that takes serious time and preparation.”

I tell him that it's never too early to start. So even though he and I might not speak for another three years, when he's ready to apply, I let him know it's never too early to buy a book to start looking at so you're not [where] unfortunately so many candidates are in right now. They want to get their applications in in less than three months and they're still banging their head against the wall.”

I encourage candidates to talk to an expert, to go to a math tutor. Find a reputable one with proven expertise and make sure that your preparation is evolving. I think that it makes sense that many candidates will start with some degree of self-study, perhaps they might pick up a Manhattan Prep book – sorry, we call it The Bible – to do their initial preparation. But once they can actually practice and they start to get a feel for where they're at with the material, then it's time to determine whether they need to focus on something more specifically. 

Is there a common mistake you see candidates making with the GMAT or their MBA applications more broadly?

Simply underestimating the test itself. I can give you a more specific example of what I mean. I oftentimes will talk to candidates who haven't begun studying yet and they'll tell me, "you know, I haven't actually looked at the GMAT yet, but I'm not worried about it because I aced my SATs, PSATs, etc." They will assume that that the GMAT is just going to be another quote unquote easy standardized test for them to get through.

And if I could add one thing about MBA applications more generally, candidates often undervalue the importance of campus visits.

Because on paper, a school might look like the perfect match for you. But if you go to the campus, you might find a different culture, or that you don’t really enjoy being there – whereas at another school that wasn’t originally top of your list, you could find that the culture fits you better.

This can also help you avoid a ‘deer in the headlights’ situation. Picture yourself in the interview, where it’s all gone so well and then the interviewer casually asks, “have you had a chance to visit the campus?” You really want to be able to say “yes” in that moment!

What MBA application services does Aringo provide?

In addition to offering a lot of complimentary profile evaluations, candidates who work with Aringo receive comprehensive support on their applications. 

Aringo assists applicants in choosing the appropriate program, developing an application strategy, and guiding them through writing a resume (CV), recommendations, and strong essays.

Aringo also offers assistance interview preparation conducted by interviewers who sat on admissions committees at some of the top programs, as well as assistance in applying for financial aid. We specialize in Top 10 MBA admissions for candidates around the world.

We pride ourselves on being able to help our candidates not just craft a strong narrative for their applications but also course-specific narratives.  

For example, Kellogg is world-renowned for their hands-on teamwork-based approach on campus. So we would want to make sure that we help our applicants explore and explain all the ways that they are strong team members and that they're not the type of person who would prefer to work on an island. 

It's our job to help them with the matching process and then in developing these narratives so that they can bring out those parts of their qualifications and explain why they're a strong fit for the schools.


  • Studying by Pexels CC0
  • Michelle Miller. Source: Private.
]]> Fri, 05 Jan 2018 00:00:00 +0100
<![CDATA[Should I Use an MBA Admissions Consultant?]]> Having someone guide you through the arduous process of making your MBA applications certainly sounds appealing. But how much difference can the support of a consultant really make?

Representatives from two business schools told they generally have no way of knowing whether an applicant has used an admissions consultant.

Virginie Fougea, director of MBA recruitment and admissions at INSEAD Business School says, “we don’t specifically ask the question” of whether an applicant has used an admissions consultant.

“We know that it’s happening,” she explains, “but we tell our applicants that they can do fine without hiring an admissions consultant.”

Cultural differences

“In some cultural regions of the world it’s something that is just part of the admissions process, part of applying to business school,” says Fougea. “In other countries it’s fine not to have any advice.”

At INSEAD, located just outside Paris, French students make up less than 5 percent of an MBA class. What Fougea is able to say is that “the French are less likely to use an admissions consultant than other nationalities,” although the school has not undertaken specific research on this topic.

Rick Doyle, head of marketing for degree programs at ESMT Berlin says he believes applicants from Asia are more likely to use paid admissions consultants than applicants from other parts of the world, but that trend is changing.

But “quite often we don’t even know” if someone has used a consultant.

“If candidates have had help putting together their application, or answering the essay questions, we wouldn’t necessarily know,” says Doyle. 

Duncan Chapple.

Admissions consultant Duncan Chapple says “the fact that schools aren’t sure which people are using consultants, and which people are not, I think that’s a fantastic testament to the quality of admissions consultants.”

So how many MBA applicants might be using the help of admissions consultants?

“A good rule of thumb is that one candidate in three – at the top schools – is using an admissions consultant,” says Chapple.

Strategically approaching your MBA application

Chapple’s work focuses on helping candidates to be strategic, to identify the schools that best fit their goals and then effectively communicate why they are a great fit in their applications.

“I find that almost every candidate I speak to has the same mistakes and exactly the same biases,” says Chapple. “I think what a lot of people don’t realize is that the unsuccessful candidates have got the same statistics as the successful candidates.”

Chapple says that candidates will often look at students who have been accepted to a certain school, and assume that if they have a similar GMAT score, or a similar level of work experience, then that must make them a competitive candidate. 

What they don’t realize, he says, is that “everyone who applies to Harvard has got a GMAT over 700”. Candidates need to be much clearer about what makes them stand out, and which schools would actively seek out these qualities – because it often won’t be the first school they think of.

“A lot of what I’m doing is helping people to clarify their goals,” explains Chapple.

“A lot of people want an MBA because they want an MBA. And that is not a very compelling reason to go to Yale, rather than going somewhere else. The more you understand yourself, the more convincing you will be when you speak to schools about why their schools is the perfect place for you to attend.”

It’s being able to clarify why you and that school are a perfect match that will convince the school you’re the right choice for them, too.

Like putting a square peg in a round hole

Chapple says that when he meets applicants who have had a bad experience with a previous admissions consultant, it’s often because they haven’t gone in with a clear strategy.

“They’ve come to a consultant and said, ‘I’m a square peg. Help me get into a round hole.’ And the admissions consultant says ‘yes. I’m going to help you pretend to be a round peg.’”

Chapple says this can often result in an applicant being admitted to a school, only to discover on arrival that it’s a terrible fit, they’ve lost their deposit and wasted their time. 

“A good application consultant can put lipstick on a pig,” says Chapple, “but that’s in nobody’s interest.”

What makes an MBA admissions consultant worth it

A lot of people come to me after they’ve failed in applications to schools that they love,” says Chapple.

“Changing industry, changing role and changing country: most of my clients are changing at least two of those, and very often three. That means that the question of fit is really important,” he says.

He says if you consider the expected earnings of a graduate from a good business school versus a great business school, “even the best admissions consultants around are going to cost you a fraction of those additional lifetime earnings”.

Michelle Miller.

Michelle Miller, the CEO of admissions consulting firm Aringo, says there’s a common misconception that only candidates who know they’re lacking something will bother employing a consultant. She says, in reality, that’s not the case.

“We know the schools and what they’re looking for,” she explains. “Candidates often do a good job of describing themselves and what they’re looking for, but they forget to draw that dotted line to why Kellogg should care, why [Harvard Business School] should care, etcetera.”

Miller says her company’s work focuses on helping candidates craft a compelling narrative for why the candidate and a particular school are the right fit for each other.

“You need a Columbia narrative and you need a different narrative for NYU,” she says. “You don’t tell each school the same story.”

As well as overall strategy, Aringo and other MBA consulting services offer support with CV formatting, GMAT preparation and interview practice.

‘Why did I get dinged?’

Like Chapple, Miller says she often hears from MBA candidates who have tried to apply on their own and have been unsuccessful.

Miller says every spring she receives many calls from people hoping to figure out why they got “dinged”.

“I would say about one third to almost half of these callers will say ‘I’m completely at a loss as to why I was dinged, because my profile was awesome,’” she says.

“In talking through their application with them, we often discover that because their GMAT score was so fantastic, or because they had great work experience, or went to a great school, we find the candidates didn’t put much effort into the rest of the application,” explains Miller.

In that sense, MBA candidates would be wise to remember it’s about the whole profile.

“Please don’t think that having one great piece of your profile is going to mean that nothing else matters,” says Miller. “Schools really are considering the whole package.”

“Your 770 GMAT score alone is not enough.”


  • Berlin Museum Island CC BY 2.0 (cropped)
  • Duncan Chapple. Source: Private.
  • Michelle Miller. Source: Private.
]]> Mon, 18 Dec 2017 00:00:00 +0100
<![CDATA[5 Questions with MBA Admissions Consultant Angela Guido From mbaMission]]> Why is the GMAT score such an important part of the MBA application?

Angela Guido. Source: Private

Three reasons. First is that it's the closest thing to an objective measure that they can compare all across the country.

Number two: there are years and years of data that have been generated from the GMAT. And then, of course, from students’ performance. So statistically the GMAT is pretty well correlated with performance in business school, even though anyone who takes the GMAT will think, ‘”this is crazy! What does this have to do with what I’m actually going to have to do in business school? Statistically it does seem to correlate.

So it's useful to help schools contextualize the ability of students to thrive in their program. Actually, I’m going to extend this to four reasons! The third reason is because admissions committees have to make very difficult decisions. Ultimately the vast majority of the candidates are great and they can only admit a small percentage of them. So the GMAT gives them a little bit of a lever to make tough calls sometimes. 

And then finally I think, unfortunately, the GMAT has become relatively more important in recent years due to the rankings and schools’ need to preserve and I think advance their reputations via the ranking – one input into the rankings are students' GMAT scores. 

So where schools might prefer to be a little more generous with their judgment, I think some of them probably feel that their hands are tied with respect to the rankings. So, for better or worse, the GMAT matters quite a bit in the process.  

So if someone has decided they want to have a crack at getting into business school. They might be feeling a bit overwhelmed. Where do you recommend people start when it comes to the GMAT? Should they go buy a book? Should they talk to people first? What do you advise?

I think the first thing I would suggest anyone does is to take a practice test. Go in cold, take the test and see what happens. In my experience, most people do badly.

I have a lot of experience working with people to improve their test scores both in a class environment and one-on-one. And it's quite common, with the right work, to improve your score from your first cold test to your final test by 100 points or even more.

If you're targeting a school and you know that you need to have an above 700 score to be competitive and your practice test is a 580, then you know you have a lot of work to do and you're probably going to want to invest in a class.

On the other hand, if you're close – let’s say you want to get a 720 and your first test is 670 – well a 50-point jump is not that hard if you're starting cold. Then you might just buy a set of books and study on your own first. That might be your first step.

The benefit to studying on your own is that it's self-paced, which means if you're close to where you want to be and you can work really fast, say if you've got a lot of time in the coming two three weeks, then you can make quite a bit of progress on your own. The downside to studying without a class is that you lack the discipline, you lack the direct teaching, you lack the regular pace. And the GMAT is not everybody's favorite thing, so it can be very good to have the accountability of a course and the dedication of the instructor. I obviously have a preferred program, and that's Manhattan Prep, but I think what’s important if you're looking for a class, is the caliber of the instructors and the caliber of the curriculum. 

So the further you have to go to reach your target score, the more you are going to need to learn and re-learn the content of the test, not just tips and tricks. 

If you're more than a hundred points away from where you want to be, most people haven't done geometry or trigonometry or algebra since they were 18 or 19 and so really refreshing those concepts will be an important part of gaining over 100 points on the test.

When in comes to GMAT preparation, is there a common mistake you see candidates making, or something they regularly overlook?

So back when I was one of the people who would do the exit conversations with people who had gone through our course and taken the exam and not performed up to their standard. I did hundreds of those calls so I got to see people who had spent a lot of hours working on the test and ultimately were not where they wanted to be. The number one mistake I saw was people underestimating the importance of doing real timed practice. 

You also need to practice for the test itself. Questions written by anyone other than GMAC are not the same. Students really need to get the official guide. You can buy the last two or three generations and there's some overlap in questions but there are a lot of differences. Doing actual test problems under timed conditions – and you can do this yourself with a stopwatch – is really important because being able to solve the problem is worthless if you can't do it in roughly two minutes’ time. 

Any other tips?

Another big mistake I saw was people aiming for quantity over quality. So I'm saying you need to do actual official practice problems and that's true, but don't do 100 problems and only do them and never review them thoroughly, because you're ultimately not learning anything. So I would strongly prefer my students do 20 problems and then spend 40 minutes reviewing them really thoroughly and in depth rather than using that same amount of time to solve 60 problems.

Could you give us a brief overview of the consulting services you provide to MBA applicants and your other professional work?

I help aspiring business leaders understand their unique strengths and values and how to communicate them effectively, in order to achieve their goals and build strong professional relationships.

I do this with MBA applicants through mbaMission, where I help guide applicants through a complete process of self-discovery and professional storytelling so that they can gain admission to top MBA schools. And I do the same with young careerists through Career Protocol, helping people advance their careers within their organizations or through job transitions so they can achieve more purpose and joy in their work.


  • Aerial view of Midtown Manhattan by Jmabel CC BY 2.0 (cropped)
  • Angela Guido. Source: Private.
]]> Mon, 11 Dec 2017 00:00:00 +0100
<![CDATA[8 Reasons To Get An MBA]]> An MBA is a significant investment, in terms of both time and money. But the rewards for MBA graduates can make for compelling reasons for undertaking an MBA program.

And the rewards can be more substantial than just a salary bump. An MBA can obviously help you advance in your career, but it can also help you develop an international network, get leadership skills, and even make a difference in the world.  

Here are some of the most common reasons why people do an MBA.

1. To launch an international career

Perhaps the most common reason that people pursue MBA programs is that they can allow for substantial career shift. 

“Typically changing sector, function and location are the three main changes MBA students are looking to make during or after the program,” says Rick Doyle, head of marketing for degree programs at ESMT Berlin.

Specifically, many use an MBA as a global springboard, to get some hands-on experience in a new country and then even stay in that country to work after graduation.

Indeed, doing an MBA in a new country means that students can be directly in touch with local firms, so that it’s easier to network, and, hopefully, land some job interviews. Doing an MBA in the place where you want to work also has the added benefits of helping you learn about a country’s culture and work customs as well.

Some locations that are popular among MBA applicants are the United States, Europe, the United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia, among others.

If you’re intending to work in the country where you study after graduation, make sure you brush up on the applicable visa rules.

2. To shift sectors or functional areas

Likewise, some students might use an MBA to transition into a new sector— whether it be financial services, consulting, or something else—or delve into a new functional area like operations management or business analytics.

Indeed, in a 2016 survey by GMAC, some 71 percent of prospective MBA students said they were interested in transitioning to a new industry after finishing their degree.

In this case, an MBA can allow students to build on their previous experience, and customize their learning, often through specializations or concentrations

ESMT’s Rick Doyle says that an MBA can help students “explore new areas of business, develop new competencies and a new career plan, while working in an international environment, during their MBA”.

“By the end of the program, students develop managerial and cross-functional skills needed to branch out in new directions and to succeed professionally,” says Doyle.

Graduates of the MBA program at ESMT Berlin have included a Brazilian student who formerly worked in digital marketing in Germany, who went on to work at the consulting firm BCG in Brazil following graduation, and someone with US military experience who went on to work for Amazon in the UK. 

3. To gain international exposure

With students and faculty from all over the world, an MBA program can be a great environment for gaining exposure to other cultures and perspectives within the classroom. Virginie Fougea, director of MBA recruitment and admissions at INSEAD Business School, says that this is a major draw for students who apply to her school’s MBA.

“We see that people looking for an MBA at INSEAD are looking for international exposure or looking to add an international component to their thinking processes and their career in general,” she says.

“By this I mean that they are looking to have in-the-classroom experience, case studies that apply everywhere in the world, or featuring companies from different countries with different thinking patterns.”

Fougea says the international experience of faculty and teaching staff is also something applicants are looking for.

Some business schools may also offer students the opportunity to get international experience through an internship or consulting project.

4. To gain new skills and knowledge

In the 2016 GMAC survey, the number one reason why prospective students wanted to pursue an MBA was that they felt they lacked the skills they needed to get the jobs they wanted. 

Indeed, a recent survey of incoming MBA students at McGill found that some 57 percent were looking to gain new business skills or academic knowledge. “Often we’ll hear from people who say they have really strong technical skills, like an engineer, and what they’re looking to do is gain some business skills,” says Marie-Eve Roy, director of recruitment and marketing at McGill University’s Desautels Faculty of Management.

“An MBA is the perfect platform to gain these skills.”

5. To be the boss

Another reason why people pursue MBAs is to climb the career ladder. Maybe you’ve reached a plateau at your current job, and it would take new skills or knowledge to get to the next level.

And, in the case of strong MBA programs, this seems to be an effective use of the degree. In the most recent Global MBA Ranking from the Financial Times, for example, over 80 percent of surveyed graduates from the London Business School reported that their current job titles were at the senior management level or above.

6. To grow your network

Doing a world-class MBA program will also put you in touch with a wide range of people, all over the world. From your cohort to your professors and even local businesses, in an MBA you’ll be connected with a huge, international community.

And this can be a primary driver for people looking to get an MBA. In the 2016 GMAC survey, for instance, “one of the main goals of people pursuing a full-time MBA program was to network.

Rick Doyle at ESMT agrees that students are interested in what kind of network they will be able to build from an MBA program and its business school.

“If they want to network in a certain business, in a certain industry, or if the university has connections to particular industry, they want to be able to network within that industry,” he says.

7. To get a pay raise

“And, of course, the salary increase is important,” says Doyle.

As well as offering significant opportunities for professional and personal growth, MBA programs offer a good chance for a raise post-graduation.

For those who have attended world-class MBA programs, pay bumps are verifiable, and substantial.  

In the most recent Financial Times Global MBA ranking, for instance, MBA graduates from Rutgers Business School reported that three years after graduation, they had increased their salaries by 130 percent, on average. At some schools, the salary increase was even higher. Three years after completing their program, MBA grads from Mexico’s Ipade Business School increased their salary by 180 percent, on average, according to the Financial Times data.

8. To make a difference

Although landing leadership roles and getting better salaries are perennial reasons for getting an MBA, an increasing number of people are looking to leverage the degree towards making a difference in the world.

This is especially true among baby boomers. The 2016 GMAC survey found that almost one-third of baby boomers who were applying for MBA programs were doing so to transition into nonprofits or the government sector. 

To meet this growing demand, some business schools are customizing their curriculum to include more classes in nonprofit management and even corporate social responsibility (CSR). 


  • Berlin Museum Island with TV Tower by Thomas Wolf CC BY-SA 3.0 (cropped)
  • Skyline - Paris, France at night by Jim Trodel CC BY 2.0
  • McGill Desautels by abdallah CC BY 2.0
]]> Mon, 27 Nov 2017 00:00:00 +0100
<![CDATA[5 Questions for an MBA Working in Tech—Dan Keyserling]]> Can you tell me a bit about your education and career path so far? 

For my undergraduate degree I studied political and social thought at the University of Virginia, which is basically a degree that combines political theory with history and literature. While I was at UVA, I worked for the school newspaper, the Cavalier Daily, for most of my time there. Then I worked in communications for Hillary Clinton’s first campaign, and briefly at the New York Times in New York City. Then I went to Google, in 2009, and I’ve been working there ever since. 

I got my MBA at NYU at night—I attended part-time, and graduated in 2015. I specialized in macroeconomics and management, and I did that over two and a half years; it’s a full MBA, but you just take your classes at night or on weekends. You can do as quickly or slowly as want, up to five to six years, I believe. I wanted to do mine pretty quickly, which meant I had to do a lot of classwork and weekend classes and more or less not take breaks throughout the year.

How and when did you get interested in working in technology?

I never imagined myself working at a tech company when I was in college. I definitely thought I was going to be working in either politics or journalism. The real story of why I moved to New York was that my then-girlfriend got into law school at Columbia, said ‘I’m moving to New York,’ and I said ‘Okay, that sounds good.’ I was actually unemployed for a couple of months during that transition phase. When I got the New York Times gig, it seemed more like what I was expecting to do. But a friend was working for Google at the time, and said ‘you should come here.’ At that point I really admired the company, although it was hard to imagine what I would do there. But I got my first job there as an assistant for a couple of engineering directors. And then once I was inside Google I looked for teams who were working with subjects that I cared a lot about—international security, working with vulnerable populations, defending human rights. And there wasn’t really a team at Google that combined all those things in one place that I could easily find. 

Nine months after I started working there, Eric Schmidt hired Jared Cohen to create a team called Google Ideas, which eventually became Jigsaw; I was 4th hire on that team. Getting there wasn’t so straightforward; as soon as I found out that Eric had hired Jared, I figured out where he was sitting, marched over, and introduced myself. He said, ‘well I don’t have any budget or headcount, I can’t hire you, but if you want to volunteer, you can do that.’ Google has a tradition of allowing you to volunteer part of your time to projects you care about. And because at the time I worked for two engineering directors who had offices on two separate floors, no one knew where I really was, so I just sort of moved my office into Jared’s office. I kind of benefitted from corporate squatter’s rights.

Do you think you needed an MBA for your job? How does your MBA supplement what you’re doing now? 

I don’t think I needed one; no one says, “you need to get an MBA.” I got one because I wanted to go to graduate school—I wanted to learn in a formal environment, and have a kind of structure around getting smarter. I was also a small business owner at the time—my college buds and I started a small coffee shop, and I wanted to learn how to do that better, be a better entrepreneur, business owner, and I wanted to put that process in context of a formal MBA curriculum. I thought I’d learned a lot just by starting the business, but it was really helpful to put a lot of those lessons in context of other lessons people learned creating and running businesses. The MBA also made me better understand what things were going on around me while working at a big company like Google—gave me context, better resources of the decisions that were being made, and allowed me to study rigorously things like macro-economic trends, financial crises, and how markets operate, how organizations like Google participates in all that. I’m really glad I got my MBA while working at Google; it gave me such an incredible place to not just apply what I was learning, but also to steer that knowledge into what I was doing in the future. 

Do you feel there’s a lot of focus on technology in MBA programs? Were a lot of your classmates angling towards a career in technology? 

Every business school kind of has its own angle and reputation, and NYU is known for being a finance-heavy school because of its location and faculty. I was a bit of a rarity there working in technology. I’d say that many were getting MBA for a really specific purpose—needing it within their organization, to get out of their current field, or pivot somewhere else. I’d say that most of my classmates still worked in finance in one way or other. 

Do you have any advice for MBA students looking to get into the industry? 

I would say that even if you’re not considering getting into tech as an MBA, spend some time getting to understand the industry—the life cycle of a tech product, how it gets made, the relationship between software engineering and product management—because I think that even if you’re not interested in delving into the industry per se, that whole sector is going to be increasingly relevant to all other sectors. People with some fluency in how it works are going to be better equipped to work in other industries. 

Also, for people who are interested in getting a job in big tech company, don’t let the perfect role be the enemy of a good role. I talk to a lot of people who say ‘oh there’s only one job I’d consider at X company,’ with an overwrought idea of what they’re going to do there. That wasn’t really my approach. I said ‘let me just get in the door of the coolest place in the world and see how I can be useful there.’ They’re really dynamic. Once you get inside, you have a much better sense of what’s going on. You’re better equipped to make informed decisions about your career. 

Photo: CC BY-SA 2.0/Gerd Leonhard/Cropped

]]> Mon, 06 Nov 2017 00:00:00 +0100
<![CDATA[5 Questions for an Online MBA Graduate—Claire Osborn]]> If you could give me some idea of why you decided to go for an Online MBA instead of a full or even part time on-campus program: what were your priorities, what were the top pros and cons you weighed?

I actually didn't have a choice in the type of MBA program, it had to be an online program due to work commitments and financial reasons. At the age of forty and a with career that I’d never really chosen myself, I decided that I needed to make a change, and it was now or never. Some people thought I was crazy wanting to go back to school, but when you think about it, forty is only halfway through your working career, and I wanted to be on a different path than the one I was walking.

[Before business school,] I’d decided to start a small business making flower arrangements and doing party planning; in time the business grew and evolved from a floral business into wedding flowers, and then into the bridal wear market. After almost 10 successful years in business, the industry was disrupted with the introduction of the internet and I struggled with no real business background to adapt. I felt defeated, and like a failure.

The next 12 years of my working life were spent as a retail manager. Although I’ve enjoyed my career, I’ve always had regrets and lived with the feeling of not fulfilling my potential, so I decided it was time to face things. I looked into many online programs, but Durham stood out for me as it’s triple-accredited, has a fabulous reputation, offered the flexibility I needed to fit around working full-time, and also gave the opportunity to attend modules on campus at summer school. I was nervous—the doubts started creeping back in: was I capable, what if they asked about my educational level, what if I didn’t fit in. However, the faculty staff were fantastic; they treated people as individuals and each on their own merits, background and experience.

Could you give me a brief idea of what the modules are like from a technical standpoint? 

The online modules varied depending on the module topic, which was great as no two modules were the same. I was worried about program becoming repetitive or ‘same process, different subject.’ But each lecturer/module leader had a different way of engaging—some very vocal, with lots of webinars and podcasts, others through discussion boards or group exercises.

The online program based around Blackboard has pros and cons. The pros were that it is self-managing; you can log on and learn at your own convenience and around work and family commitments. The course was broken down into weekly segments; recommended readings, podcasts, recorded webinars and discussion boards. This worked really well for me, as I could watch a webinar during my lunch break, or whilst traveling for work. I also printed the case studies and read them as I got chance during the week when having a coffee. This allowed me to be more productive in the time I put aside to study and join discussions and interact with the other students or module leaders. However, of course with online technology comes technical issues, although these were minimal.

What did you appreciate most about the program, and what were your bigger disappointments, or things you feel really lacking and could be improved?

The best part of the program were the people. I have made friends for life all over the world. The diversity of the students on the course enabled learning and understanding of international business through real life experience. I also thoroughly enjoyed summer school and the meeting the people I had spent many months chatting with—it really helped build stronger bonds with other students and motivated us all to keep on going. At no point during my experience, although it was online, did I ever feel alone. 

The most disappointing part of the online experience was that not all students were keen to engage; this was particularly disappointing when doing group work and one or two individuals out of a group of five or six wouldn’t participate in discussions or add value to a joint assignment until the last minute, but were willing to still take credit for the work.

[Read related article: Inside Online MBA Programs]

Can you tell me a bit about what you do now, and how the MBA has advanced your career? 

I changed career paths and now work as an analyst for Baker Hughes GE in the Oil and Gas subsea sector. It’s a totally different industry from retail and one I never imagined I would enter, but it fits me perfectly—it’s volatile and undergoing a huge transformation as an industry. I now have a new challenge that allows my previous experience to merge with my new knowledge base, and hopefully help change and shape a new era of industry.

I started the MBA with the intention on starting a business again, but this time better prepared for the potential pitfalls. I also wanted to prove I was able to achieve the education I never had, which I did with distinction. I’m more analytical and decisive, I have a better and more rounded understanding built on the foundation of others’ experience as well as my own, and I can appreciate other points of view and rationalize options by drawing on many discussions with fellow colleagues. However, not everything went to plan, as I’ve now got the research bug and want to pursue a PhD. 

Any advice you'd give prospective MBA student trying to decide on an Online MBA?

Stop thinking about it, and do it. If you’re considering it an MBA, I believe it’s because you want to either progress in your chosen career, or make a dramatic change. Either way, an MBA will help build your skill set and enhance your overall understanding of business. I’ve never felt so empowered and in control of my career as I do now.

]]> Tue, 31 Oct 2017 00:00:00 +0100
<![CDATA[Inside Online MBA Programs]]> Glen Menezes had been thinking about an MBA for about five years before he actually decided to pursue one—but there was always too much going on at work. 

“I was working 60, 70-hour weeks as a director at a digital advertising agency, so taking time out to do an MBA was never really a viable option,” he says.

He’d considered an Online MBA several times, but “realistically, it didn’t have the same clout,” he recalls. “It just didn’t seem to have the same standing as a traditional MBA.”

And he thought that until he began looking into the Online MBA at Imperial College London just over two years ago. He did a lot of research, compared programs, and was finally convinced by the format of the course, its professors, as well as the location. “I came to realize that really, this was the only way forward for me.” 

Burgeoning roster of online MBA programs

Unwilling to give up their work-life balance, many young professionals like Menezes have opted for Online MBA programs.

Indeed, in the past few years, Online MBA programs have become more prevalent, and accepted. In 2014, the Financial Times published its first ranking of Online MBA programs, signaling that there were enough good programs out there to warrant an actual ranking. And in 2017, the Princeton Review for the first time ever ranked Online MBAs—a clear indication of the growth in viable and respected programs. 

In the US, the top three rated programs in that Princeton Review ranking are The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Indiana University’s Bloomington Kelley School of Business, and Temple University’s Fox School of Business Management.

In Europe, IE Business School, Warwick Business School, Durham University Business School and Imperial College are also top-ranked programs that have garnered some accolades for their Online MBAs. These programs are also are ranked in the Financial Times’ current Online MBA Ranking.

“We’ve definitely seen an increase in enrollment, and this year in particular,” says Julie Hodges, associate dean for MBA Programs at Durham. She says that the typical profile of an Online MBA student is someone currently working full time, usually at the middle to senior management level. Durham’s program also allows a blended approach, where students can attend classes on campus; roughly 20 percent choose to do it entirely online, Hodges notes.

Imperial College also launched its online course in January 2015 after a long road of research and consideration about how to enter the online market. It had offered a distance learning program in the past, but decided to own its own technology going forward, instead of using third-party software suppliers. 

“For us, the technology was a big game-changer,” says Paolo Taticchi, director of the Weekend MBA and Global Online MBA at Imperial. “Virtual learning environments are typically used to support face-to-face on-campus programs; they were not really designed for the delivery of online modules. So the classic problem you have is the aesthetics of that learning experience—the engagement is very low. So we put a lot of resources into developing the expertise and capacity in house, just devoted to the business school.”

How Online MBAs work

Different Online MBA programs provide a spectrum of interfaces and learning options. At Imperial, the course offers options like video learning, live lectures, quizzes, and case study analysis activities. The approach is that every module is a combination of ten stages, with each stage comprising eight to ten different activities. Modules are tailored to the topic matter, Taticchi notes; certain courses might have more online simulation or case studies, while others will offer more traditional lectures and quizzes. 

“We also work with a teaching assistant to review the material, or speak with professors themselves during live lectures, face-to-face,” Menezes adds. “That’s always really nice.”

The interface at Imperial’s Online MBA program is designed to mimic current-day social media networks like Facebook; for instance, students who sign in to modules can see what other classmates are online, and are able to start chats or video calls. Live feedback tools have also upped engagement; students can vote on certain case analysis questions in class, for instance, and instantly see live infographics about which way the class voted on that particular issue. And the school’s technology also processes a massive amount of data about student usage behavior during modules, allowing the tech team to further tailor the program as it develops. 

Durham relies mostly on Blackboard, one of the most prominent educational software platforms. There are live classes, webinars, group online activities, forums, and case study analyses. Assignments can also vary—from individual written analyses to reflective journals and group presentations. One of the key things Durham has tried to advance is student engagement online, which can always be challenging in distance-learning programs. One tactic to improve engagement, for example, has been to make lecture videos shorter.

“We’ve learned that students don’t want to sit down and watch 30- to 40-minute videos; they like shorter input,” Hodges says. “That way they’re really focused on the learning. We’ve learned from that. It’s all about how we can better facilitate student engagement.”

The value of Online MBAs

There’s traditionally been a stigma associated with online degrees, particularly in the business school space, where, especially for MBAs, branding and pedigree are often prized as the ultimate value. But those in the space—and students alike—are saying that views are changing. 

“I’m not 100 percent convinced the stigma is gone, but I think once people understand the work that’s involved, the technology that’s available, and the learning process that students go through, they could realize that there’s actually a lot of benefits to an online degree that aren’t there in a full-time MBA,” says Menezes, who is currently working at a financial asset firm called Caridon that works with private equity to provide social housing in London.

Taticchi says that the value of an MBA has changed radically in last 15 years; today, it’s more about the learning experience rather than a stamp on a CV that could allow you to net a promotion, he says. 

“If you think about it, a good Online MBA program simulates the way we work today—globalized teamwork, where you can be working on some marketing project with someone based in New York and Dubai,” he adds. “Managing all the challenges of that group work, simply from a time distance perspective—that is something that mirrors today’s job market, and can better prep you than an on campus program ever could.”

Figuring out time management is the top piece of advice Menezes says he’d give prospective online MBA students. “What students really need to think about is their time management—what you’ll need to shift around to get your 20 to 25 hours per week,” he says. “Because you really need to be dedicated to it.”


]]> Wed, 18 Oct 2017 00:00:00 +0200
<![CDATA[MBA Careers in Technology: Landing a Job in Big Tech]]> When Dan Keyserling graduated from the University of Virginia with an undergraduate degree in political and social thought, he never thought he’d be working in the technology industry. 

“I definitely thought I was going to be working in either politics or journalism,” says Keyserling. “I worked for the [UVA] school newspaper, the Cavalier Daily, for most of my time there; then I worked in communications for Hillary Clinton’s first campaign, and briefly at the New York Times.”

Today, Keyserling is at Google, where he has been since 2009, doing foreign policy consultancy for a product called Jigsaw. After college, a friend working at Google had encouraged him to come to the company, and he landed an initial job as an assistant to a few engineering directors at what was then called Google Ideas. It wasn’t until 2015—when he was also running a small coffee shop business with a couple of college friends—that he finished his MBA at New York University’s Stern School of Business, as a part-time student. 

“I don’t think I needed [an MBA]; I got one because I wanted to go to graduate school—I wanted to learn in a formal environment, and have a kind of structure around getting smarter,” he says. 

Amazon, Google, Facebook and Apple all scooping up MBAs

With ‘big tech’ firms like Google, Amazon, Facebook and Apple snapping up more and more MBAs, interest in the technology sector is high among would-be graduate students.

And MBAs naturally gravitate to the hubs, where these firms are located.

Stanford University, in the heart of Silicon Valley, still stands out as one of the most renowned program that feeds graduates into the sector. But other schools are also increasingly funneling graduates into Apple, Google, and other big tech firms. Of the full-time MBA class of 2016 at UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, for instance, almost 39 percent of graduates went into the technology and telecom sectors. And it’s not just schools in California’s Bay Area: of the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business’ class of 2016, Amazon picked up a whopping 34 MBAs. Likewise, of Northwestern University Kellogg School of Management’s class of 2016, Amazon snapped up 23 MBAs and Google grabbed 12.

Outside of the US, there is Berlin’s ESMT European School of Management and Technology, Imperial College Business School in London, China Europe International Business School in Shanghai, and ISB Indian School of Business in Hyderabad, India, among others. 


And as the interest in tech burgeons, business schools are adding tech-specific curriculum to their curriculums. 

Dan Poston, assistant dean of master’s programs at the Seattle-based Univeristy of Washington Foster School of Business, says that last year the full-time MBA placed upwards of 50 percent of their graduates in the technology sector—with this year’s figure likely being higher. 

“Up until about four years ago, we were still sending full-time students to eleven, twelve industries; recently, that has bent more and more toward tech,” says Poston. “The sector is hiring like crazy and they’re paying more money than other sectors, so we see people who come back for an MBA—not intending to go into an MBA—changing their minds after they see those incentives.”

%link_box_sc_{"text": "See the Top 10 MBA Programs for a Career in Technology", "link": "/lists/top-business-school-by-speciality/top-business-schools-for-technology-or-information-technology-it"}%

In response to the demand, Foster has added more classes to its curriculum over the years—for example service marketing, delivering software services, cloud, and data analytics—an increasingly popular class, Poston says. Foster also offers a Technology Management MBA designed for those who already have six to eight years of working experience in the sector. 

“The most popular thing people come back to do an MBA for is to be a product manager,” Poston says. “That’s probably the most popular single job.”

Likewise, Berlin’s ESMT has significantly upped its number of classes on innovation, and reshaped the entrepreneurship classes in the last two to three years, according to Linus Dahlander, professor of innovation and entrepreneurship. The courses now allow students to work on projects for longer periods of time, and integrate professionals from outside the university to engage with students and speak about how the concepts taught in class actually play out in practice.

“That’s been a really good experience,” Dahlander says. “Of course we teach the theory, but you also need the practical side—to get your hands dirty and do the work.”

MBA jobs in the tech sector

For those looking to break into a large technology company, plenty are hiring. Poston says  Foster graduates, being in Seattle, often place into regional giants like Microsoft and Amazon, which was the top recruiter of Foster graduates last year. Non-tech companies needing professionals for the technology side of their enterprises—insurance companies, for instance—are also hiring, as well as consulting firms.

“In our region, most are hiring like crazy,” says Poston. “As one of our recruiters said, tech is part of every enterprise now.” 

ESMT, being more focused on entrepreneurship, sees many of its graduates going into the startup side of the industry, taking positions at early-stage growth companies or going on to launch their own. 

Any advice for MBA grads looking to go into the sector? 

Dahlander says that it pays to closely consider location. “Honestly the place matters a lot; if people are interested in this kind of area, it makes sense to go to one of the hubs. There is something to be said for being exposed to that kind of environment—you get a lot out of the class education, but if I were someone interested in the sector, I’d go to a city that’s known for its entrepreneurship.”

For Poston, it’s: do your research. “I think a lot of people say they want to work in tech, but don’t know what that means. Be informed—go talk to people working in the positions you’re interested in, ask them questions. ‘What do you do all day? Are you happy doing that? Do you like coding?’ Tech companies are moving at lightning speed; they’re not going to hold your hand through the learning process. They’re going to want you to be ready from day one.”

As for Keyserling, he never anticipated working at the most renowned tech giant in the world—which he says was perhaps all a part of how he ended up in his current role. 

“Don’t let the perfect role be the enemy of a good role,” he says. “I said, ‘let me just get in the door of the coolest place in the world and see how I can be useful there.’ Once you get inside, you have a much better sense of what’s going on. You’re better equipped to make informed decisions about your career.”

]]> Mon, 09 Oct 2017 00:00:00 +0200
<![CDATA[5 Questions for a FinTech MBA—Ashley Lannquist]]> How did the idea to start a FinTech club at Berkeley germinate? 

I got into FinTech while living in New York; I was talking to the co-founder of MIT FinTech at a rooftop party in Cambridge, Massachusetts, when he was graduating from Sloan in 2015. He told me about the industry, and at the time I was working in investment management, advising institutional investors on their portfolios. It really piqued my interest, and I started to research the topic on my own. By spring 2016, I started writing FinTech reports for BNY Mellon, where I was working. In the meantime, I had applied and gotten into business school, and right after that, received a fellowship. I won it for FinTech—I was passionate about it, and my essay was how I about I wanted to develop a FinTech club at Haas. 

Can you tell me a little bit about the process of starting the club, and how it’s gone since launch?

Over the summer of 2016 we worked on early documents on how it would form, and then launched the club in August. We grew quickly because it’s such a strong area of interest for students, and we had some very successful early events. One big event was a panel called “The Future of Investing,” and it was on robo-advisors and digital investment advisory. Then the club picked up; we had basically 150 members by year-end, with half from the full-time program and half from the part-time MBA program. 

We’ll have treks to big companies this fall—last year they were SoFi, PayPal, and Visa. We’ll also be focusing on getting things like sponsorships from companies to grow our budget, and get the incoming class excited about the club. While we’re just as active as the largest three U.S. MBA FinTech Clubs—Wharton, MIT, and Columbia, which have been around for a few years—there’s always the risk that our club won’t endure because we don’t have continuity, the next generation. So we have to work to get students excited about the club, identify future club leaders, and engage them.

MIT was the first to start a FinTech club, starting specifically with a conference, then Wharton. I’d applied to Wharton as well, but I thought it was more attractive to start one myself and do it in Silicon Valley, in the Bay Area. I felt that there was a really big opportunity there. 

What’s the conversation like amongst your peers about FinTech? Are most still going down traditional MBA paths? 

I would say that there’s a lot of broad interest in FinTech at Haas. But we’re also in Silicon Valley; we’re the school with the highest percentage of students interested in technology, usually around 40 or 45 percent per year. We’ve got a lot more people than average that are interested in FinTech over traditional finance. They see it as more exciting, fast-moving, and an opportunity to really make an impact in the financial sector. It’s also usually more socially beneficial because you’re building products that can deliver financial services more cheaply, transparently, and directly to the broad population or even the under- or unbanked. It’s also useful in a lot of emerging market countries, and that interests a lot of Haas students. But many people are still interested in consulting, venture capital, impact investing, and “big tech.” 

Do you see FinTech as an essential part of an MBA curriculum?

I think Haas feels that it should be—maybe not a core class but that there should definitely be FinTech offerings, because it’s really the future of finance. And they’re developing more of a FinTech curriculum; the MBA program now has a dedicated FinTech elective that they launched around two years ago. We might have more courses or even a fintech concentration with electives from different university departments in the future. Academia can always lag, but the professors recognize this. 

What are your plans after graduation?

I’ve become really passionate about blockchain, so I’m looking at blockchain companies—startups or innovation centers at large companies, or even institutions. I can see myself going to three places: startups, company innovation centers, or institutions like the World Bank who have blockchain labs where they're developing blockchain use cases. I have a background at the Council on Foreign Relations and interned at the State Department, so the international and institutional worlds are familiar to me. And when I spent time in Berlin this summer, I met a few very exciting blockchain startups, so I could also see myself going to Berlin and working for some of them. I’m currently consulting for one or two big companies outsourcing some blockchain research and development. Berkeley has the largest blockchain community of any university in the world through its organization called Blockchain at Berkeley, and it has several clients who want R&D in the area. 

Photo: CC BY 2.0/Cropped Fintech Blue/Monito. Headshot by Jim Block, courtesy of Ashley Lannquist.

]]> Wed, 13 Sep 2017 00:00:00 +0200
<![CDATA[How FinTech is Making Its Way Into MBA Programs]]> With the $4.5 billion fundraising round for Ant Financial in April 2016, financial technology—or “FinTech”—took center stage. The investment was the world’s largest private fundraising round to date, and valued the Alibaba affiliate at a whopping $60 billion.

Global venture investment in FinTech grew by 11 percent to $17.4 billion in 2016, according to data from PitchBook. And, not surprisingly, business schools have tuned in to the trend, launching either classes or even specializations in FinTech as part of their MBA curriculum. 

“The first important FinTech innovations drew attention as early as 2007 to 2008, but the financial crisis and the changing regulatory landscape created more urgency for change,” says Antoinette Schoar, professor of entrepreneurship and finance at MIT Sloan School of Management. 

FinTech covers technology-related innovations in the financial sector; these innovations have the ability to disrupt long-standing financial structures and change the way we use financial instruments. (Some examples include blockchain—an open, distributed ledger system that records transactions—and cryptocurrencies, artificial intelligence and machine learning, and mobile payment systems.) But they also raise significant concerns around privacy and regulation. 

To help MBA students understand this space, New York University’s Stern School of Business launched a FinTech specialization in Fall 2016, while University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business started a FinTech course in early 2016. UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business and MIT Sloan have been offering FinTech classes as part of their MBA programs since 2015.

Meanwhile, a handful of schools have launched their own student FinTech groups, all of which offer guest speakers, community events, and innovation opportunities. Wharton, MIT, Georgetown, Stanford, and Columbia are some of the universities with established student-led FinTech organizations. 

“We’ve got a lot more people than average that are interested in FinTech over traditional finance; they see it as more exciting, fast-moving, and an opportunity to really make an impact in the financial sector,” says Ashley Lannquist, co-founder of Berkeley Haas’ FinTech club.

“It’s also usually more socially beneficial because you’re building products that can deliver financial services more cheaply, transparently, and directly to the broad population or even the under- or unbanked. It’s also useful in a lot of emerging market countries, and that interests a lot of Haas students.”

MBA classes in FinTech 

MIT Sloan already had a FinTech club and conference more than six years ago, but the school launched its actual Fintech Ventures class three years ago; one year later it initiated a class on big data for finance, and it now also has a class on consumer finance. Enrolled students can develop business plans for their own FinTech ideas that are eligible to compete in the new MIT FinTech Competition. 

“The real push came from our students and alumni,” says Schoar. “I had started teaching classes on FinTech in my entrepreneurial finance class for many years. But several of our students were starting very interesting ventures, and they were eager to have a class to help them deepen their knowledge. We literally created the class over one summer with the help of our alumni and students.”

At NYU Stern, students doing an MBA in general management can select up to three specializations—or choose not to specialize at all. As of fall 2016, Stern’s full-time and part-time MBA students can also choose FinTech as a specialization, a first among top business schools, and take electives from eight new courses.

“We have twice the enrollment expected in our inaugural Foundations of FinTech course, being taught for the first time this fall to undergraduates and in the spring to MBAs,” says Kathleen DeRose, FinTech Executive-in-Residence at NYU Stern. “We're even expanding beyond the MBA program in our course offerings as the popularity of the newly created foundational course has been way above expectations.”

Challenges of teaching FinTech

But with such rapid changes in technology, how does one even go about teaching a course in the sector?     

DeRose says that one of the biggest challenges is to integrate previously independent disciplines in a way that actually translates into leadership. 

“We overcome this challenge by having both data science and finance faculty teach our FinTech courses, and by providing students with both a grounding in the data, tools, and methods using in FinTech but also with up-to-the-minute case studies of FinTech businesses to provide real-world experience,” says DeRose. 

For Schoar, the material does change rapidly, but the fundamentals of financial models and risk management hold, no matter what platform is used. 
“It’s fun to make students see that the underlying financial concepts apply the same way, even if the physical form of the services change—e.g. instead of dollar bills we use our phone or bitcoins, or instead of going to a bank we get a loan through an online platform,” she says. 

Post-MBA jobs in FinTech

There are myriad paths for FinTech-focused graduates. Schoar notes that many of MIT’s graduates go on to start their own ventures, or join start up firms. 

“But at the same time we’ve seen that established firms and financial institutions are extremely interested in hiring people with FinTech and data analytics skills—so there’s a wide array of firms and positions that our graduate take up.”

For Ashley Lannquist, who already works as a FinTech consultant, there are a few paths she considers taking when she graduates in 2018.

“I can see myself going to three places: startups, company innovation centers, or institutions like the World Bank who have blockchain labs where they're developing blockchain use cases,” she says. “And when I spent time in Berlin this summer, I met a few very exciting blockchain startups, so I could also see myself going to Berlin and working for some of them.”

With the pace of growth in the space, there will undoubtedly be employment opportunities for FinTech-focused MBAs. As Kathleen DeRose says, “FinTech is not going away.”

Photo: CC BY 2.0/Cropped/Andre Gunawan, Tech in Asia

]]> Tue, 12 Sep 2017 00:00:00 +0200
<![CDATA[5 Questions about the GMAT with MBA Admissions Consultant Duncan Chapple]]> Why is the GMAT school such an important part of an MBA application?

The GMAT score is the most important part of most top MBA applications. Of course, not every MBA program uses the GMAT but almost all of the best ones do. 

There's something like three layers of MBAs. At the top level you have schools that require the GMAT. In the middle you've got schools that only favor the GMAT. There are schools that prefer the GMAT but they might have their own test. And that can be useful because there are a lot of applicants who either can't get the money together for the GMAT quickly, or they can't get an appointment, or they're a little bit intimidated about taking the GMAT.

The GMAT shows whether you've got quantitative skills and verbal reasoning skills – those are very desirable for employers. If you limit yourself to schools that don't require the GMAT then you are going to be harming yourself. You’re not looking at putting yourself in the most competitive situation.

What does the GMAT score tell schools about an applicant?

The main reason why the GMAT is so important is because it is the best predictor of whether or not people can be successful in the MBA program.

I think most people who are consumers of the GMAT – mostly admissions experts – understand that there are people with certain backgrounds that might have a little bit of an advantage. And there are others, for example people who don't have American English as their as their first language, or people who don't have any kind of international English as their first language: admissions professionals are aware that different people are coming from different baselines. I think, generally, GMAT scores them pretty fairly. 

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There are very few MBA programs that require only verbal skills, where you can talk your way through to an MBA by being a quantitative person. But then the other thing is true as well. You can't simply calculate your way to an MBA. Managers have to be able to lead and challenge and debate and think critically, and to be able to engage in a mature and thoughtful way with the data.

Why do people get so nervous about the GMAT? Is it really as scary as people make it out to be?

I think a lot of MBA applicants get put off the GMAT quite unreasonably. There's a lot of hype and almost a certain degree of hysteria about the GMAT. And I think that that is particularly concentrated among students who are coming from highly competitive career pools.

There are lots of applicants who want to go to amazing schools like Harvard, Wharton and Stanford, where they look for very high GMAT scores, and well-balanced GMAT scores.

Many candidates come from highly competitive groups, where there are some applicants who look a lot like other applicants. Those people often have to score above average in order to stand out in some way. But the reality is that quite a lot of MBA applicants don't have to be that good. A lot of the hype that is stressing people so much about the MBA is really exclusively valid for people who think that they have to get 760 or 780. 

At London Business School where I've studied, for example, if you've got above 700 then that would be good enough for the full-time MBA and if you scored above 600 then that's going to be good enough for the Executive MBA. 

Once you get out of the Top 20 in the Financial Times ranking there are some schools that are going to be quite flexible.

The reality is that although people talk about how difficult the GMAT is, for most people the Maths and English in the GMAT are at the level that you were at when you were 16 or 17, when you were at school. It's a question of getting back to that level and I don't think that is so hard. 

A lot of people with minimal preparation are able to get a score that's good enough for a lot of schools, many of the schools in the top 100. Admittedly, if you are aiming at Harvard, or Stanford or Wharton then you need to work really hard to achieve that. But it's a pity that the whole dialogue about the GMAT has become fetishized about what you need to get into these schools. 

If you had to suggest one aspect of the GMAT to focus on, what would it be?

If I had to pick one aspect of GMAT then I would really stress getting a balanced score rather than a high score. One of the things that schools are worried about is the idea of imbalance, that study groups may be imbalanced or individuals may be imbalanced and it might decelerate the rate of progress.

It's lovely to have a high GMAT score. But, actually, most schools would rather have somebody with a good score on both parts of the GMAT than somebody who had an absolutely excellent high score on one side and then a poor score on the other. 

Traditional test taking would suggest that you should focus where you're strong, but I don't think that works with the best schools.

When you are in your discussions with schools, if you get the feeling that what they really want is a high score rather a balanced score, you need to be a little careful there.

There are some schools that are engaging in a kind of GMAT subterfuge, that they are really aiming for candidates with extremely high GMAT scores in order to raise up their average. So, for example, you might see schools that are offering very advantageous scholarships to students with extremely high GMAT scores.

It’s worth remembering that if you're being used to raise up their average, then the other people in the class might not be as good as you. So be a little bit careful about schools that are pushing you for maximum scores rather than the balance.

Tell us about the work you do.

I focus on helping international MBA applicants to identify the best path to change country, and especially outside the USA. Many MBA admissions consultants benefit from applicants applying to as many MBA programs as possible. My colleagues and I at Human Equity take the opposite approach, and encourage professionals to target the best schools for their career goals. More broadly, I am UCLA’s international alumni careers counsellor and am a doctoral researcher at the University of Edinburgh Business School.

More on the GMAT:


  • Duncan Chapple by private source.
  • Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania WestCoastivieS by Mike Morris CC BY 2.0 (cropped)
]]> Wed, 06 Sep 2017 00:00:00 +0200
<![CDATA[MBA Salaries: Show Me the Money]]> Choosing to study for an MBA often means making a large financial investment in your future.

Arming yourself with as much knowledge as much as possible about your potential post-graduation salary and how your investment will pay off with can help you weigh up the big decision.

Here we explore MBA graduate salaries at different schools, in various countries and regions of the world, as well as in different sectors, to find out who’s earning the most and where you can find the best value.

Some MBA grads in the US can expect to earn six-figure salaries 

In terms of MBA graduates in the US, especially those who studied at top-tier schools, salaries have been going up.

A recent report from GMAC found that average salaries of recent MBA graduates in the US are set to top $110,000, an increase of $5,000 over 2015.

And, unsurprisingly, graduates from the top-ranked programs generally have the highest salaries.

According to a recent MBA salary report from US News & World Report, 90 percent of grads who were seeking work found jobs within three months of graduating – although it’s worth noting that of the 131 US schools surveyed in US News’ annual MBA report, 88 percent of MBA graduates found work within three months, so going to a top-tier school doesn’t make so much difference when finding work.

But where it does make a difference is in salary. Graduates from the rankings’ top schools earned an average of at least $100,000 per annum as their base salary.

The school with the highest-earning graduates was Stanford University, with an average starting salary of just over $140,000. Harvard University MBA graduates earned, on average, $134,071.

Even the school with the sixth-highest paid graduates, New York University Stern School of Business, saw them earning, on average, a little more than $120,000 per year before bonuses.

Compare that to schools lower in the rankings: according to the most recent MBA ranking from US News, for instance, MBAs from the University of Georgia’s Terry College of Business bring in around a still-respectable $91,000 per year; graduates from William and Mary’s Mason School of Business make just over $87,000, on average.

US MBA grads have the highest salaries – but grads in Asia and Europe aren’t far behind

Looking globally, salaries of MBAs at the top US schools tend to be the highest. According to data from the most recent Financial Times’ Global MBA Ranking, US-based schools dominated the top 10 positions for salary.

The ranking, which uses salary data from graduates three years after finishing their MBAs, found that alumni of the top 100 MBA courses from the Class of 2013 were paid, on average, $142,000 per year.

In terms of overall salaries, Stanford University was the top school, with graduates earning, on average, $195,322 per year.

The index was adjusted for purchasing power parity (PPP), a controversial way of comparing the earning power of people in different countries by comparing a “basket” of common goods.

As a result of this adjustment, the Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad (IIM-A) was ranked second for average earnings, with its graduates earning, on average, $181,863 when adjusted for PPP.  

Of course salaries in India are much lower than in the US, and the difference between the earnings of someone with an MBA qualification and the wages of an average worker in India is incredibly vast.

The use of PPP gives MBA programs in low-earning countries an ever better chance of placing highly in the earnings rankings, which can be viewed as a distortion: because, of course, in real terms, most IIM-A grads make nowhere near $180,000 USD. For example, 2016 IIM-A PGP-X grads who landed jobs in India after graduation made, on average, around $36,000 after converting from the Indian ruble. Grads working international made around $110,000, on average.

Across the US MBA programs ranked in the Financial Times’ top 100, average salaries three years after graduation ranged from just under $200,000 per year for Stanford University grads down to $98,464 for graduates of Temple University’s Fox School of Business.

In the UK, the University of Strathclyde Business School’s graduates were earning, on average, $98,105 per year, but the top-earners, from University of Cambridge Judge Business School were earning, on average, $164,462.

In France, the four schools ranked in the top 100 earned, on average, somewhere between $101,596 at Grenoble Ecole de Management and $167,657 at INSEAD (based in France and Singapore).

In Germany, the two ranked schools—ESMT Berlin and Mannheim Business School—had a much more modest range with average salaries of $108,360 and $113,829 respectively.

Salaries for Australian MBA graduates were also more modest, ranging between $100,319 and $131,488 for graduates from the three Australian schools listed in the top 100.

In Asia, Chinese schools’ graduates earned, on average, somewhere between $121,193 and $159,870 when weighted for PPP. Graduates from Nanyang Business School earned, on average, $126,218 per year three years after graduation, while graduates from the National University of Singapore Business School earned a little more at $131,760, on average – still considerably lower than the graduates from INSEAD.

Of course, the range of MBA grads’ salaries in any of these countries is much broader once you move outside the top 100. If you have a certain school in mind for your MBA studies, it’s always worth researching their specific salary figures. Because often, the salary you’re offered following graduation has a lot to do with the name of the school where you studied.

Which industries are paying the most?

The Financial Times’ Global MBA Ranking 2017 found that MBA grads’ salaries in all sectors except education had increased from last year, and that these increases were by the largest amount in a decade.

MBA graduates working in financial services were the best paid, with graduates in that field earning $159,000 on average. MBA grads in ecommerce were the second-highest earnings, with an average salary of $154,000.

Data from the US News’ 2016 survey shows a similar pattern, however they put consultants’ earnings slightly ahead of those working in financial services.

Those working in technology, the energy sector and healthcare (including products and services) were the next-highest earners, respectively.

Those MBA graduates with positions in retail rounded out those sectors with MBA grads earning six-figures, on average.

MBA graduates working in media, manufacturing and real estate earned a little under $100,000 on average per year, and those in the non-profit sector earned considerably less, with average earnings of just $81,776.

It’s important to know as much as possible about your potential earnings before investing in your studies, to make sure your MBA has the desired result on your earnings.

But quality of life in different cities and countries, job satisfaction and future career opportunities are also factors worth weighing up when considering your potential salary post-graduation.

Image: Many dollar banknotes by Jericho CC BY 2.0 (cropped)

]]> Wed, 23 Aug 2017 00:00:00 +0200
<![CDATA[How to Prepare For the GMAT]]> Books, classes, one-on-one tutors, or putting your head in the sand: all approaches to the GMAT thoroughly tried and tested by the MBA applicants who came before you.

So what works best? Probably not pretending the GMAT doesn’t exist. 

The GMAT measures both your quantitative and verbal skills – both essential to good management. But the test is tough and winging it on the day is unlikely to get you into the best school for your needs.

Some applicants require a personal tutor to help bring them up to speed, while for others, some independent study might be enough to get them the results they’re hoping for. MBA application consultants can also help you find the right path for you.

Here we speak to five MBA application consultants about how to best prepare for the GMAT.

Why is the GMAT so important?

MBA application consultant Duncan Chapple says “the main reason why the GMAT is so important is because it is the best predictor of whether or not people can be successful in the MBA program”.

“There are very few MBA programs that require only verbal skills, where you can talk your way through to an MBA by being a quantitative person. But then the other thing is true as well. You can't simply calculate your way to an MBA,” he explains.

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“Managers have to be able to lead and challenge and debate and think critically. And to be able to engage in a mature and thoughtful way with the data.”

In this way, the GMAT measures the skills that will be come very important in your future career.

What’s more, an even slightly better GMAT score that your next competitor could make the difference between you getting the last spot in your first choice school or not. 

“Admissions committees have to make very difficult decisions,” says Angela Guido, consultant at mbaMission. “Ultimately the vast majority of their candidates are great and they can only admit a small percentage of them. So that gives them a little bit of a lever to make tough calls sometimes.”

Guido says that GMAT scores also make a difference to schools’ rankings, which is their bread and butter.

“I think, unfortunately, the GMAT has become relatively more important in recent years due to the rankings and schools’ need to preserve and I think advance their reputations. One thing which is put into the rankings are students' GMAT scores.”


“Where schools might prefer to be a little more generous with their judgment,” explains Guido, “I think some of them probably feel that their hands are tied, with respect to the rankings, and so for better or worse the GMAT matters quite a bit in the process.”

All the more reason for you to make the GMAT a priority as soon as you know you’d like to apply for an MBA.

Where to start?

Michelle Miller is CEO for the Americas at MBA Admissions Consulting firm Aringo, where they focus on the process of matching up candidates with the right schools for their future careers, and working on their application narratives to show how they would be a good fit for the school.

When it comes to GMAT, Miller says candidates come to her at all stages of the GMAT process.

“Yesterday I spoke to a candidate who just graduated with a bachelor's degree two months ago, so he hasn't even bought a GMAT book yet,” she says.

“He just wants some tips for ‘how should I be preparing myself over the next few years?’" 

The first thing she tells him? 

“I tell him that it's a bear. Don't take it lightly.”

Miller also tells him “that it's never too early to start. So even though he and I might not speak for another three years, when he's ready to apply, I let him know it's never too early to buy a book to start looking at so you're not in the case that unfortunately so many candidates are in right now. They want to get their applications in in less than three months and they're still banging their head against the wall.”

Angela Guido at mbaMission says if she catches applicants before they’ve even started studying for the GMAT, she recommends doing a practice test cold, without any preparation, to get a clear idea of where they need to improve.

“If you're targeting a school and you know that you need to have an above 700 score to be competitive and your practice test is a 580, then you know you have a lot of work to do and you're probably going to want to invest in a class,” she explains.

“On the other hand, if you're close – let’s say you want to get a 720 and your first test is 670 – well a 50-point jump is not that hard if you're starting cold. Then you might buy a set of books and study on your own first.”

A GMAT textbook.

It’s also about finding out where your weaknesses are and honing in on those.

“Most people haven't done geometry for trigonometry or complex algebra since they were 18 or 19,” says Guido, “and so really refreshing those concepts will be an important part of gaining over 100 points on the test.”

Pitfalls to be avoided

With so many aspects of the MBA application to consider, it can be hard to keep on top of everything.

We asked MBA application consultants to each share a share common mistake or two they have seen applicants make – and how to make sure you don’t repeat them.

Angela Guido, mbaMission: Practice your test under the right conditions

“The number one mistake I saw was people underestimating the importance of doing real times in practice. You really need to practice for the test itself,” says Guido.

“Practice the problem under tight conditions – you can do this yourself with a stopwatch. It’s really important because being able to solve the problem is worthless if you can't do it in roughly two minutes time.” 

Duncan Chapple, MBA application consultant: Not requiring a GMAT doesn’t make it a good school 

Chapple says the hype and stress around the GMAT can put applicants off applying to schools that require it. Don’t fall into this trap, he says.

“The GMAT shows whether you've got quantitative skills and verbal reasoning skills – those are very desirable for employers. If you limit yourself to schools that don't require the GMAT that then you are going to be harming yourself. You’re not looking at putting yourself in the most competitive situation.”

A balanced score is better than the highest score

“If I had to pick one aspect of GMAT then I would really stress getting a balanced score rather than a high score,” says Chapple.

“One of the things that schools are worried about is the idea of imbalance.”

A balanced score shows your have both the quantitative and verbal skills required to make a good manager.

There are some schools that are engaging in a kind of GMAT subterfuge, that they are really aiming for candidates with extremely high GMAT scores in order to raise up their average,” explains Chapple. “So, for example, you might see schools that are offering very advantageous scholarships to students with extremely high GMAT scores.”

This is more about them climbing the school rankings than it is about you getting the most out of your MBA studies.

“So be a little bit careful about schools that are pushing you for maximum scores rather than the balance.”

Stacy Blackman, MBA application consultant: Find alternative ways to solve the same problem

Independent MBA consultant Stacy Blackman says reviewing practice problems again to seek out new solutions is better than rapidly trying to get through as many problems as possible.

“People tend to forget to review previous examples and to think of alternative ways to solve each problem,” says Blackman.

“They cycle through difficult problems, believing that if they know one way of solving the problem, they'll be okay for the test. Unfortunately, on test day, you will not see the exact same problem, so your score really depends on how well you can liken a completely new problem to a problem you have solved in the past.”

“Without consistently reviewing different methods to solve familiar problems and interpret certain fact patterns, it's harder for you mind to draw the connections you need on test day.”

Seth Gilmore, Managing Consultant at The MBA Exchange: Find a tutor or study plan that’s tailored to your needs

“Don’t choose a test tutor based solely on low price or aggressive marketing,” advises Seth Gilmore, Managing Consultant at The MBA Exchange.

“The ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach promoted by most of the large prep firms usually falls short, leaving applicants frustrated and discouraged. Rather, applicants should choose a prep resource that provides and supports a customized study plan tailored to their individual needs.”


  • GRE and GMAT textbooks by United States Marine Corps CC BY 2.0 (cropped)
  • GMAT Study by Ian Lamont CC BY 2.0 (cropped)
]]> Mon, 31 Jul 2017 00:00:00 +0200
<![CDATA[MBA Scholarships For International Students in the UK]]> Study fees tend to be higher for international students, but don’t let this put you off. There is a wide range of scholarships that cater to international MBA students in the UK, both from within universities and business schools and from external sources.

Most UK business schools have a set of internal scholarships that they award annually and these are generally based on merit and need.

The good news for international students is that these tend not to be earmarked for domestic students only, but rather take an overview of all candidates when assessing the scholarship contenders.

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London Business School MBA Admissions Director David Simpson says the school awards a scholarship to around 20 percent of MBA students.

“They vary in amounts right up to full fees, but most are smaller than that,” says Simpson.

“The vast majority of [our scholarships] are merit based and so our scholarships committee awards these to the strongest candidates. There are also some needs-based scholarships.”

Simpson says many of the scholarships on offer for MBA students at London Business School are grouped into various categories of groups that are underrepresented on the MBA program.

For example, they have scholarships specifically for women, as well as for students who hail from specific regions around the world.

“We have a diverse range from Sweden, Australia and New Zealand, one for candidates from Egypt, a vast variety of different nationality scholarships,” says Simpson.

Additionally, according to Simpson, LBS offers scholarships for people who have served in the military, as well as those who come from specific career backgrounds.

Karen Barker, Director of Recruitment and Admissions at the University of Warwick Business School, says her school’s pool of scholarships aims to “promote gender, geographic and sector diversity, alongside recognition for academic and professional excellence”.

“We partner with The 30% Club, which is a body looking to boost the number of women on company boards” she explains, “and award two 50% scholarships for outstanding female candidates applying to our Executive MBA programs.”

“This year we have also introduced a new Healthcare Scholarship for those candidates opting to complete our new Healthcare specialism and progress their careers within healthcare leadership.”  

Warwick Business School additionally offers a scholarship aimed at candidates looking to move into a new profession.

The University of Oxford’s Saïd Business School MBA Recruitment Manager Aidan O'Halloran says that “the most common scholarships international students receive for the Oxford MBA are in fact offered directly by the Saïd Business School”, via the Saïd Business School Foundation.

And there are attractive donor-funded scholarships on offer, too.

[See FIND MBA's Scholarship search tool to find MBA scholarships at business schools everywhere]

The Pershing Square Foundation offers up to five two-year full-fee scholarships, including living expenses, for top students admitted to the Oxford 1+1 program, where students combine a specialist MSc with the Saïd Business School MBA.

“This scholarship not only fully funds two years of study at Oxford,” says O’Halloran, “but also provides scholars with the opportunity to receive mentoring from world-leaders in social impact, as well as a funded trek to New York City to meet with a range of socially-minded business leaders.”

O’Halloran’s advice for accessing the full range of available scholarships is to “apply early, as the majority of schools offer scholarships in the earlier application stages”.

Scholarships awarded by the school tend to be merit-based. In that case “professional achievements, GMAT scores and performance in the MBA interview are among the factors that are used to decide the allocation,” he explains.

O’Halloran suggests applicants focus on their GMAT scores, because “the GMAT is a core component of the decision making process. The more time spent on practice, the better the score applicants are likely to achieve”.

Researching external MBA scholarships

Many UK business schools list some external scholarships on their websites, but it’s hard for schools to keep track of all the possibilities available to a diverse pool of applicants coming from around the world.

The University of Oxford has an online scholarship search tool that helps applicants to locate potential funding sources based on their profiles.

David Simpson at the London Business School says that applicants need to spend time researching scholarships in their countries and regions.

“I’d advise everybody to do local research,” he says “and, perhaps most importantly, speak to students and alumni from your region and ask how they funded their MBA and whether they know of any channels.”

Simpson says making the most of yours and the school’s network is key.

“Use the research that other people have done as well as looking at websites to see what’s out there.”

Chevening Scholarships and Fellowships

The UK government runs an awards scheme for international students that could be a good fit for some MBA applicants.

“I would encourage international MBA applicants to consider applying to Chevening, which is the UK government’s international awards scheme aimed at developing global leaders,” says Karen Barker at the University of Warwick Business School.

Chevening Scholarships and Fellowships are awarded every year to students personally selected by British Embassies and High Commissions around the world. Applications dates and processes depend on which embassy or high commission you apply to, so remember to check out the details with your nearest British diplomatic office online.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help

If the beginning of your MBA studies is approaching and you’re struggling to piece together funding, most university business schools have a financial aid office where staff can help you explore options you might not have though of.

Aidan O'Halloran at the University of Oxford’s Saïd Business School says that being honest in your communication with your business school will help get you the support you need.

“The [Oxford Saïd Business] School has teams of people who are available to help guide students in their search for funding, including the option to apply for small financial need bursaries that can help students make ends meet.”

“It is also wise to communicate with previous MBA alumni,” he says, “as they can provide guidance on how they were able to pull together funding in order to join the MBA.”

Image: Approaching London by Trey Ratcliff CC BY 2.0 (cropped)

]]> Mon, 03 Jul 2017 00:00:00 +0200
<![CDATA[MBA Programs in Australia: Diversity and Great Job Opportunities Down Under]]> If you think all Australia has to offer is koala bears, surfing and the outback, think again.

With plentiful sunshine, outdoor opportunities and cities open to new arrivals from different cultures, Australian MBA programs are attracting students wanting to develop careers in finance, consulting and, increasingly, entrepreneurship.

The Director of MBA programs at Monash University Patrick Butler says, “Australia really is an open, modern, diverse, multicultural country.”

“People coming to Australia from around the world will find themselves in a really mixed environment.”

Flinders Street Station, Melbourne.

And Professor Butler knows what making that move is like. He came to Australia from Ireland more than ten years ago for two years and ended up staying.

“I was based at Trinity College Dublin and I thought I had the best job in Europe. We just came for a two-year period, our children were very young, and we never went home.”

He says this was partly because things worked out well professionally, but also because his family settled in so easily. “Within a year it was clear that this felt more like home than home.”

In the current MBA class there are 50 students and about one third are international students.

“But if you looked at the class, you couldn’t tell who was international and who was a local,” says Professor Butler.

“The business school programs are populated both on the supply and demand side by an international cohort of people, so we have international faculty and staff and we attract international students.”

Beyond Monash, a number of business schools offer internationally-accredited MBA programs. In Sydney there’s Macquarie Graduate School of Management (MGSM) and UNSW’s Australian Graduate School of Management (AGSM); Melbourne Business School offers MBA programs in Melbourne. On the country’s west coast, Curtin Graduate School of Business offers an AACSB-accredited MBA program in Perth.

Other notable business schools offering MBA programs in Australia include University of South Australia, the University of Queensland, and the University of Western Australia (UWA), among others.

Cultural diversity makes settling in easy

Sydney Opera House and Harbor Bridge

The diversity of the country’s cities means that many MBA students feel right at home, according to Jayne Gao, admissions manager at AGSM.

“Sydney is one of the places you can see different nationalities everywhere,” says Gao. “And it’s really multicultural. Even in one organization.”

“Last night I was speaking to a Russian alumnus and he works at American Express. He said that at his company 70 percent are international.”

“So it’s really easy for students to settle in,” she says. “It’s also very easy for people from outside of Australia later on to find a job in a local company or organization because everyone is so open-minded and they’re very open to immigrants and people coming from different cultures.”

Indeed, a 2011 census found that almost one-quarter of Australians were born outside of the country, and over 40 percent of people surveyed had at least one parent born overseas.

Australia offers plentiful post-MBA job prospects

Beyond multiculturalism, Australia also offers many job prospects for MBA graduates who want to settle there.

“Australia is quite fascinating,” says Professor Butler at Monash University. “We haven’t had a major recession for about a quarter of a century. But we’re an economy that is in transition.”

Melbourne is home to a series of laneways covered in colorful street art.

“We’re moving from a huge resources boom over the last decade to becoming a more knowledge-based economy,” he explains. “We are shifting our dependency on the primary extraction of resources to high-end technology and manufacturing, high-end science-related services.”

“Those kinds of positions are very attractive for people with MBAs, and that’s where the economy is going.”

Jayne Gao at AGSM agrees that Australia offers compelling work opportunities for MBA graduates.

In fact the AGSM MBA has been designed with international graduates in mind, helping them to obtain work visas and employment following graduation.

Gao explains that as Sydney is Australia’s financial hub, many AGSM graduates who stay in Sydney end up in consulting, banking and finance.

“All the big consulting firms, and the boutique consulting firms, they recruit from AGSM every year at our careers month in August and September.”

But the sheer size of the country means that post-MBA job opportunities can vary widely. Australia is home to a large manufacturing industry, for instance; jobs can be found there as well as in other sectors like energy, mining, and media.

Gao says she is also seeing more and more international MBA graduates staying in Australia to start to their own businesses, making use of the both country’s flexibility towards entrepreneurship and their existing connections from back home to develop international businesses.

In Australia if you have studied a two-year master’s degree in Australia then you are eligible for a two-year work visa. From there, permanent residency will be one step closer.

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While AGSM’s standard MBA can be completed in just 16 months, students have the opportunity to do the MBA Extension program, which tops them up to reach the two-year threshold.

“On top of the 16 months students will do another half-year internship or research project,” says Gao.

And students do seem to be taking the opportunity. Gao says that about 70 percent of AGSM’s students tend to come from outside Australia for the MBA and 70 percent of the total cohort remains in Australia after graduation.

Good opportunities to do business with Asian firms

Map of Australia

Australia’s proximity to Asia makes it an attractive place to study and do business.

And some business schools are leveraging the proximity in their MBA programs. For instance, the University of Queensland’s MBA program is designed to make use of this connection with its Global Consulting Practicum, a three-way partnership with MBA programs at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and Fudan University.

Students from each institution form a group to create solutions for real businesses that want to enter one of the three markets, Australia, the US or China.

MBA admissions team manager Caron Crossan says the experience has students making “marketing plans, strategic plans, entry modeling, doing research in a particular field” and learning about competition.

Right now the cohort on the University of Queensland’s MBA program includes just two percent international students.

But Caron says the admissions team would be happy to welcome more.

What might be holding people back, she explains, is the expectation that all MBA students on the school’s program have solid leadership experience.

This expectation is also what makes the program so attractive. As Caron explains, “we’ve got an outstanding leadership focus on our program and the network that people can tap into is fantastic.”

“It’s really the people you meet in the classroom that sets us apart.”

The program is taught in Brisbane, a city known for its year-round sunshine and mild (to non-existent) winters.

“Brisbane’s a great city,” says Caron. “I think it’s the weather, we’re on a river, there are lots of green spaces, there’s lots to do. The people are always outside, cycling, swimming, running, having picnics. It’s a really fun city.”


  • Brisbane CBD by Andrea Ferrera CC BY 2.0 (cropped)
  • Flinders Street Station, Melbourne, Australia by Bernard Spragg NZ CC BY 2.0
  • Sydney Opera House at Dusk by Trey Ratcliff CC BY 2.0
  • Hosier Lane Melbourne by Bernard Spragg NZ CC BY 2.0
  • Australia map by World Factbook CC0
]]> Wed, 07 Jun 2017 00:00:00 +0200
<![CDATA[5 Questions for an MBA Student—Manasy Vidyasagar]]> Manasy Vidyasagar is a Manager at PwC Consulting practice in Hong Kong. She specializes in project management across turn-around programs, change management and transformational projects for investment banks as well as wealth management firms.

Prior to consulting, Manasy spent six years with Goldman Sachs in India and the UK. She was born in India and raised in Muscat, Oman. She moved to Hong Kong to pursue her MBA in 2014.

When Manasy was studying for her MBA at The University of Hong Kong, she pursued the program's London track and spent a semester at London Business School. Manasy also holds a bachelor's degree in computer science and is passionate about traveling, reading books, and swimming. 

Manasy holds a bachelor’s degree in computer science and an MBA degree from The University of Hong Kong with a specialization in Strategy. Outside of work, Manasy is passionate about travelling, reading books and swimming.

Note: the bulk of this interview was done in May 2015 when Manasy was an MBA student at HKU; a follow-up interview was done in May, 2017.

What was your career and education path before doing a China-Western MBA?

I was born in Chennai, India, and did my schooling in the Middle East in Muscat, Oman. But I moved back to India, to finish my undergraduate degree. Post my undergrad, I moved to Bangalore to work in Goldman Sachs. I worked with Goldman Sachs for six years before getting into The University of Hong Kong’s full-time MBA in partnership with London Business School.

What led you to choose a China-Western MBA program?

I was looking for a master’s degree that was in one of the financial centers. In Asia, it’s Hong Kong and Tokyo. With Tokyo, I needed to know Japanese and Hong Kong was an easy choice to make. Hong Kong is a fascinating financial hub along with the rich cultural influence it has which makes it an interesting place to live as well.

I also knew I wanted a fast track one-year MBA. HKU also gives a choice to do a semester at a partner school such as Columbia Business School or London Business School. Since I had worked in London before and was familiar with the city, I chose to go to London Business School. Our program starts with a one-month induction course in Beijing, to learn about Chinese culture and try our hand at Mandarin; then we spend the next eight months in Hong Kong and to close the program we get to do the final leg in London Business School. As a bonus I gained exposure to two major financial hubs in the world.

Why do you want to study and work in Asia?

Asia is in the growth phase; everything is moving towards Asia. It’s definitely a growing local market, and Hong Kong is the gateway to China—it is and has been the connecting link for centuries, right from when UK was trading with China. Secondly, it was closer to home (India) for me.

The program is really for students like me who have had a fair amount of international exposure, and came to study in Asia. There is a good international representation of students from all over Asia as well as Europe and [the] Americas. The medium of communication is English, professors are all fairly global, mostly Western-educated. We also have exchange professors who come in for a semester from other renowned b-schools across the world.

At the end of the day, China’s growing; even if you study in the US, the headwinds are all this way. If you look at Europe, you’ve got the eurozone crisis; the US is unstable, and the UK has the Brexit.

What are your career aspirations?

I’m looking to join in strategy and business development roles for financial institutions, ideally in Hong Kong, London or Singapore. I recently attended a conference, and the speaker was in Singapore just last week—it was an interesting opportunity where I could talk to other job seekers to see where they were also headed.

If you’re going to open up a school in China, or Asia, Asian students still prefer to go to the main campuses in [the] US. It’s a very different market space to design a program that would fit in perspective with the US and China. A lot of colleges are trying it but aren’t able to profit. HKU’s program has been around for more than eleven years now, along with their partnerships, so their resources and access to career development just has much more foundation. I would think it’s difficult for new players to enter this market.

Follow-up after graduation: Where are you now?

Post-MBA, I secured a job at PwC Consulting, where I am a manager. Most of Asia’s banking is in private wealth management, thus as a consultant my first consulting project is on a digital wealth platform transformation with UBS. This has given me insight to a different banking atmosphere from an investment bank. Along with my day job, I am also a co-chair with Woman in Finance Asia (WiFA) in their networking pillar.

Also as a consultant I am able to apply many things from the business school program and understand the Asian business dynamics better. The MBA program did prep me for this job by doing real life case studies and thinking like a consultant. I would also say that it might have been difficult to land this job without the MBA.

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<![CDATA[5 Questions for a Business School Dean: Heather McGregor]]> Having undertaken her own MBA at London Business School while working and raising a family, Heather McGregor had become a champion of women in business, penning a career advice book for women, making television appearances and writing the Mrs Moneypenny column for the Financial Times, where she documented her life as a businesswoman over 17 years.

She was a founding member of the 30% Club, which aims to increase the number of women on the boards of FTSE-100 companies, and she is still a member of its steering committee.

In 2015 Professor McGregor received a CBE, or Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, for her services to diversity, specifically women, in business.

Last year Professor McGregor gave up her executive recruiting business when she was invited to become Executive Dean of Edinburgh Business School at Heriot-Watt University.

Here she tells Find MBA about why she swapped out business for academia, and her long-time service to women in business.

How did you come to do an MBA?

I did my undergraduate degree at Newcastle University in the north of England.

I then spent my twenties working in PR and communications, and particularly in financial communications.

Then I did my own MBA, because I was very interested in business and management. So I did an MBA at the London Business School. I did it part time while working and having a family, which I have to say is the most stressful thing I’ve ever done. I’m amazed that my marriage survived – and I’m still married, same man. But I tell you what, those first years, when I was studying for my MBA, and having my first baby, and working, I do encourage people now not to try and do all of those things at the same time if they can avoid it.

What did your MBA enable you to do next?

Then I went to have a 10-year career in investment banking which was made possible by that MBA. And towards the end of my time in investment banking I worked for a Dutch bank called ABN Amro and I worked all around the world: in Hong Kong, in Singapore, in Tokyo for two years, and I was moving constantly with my husband and my children.

Towards the end of that time at the bank I decided to do a PhD at the University of Hong Kong. I was really struggling to finish it and [I was] doing this part time, also, while raising a family and working and so I took the decision in 2000 that I would stop working as a banker and that I would join a business that I could buy.

I’d always had my eye on this headhunting business, an executive search business, that specialized in finding people in communications.

When I joined this company it was a nine-person company, in a tiny little office. I built it up so that today, 16 or 17 years later, there are now 60 people, and they are in seven offices on four continents.

We fill the top communications jobs for the top companies all around the world from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation all the way through to Vodafone or the Commonwealth Bank of Australia.

So what made you want to give that up for the academic world?

I’d been minding my own business running the company when I got the call last year asking, would I like to go to Edinburgh? First of all my reaction was, ‘you must be joking, how could I possibly leave my business?’ But then, I did think to myself, ‘if I go and do this job, it’s a really special business school because it’s effectively a distance learning business school’, so I got the opportunity to work really globally with people. And also, I’d be in a position of influence with the opportunity to get more women to do an MBA.

The good thing about owning your own company is that you don’t have any shareholders to explain your decision to. I only had to explain to my husband.

And so I moved to Edinburgh to take on this leadership role.

How does your role at Edinburgh Business School fit in with your support of women in business?

One of the reasons I took this position, and gave up a very successful business and took a big decrease in compensation, is that our MBA is quite different to other MBAs. You take it unit by unit, and there’s no time limit.

So if you’ve done three of your nine units and then you have a baby, and you can’t keep going, you can stop for a bit and then come back. That, to me, is so helpful for women.

My vision is to enable more women to try it out, because I think it’s a model that will work, especially for women who are working and have families and so on.

What does your work life look like today?

The business school is my full-time job, but I also sit as a board director of a public company in the UK and a public company in the US.

I have a CBE for services to diversity, which is a UK government honor. And this year, 2017, the government has asked me to join the very small group of people who recommend to the Queen and the Prime Minister who in the business community in the UK should be honored. So I now sit on what they call the honors committee: economy, which means that I recommend which businesspeople are given public honors.

The business school, by two company directorships and the committee keep me very busy, as do my three children.

Image: Professor Heather McGregor by Neil Hanna for Heriot-Watt University

Header image: Edinburgh street by Tatters CC BY 2.0 (cropped)

]]> Wed, 03 May 2017 00:00:00 +0200
<![CDATA[MBAs in New Zealand: Native English, Internationally Recognized Education & Jobs Aplenty]]> For MBA applicants looking to study in a native English setting, it’s definitely worth looking outside the most common options like the US, Canada and UK.

On closer inspection, a not-so-obvious choice like New Zealand has a lot to offer the international students who choose to make its shores home while they study.

“New Zealand is a stunningly beautiful country with low population and renowned for its clean green image,” says Ken Lee, MBA director at Auckland University of Technology. “In addition to high quality education opportunities it provides a wide range of outdoor pursuits and activities, and its growing economy provides employment opportunities for good quality graduates.”

This combination of internationally recognized education, Lord of the Rings scenery and mountains and beaches all within easy reach of the cities is enough to compel tens of thousands of international students to set off for New Zealand every year.

Otago University is found in Dunedin, a quaint city with Scottish history set in the nation’s far south.

Dunedin railway station

Director of Executive Programs at Otago University’s Business School Ian Lafferty says Dunedin is “a real university city – well, maybe more of a ‘town’ for some international students – but it’s certainly got a real university feel”.

It’s this community feel, along with Dunedin’s scenic coastline and proximity to mountains for skiing and snowboarding that have helped bring foreign students to the small city in the south.

“We do attract a lot of international students to Otago,” says Lafferty, “but specifically to the MBA. The majority of our students are international students so diversity is one of the biggest aspects of our program, in terms of the student body and also the teaching body.”

This year Otago University’s full-time MBA is a class of 24 students from 12 different countries including Canada, Denmark, the USA, China, Malaysia, Vietnam, Lebanon, New Zealand and even one student who identifies as Kurdish.

Map of New ZealandJob opportunities abound

Lafferty says he has seen more and more international students wanting to stay in New Zealand after they finish their MBA.

“Previously it was that they would come to study and then go home. But now the vast majority of our international students want to stay in New Zealand.”

Thankfully, the opportunity to stay and find work is something the New Zealand immigration authorities support.

“The government here has introduced a one-year job search visa so anybody who completes an MBA gets to stay for an extra year after they graduate to look for a job,” says Lafferty.

“I think New Zealand is quite attractive to international students in that regard.”

And MBA students at Otago are certainly taking up the opportunity.

“I’d say in general 90 percent of our international students want to stay. In fact, in last two or three years, they have all stayed and they have all got jobs, which is good news.”

Lafferty says a few Otago MBA graduates have stayed in Dunedin, working at local firms like Fisher & Paykel, a New Zealand appliances manufacturer.

But most end up in Auckland, New Zealand’s largest city where there are more work opportunities.

View across Auckland Harbor to the city.

Auckland is the world’s largest Polynesian city, and is home to a diverse range of cultures, particularly from Asia: soon people with an Asian background will make up 25 percent of Auckland’s population.

It’s the city with the most businesses and jobs and it’s also a comfortable, friendly place for newcomers.

Auckland University of Technology’s AUT Business School is located in the heart of downtown Auckland, offering close proximity to the central business district and job and networking opportunities.

AUT Business School

Ken Lee at AUT says the staff on its MBA program are focused on helping students find local jobs.

“International students have a lot of support in the university to enhance their employability and prepare for when they graduate,” says Lee.

“The university recommends students to network, work part time, volunteer and be active in extracurricular activities during their studies, all of which will make the students’ profile more attractive and stand out when they are looking for work opportunities.”

Director of Executive Development Programs at the University of Canterbury’s College of Business and Law David Shearer says that understanding the job opportunities available at graduation is also a focus for students on Canterbury University’s MBA programs.

There, about 40 percent of students on the MBA program are from outside New Zealand.

Earthquake rebuild creates ongoing opportunities

Christchurch’s 2011 earthquake left destruction, but also created plenty of jobs. Today, six years on, the Canterbury region—which is situated on the east coast of the country’s South Island—still has a growth rate of 6.8 percent.

“We’ve got all the professional jobs available and we need more people for them,” says Shearer.

“The recovery, whilst initially was all about engineering and construction, has now filtered down into the other growth sectors and the likes of high-tech manufacturing. So we’re not talking large steel mills here, we’re talking large manufacturers who’ve got 450 staff.”

Many graduates already have technology industry experience, and there are opportunities in the Canterbury region for them to move back into those sectors but in management positions, armed with their new skills.

There are also jobs in professional services consulting companies, including finance, accounting, software and strategy.

Students on both the MBA and EMBA programs undertake business projects, which is an important way for international students to connect with employers.

It’s also a way to encourage more employment of foreign graduates.

“Having [businesses] work with international students is a great way to help change their thinking about where they’re going to source staff,” says Shearer.


  • Moeraki Boulders, Otago by Max Pixel CC0 (cropped)
  • Dunedin Railway Station, Dunedin, New Zealand by Antilived CC BY 2.0
  • New Zealand map by World Factbook CC0
  • Bayswater Marina, Auckland, New Zealand by Bayswater marina CC0
  • WF (School of Business) Building at Auckland University of Technology city campus in Auckland, New Zealand by PlanningAUT CC0
]]> Wed, 19 Apr 2017 00:00:00 +0200
<![CDATA[Post-MBA: The Work Visa Rundown]]> In an increasingly globalized world, students from all corners of the world are migrating to other countries to do pursue their MBAs. And for myriad reasons, many will choose to stay in their study abroad locale after graduating. But work visas can be legally vexing for many students, depending on their country of citizenship and the laws of the country in which they wish to remain.

Here’s a rundown of the requirements for work visas in countries popular among MBA students:

USA: The OPT visa and other options

For a foreign student who’s completed his MBA in the US, there are a few options. The first is a legal period of 12 months after graduation, called the Optional Practical Training (OPT), which allows the graduate to work, intern or freelance in his/her field of study.

One of the most common ways for a graduate to stay in the US is to be sponsored by an employer for an H-1B visa. It is used by the vast majority of international MBA graduates from US schools, and provides work authorization for up to three years. Since the government has tightened its visa policies and reduced the annual quota for the number of H-1B visas available, it requires stringent planning from you and your employer: the application is due on April 1, and even if it is approved, the status is not valid until October of that year. The H1B is also awarded through a lottery process, meaning many foreign MBA graduates still fail to obtain the visa and are forced to either return home or seek other countries of residency.

“There is greater demand each year for H1B numbers, so it has become more difficult for employers to secure work visas for international students,” says Kurt Piemonte, a career and immigration advisor at Harvard Business School. International students comprise around 33-35% of Harvard’s MBA class, and about 55% of HBS’ graduating international students remain in the United States to work after graduation.

A lesser-known alternative to the H-1B is the O-1 visa, which is for individuals with extraordinary ability in their field. Obtaining this status may require an employer sponsor, although it’s also possible to do it on your own. The standard to establish exceptional ability is extremely high; he/she will need to have sustained national or international acclaim and coming temporarily to the US to continue work in their specific area.

Lastly, there is a class of E-visas for foreign nationals interested in starting their own business. (If a foreign national starts a business in the US and makes a substantial financial investment into that business, the person may be able to obtain immigration status with an E visa in order to operate the business. Depending upon the graduate’s country of citizenship, he or she might be eligible for an investor or E visa which does not require a specific amount of investment.)

Canada: Three-year post-MBA work visa

Canada automatically offers all students who complete a two-year master's degree the right to stay and work in the country for three years (one-year MBA programs offer a one-year work permit.) Graduates don’t need an employer sponsor, and are not restricted to working in a particular field. After that allotted time, it’s possible to be eligible to stay in Canada permanently under one of the immigration programs managed through the Express Entry system. Canada has increasingly become a popular place for prospective MBA students because of their favorable visa policies in comparison to other competitive MBA locations.

UK: Changing post-MBA visa rules

Up until 2012, students could work in the UK for two years after graduation. But new regulations require students to secure a job offer from a licensed employer as part of the Tier 2 visa scheme, forcing graduates to line up a job before they receive their diploma. The Tier 1 graduate entrepreneur visa also allows students with a credible business plan to stay in the UK for up to one year. Applicants for this visa must be endorsed by a UK government office or by an authorized UK institution of higher education.

Australia: Post-study work stream visa

The Temporary Graduate visa (subclass 485) allows graduates to work in Australia temporarily after they finish their studies. “The Post-Study Work stream” of visas grants a visa for two, three or four years, depending on the graduate’s educational qualification. However, this is only given to those who have “undertaken this study in no less than 16 calendar months,” meaning that those who pursue 12-month MBA programs are not eligible.

New Zealand: Two post-MBA visa tracks

New Zealand offers two visa tracks for MBA graduates who want to stay in the country: the open post-study work visa, which grants you up to 12 months to get a job in your field; in the interim you can work at a job in any field to support yourself. Then there’s the employer-assisted post-study work visa, which relates to a specific job with a specific employer, and allows you to stay in the country to work for another two years or three years.

Europe: Each country has its own post-MBA work visa rules

It’s highly possible to pursue a career in Europe after your MBA for non-European Union nationals, but there are a few factors to take into consideration when deciding which country in which to work, as certain countries are more open to foreigners than others. Language is also a consideration, as not knowing the local language could limit job opportunities in certain places. All European countries have different post-MBA visa rules, below are a few examples.

France: Graduates can apply for a temporary residence authorization (Autorisation Provisoire de Séjour), which allows the graduate to work and remain in France on a student status for up to one year while applying for jobs. After the 12 months—or when he/she has found a job—the graduate will have to apply for a status change with proof of employment.

Germany: Foreign graduates of German MBA programs can apply to extend their existing student residence permits for up to 18 months and work unrestricted, as long as they have evidence of their degree, health insurance and enough financial support. After finding employment, graduates can apply for a residence permit, which come in many varieties depending on the kind of work that is found.

Ireland: Graduates can apply for a non-renewable extension to their student status for a twelve month period to seek full time employment. After this period, graduates can apply for a work permit, initially issued for a period of up to two years and renewable after that. This generally applies to jobs with an annual salary of €30,000 or more.

Singapore: New visa rules

Singapore has long been an international business hub, so its policies are relatively straightforward. MBA graduates can be sponsored by an employer for an Employment Pass, which grants first-time candidates up to two years of residency, with the ability to renew for up to three years. New rules established the beginning of 2017, however, require applicants to earn a fixed monthly salary of at least $3,600. Alternatively, the EntrePass also offers eligible foreign entrepreneurs up to one year in the country to start a business.

Hong Kong: 12-month post-MBA visa

Like Singapore, Hong Kong has long been a business hub and popular locale for international business students, so its visa policies are also favorable for those looking to remain after their MBA. The government’s Immigration Arrangement for Non-local Graduates (IANG) allow you to stay for 12 months after graduation to seek jobs, with the ability to renew for another 2 to 3 years. If you graduated less than 6 months before your application for the IANG, you do not need an employment offer for your application.

Image: Beatrice Murch/Residency Paperwork for Argentina (CC BY 2.0)

]]> Mon, 10 Apr 2017 00:00:00 +0200
<![CDATA[Gender Equality in MBAs]]> In 2010 Harvard Business School made an unprecedented decision, led by the university’s first woman president: the school was going to get a gender makeover.

The class of 2013 became guinea pigs in a two-year study and experiment to improve the quality of student life and career outcomes for the women graduating from the business school.

What the study found was not totally surprising: women students said they found the business school to be a hostile environment where they were judged by their looks and pigeonholed into being either “hot” or “smart”, never both.

Women students – some of the smartest in the country who had fought hard for competitive study placements – were silencing themselves in a bid to be liked. And they lacked role models, with female academics making up only 20 percent of the tenured faculty.

In response, the business school undertook an experiment to improve the learning environment for women students and offer them more women role models, with researchers and counsellors partaking in classes and running discussion groups to guide students, staff and faculty through the experiment.

By graduation, female teachers and students had increased performance levels, class participation, and were winning more awards. However, many male students reported feeling resentful of this attention on female success.

In 2017 business schools still face an uphill battle for gender equality: to create it for their women and sell it to men.

For MBA programs, gender equality means better representation of women students on MBA programs. It also means more support for job placements and the skills women need to succeed in male-dominated industries where they face the glass ceiling and the gender pay gap.

One school working hard to change the proportion of women studying on its MBA programs is the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith (RHS) School of Business, which has set the goal of 50/50 representation of women by 2020.

Sharon Strange Lewis is the schools’ senior director of Women and Diversity Initiatives. Strange Lewis was a student on Maryland’s MBA herself, graduating in 2005. She says she remembers there being 23-25 people in her class, but only four were women. She was the only African-American woman in her cohort.

Today women make up 36 percent of the Executive MBA class at the University of Maryland, 35 percent of the full-time MBA, 34 percent of the part-time MBA and 30 percent of the online MBA.

“So we still have – definitely – room to grow,” says Strange Lewis. “That’s why we’re trying to make a serious effort to really amp up our pipeline.”

At her school the pipeline approach means exposing young women and girls to business education early-on and supporting them through business school, into employment and beyond.

That view to post-graduation employment has proven fruitful, with Maryland bucking the job placement trend: “our women graduates have a higher rate of job placement than our men,” she says.

The pipeline approach

One organization that also recognizes the need for a pipeline of women in business is the 30% Club, launched in 2010 with the aim of getting at least 30 percent female representation on the boards of FTSE-100 companies in the UK. Thirty percent is said to be the critical point at which a group stops being a minority and becomes a mainstream voice.

Today women have 27 percent representation on FTSE-100 boards, up from 12.5 percent when the program launched.

According to Francoise Higson, Business Manager at ANZ Bank in London and 30% Club steering committee member, “It was apparent from the get-go that it’s no use us getting to the minimum 30 percent we’re aiming for on FTSE-100 companies if we haven’t got a sustainable pipeline of senior women coming up beneath that in order to feed into it and make it sustainable.”

As a result, the 30% Club began to work on what it calls a ‘schoolroom to board room continuum’. The organization now partners with a number of top business schools—such as London Business School and the University of Cambridge’s Judge Business School—providing scholarships to women applicants to incentivize more women to undertake an MBA.

Higson says offering scholarships is an important way to support women in business because “financial barriers seem to be more of a problem for female applicants than it is for males”.

As women generally go on to earn less than men, it takes them longer to pay off study loans, making post-graduate study less attractive for women.

Edinburgh Business School offers two 30% Club scholarships: one for the one-year MBA on-campus in Scotland, available to applicants from around the world. The other is for the part-time MBA in Malaysia, which allows a woman to continue her work while earning an MBA.


The Dean of Edinburgh Business School Heather McGregor says she designed the new one-year MBA on the Edinburgh campus with the needs of entrepreneurs – and female businesswomen – in mind.

McGregor—who wrote the Mrs Moneypenny column in the Financial Times­—notes that globally, there seems to be little variation in gender equality among MBA programs.

“I just came back from a weekend teaching in Myanmar,” she says, “and even there, about one third of the class were female.”

“It’s about 35 percent everywhere [we teach]. The question for me now is why is it not 50 percent?”

Berkeley throws down the gauntlet for other top business schools

Top-tier business schools are often accused of dragging the chain when it comes to gender equality on their MBA programs.

With higher salaries on average, men are better able to afford the most expensive programs, they have higher rates of job placement and their incomes continue to increase post-MBA at a rate much higher than women.

But one top school standing out from the pack is the Haas School of Business at the University of California Berkeley. There, they currently have 40 percent women students overall, across all their MBA programs.

The school’s Gender Equity Initiative, launched by the MBA class of 2015 after realizing that only 29 percent of their classmates were women—worked closely with the Haas admissions office to ensure things would change.

And it worked: As a result of their efforts, the class of 2016 had 43 percent female representation.

Peter Johnson, the Assistant Dean for the full-time MBA and admissions says what made the difference wasn’t the minor uptick in the number of women applying, but rather an increase in the number of women who, after being offered places on the program, decided to accept them.

He credits the Gender Equity Initiative with the jump in female students, as they were able to mobilize classmates to talk with prospective students about what it’s like to study at Berkeley-Haas as a woman.

“I think one of the challenges that all business schools face is that some women, perhaps in the past, have self-selected out of applying to business schools or have not opted to accept an offer of admissions because they’re unsure how the program will fit with their career goals,” says Johnson.

“They might have the impression that business schools are not friendly for women in the same way that, I think, a lot of areas of business have long been considered to be predominantly led by men.”

Three years ago, another initiative targeting gender discrimination was launched at the school: the Manbassadors Program.

Johnson explains, “they’re men that are basically helping educate their peers about how women are not always viewed equally in the workplace and how men, working together with women, can change that environment.”

“I think all these things have helped to make strong female MBA candidates feel that this is a place where they can thrive and move forward and, in other words, to create the environment which is a welcoming place for MBA students of all genders.”

Image credits:

  • Women’s Leadership Symposium (U.S. Marine Photo by Cpl. Natalie M. Rostran/Released)
  • Good Morning Edinburgh by Dave Sutherland (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)
]]> Mon, 03 Apr 2017 00:00:00 +0200
<![CDATA[Common MBA Admissions Interview Questions]]> You could spend hours Googling the perfect answers to those tricky MBA interview questions.

But you might be better off sticking with your own, more genuine answer.

Here we cover some of the most common MBA admissions interview questions, with admissions interviewers offering their advice on how best to answer them and get the most out of your interview.

Tell me a bit about yourself

You’ve only just sat down in the interview room, and they hit you with this incredibly broad, devastatingly all-encompassing request.

It’s the stuff of MBA applicant nightmares. But do interviewers even use this question?

“We don’t usually use such an open-ended question,” says Erin Town, MBA Admissions Director at the University of Washington’s Foster School of Business.

“But we might ask something along the lines of, ‘tell me a little bit about how you got to where you are today, in terms of your work experience’, or ‘walk me through your résumé.’”

“I think in most cases interviewers – and this is the case for us – are looking for a quick summary.

Town continues: some “candidates fall into the trap of walking through every single detail of their résumé and how they got to where they are now, and we’re looking a bit more for the big picture of it.”

Town says interviewers tend to have the résumé already in front of them. “So it’s more about how they tell their story, not so much about the little details.”

Marcel Kalis, who serves as a member of the admissions committee at the European School of Management and Technology (ESMT) in Berlin as Head of Career Services, agrees.

“I had an interview this morning and I asked this as the first question, but it’s more about the structure of how people respond.”

Kalis says that ESMT’s relatively small cohort sizes – typically 60-70 students – mean that everyone is expected to contribute, “so we want to see that their communication skills are good enough to participate in this activity”.

Nicole Tee, Director of Graduate Studies at Nanyang Business School in Singapore says that their admissions interviewers are unlikely to use such a broad question, but that “every candidate will get a different set of questions depending on what area of their profile we want to go into”.

Still, she says it’s all about assessing how an applicant communicates.

“We’re looking at their communication skills, whether they’re able to communicate with passion and conviction, whether they’re able to express their ideas clearly, whether they’re focused and really know why they want to do an MBA at this point in their lives.”

She says, “by hearing their responses, you hear whether this person has clarity of thought in terms of their goals”.

What are your strengths and weaknesses?

Erin Town at Foster School of Business says that their admissions team uses anecdotal questions to gauge applicants’ ability to face challenges.

“We’re really assessing candidates’ abilities to accept and learn from feedback, to seek other opportunities to prove themselves, their self-awareness, their ability to work with others and thrive in that environment.”

“Those questions are a lot of the types of ‘tell me about a time when…’ questions, so ‘tell me about a time when you had to ask for help’, or ‘tell me about a time when a project you were working on wasn’t going in the right direction and you had to start over’.”

Town says they may also ask about a compliment or criticism the applicant has received.

“I find that candidates have a much easier time coming up with a criticism that they’ve received, and then the compliment is harder,” she says. “We want candidates to be really self-reflective and self-aware and humble, but at the same time we want to see that they’re proud of their achievements and that they’re aware of their strengths too.”

Marcel Kalis at ESMT says that he might ask, ‘what do you think will be your greatest challenge?’

But, he says he’s not so in favour of these questions because applicants can prepare by looking up strategic answers online, rather than giving their own, more genuine answers.

He and Nanyang’s Nicole Tee both say they sometimes use questions about strengths and weaknesses when they want to assess a personality trait, such as dominance, cultural awareness or tenacity, and how that might impact on an applicant’s ability to interact with their classmates.

Why an MBA, and why now?

Foster School of Business’s Erin Town says, “we tend to ask what they want to do next in their career. And we assume that we’ll obviously get to, ‘why do you need an MBA to do that?’”

But what we’re wanting to see is that they’ve thought about their short and long-term goals, and that the MBA is not the goal itself.”

“We don’t expect our candidates to know exactly what they want to do when they graduate, but we want to see that they’ve put some thought into it and they’ve done some research. So we tend to ask them a lot of questions actually about their plans.”

Why are you interested in this school or program specifically?

This question is an opportunity for you to show how well you have prepared, according to Kalis at ESMT.

“We would like to encourage people to prepare in a way so that they’ve talked with current students, that they’ve talked with alumni, that they’ve absorbed the information we publish on our website.”

Town at the Foster School of Business says, “I might ask them, ‘what were the top three qualities you were seeking in an MBA program?’ to try and understand how we ended up at the top of their list. I think people who’ve done their research have no problem thinking about ‘well this is what I’m looking for in an MBA, and this is what I see in your school’.”

She says applicants show they’re willing to go the extra mile if they can be specific about how they plan to spend their time on the program. “Maybe there are specific companies they want to connect with, or there are projects or opportunities that we offer.”

While an interviewer might not ask about your expectations of the program directly, admissions teams are looking to ensure that what you expect to get out of a school and MBA program matches up with what they have to offer.

Town says, “we try to understand what gaps they’re seeing in their own experience or abilities that’s preventing them from [achieving their goals] now, and then we eventually get to ‘how is the MBA going to help you fill in those gaps?’.”

Kalis at ESMT says he’s also interested to know what an applicant expects to do after their MBA. He says that understanding what a student expects to get out of their program is important. “They invest a lot of time and money in their MBA, can we deliver what they expect?”

Think about what you have to offer

The need to meet expectations runs both ways. Schools also want to know how you can add value to their program.

“I think one of the things we ask that sometimes surprises people is, ‘what are your interests, what are your hobbies, what do you do outside of work?’,” says Tee at Nanyang Business School

“I think this sometimes takes people by surprise and they might wonder, ‘why does that matter?’ But we’re looking for well-rounded people who are not only focused on work or studies. We want interesting people with interesting backgrounds and experiences which they can bring in to enrich the experiences of their fellow MBA classmates.”

Showing a willingness to give of yourself can be key.

“I think it’s nice when applicants prepare something on how they can contribute to the school and what other people can learn from them,” says Kalis at ESMT. “What are they bringing that other people can profit from?”

And he says that doesn’t end once you’ve got your certificate in hand. ESMT is looking to turn out alumni who can serve as ambassadors for the school.

“That’s another factor: are students willing to give back after their MBA?”

Finally, do you have any questions?

Kalis says he always asks this question at the end, and that interviewees tend to use the time to ask for more specific details about the academic program, or about support they may require, such as with housing or scholarships.

This is the time to make sure that any questions or doubts you might have about undertaking the program have been covered.

But it’s also a delicate dance between making sure you know everything you need to, showing a genuine interest in the program, and being prepared enough so that you won’t ask anything embarrassing that might reveal a lack of research.

Kalis’s advice is to, “try to avoid the common questions. If it starts with, ‘oh, is your program one year long?’ Then I would think that the person is not suitable to come to us.”

Town advises that applicants “remember [the interviewers] are probably pretty busy, so maybe keep it to 2-3 questions and check in with the interviewer that there’s enough time for your questions”.

“My advice is to ask questions that you’re legitimately interested in. I think sometimes people go online and find ‘what’s the question I should ask at the end of an MBA interview’.”

In the end, this is an opportunity to show a deeper interest.

“From the questions that they ask, you can tell how much they know about the program,” says Tee at Nanyang Business School.

“Most of them, by the time they get to the interview, they will know all the things they need to know about the program, because they will have spoken to the admissions team, they will have gone through the website and the brochures and some of them will already have visited,” she says.

“So you can tell if they’ve already done their research or if they only know the program very superficially.”

Image: Interviews auf dem Campus der Universität St.Gallen by HSGTalents CC BY 2.0 (cropped)

]]> Tue, 28 Feb 2017 00:00:00 +0100
<![CDATA[After the MBA: How to Break Into Private Equity]]> When Abel Osorio graduated from Wharton Business School in 2012, he’d already had a few years of private equity experience under his belt.

As an associate at H.I.G. Capital, a large-cap buyout firm based in Miami, he’d worked on their lower middle market buyout fund for a couple of years, doing mostly modeling and analytics. That experience was indispensible in landing a position as vice president at Battery Ventures shortly after graduating from Wharton.

“For post-MBA, it’s incredibly difficult to break in if you don’t have prior private equity experience,” says Osorio, who went on to found his own firm Monserrat Capital after his time at Battery, and is now a principal at New York-based Turnspire Capital.

Osorio’s path is actually the most archetypal for those seeking to enter the sector: after graduating from college, he worked for two years at Thomas Weisel Partners, an investment bank, before joining H.I.G.

Rob Morris, founder of Olympus Partners, confirms that this is the easiest way to break into the industry: two years of investment banking, two years as an associate at a private equity firm, then an MBA.

“Firms look first and foremost for students with prior PE experience, creating a bit of a chicken and egg problem,” says Steve Kaplan, a professor of entrepreneurship and finance at Chicago Booth School of Business. “If you do not have PE experience before b-school, it is very hard to get in right away.”

Private equity hiring practices: Pre-MBA vs. post-MBA

Private equity hiring practices differ fairly drastically for pre-MBA versus post-MBA. For pre-MBA, a highly structured recruitment process begins quite soon after the candidate has entered the banking job. While the process is more standardized, since it’s generally run by headhunting firms, there’s also a greater availability of positions at this stage than post-MBA.

“It’s a simple pyramid, really—PE firms need a lot of associates to do the grunt work, but you don’t need as many VPs,” Osorio says. “That’s why when you’re in banking, you don’t need to network much; you get calls from headhunters, you’re in demand. But when you’re in b-school, you have to do a lot of networking to find the right fit, which requires meeting a lot of firms and people.”

Since there are simply fewer positions for post-MBA candidates, those who have prior experience are clearly given priority—although Osorio notes that even then, it can be tough to land a job.

Although an MBA from a second- or third-tier business school certainly doesn’t disqualify you from a position at a private equity firm, the top-tier names do hold sway. If the candidate doesn’t have an MBA from Harvard, Wharton, Columbia, or Stanford, it could be difficult to break in since competition is so fierce. Large-cap firms—The Blackstone Group, Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, TPG Capital—will likely have more stringent requirements, while mid- and lower-cap firms could look beyond the top-tier business schools when scouting for candidates.

[See the Top 10 business schools for a career in private equity]

Most business schools don’t prepare you for a career in private equity—there are few, if any MBA specializations specifically in private equity—although some have begun initiatives; Chicago Booth, for instance, started a PE lab in which roughly 100 students do internships for course credit with a private equity or venture capital firm. Kaplan notes that some students have turned these internships into full-time jobs.

The program also holds investment challenges that push students to put together investment theses that could be worked on with local private equity firms. Booth holds close relationships with investors like Hyde Park Angels; every year, several students work as associates at the firm.

Private equity hiring trends

Kaplan says that the one change he does see in private equity hiring practices is that more firms are willing to look at students who bring consulting or operating skills that could be used to add value to portfolio companies. Candidates with said experience could be better off targeting firms known for hiring consultants—Golden Gate Capital, for instance, which often hires from Bain. KKR has also done so, and is closely linked to the consulting industry with its own consulting arm called Capstone.

Morris backs this view: “Other ways include work your way up in opportunities in industries on which PE focuses, as PE is often looking for operating folks on team.”

For those on an MBA path, some introspection always helps. Osorio says he knew he didn’t want to be a banker forever; it was just a matter of deciding whether to go into the public markets, or private, since they typically recruit for a particular asset class.

“You weigh in what you like, what your personality is, where you excel,” he says. “And I knew I wanted to move to the buy side; PE was ultimately better suited for me.”

And as with most things in the private equity world, the job market also depends a lot on fundraising cycles. A good pace of fundraising, or a freshly closed fund will likely call for more personnel hires ready to work on the new batch of deals.

“PE firms have been successful in fundraising in the last two years,” says Kaplan. “Accordingly, the job market is relatively good (albeit still very hard) for PE."

Private equity glossary

Cap: short for ‘capitalization.’ Refers to a company’s size. For instance:

  • Small Cap Buyout: the purchase of a company that is valued at less than $350 million
  • Mid Cap Buyout: the purchase of a company that is valued between $350 million to $1 billion
  • Large Cap Buyout: the purchase of a company that is valued between between $1 billion to $3.5 billion

Leveraged Buyout: the purchase of a company or a business unit of a company

by an private equity investor using mostly borrowed capital

Limited partner (LP): an investor in a limited partnership that funds a private equity firm’s business deals.

Middle market firm: a company whose annual revenues fall between those of small and large companies. Upper and lower ranges for this category of firm can range, but are generally considered to be between $10 million and $1 billion.

Image: Maik M./CC BY-SA 2.0

]]> Tue, 21 Feb 2017 00:00:00 +0100
<![CDATA[MBA Admissions: How to Improve Your GMAT Score]]> When Babak Soltani began studying for the GMAT, he was shocked by how much basic math he’d forgotten.

“It was half-demoralizing and half-encouraging when I saw how much better I was doing on the verbal versus the quantitative,” says Soltani, who studied engineering as an undergraduate and is currently a business development executive at Blackboard Inc. “I think just going back to doing math calculations is very hard, especially for Americans, who learned multiplication and long division in elementary school and then used a calculator for the rest of their lives.”

Soltani is one of hundreds of thousands who will take the Graduate Management Admissions Test (GMAT) test this year, hoping their scores will augment a tailored application to one of their top choice MBA programs. The GMAT, taken by more than 261,000 people worldwide over the past year, is required by the vast majority of accredited business schools for admission.

But the landscape is getting increasingly competitive. Chioma Isiadinso, co-founder of MBA admissions consultancy Expartus, says that average test scores on applications for MBA programs have gone up worldwide in the past years. Incoming MBAs at Stanford, for instance, had a 733 average last year; at Wharton it was 732, and at Harvard it was 725, according to the Graduate Management Admissions Council. In general, non-US business schools had lower averages, with 708 for France’s INSEAD, 709 for London Business School, and 680 for IE Business School in Madrid.

“What I’ve found is that there is a much stronger emphasis on test scores today than was the case ten years ago,” Isiadinso says. The GMAT has become more flexible and student-friendly, Isiadinso notes, making it easier for applicants to submit better scores, thus pushing up averages. In 2014, for instance, GMAC instituted a revised policy offering the ability to preview GMAT scores before deciding whether to accept or cancel results.

Tricks of the trade

The GMAT is notoriously tricky; the 3.5-hour exam is divided into quantitative and qualitative sections, and is computer-adaptive, meaning your answer to one question will determine the difficulty of the next. The test is very much designed to assess your analytical and problem-solving skills, rather than how much you know, Soltani says.

“They word things to purposely be very confusing,” he says. “It’s deceiving, and can throw you through a loop because sometimes you don’t understand the question, or it’s not immediately apparent what you need to solve for.”

So how can you up your scores for such a time-pressured challenge?

Brian Galvin, Vice President of Academics at GMAT prep company Veritas Prep, says that one thing he emphasizes to all his students is to think like the test-makers: why are they asking you the question? Very often students look at a problem and try to solve it as pure math, without searching for clues and patterns, he says. More often than not, the multiple-choice answer set will give you hints to what kind of skill you need to use: for instance, if the answer options all include the variable x, you know that you don’t actually have to solve for x.

Another important point is to make sure you land the middle-curve questions. Galvin often sees students preparing themselves only for the hardest questions, but because the test is adaptive, they won’t even get the tough problems if they’ve missed a lot of the medium-difficulty ones. Galvin says he sees a lot of unforced errors at this level—solving for the wrong thing, making assumptions, or leaving work a step short in the rush to save time for the harder questions.

A degree of comfort with the discomfort is key. “You’re never going to have 100% clarity on business decisions,” Galvin says. “Likewise, the test asks you to deal with that level of uncertainty; it’s a limited universe, so if you can’t calculate for the exact answer, recognize the things you can control, and make a decision based on what you’re left with.”

How much does the GMAT really matter anyway?

If you botch your first GMAT, not to worry. There is always the option to cancel scores; you can also retake the test as many times as you want. But Isiadinso cautions students about GMAT strategy, noting that some schools take into consideration how many GMAT scores you rack up. Harvard Business School, for instance, pointedly asks how many times the applicant has taken the test; but other schools may interpret three improved GMAT scores as a sign of persistence.

“You can make the argument from both sides, Isiadinso says. “But in this GMAT-centric climate, you really want to try to have that 700 to convince the admissions committee.”

While many students take some form of prep course—Manhattan Prep and Veritas are a couple of the most popular—there are also GMAT prep books, as well as the free online resource Khan Academy, which offers series of videos walking students through GMAT problems. One rarely noted fact is that it may be possible to apply for an MBA without taking the GMAT; in certain cases, admissions offices will waive the test for those particularly qualified—for instance, professionals who studied engineering or mathematics in their undergraduate degrees. But it’s important to check with the school, as many don’t even mention this option on their websites or application materials.

Soltani says that no matter how smart you are, practice is still essential for a good score. “It’s not a playbook; there’s no list of vocabulary to memorize,” he says. “You really need to sharpen a lot of skills that are super dull.”

Image: Alberto G. / CC BY 2.0 (cropped)

]]> Fri, 20 Jan 2017 00:00:00 +0100
<![CDATA[Socially Responsible Business: Not Just for Dreamers Anymore]]> Several years ago, when Ann Terlaak, Associate Professor of Management and Human Resources at the Wisconsin School of Business, would pitch her school’s Graduate Certificate in Business, Environmental and Social Responsibility to a roomful of MBA students, it never went over well.

“In the past, they would sit there with arms crossed and kind of look at me like, who is this person?” says Terlaak.

But times have changed.

“Now I pitch the importance of the certificate and they all go, yeah, we get it, it's important. We all understand that as a business leader we have to have it. It's an important part of our skill set,” says Terlaak.

But Terlaak hasn’t changed her pitching style. What has changed, according to officials and experts at MBA programs, is business. Specifically, business leaders are no longer interested in putting corporate social responsibility, environmental friendliness, nonprofit work, or compassionate business practices in a do-gooder box. Instead, they’re interested in embracing them.

“It's good business practice by now, to consider sustainability-related issues,” says Terlaak. “That relates to any business function that you can think of--operations, finance even, any of those. Sustainability has become a part of it. For most businesses by now, it's become a feature that they need to consider to be more competitive.”

More MBA programs including CSR curriculum

Business schools know that, and they’re tailoring their curricula accordingly. Some schools, such as Wisconsin, USC’s Marshall School of Business and MIT Sloan School of Management, offer a sustainability certificate as a supplement to their normal MBA. Others, such as University of British Columbia’s Sauder School of Business, the University of St. Gallen in Switzerland, and University of Oregon Lundquist School of Business, offer entire MBAs specialized in sustainability.

But many others are simply integrating the mores of corporate social responsibility—CSR— into all of their curricula, even the subjects that have nothing to do with the environment, nonprofit work, or other fields typically associated with socially responsible business.

“What we're seeing in business schools is a move away from polarizing social business, or ethical business, or fair trade, from other business,” says Andrea Warriner of the Skoll Center for Entrepreneurship at Oxford’s Saïd School of Business. “We don't see that you have a social business over here and an anti-social business over here. We're looking at impacting all businesses. They all need to take responsibility.”

For example, Terlaak says that at Wisconsin, even professors who teach classes such as managerial accounting touch on sustainability.

See the Top 10 MBA Programs for a Career in Sustainability/CSR

Student demand partially accounts for these schools’ motivation in increasing the presence of CSR in curricula. Warriner says that 60 percent of students at Saïd said in a recent survey that they were interested in the intersection of business and social responsibility.

“More and more students are asking for it, demanding it. There’s a push for schools to offer it,” says Terlaak, adding that Wisconsin started offering its sustainability certificate six years ago.

MBA students at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business are also increasingly interested in learning business practices that allow them to integrate with and give back to their community, says Jennifer Francis, senior associate dean for programs at the school. In response, Fuqua started offering an MBA concentration in Energy and the Environment and a concentration in Social Entrepreneurship, as well as a joint degree with Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment.

Can CSR help to fix broken business practices?

Francis says she attributes this increased interest in CSR to an understanding of the myriad ways that business can help solve issues with the environment, healthcare, hunger and education. But officials at other schools also say that the business world—and by extension business school—is evolving because the entire system as it stood before was fundamentally broken.

“I think that people have seen that capitalism as it had been working over the past decade had not resulted in good for the world, so they were looking for something else,” Warriner says. “I had quite a few conversations with MBA students who said they showed up for their internships during their undergrad and felt that the whole organization [where they were interning] was crumbling around them.”

Many of the business world’s recent problems stemmed from a lack of moral guidance or ethical accountability, which is why Harvard Business School now requires students to take a Leadership and Corporate Accountability class in their first year, says Joseph Badarocco, professor of business ethics at Harvard. Badarocco says that officials responded to the recurring scandals that have rocked the business world over the past several decades, as well as an increasing awareness that business people have a responsibility to society and will face scrutiny if they stray from the ethical path.

“We try to accomplish several things: think through the practical ethical issues they’ll face as managers. Understanding regulations,” says Badaracco. “We want them to understand the risk of going wrong and encourage them to stay on the right path.”

]]> Mon, 12 Dec 2016 00:00:00 +0100
<![CDATA[Post-Brexit, MBA Officials Keep Calm]]> In June 2016, the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union, an unprecedented move that left policymakers scrambling to predict the effects of the impending departure of one of the union's largest economies.

The move could potentially reverberate through every aspect of British life—including through the UK's MBA programs. After all, 1400 students from 100 countries account for 90 percent of all MBA students at the approximately 130 business schools in the country, according to 2014 data.

But officials at business school consortiums and business schools alike say they aren't too worried, for one chief reason: no one can predict the Brexit's outcome.

"It is too early to know, is the real problem," says John Colley, associate dean at Warwick Business School. "I think we're all in the same boat in that regard and we don't really know what's going to happen."

The United Kingdom is not only home to a large number of business schools, but also to a number of business schools that are highly ranked. In 2016, the Financial Times' Global MBA rankings included eight United Kingdom schools in its top 50: London Business School, University of Cambridge's Judge Business School, Oxford University's Saiid Business School, Lancaster University Management School, Imperial College Business School, Cass Business School at City University London, the University of Manchester's Alliance Manchester Business School, and Warwick.

The departure from the EU could potentially affect these schools and others in a variety of ways. For example, students from the EU could be dissuaded from studying in the UK because they might have trouble obtaining a work visa after completing their studies.

But officials point out that the UK tightened its post-study work visa requirements long before the Brexit vote. In 2012, the British Home Office changed its policy so that obtaining a work visa became more difficult for non-EU students, a move that experts feared would discourage foreign students from attending business school in the UK and thereby decrease the number of skilled workers in the country. These predictions came true—at first. Business school enrollment hit an eight-year low in 2013, but then, the numbers turned around. Enrollment in 2014 and 2015 leveled out, and the number of visas granted to foreign students for post-study work actually increased.

Colley says that the 2012 change hit Warwick far harder than he expects Brexit to hit the school.

"The bad news here has already happened in the past, when they tightened up the visa requirements for non-EU students anyway, when they prevented them from being able to extend their stay," Colley says. "That actually did hit numbers right across the MBAs in the UK, as many students wanted to come do the MBA and then stay for a couple of years to do a bit of work and generate some hard currency and experience of working in Europe. But I have to say, our numbers have recovered."

Another potential area of impact could be research funding. According to research from the Chartered Association of Business Schools, an organization that represents the UK's business and management education sector, funding from the EU government for business and management studies went up by nearly 22 percent in the three years from 2010/11 to 2013/4, from almost 11 million pounds to more than 13 million pounds, and funding from EU industry and public sources went up by nearly 166 percent, from nearly 600,000 pounds to 1.6 million pounds. Meanwhile, UK governmental funding went down by 36 percent, from 20 million to 13 million pounds, according to a report from March 2016.

But officials say they're not concerned about the drop in funding that might occur post-Brexit.

According to Colley, since “business schools are largely funded by tuition fees, it's not a huge issue for us."

Although many higher education programs in the UK charge lower fees to EU students, raising fears that prices will go up for EU students post-Brexit, many of the top business schools typically charge the same fee to all students, eliminating that as a concern for many business programs.

Of course, so much of the fallout from Brexit depends on negotiations between the UK and the EU over the next two years. It's possible that the UK could bow out of the EU's political structure while retaining freedom of movement, a set-up similar to Norway's and Switzerland's. The negotiated arrangement will determine whether European students are still allowed to study in the UK without a visa, and whether the many business professors that hail from Europe will be able to continue working in the UK.

The uncertainty around the final arrangement between the UK and the EU is one reason why officials are loathe to speculate on the potential effect on business schools and programs.

"In terms of Brexit, it is still very early days in the process, so any speculation is relatively meaningless at this stage," says Andrew Main Wilson, the CEO of the Association of MBAs, an international MBA consortium. "As far as AMBA is concerned, the situation is very much business as usual."

Another potential concern is an intangible one: the fact that the Brexit vote could be viewed as a signal to foreigners that they aren't welcome in the country. According to a Lord Ashcroft poll released following the referendum in June, 33 percent of voters said that they cast their vote because they wanted the UK to retain control over immigration, the second most popular reason given for voting to leave. But business school officials are quick to emphasize that no matter what happens, their institutions will remain welcoming to a global audience.

"For higher education as a whole, and London Business School in particular, this should not give the signal that the UK has turned inwards," says David Simpson, admissions director for MBAs at London Business School. "We are a global school and will continue our commitment to being so. I believe that the UK will remain an attractive place to study and we will continue to celebrate our diversity."

]]> Tue, 29 Nov 2016 00:00:00 +0100
<![CDATA[MBA Admissions in the 21st Century: Tweets, Hashtags and Videos]]> It used to be that when you applied to an MBA program, you sent in a fat manila envelope with your resume, references, essays and other odds and ends. But today, in the age of digital, the big manila envelope is increasingly being seen as old-fashioned.

Indeed, business schools are now looking for cutting-edge content, including videos, Instagram posts and tweets, as part of the application process.

Beyond being simply more hoops to jump through, these new application components, business school representatives say, are a way to let an applicant’s personality shine through. We asked four schools what they’re looking for.

Showing off your personality with a video essay

Part of the current admissions process for an MBA at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management is a set of three video essays. These are designed to allow applicants to show more of their personality than they could with a regular written essay.

Each of the 60-second videos are set up as icebreakers designed to show an applicant’s personality, as well as answering why Kellogg is the right school for them. Applicants are able to practice in advance, but when it comes to getting the actual question within the application software, they will only have once chance to record their response.

While this might sound like a kind of one-sided interview, Kellogg’s director of admissions, Melissa Rapp, says it’s simply in-line with what applicants can expect to find at the next stage of their careers.

“MBA students are often being interviewed for jobs by video before they ever set foot on a prospective employer’s campus. This trend has accelerated over the past year. Also, video conference calls have become a standard global communications outlet.”

Rapp says that since its inception three years ago, the video essay component “has resulted in an incredibly strong and diverse set of applicants”. As a result, Kellogg expanded this component to include a third video essay for the 2016-2017 admissions cycle.

Rapp says that while all applicants must complete the video essay as part of their application, all applicants accepted on to Kellogg’s MBA are further interviewed either in person or via Skype.

Similarly, the McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas offers the option for one of their two required written essays to be answered with video.

Stephen Sweeney, the school’s director of full-time MBA admissions says the essay which can be answered in video format is a personal introduction: “Introduce yourself, highlighting what drives you in your personal and professional life. So they can write an essay of 250 words or they can share a video introduction, that’s a minute”.

The difference between this video approach and the one from Kellogg is that McCombs applicants are able to record the video however they wish.

Sweeney says this means the videos they receive can vary greatly in quality. “They vary pretty drastically from someone sitting in front of their computer on their webcam in a minute, all the way to ‘day in the life’ scenarios of an applicant,” he says.

An example McCombs MBA video essay.

But in terms of an MBA application, the benefits of the video format are many: the opportunity for international students to show off their English skills, display necessary business skills like presentation and comfort in front of a camera, as well as creativity and a chance to express what an applicant wishes to get out of the program.

The video option was designed to give applicants a creative option, but when it comes time to submitting multiple MBA applications, writing one more short essay might just be easier. Sweeney says, “less than a quarter of our applicants typically submit a video, and so the majority of our applicants are just following the traditional written essay”.

LinkedIn, Instagram and Pinterest can be valuable MBA application tools

Last year McCombs offered the possibility for applicants to save time collecting up letters of recommendation by allowing them to submit recommendations on their LinkedIn pages. Sweeney says this did not prove to be so popular, since students already had to collect references for their applications to other schools. The time saved would be minimal to none.

However, the school does ask applicants to submit links to their LinkedIn profiles – a social media tool that they will need when applying for jobs nearer the end of the program – as well as other social media that allow them to show a more personal side of themselves. About 10 percent of students submit a Pinterest board, curating a set of images that explain why McCombs, based in Austin, is the right choice for them. Texan barbecue features heavily.

Outside the application process, McCombs runs various social media campaigns that encourage prospective students to engage with the school, such as its #whymccombs hashtag on Instagram.

It’s all about personality

The Tippie College of Business at the University of Iowa only requires one admissions essay for its full-time MBA, and it doesn’t even need to be in written form.

Paul Pinckley, director of admissions and financial aid in the full-time MBA program, says the premise is simple: “tell us about yourself with whatever means you want”.

Applicants have successfully submitted PowerPoint and SlideShare presentations, as well as short videos.

“In the grand scheme of things, we’ve learned more about them through this process,” says Pinckley.

But the pressure to be remembered shouldn’t put off introverts, or applicants who are simply happier sticking to written essays.

Pinckley advises applicants to do what’s comfortable, but don’t be held back by what you think a business school might have traditionally expected.

Tweet your MBA application

Among all these possible options, it might seem that a written essay just might take up less of your time. And the admissions team at Tippie College of Business has previously experimented with an option that, at first glance, appeared to be even faster: an essay in tweet form.

This began as a tweet competition for MBA scholarship applicants, with the idea that applicants would use the tweet to link to further content. However, the school copped some flak after the eventual winner was found to have previously tweeted something offensive that other Twitter users later dug up – a reminder to keep your online presence squeaky clean.

With the admissions team having removed the Twitter component from the MBA applications process, the freeform essay leaves a lot of room for creativity, but also the opportunity to ease some pressure.

Pinckley says the idea is to, “take this one, stress less, be creative, and just have some fun with this”.

Beyond social media and technology

It seems that rather than being attracted to the bright lights of new technology, business school admissions teams are focusing on drawing out personality.

Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business has taken this idea of personality curation and developed the 25 Random Things essay, where applicants list 25 things they’d like the admissions team to know about them.

Allison Jamison, director of recruitment and marketing for the Duke MBA says the challenge, introduced about five years ago, allows her team to see whether the applicant will be a good fit for the school.

“What is great about the 25 Random Things essay is that there is no ‘expected’ answer,” says Jamison. “Oftentimes in more traditional essays we see applicants trying to write about what they think we want to hear.”

Fuqua additionally offers an open admissions interview on campus to anyone who is interested, along with interviews by invitation to selected applicants.

The interviews are conducted by second-year MBA students on campus, or alumni off-campus. So showing plenty of personality in the 25 Random Things essay is still the best way to attract the admissions team’s attention.

See examples of successful applicants' 25 Random Things.

Paul Pinckley at Iowa says he would like to see more face-to-face opportunities for MBA applicants.

“Last year we did a pitch competition, where students actually came in and they did a personal pitch which allowed us to get to know them a little better,” says Pinckley. “It was more for scholarship, rather than admissions, but some of them had not been admitted yet. I’d love to be able to do more of that – an in-person presentation for their essay. It was far more entertaining.”

While social media and new technology might offer new ways to connect, it seems that when it comes to impressing MBA admissions teams, being able to you’re your personality is what will really make the difference between an acceptance or rejection letter.

Image: New iMac by Charlie Ma CC BY 2.0 (cropped)

]]> Mon, 31 Oct 2016 00:00:00 +0100
<![CDATA[MBA Programs in Japan: A Shifting Attitude]]> When Leonard Leiser first started looking for an MBA program to attend in Japan, he was stumped.

"There are no schools in Japan that are famous for having a business school or degree," says Leiser.

"Companies really want to bring in young people and train them for the rest of their lives in their own system or own way. They're not seeing the MBA as a better alternative; they think they can just [teach people] themselves."

Leiser, who ended up obtaining his MBA from Nagoya University of Commerce and Business (NUCB) and now works as the coordinator for international development at the school’s Global Leader Program, is not alone in his observations on the prevailing Japanese attitude towards MBAs. Students and academic directors at institutions around the country say that the overwhelming attitude towards MBAs in Japan is one of indifference and that companies prefer to hire students directly out of undergrad and train them as lifelong employees.

The country is home to only two internationally accredited programs—NUCB's program and Keio University's MBA program—as well as a handful of other programs at schools such as Waseda University, Doshisha University and Kyoto University, and international outposts of North American business schools McGill University and Temple University.

Officials say that many business leaders simply don't understand why an employee would pursue an MBA at one of these schools when that employee could become acquainted with the particulars of a company on the job. And the proof is in the pudding, with MBA graduates rarely earning significantly more than their less-educated counterparts.

But little by little, the dismissive attitude towards MBAs in Japan is evolving.

“The environment of business is changing, and it's more globalized, and Japanese companies are very competitive against competitors out of Japan,” says [FIRST NAME TK] Kyoko Hayakawa, Managing Director of the Graduate School at NUCB. “They need to become more competitive” by embracing the MBA.

Norihito Arima, a Japanese MBA student at International University of Japan, says he has also observed evolving attitudes towards the MBA during his studies.

"The hiring system in the [Japanese] corporate world is a little bit different from western notions. People in Japan, once they got jobs in a Japanese corporation, usually work a very long time," says Arima, who studied literature in undergrad but was inspired to learn more about business after taking accounting and corporate finance courses. "But these days Japanese corporate society is getting involved in westernization more and more. They try to speak English and they try to accept the westernized, American style of management system.”

“So I think people are more and more interested in MBA courses."

Besides the evolving attitude towards MBAs within Japan, officials say that international students are starting to see Japan as a place to jump into a thriving finance and technology scene by pursuing an MBA. And while many non-Japanese students from other countries in Asia are lured away to Europe or the United States, many others choose Japan because of the country's reputation as a highly developed manufacturing hub within Asia.

Wenkai Li, dean of the Graduate School of International Management at the International University of Japan, says his school currently attracts students from around forty different countries to its three different MBA programs. Li says that students from India, Thailand, Cambodia and Myanmar often see huge salary increases back home after pursuing the International University of Japan's program, while some stay and work in Japan's growing industries at companies such as Google Japan, Amazon or CitiBank.

One foreign student who decided to take advantage of the opportunities in Japan is Shikha Dhingra, who worked in information technology in India for ten years before pursuing her MBA at the International University of Japan from 2014 to 2016. Dhingra says she was drawn towards Japan because the country is a technological and financial power with a shrinking population, an ideal place to find a job in business.

But Dhingra says she's also impressed by Japan for a decidedly non-business-related reason: the country's culture.

"If you lose something here, from your pocket, you'll definitely get it back," she says. "The kind of honesty you find out here, it's rare and hard to find in any of the countries. It's been a really good experience.”

Dhingra is not alone: an interest in Japanese culture is a chief reason why many students are drawn to Japan and stay in the country. Although mastering the language can prove difficult for students, they are often enamored of other aspects of the culture, or are drawn to Japan in the first place because they were fascinated by the country.

However, officials say that they hope students will someday flock to Japan solely because of its high-quality business programs.

"What we are seeing now is people who do have an interest in Japan first, and then they want to develop their skills second, and then they'll look around for schools in Japan," says NUCB’s Leiser. "What we hope to see in the future is international students seeing Japan as a place for better business schools." 

Photo credit 

]]> Mon, 24 Oct 2016 00:00:00 +0200
<![CDATA[Managing and Marketing the Future with an MBA]]> After Crystal Ruff obtained her Ph.D. in neuroscience, she found a job working in a research lab in Toronto, where she helped a well-known spinal surgeon made a breakthrough discovery: it's possible to use stem cells to greatly improve brain function in patients with cerebral palsy.

"We were able to show that these stem cells, when we transplanted them in, could functionally double the brain's signal," says Ruff, who also holds undergraduate degrees in biochemistry and molecular biology. "[Normally], the brain signals to the body, like a wire. With cerebral palsy, the wire is stripped of protective coding, so the signal is weaker. The stem cells will make it better though. Only about half the normal coding is needed to have totally normal function, and just even a little bit could mean the difference between being able to walk versus run."

Ruff, whose enthusiasm for biotechnological advances shines through when she describes her laboratory discoveries, says she then jumped into helping with clinical trials and liaising with drug companies to spread the news about this exciting breakthrough.

And then she realized something.

"When I looked at the senior people, there were very few that could understand both the science and the business aspects," Ruff says.

That's when Ruff decided to go to business school.

Ruff, who finished her MBA at London Business School in July, is one of a small but steady group of students with a science background who attend LBS every year. 

"Every year, we have a small number who are coming from a scientific background," says David Morris, Head of Corporate Sectors at LBS' Career Center. "They want to come learn the business skills around those fields."

Some schools like LBS attract a small number of science-oriented students to their general MBAs. Other schools offer programs specifically for students like Ruff. Johns Hopkins offers a dual MS in biotechnology and MBA, intended for students to learn biochemistry and biostatistics alongside skills in accounting, finance and negotiation. Rutgers offers a Master of Science in Biomedical Sciences and an MBA, intended to help students become directors or managers in science companies. Penn State offers students the opportunity to obtain an undergraduate science degree alongside an MBA, so business leaders can converse knowledgeably with scientists and engineers.

"You get to a point where you design something, you have a new product. and you have to get it to market. It's not that engineering schools don't do it at all, but if you get that MBA, it then adds to the skill set you have, so you understand with any kind of product: here's what you do to go from an idea to a plan to financing to going into market," says Kevin Frick, a professor at Johns Hopkins Carey Business School. "What an MBA program does is it gives you some structure around those steps."

> Top 10 Business Schools for a Career in Health/Biotech/Pharma

Frick says his program hasn't seen a groundswell of interest among biotech students, attracting far more students who are interested in healthcare, but he says that the students who do understand both business and biotech will be a sought-after asset in years to come.

"Having people who can walk the walk and talk the talk on both sides of biotech and business will be a very important group of people moving things forward," Frick says.

Ruff says her own experience backs up that assertion. For example, she says that the stem cells needed for the cerebral palsy treatment only stay fresh for one day. Someone with logistics and supply chain experience needs to figure out how to transport the cells before they spoil.

"There weren't a ton of people who were equipped with skills from both sides, to deal with that," Ruff says. "It's going to be important in the next couple of years to have people who understand both sides of the coin, going forward."

Recruiting a generation of scientists with these business skills is so essential, says Ruff, because these technologies are transforming the world we live in. She points to advances such as t-cell therapies for cancer, which take body cells that normally fight disease, and program them to target cancer and eradicate it, a treatment that worked on 25 out of 27 patients with stage-four cancer. Ruff says she also sees regenerative medicine transforming the medical sciences.

"You need an organ transplant? Let's bio-print you a new liver," Ruff says.

But none of these advances will help people as effectively if companies can't market, promote, and logistically handle these new technologies.

Although Ruff, Morris, and Frick say that students who are interested in combining business and science are not the norm, Ruff points to indications that interest in this field is on the upswing, at least at LBS. Ruff is the president of her school's Healthcare Club, a professional association for anyone interested in life sciences. This year, the club attracted applications from about 10 percent of LBS' incoming MBA students.

"A lot of those people are financiers or consultants, too, so that's crazy," Ruff says.

One of her club's initiatives is the HealthTech Challenge, a competition that kicked off this month and that invites schools from all over Europe to pitch product ideas for a 10,000 pound prize.

Morris points out that there are plenty of post-graduation opportunities for students who specialize in science and business. Morris says he sees students who want to return to the corporate side of scientific companies, students who go into healthcare or consulting, students who want to explore venture capital as it pertains to healthcare fields, and students who plan to bring design thinking capabilities to the STEM fields.

As for Ruff, even though she now has an MBA, she plans to stay in biotechnology and regenerative medicine. She says she would love to do business development for all of the exciting new technologies coming out of the biotech field. She thinks it's so important to learn how to properly promote and handle these technologies for one simple reason.

"They represent the future," Ruff says. 

]]> Wed, 05 Oct 2016 00:00:00 +0200
<![CDATA[Am I Too Old for an MBA?]]> Charlotte Hasse was working as a marketing team lead for Bloomberg in New York City when the company shifted operations and told employees they could apply for jobs in Washington, D.C. if they wanted to stay onboard.

Standing at that crossroads, Hasse took a look inwards.

"It gave me a good opportunity to look at myself and see what I wanted," she says.

What she found was that she wanted to go into business strategy, and that her background in marketing and law wasn't enough to cut it in that field. So, after 11 years in the workforce, Hasse went to get her MBA at the University of California San Diego's Rady School of Business.

MBA students are traditionally in their twenties—the average age for matriculating students is 28 in the United States—and schools typically accept students with an average of five to seven years of work experience.

But every year, MBA programs receive applications from students like Hasse who are further along in their careers. Some of them are hoping to pivot into a different field; others have a background in, say, science or technology, but want to bolster their business skills. Some are leaving the military and transferring into the private sector. Others have been made redundant at their old jobs and are using their redundancy money for further education. Still others work for international companies that encouraged them to take time off to study in the United States.

Never too old for an MBA?

MBA admissions directors say that you're never too old to get an MBA. But if you're further along in your career and want a solid chance of receiving an acceptance letter from a full-time program, there's one ingredient you need: self-awareness.

"Generally for people who have more experience, you really want to think about what are you trying to accomplish in going back to school," says JoAnne Starr, assistant dean for graduate programs at Rady. "My general observation has been that people who have a good bit of experience don't typically want to go back and start at a junior level at some different career. It doesn't make a ton of sense economically, or professionally.”

“So ask yourself: why is going back to school interesting or important to me?"

Stephen Sweeney, director of full-time admissions at McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas at Austin, says older students should also be aware that in a full-time MBA program, they will be studying with younger, less experienced students—and that the jobs they will be offered after the program might not be on par with their prior employment.

"From a cultural perspective, from a recruiting perspective, look at the average salary [of MBA graduates]," says Sweeney. "If you're 45 years old and an executive for a firm, you might not make the same salary. For a lot of folks that's okay, because they're really looking to make that pivot [into a different career] through an MBA."

Admissions directors say that they've certainly witnessed success stories of older students thriving in full-time MBAs. UCSD’s JoAnne Starr cited a story of a successful entrepreneur who attended Rady's MBA program full time and treated the program like a learning sabbatical.

"He thought the idea of two years of school was cool and fun," says Starr. "He understood that he was going to be much older and more experienced than classmates, and thought that was fine. It's a great success story, but he came into it understanding why he was applying to a full-time program, understanding he might not look like everyone else in the room, and thinking about how he might interact with others around him."

Executive MBAs: designed for older students

Of course, many business schools offer alternatives to full-time MBAs: Executive MBAs, which are part-time or modular programs catering towards mid-career professionals. Admissions directors at some business schools say that they often nudge older students towards these part-time alternatives.

"In general, MBA programs are open to all candidates, but students who are more mature and have more experience, we encourage to do Executive MBAs because we think they would benefit more," says Anna Rechnio, Executive MBA recruitment manager at Cass Business School in London. "If they want to do a full-time course, they would still have a great experience and it would still be a very beneficial program for them. But when we receive an application from more mature students or students with more experience, we would encourage them to do executive course."

In fact, Charlotte Hasse, who will assume a role at tech strategy company Gartner Consulting after she graduates this spring, says her biggest challenge was convincing schools that she belonged in a full-time program.

"Not all schools believe that it's never too late to get a full-time MBA," Hasse says. She says some schools pushed her towards Executive MBA programs, and that she had to remain confident in her conviction that a full-time program was right for her.

Hasse also advised other experienced students to ensure that they can show schools that they are still willing and able to learn.

"There's an expectation that the farther out you are from undergrad, the harder it is for you to transform the way a full-time student should transform," Hasse says. "You have to show them that you are still malleable."

]]> Mon, 19 Sep 2016 00:00:00 +0200
<![CDATA[MBA Rankings: What You Need to Know]]> With thousands of MBA programs on offer around the world, MBA rankings can be a useful way to quickly find the best of the best.

But how can a program be ranked so favorably in the Financial Times but fail to make the top 10 in The Economist?

Each publication carefully calibrates its own set of quantitative and qualitative measurements for determining the top MBA programs. They try to determine what makes a program the best: is it how future employers see a program, how much graduates go on to earn, or how helpful current students find a school’s career services?

It’s generally a mix of all three, plus a whole lot more criteria packed in for good measure. And this year the Bloomberg Businessweek methodology has had a shake-up with the aim of focusing more on future career prospects.

Here’s a run-down on how the big three determine their rankings.

The Financial Times' MBA rankings

The FT’s Global MBA ranking, which has been published since 1999, stands out for its international focus. In 2016 its top 100 includes schools from 19 countries.

Besides the Global MBA ranking, the FT also publishes rankings for six other types of programs, including the Executive MBA, Online MBA and executive programs. They also offer a separate ranking of European business schools.

For full-time MBA programs, the FT ranking focuses heavily on surveys of alumni three years after graduating (so a program must be at least four years old to be included).

Alumni responses account for just under 60 percent of a ranking’s weight, and cover: income today (although the salaries of those working in the public and non-profit sectors, as well as full-time students, are discounted), increase in income since they began the program, and alumni data from the two previous years is used as well. This means that in 2016 it’s not just about the 2012 cohort, but gives a more comprehensive picture of a program’s impact on its alumni long-term.

The FT also addresses a program’s demographics: the various rankings measure the diversity of students, staff and board members (for the gender component, a 50:50 split will give a school the best score), as well as a school’s international reach.

Finally, the research component counts how many academic articles full-time staff members have had published, relative to the size of the faculty.

In 2016, for the first time FT ranked INSEAD’s MBA program, based in France and Singapore, as the world’s top MBA program. Next was Harvard Business School, then London Business School, and the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School; Stanford Graduate School of Business rounded out the top five.

Bloomberg Businessweek's MBA rankings

Businessweek has traditionally focused on US-based schools. Today it offers a separate Non-US ranking, as well as a part-time ranking for US-based schools only.

For its most recent rankings in 2015, Businessweek overhauled its weighting and methodology with the aim of focusing more on the main reason why people spend money getting an MBA: a wish to improve their future career prospects.

Businessweek has scrapped factors like how many research papers a school’s faculty has published, in favour of some new components. These include a survey of alumni who graduated six-to-eight years ago, in order to measure mid-career job satisfaction, as well as data from a school’s most recent graduates (most recently the 2014 cohort) on their rate of job placement and starting salaries.

Use FIND MBA's interactive rankings map to find ranked business schools worldwide.

But the biggest component of the Businessweek ranking is the employer survey (35%) where recruiters are asked what skills they look for in MBA graduates and which schools best supply these kinds of employers.

Finally, they survey current students about a school’s general climate and career services, as well as collecting data on student demographics, and weighting this against the previous year’s data.

According to Businessweek, in 2016 the top five US-based MBA programs were Harvard, the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business, Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management, MIT’s Sloan School of Management, and Wharton. Notably Stanford, which was ranked seventh, placed first in both the mid-career alumni survey and graduate salary rankings.

Their top five non-US based schools were: University of Ontario’s Ivey Business School (Canada), London Business School (UK), INSEAD (France and Singapore), IE Business School (Spain) and IMD (Switzerland).

MBA rankings from The Economist

Like the FT, the Economist offers a global ranking of full-time MBA programs. But in 2015 the top four were all US-based.

Every year the Economist first asks current MBA students why they chose to undertake a full-time MBA. Then they use the students’ various criteria to weight the rankings accordingly.

Eighty percent of the Economist’s ranking is quantitative data about each MBA program: graduate salaries, students’ GMAT scores and the number of registered alumni. The other 20 percent covers qualitative data collected by surveying current students and the school’s most recent graduates about the schools’ facilities, faculty and career services.

They also ask about their salaries to check that this matches salary data provided by the schools.

Just like the FT, the Economist’s ranking tries to provide an idea of the schools’ performance over time, by including data from the previous three years.

The Economist’s top five full-time MBA programs for 2015 were: Booth, the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business, the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College, Harvard and HEC Paris, in that order.

Other MBA rankings

Aside from the big three, other publications like Forbes rank MBA programs as well.

It can be worth looking beyond the big three if you have a particular sector or ethos in mind for your future career.

Some publications produce rankings for students looking to get into particular industries, like the FT ranking for entrepreneurship. For example, SCM World produces a ranking of business schools on the topic of supply chain management. This ranking doesn’t list MBA programs specifically, but is a good resource for those looking for a career in supply chain management.

Additionally, the University of Texas at Dallas publishes a top 100 list of global business schools based on the number of research articles they have published over the previous five years.

The Aspen Institute used to produce the alternative ranking Beyond Grey Pinstripes, ranking schools based on their inclusion of sustainability, environmental and ethical topics, but this was suspended in 2012 when some schools refused to participate.

The Canadian publication Corporate Knights publishes the Better World MBA ranking, focused on sustainability and social factors like gender diversity.

FIND MBA produces top 10 lists of schools for students with specific career interests, like healthcare, energy and natural resources, or consulting.

FIND MBA also has its own interactive tool for finding the schools that are ranked in each of the main MBA rankings.

]]> Tue, 06 Sep 2016 00:00:00 +0200
<![CDATA[Is My GMAT Score Good Enough?]]> As a numerical score, the GMAT hints at offering a solid ‘pass-rate’ for potential students to work towards.

If only it were so simple.

Business schools everywhere tend to publish an average score, rather than a minimum score, erring on the side of caution. Their reasoning is that a lower GMAT score combined with a number of other attributes could still mean success come admissions time.

So what do you really have to do to get in?

“We don’t have a minimum requirement and that’s because we take a holistic approach to viewing each single applicant,” says Charlotte Russell-Green, MBA Admissions Manager at Cambridge Judge Business School.

“So we take into account not just the GMAT score but also the undergraduate performance, so the bachelor score, and whether they’ve done a masters. And we take into account work experience, international experience, that kind of thing.”

Of the MBA students admitted to Cambridge Judge Business School, the GMAT class average is around 690 every year. But Russell-Green says that shouldn’t deter someone with a lower score from applying.

However, there is one part of the GMAT score that is of particular interest to their admissions team and that’s the quantitative score.

Russell-Green says, “we do look at the quant score in particular because obviously there are a certain amount of the MBA’s core courses where they need to be able to have some grasp of quantitative analysis. The first term in particular is quite quant-heavy”.

Antoinette Molino at the Desautels Faculty of Management, McGill University agrees: “Generally speaking, students with high quantitative scores are less inclined to have difficulties in our core program, especially the quantitative modules”.

Looking at specific GMAT requirements (and average GMAT scores)

Just like at Cambridge, McGill does not have a minimum cut-off score. “However, the average GMAT score of accepted candidates is typically 660,” says Molino.

Stuart Dixon, the Academic Coordinator for Global MBA programs at the Maastricht School of Management (MSM) says it’s important to keep the GMAT score in perspective.

“To be honest, a lot of managers these days, I wonder how well they would do in GMAT. Even people like Steve Jobs – would he do a good job? I don’t know, he probably wouldn’t care.”

“It’s only one part of a broader evaluation.”

[Related:  Can a Low GMAT Score Kill Your B-School Dreams?]

To apply for the MBA at MSM, a minimum GMAT score of 600 is required as a baseline for ensuring that the program’s highly diverse range of students all start off on equal footing.

An unofficial GMAT score report

“We have students from everywhere,” says Dixon. “We have students coming in from Kazakhstan, from Bhutan, from India, Pakistan, and some of these countries have fantastic education systems, and some of them we just don’t know. We need to have something which makes it easier for someone to be admitted or not, and the GMAT is one of those elements.”

For students whose GMAT results show they need to strengthen some core skills before starting an MBA, MSM offers leveling courses that can be completed online to help bring them up to speed.

The verbal score, for example, is an important way for non-native English speakers to demonstrate that their language skills are up to par.

IESE Business School in Spain also uses the GMAT to measure the capabilities of its MBA program’s international cohort. Their average score is 690.

“With 83% international students, our MBA program, especially in the first year, is known to be quite stressful,” says Jessica Smith, Associate Director of MBA Admissions.

“Most students are not only experiencing the normal adaptations to school but also adjusting to a new country, culture, and language. So understanding how a student copes with stress is key in our admissions process.”

Smith says that the IESE admissions board also seeks to understand how a student works with prioritization and multitasking.

“We try to understand: what were your circumstances while preparing for the exam and how did that impact your score? For example, did you stop working to study or did you study alongside working? If your first score was low, did you try to improve? If so, what did you change in the study process in order to get the better result? We try to understand not just the numerical score but the micro situation you were experiencing at that time.”

But will your future employer care about your GMAT score?

For most students, the MBA is the means to an end – it’s the program you undertake with future career possibilities front of mind.

But that doesn’t mean that a mediocre GMAT score will leave you alone once you get into b-school.

Charlotte Russell-Green at Cambridge Judge Business School says some employers want to see a solid GMAT score as well.

“If you want to work at one of the top tier consulting firms, they look for a minimum 700 GMAT score generally. So we advise students on that as well. We say, ‘you know you’ve a 620 GMAT and that might be ok for admission to the business school, but with your career goals I would encourage you to try to increase that if you can’.”

Cambridge Judge tries to give this advice at admissions time in order to best prepare a student for the career they hope to find ahead of them.

That way, when it’s time to start looking for jobs, a student will have had some time to keep working on their score and re-take the test if they wish.

Should you take the GRE instead of the GMAT?

Many schools now accept the GRE as an alternative to the GMAT. But not all employers are there just yet.

Jessica Smith as IESE says that they encourage students to select the exam format with which they feel most comfortable.

If you prefer to focus on verbal skills or essay writing, having the choice between the GMAT and GRE allows you to play to your strengths.

“But do keep in mind that some employers still ask for GMAT exam scores, not GRE. So do check with the school's career services or admissions to confirm if this is relevant for the industries that you want to apply for.”

[See also:  MBA Admissions Test Choice: GRE or GMAT?]

Use FIND MBA's Advanced Program Search to find MBA programs by average GMAT


  • Tulane Public Relations / CC BY 2.0 (cropped)
  • Wayan Vota / CC BY 2.0
]]> Mon, 15 Aug 2016 00:00:00 +0200
<![CDATA[Making Connections: Building a Community During Your MBA]]> Studying for an MBA can be a challenging and rewarding experience – there is a lot to learn and the process can, at times, seem overwhelming. Your course will include access to a lot of resources to help you learn but there is one additional resource that can play a significant role in helping you get the most out of your experience – and the best part is that it’s free.

Beyond providing a sense of well-being and belonging, building a community during your MBA program can give you life-long benefits: after all, these are your peers and future coworkers.

“Interacting with the same group of people over the course of 11 intense months naturally leads to relationship building especially since the participants constantly interact with each other through group work, international consulting projects and various exercises” says a spokesperson for IMD Business School in Switzerland.

Even so, when you’re studying alongside a group of highly ambitious students, the mood might, at times, seem more competitive than cooperative. To keep things positive, it’s important to maintain mutual support, and it can be much easier to do that when you feel like you’re part of a community.

Navigating this fine line between cooperation and competition can be tricky. Here are a few ways that you can build a positive community while forging lifelong relationships during your MBA program:

1. Introduce yourself to everyone. Do you know all your fellow MBA students? If not it’s never too late to start. Most groups require someone to be the initiator and the gel that brings everyone together. Remember you are studying for an MBA, which will quite likely steer you into a career of management and leadership. If you haven’t mastered the art of building relationships then it’s time to learn, and what better way than challenging yourself in this environment?

2. Form study groups. Working together can help everybody achieve their objectives. You will have parts of your course you won’t be strong in and possibly won’t even enjoy. Others will. Get them to help you and help them in return in the areas where your strengths lie.

3. Organize social outings. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy! Even though your MBA classes are important, social events are where true friendships and networks can be formed. We’re not talking wild frat parties but monthly drinks or other more inventive outings will build a team feeling and be appreciated by your fellow MBA students. For Amalia Bejinaru, a current student in the MBA program at HEC Paris “Some of my best MBA experiences so far relate to this kind of events: group dancing on Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’ on HEC Paris annual talent show,” for example.

4. Help each other. Your MBA community can be a valuable asset when you are writing your papers or studying for exams. Particularly, the stresses of exam time can be calmed with a little help from your friends. Sara Irvani, a current student at Insead, sums it up best: “You learn a lot about your peers during exam time,” she says. “I was delighted to see how supportive my new friends were. Some students even volunteered to cook study snacks for all the other MBA students”

5. Enjoy diversity. Chances are you will be studying with students from a variety of countries and continents, all with a perspective on life that you don’t have. Take advantage of this! Organize cultural nights or cooking evenings where everyone brings a native dish. We are increasingly working in a global world where your future career will most likely involve working with people from foreign countries. The fact you picked up a few basic Chinese greetings from a classmate may be the clincher on a big deal one day – who knows!

6. Take the initiative. Every group needs a leader and driver. Make it you. Any career you pursue after your MBA will involve leadership – why not get a good grounding while you study? For Bejinaru, the extracurricular activities are a huge part of the learning experience “Having many student-run events, either credit bearing or just as a school tradition, creates a context for everybody,” Bejinaru says.

7. Make connections happen. Connecting people and making things happen is an important part of your future career. According to Bejinaru, “networking is essential to learning and therefore central to any MBA program. Our peers within the program should be the nucleus of this new network we develop during business school and therefore one should use all the available tools (and even create more!) to build a community that can make that nucleus a strong pillar to our future careers.”


Gretchen Shaw is an author, blogger and entrepreneur with a penchant for baking. She is passionate about communication, continued learning and connecting people. You can follow her on Twitter: @shawgret

Image: Open Data Institute / CC BY-SA 2.0 (cropped, rotated)

]]> Mon, 08 Aug 2016 00:00:00 +0200
<![CDATA[Emerging MBA Analytics Programs Are a New Breed]]> At its core, analytics has always been part of MBA programs. Managers in all industries need the skills to analyze information and develop actionable insights from it.

In recent years, though, demand for managers with analytics skills has really taken off. Companies have more data than ever, and they're looking for professionals with the ability to handle it. As a result, business schools are completely reimagining their analytics programs.

What’s changed?

“The difference today is the volume of data,” says Elkafi Hassini, associate professor at McMaster University's DeGroote School of Business.

Indeed, Big Data is pervasive across many industries, and firms are struggling to find managers who can deal with huge volumes of ones and zeros.

DeGroote is one of many schools that offer a breadth of analytics classes in their MBA programs. The school also recently launched an Executive MBA program in Digital Transformation where they will focus on teaching students the skills to ask the right questions, especially in conjunction with data analytics.

DeGroote is not the only university growing their analytics courses, other schools include MIT’s Sloan School of Management, NYU’s Stern School of Business, the Cox School of Business at Southern Methodist University, Virginia Tech’s Pamplin College of Business and Wake Forest University.

The influx of data means not only new courses but also new technologies, skills, and teaching methods. Along with hard skills, like coding and statistics, students also need solid a foundation in soft skills like communication.

As a result, many universities are working to restructure their analytics concentrations from the ground up.

“Play” and practice as important as theory

Modern analytics programs demand a certain amount of tech savvy and software knowledge; however, there are simply too many new software programs for MBA students to learn them all. From software that helps with data mining to modeling, there are countless options available to choose from.

The sheer number of tools make it impossible for any MBA program to address them all. As a result, many business schools are focusing more on getting students comfortable with data and the tools in general. It is then up to students to decide which software programs they would like to master. It also means students must be ready to adapt to new companies and whatever their chosen toolset includes.

RELATED: The Top 10 Business Schools for Business Analytics and Big Data

Companies don't need expert coders but rather “people who will adapt quickly,” explains Hassini. “People who would have the basics in terms of ability to learn new languages, to code. Familiarity with statistics and models and algorithms. People who could model whatever business problem is thrown at them.”

This means that many MBA programs in analytics allow students to simply play with data in the classroom. In fact, the idea of “play” is a deliberate part of these new programs. Students will be expected to take theoretical knowledge and regularly apply it in hands-on, active, and creative ways. Statistics or predictive analytics aren’t just about numbers but decision making.

“You want students to play with the data,” says Michael Trick, senior associate dean of faculty and research at Carnegie Mellon's Tepper School of Business. “You find large data sets to create activities, cases and so on, where they are really working with the data.”

Increase in demand means an increase in options

The Mendoza College of Business at the University of Notre Dame, which offers an MBA concentration in Business Analytics, is also betting that analytics is here to stay.

“Demand for the business analytics concentration here has exploded,” says Rob Easley, associate professor at Mendoza, adding that “many of the firms you talk to now are really only just getting started.”

RELATED: Post-MBA Careers in Business Analytics

Easley notes that beyond being able to understand data effectively, analytics-minded students must also be ready to communicate their findings effectively. “Courses on communicating effectively, writing about the analysis and presenting the results effectively,” he says, will prove invaluable.

Particularly, students must be ready to share their findings with managers and co-workers to create a more effective dialogue. While this includes an analytic and scientific mind, soft skills like leadership and creativity remain highly important for good execution.

Analytics not just "backroom" number crunching

Alongside new technology skills, MBA programs in analytics are also helping students learn to apply analytics to fields that have not traditionally been data-heavy. “This is not just a bit of backroom stuff providing a number that might go in the back of a report,” says Trick.

“Rather, a lot of analytics today is really defining company strategy.”

Since this need cuts across many industries, business schools have launched a burgeoning array of specialized MBA courses. From operations to healthcare and social media, analytics is being applied to different areas. While shorter or more direct programs may include a smaller, more specific set of basic courses, universities with specialized tracts in analytics are likely to offer several electives that could prepare student for very different fields. Students in Columbia Business School’s elective in Sports Analytics, for example, apply their analytical skills to issues in football, baseball, and other sports.

Business analytics programs still evolving

An unexpected, and perhaps often forgotten, development is the evolution of ethics in relation to data collection and usage. Modern regulation of data is murky to begin with and many universities are struggling to adequately prepare students for ethical—and legal—questions. Indeed, in 2015 Harvard Business Review said that “oversight for algorithms” and “data privacy” are among the top trends that business professionals cannot ignore. As a result, many specialized programs are adding entire courses on the ethics of data collection and ownership. For instance, as part of its Master of Science in Business Analytics program, students at NYU are required to take a class in “Data Privacy and Ethics” that looks at the complex ethical issues behind data collection.

]]> Mon, 04 Jul 2016 00:00:00 +0200
<![CDATA[Blended Learning MBAs: Don’t Give Up Your Day Job]]> For the working professional, pursuing an MBA can be complicated. Not everybody can afford to take one or two years off of work. There are a lot of purely online MBA programs out there, but many feel that it’s harder to develop critical skills like leadership from behind a computer.

But there’s an alternative: Blended—or “hybrid—MBA programs typically combine a mix of online teaching using an online forum and video conferencing, independent study and in-house classes where students and lecturers can get to know each other face-to-face.

And these aren’t just watered-down versions of classroom-based MBAs.

“IE’s blended methodology does not seek to simplify the MBA courses in an online environment, but rather leverage the Internet to promote and enable in-depth discussions,” says Soledad Santos, associate director of admissions at Spain’s IE Business School, which offers a blended program called the “Global MBA.”

The program includes three obligatory in-house weeks in Madrid, held at the start, middle and end of the 15-month program, plus an optional overseas immersion.

“During the online periods, students attend two 90 minute videoconferences every Saturday held by their professors and debate the topics from Monday to Thursday in an interactive online forum.”

As is the case in many other blended MBA programs, professors, lecturers and students have frequent contact via an online forum, which provides flexibility to fit around students’ work or family commitments.

John Colley, associate dean for masters programs at Warwick Business School, says that every study module in Warwick’s Distance Learning MBA program has a face-to-face component, covered during the four weeks of on-campus classes spread over the three-year program.

“As part of the face-to-face you will get actual lectures, actual group work, which will be supervised by the tutors and the module leader, as part of that period when you come in to Warwick.”

RELATED: The Power of an Online MBA

For Linda Wegelin, a Scottish student based in Zurich, her decision to undertake Warwick’s Distance Learning MBA was about adding a broader scope to her role as a marketing and field manager in the environmental sector.

As she works in a small team where her tasks often go above and beyond her job title, Wegelin says “I thought it would be great to do an MBA to also have education in the financial part, and HR and so on, to make sure that what I’m applying at work is actually what I should be doing.”

Wegelin is about to complete her second semester of the program, which she chose to take at an accelerated rate, expecting to complete it in two-and-a-half years.

“I wouldn’t be able to do an MBA where I’d have to go into school every day, so it gives me the flexibility and also the internationality,” says Wegelin.

While Wegelin is expecting to put her new skills to use in her current position, many students look to distance or online MBA programs to boost their opportunities for new jobs, and of course to get that salary raise.

According to the Financial Times’ latest online MBA rankings, the average salaries of graduates from Warwick’s Distance Learning MBA increased by 32 percent, while those of graduates from IE Business School increased by 39 percent, on average.

Students from the new hybrid MBA program at the Carnegie Melon Tepper School of Business have seen career results even faster than they might have expected.

The first class of Tepper’s Online Hybrid MBA program graduated this year after completing the three-year part-time program.

So far only three out of the 24 graduating students have found new positions since completing the program. But program director Bob Monroe says that’s because so many of the students had already earned promotions or found new roles during their studies.

“About half of those who began the program were expecting to change jobs. Throughout the program they ended up getting substantial promotions, while others found new jobs in more traditional MBA roles.”

The Tepper program, which caters primarily to US-based students, has a curriculum that allows students to move between the part-time online program and the on-campus MBA in order to suit their work and family commitments.

Networking: You’re not alone

A major criticism of distance learning programs is that they might prevent students from forging strong enough connections to serve them well in their future careers.

Monroe says, “we were very concerned that students would feel isolated. That turned out to be completely incorrect”.

After three years running the program, Tepper has found that the distance learning students formed even closer bonds with each other than the in-house students, aided by the program’s access weekends that take place six times each year. The access weekends include a mix of professional development, alumni panels and site visits. “We’ve found that students tend to think of it as the best part of the program.”

IE’s Soledad Santos says that online relationships are reinforced by on-campus sessions. “In fact, each class of the Global MBA has a very close relationship, because the students are constantly interacting with one another in the online forum.”

As work shifts increasingly online, so do professional relationships.

“The online format ensures that the students provide thoughtful [forum] posts each day, posts to which each of their classmates read and respond. So, there is a good deal of mindful interaction amongst the students every day,” says Santos.

Image: "Tidying Up" by Sheng Han / CC BY 2.0 (cropped)

]]> Tue, 28 Jun 2016 00:00:00 +0200
<![CDATA[An MBA in New York City: If You Can Make It There, You Can Make it Anywhere]]> Picture this: an MBA student graduating from a New York City school is offered a lucrative, prestigious job in the Midwest. She packs up, says goodbye, and heads to the land of cornfields.

And her fellow graduates are totally flummoxed.

MBA students in New York City will definitely use the city's subway system

"It's a big deal to hear someone say they want to leave New York," says Benjamin Cole, MBA director at Fordham University, which offers a full-time MBA and an MBA for working professionals in the heart of midtown Manhattan.

Indeed, New York, a global capital that’s home to Wall Street, Broadway, and everything in between, is the promised land for many a potential MBA.

No shortage of MBA programs in New York City

And there is no shortage of MBA programs in the Big Apple. Columbia Graduate School of Business and New York University’s Stern School of Business offer the city’s top-ranked and best-known MBAs. But there are also accredited MBAs at a whole host of other business schools in the city, including including Fordham, Pace University’s Lubin School of Business, CUNY’s Zicklin School of Business, New York Institute of Technology (NYIT), and Hofstra University’s Zarb School of Business

Officials and directors at these programs say that the allure and opportunity of New York are major draws for students, who come from all over the world to take advantage of the city's networking opportunities, position as the financial capital of the world, and myriad cultural and lifestyle options.

"[Students have] access to pharmaceutical companies, advertising, finance, entertainment, all the major studios, the Lincoln Center, the opera, the ballet," says Cole. "It's a huge draw for students to come and experience New York, but it can lead to opportunities as well.

New York City MBA Infographic

Directors at schools that offer MBA programs in New York say that attending a program in the city allows students to tap into vast alumni networks. Many graduates of these schools stay in New York, find high-powered jobs in one of the city's many industries, and stay connected with the schools, providing a built-in employment network for students.

"We have a strong alumni base there," says Kaushik Sengupta, associate dean for graduate education at Hofstra's Zarb School of Business, which offers a standard MBA program at the school's Long Island campus, as well as an off-site program in Manhattan.

"There's an employer network there. A lot end up giving student internships and eventually offers. Basically it helps being in New York. If anyone's looking at the master's program, they'd rather be in the place where you have that kind of network than not have it."

Sengupta says that in addition to the alumni network, Hofstra has a relationship with many companies that recruit its students, including healthcare systems companies such as Northwell Health and various institutions from the financial sector.

> See the top 10 business schools in New York

Another networking advantage of studying in New York? Professors who hold day jobs in New York's high-powered industries. Cole says that many of Fordham's professors are working professionals who want to share their expertise with students, including bankers who work full-time and teach at Fordham in the evenings.

"It's amazing how many people want to share knowledge from their industry," says Cole, adding that professionals from the advertising, consulting and hedge fund industries also teach in Fordham's programs.

New York City's Central Park

Post-MBA jobs in New York City: Beyond Wall Street

But the opportunities in New York aren't only in the realm of established business. New York is also home to a robust start-up and tech scene, home to headquarters of companies such as Foursquare and Etsy as well as countless start-ups, including Alfred, a company that helps busy professionals find helpers to clean their apartments and run errands, and WayUp, a company that helps college students find jobs and internships.

"We've been very happy to see how large the small business and start-up community is here in the New York metro area," says Jess Boronico, dean of NYIT's School of Management, which is located at 61st Street, right at Central Park. "We run a number of conferences and seminars that are open to the entrepreneurial community here. Attendance is typically quite high at these events. It's a very well-connected community."

Aside from the employment, networking and cultural opportunities in New York, officials and directors say that students are drawn towards the city for intangible reasons as well. Culturally, the Big Apple is the city that welcomes the tired, huddled and poor, the home of immigrants and dreamers from all over the country and world.

"New York is considered the melting pot of the world. There's a tremendous set of opportunities that cut across global citizenship," says Boronico. "Anyone can find a home or opportunity there."

But of course there's another side to New York. The city can be dirty, expensive, messy and overwhelming, a downside for some students.

"The challenges are: if somebody's from out of state, New York is very different," says Hofstra’s Kaushik Sengupta. "If somebody's lived in the Midwest, that's an adjustment, if people are looking at coming to a program like this."

Fordham’s Benjamin Cole says that when he first moved to New York, he had plenty to get used to, from the expense to the impossibility of New York real estate. But many MBA students wouldn't have it any other way.

"It takes a couple of years to get used to New York, because of the pace and sound and vibrancy," Cole says. "But one of the reasons people want to get an MBA in New York is because you have access to the city."

Header image credit Anthony Quintano/Flickr. 

]]> Wed, 08 Jun 2016 00:00:00 +0200
<![CDATA[After the MBA: Going Off-Road in a Startup Career]]> Nobody likes failure.

But if you want a post-MBA career in the startup industry, you'd better get used to it.

Directors and officials at MBA programs specializing in entrepreneurship and startups say that the most important characteristic that an entrepreneur should cultivate is the stoicism to ride the emotional and financial rollercoaster of success and failure.

"We look at some of our alumni who are serial entrepreneurs. Some of them have been great and amazing and some of them have been total disasters--but they're willing to go through it again because they love it," says Debi Kleiman, director of the Blank Center for Entrepreneurship at Babson College.

"You do sacrifice a lot to be an entrepreneur. Our culture has made it somewhat sexy to be an entrepreneur, but the reality is much more difficult. You have to be prepared for that."

But many millennials aren't put off by the hardships inherent in entrepreneurship. Instead, for the free-spirited generation currently entering the workforce, the allure of the entrepreneurial lifestyle often outweighs the negatives.

"The appeal of being an entrepreneur or controlling your own destiny or creating value for others is very, very strong among the millennials," says Stewart Thornhill, Executive Director for the Zell and Lurie Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies at the University of Michigan's Ross School of Business. "The corporate side is mystified by how they are going to attract the best talent, because when they try to bring [today's students] into the corporate environment they say, no, I'd rather go do my own thing."

Although millennials often want to craft their own career path, that doesn't mean they're skipping out on school. Increasingly, aspiring entrepreneurs are pursuing MBAs instead of going it alone.

But this hasn’t always been the case.

In the past, prospective entrepreneurs may have foregone an MBA and jumped right into startup life. "If they were interested in being an entrepreneur, in most cases they would have just gone and done that,” says Sean Carr, Executive Director at the Batten Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at the University of Virginia's Darden School of Business.

“But in the past five years, there's been a steady acceleration of applicants to top MBA programs who are willing to undertake the expense of time and the cost of tuition and other things, for the opportunity to come to business school as the ideal environment to develop skills and connections."

Indeed, an MBA program, since it covers topics in finance, product management, supply chain, and other aspects of business that are important to startups, might be just the ticket for entrepreneurs-to-be.

>See the Top 10 Business Schools for Entrepreneurs

And in recent years, many business schools have been developing MBA courses and other resources that are specifically designed for those who want to launch startups. Some schools offer specialized classes in entrepreneurship and innovation, and others, such as Copenhagen Business School have designed MBA electives that are designed around the Silicon Valley accelerator model.

Business schools all over the world offer students the opportunity to develop these entrepreneurial skills in an academic setting. Columbia Business School's Eugene Lang Entrepreneurship Center, Stanford University's Center for Entrepreneurship Studies, UC Berkeley's Haas School of Business, EMLYON Business School in France, IE Business School, and the University of Cambridge's Judge Business School all offer special programs that help startup-minded students access the resources and develop the skills they need to succeed.

Pressing pause on starting up 

But students graduating from these programs usually don't jump right into the startup scene, for several reasons. First, students often don't have enough money or resources to go right from school to the startup scene, says Thornhill at Michigan - Ross. Second, students often haven't been hit by the bolt of inspiration when they leave school.

"When you're in this academic bubble environment for a few years, you tend to be exposed to problems like, ‘how do you beat the line at the pub on a Friday night?’" says Thornhill. "The level of problems to which people can apply themselves are constrained by the environment. But once they get back into the work force, they're much more likely to find something to work on."

Instead of expecting students to leave business school with a startup plan, Thornhill says that he tries to instill a sense of curiosity in students and give them the tools they need to become entrepreneurs so that when inspiration strikes, they can jump into a startup.

However, although many MBA graduates work for several years before founding a startup, Darden’s Sean Carr says that students who already have their idea shouldn't hesitate to run with it.

"Don't wait," Carr says. "If you have an idea, start to pursue it. How? By building a prototype, gathering team members or friends. Launch your product or idea. Talk to people, present your idea, get partners quickly to validate what you're trying to do."

Battling online fraud with a startup

One example of a student who graduated from his MBA with a business plan in hand is Tyler Paxton, who originally pursued his MBA at Ross to switch careers and eventually find a job on one of the coasts. But at Ross, he entered a student business plan competition with an idea to start a company that battles digital and online fraud and abuse. Paxton went on to help found Are You A Human, a company that replaces CAPTCHAs, the letters and numbers on websites that help differentiate between humans and robots, with simple games that people can play to prove that they're not spambots.

Paxton says the lack of structure in the entrepreneurial lifestyle can be difficult, and that he found it difficult to pursue a nebulous path after school while the rest of his classmates were interviewing for high-powered jobs at established firms. But overall, working in a startup allows him to measure his own progress in a much clearer manner.

"Everything I'm doing is making a significant impact," Paxton says. "When I was at a larger organization, I felt like there were a lot of things that needed to change, but it was a much slower-moving process. You could put a lot of effort in and never see the results. As an entrepreneur, that cycle time on having an impact is a lot shorter. It allows you to see the fruit of what you're doing."

Image: "Berlin Startup Tour" by Heisenberg Media / CC BY 2.0 (cropped)

]]> Fri, 27 May 2016 00:00:00 +0200
<![CDATA[Making Sense of Big Data in an M.S. in Business Analytics]]> Tweets. Facebook posts. Online shopping trends. Amazon reviews and Ebay purchases. And soon, data from everyday appliances such as toaster ovens, cars and bridges.

In the wake of the digital revolution, there's an overwhelming amount of information to be gleaned from all of these new sources, information that can shape and direct business strategies, and companies know it. That's why McKinsey has recently predicted that by 2018, demand for data scientists would exceed supply by sixty percent.

And that's why dozens of business schools have implemented M.S. in Business Analytics programs in the past year alone.

"In listening to corporations, it's clear that demand far exceeds supply around analytics," says Associate Dean of Business Analytics Jeffrey Camm of Wake Forest University School of Business, which will roll out an M.S. program in analytics in July of this year. "The move to start an analytics program was a market-driven decision completely."

Wake Forest is not alone. The list of schools that have planned or implemented such programs in the past three years includes Virginia Tech's Pamplin College of Business, Syracuse UniversityCal Poly, UC San Diego, the University of Dallas, and Arizona State University’s Carey School of Business. Schools outside the US that have announced similar programs include Amsterdam Business School and France's ESSEC Business School.

And that doesn't count the schools that offer business analytics concentrations within already-existing MBA programs.

Why do an M.S. in Business Analytics Instead of an MBA?

These emerging specialized analytics degrees target a different group of students than traditional MBAs.

"Students will be taking much more in-depth coursework [in an M.S.] than they would in the MBA," says Don Harter, associate dean of masters programs at Syracuse's Whitman School of Management, which will launch an online and in-person M.S. in business analytics this year and also recently announced the launch of new business analytics concentrations in its MBA programs.

"The MBA is a much more well-rounded general degree. The M.S. is a specialist degree."

See the Top 10 Business Schools for a Career in Analytics or Big Data

MBA and M.S. programs also differ in terms of their entrance requirements. M.S. programs usually don't require work experience, which means they happily accept students directly out of undergrad, whereas MBA programs tend to recruit students with at least two years of work experience.

Wake Forest’s Camm says he would always recommend that students who are interested in business analytics pursue an M.S. instead of an MBA, since the M.S. will give them the analytics-specific skills that they need to succeed in this burgeoning industry.

Bridging the gap between data and business

Officials say that although there are plenty of students and professionals who understand the technical side of business analytics, the industry needs people who also understand the business side, who can offer concrete suggestions and prescriptive data-based solutions.

"A lot of students I talked to could be in industrial engineering, but they don't know how to write a business case. They don't know how to frame their business strategy," says Linda Oldham, executive director at Virginia Tech's Pamplin, whose program will roll out later this year.

"A lot of the corporate executives I've been talking to tell me the same thing. They say that they have a lot of business scientists on their staff, but they come to them with fancy graphs and different kinds of descriptive analytics, and the executive says, ‘what should we do with it?’ And they say, ‘we don't know.’"

The class requirements at these programs help bridge the gap between business and science. Wake Forest's new program, for example, requires students to take classes in topics such as Analytics in the Board Room and Data Analysis & Business Modeling.

When students graduate from programs like this, they can work as analytics managers, consultants, in healthcare research, in marketing or in finance, as well as in a host of other fields where data is important.

"We see opportunities for students to have tremendous placement opportunities," Harter says. "A variety of opportunities are appearing on the horizon."

Too many programs?

With several dozen programs rolling out in the past year alone, will the M.S. in business analytics market quickly reach a saturation point?

Not yet, officials say.

Camm says he and his colleagues at Wake Forest initially wondered whether they were too late in rolling out their program, but ultimately concluded that there's still a demand for these programs and for analytics experts.

"The number of companies that have contacted me has been phenomenal," Camm says. "We're still in a situation where demand far exceeds supply. That's not to say that in the next five to ten years, we won't see programs that aren't as strong as others fall by the wayside. But the market has showed no signs of slowing down as far as I can see."

On the contrary, officials say that they think these programs and demand for data scientists will only increase in the coming years as the Internet of Things—which entails placing electronic sensors on everyday objects so they can gather data too—permeates society.

"It's a bell curve, like with anything. There will be a leveling off at some point, but I don't think it will happen quickly," says Virginia Tech’s Oldham. "The shortage is pretty severe, and also because of the Internet of Things, our homes, our cars, and our toaster ovens are now cranking out data. People are building smart homes, smart bridges.”

“I think that is going to escalate the opportunity [for analysts] beyond what we could imagine right now."

]]> Wed, 20 Apr 2016 00:00:00 +0200
<![CDATA[Pursuing Part of Your MBA in London]]> Shaswati Panda is pursuing her MBA at Lancaster University Management School, an institution located in a city of about 45,000 people in the north of England.

But a few times per year, Panda visits London, partly to take business classes and partly for an anthropological study of how business is conducted in one of the financial capitals of the world.

"You see how people behave in their workplaces in London," says Panda, who worked in the IT sector in India and hopes to embark on a career in sustainability consulting after her MBA. "You see people have lunch in cafes, how they behave, how they dress up, how business expects you to be, and what kind of impression people expect from you. It's a behavioral training also, apart from just understanding the business capital of the world."

Panda's ability to visit London several times per year for classes is part of Lancaster's new policy of delivering some modules of its full-time MBA in the capital. Lancaster is one of two United Kingdom business schools--the other is Warwick University--that implemented London connections in the past two years, a move intended to give students from the more distant parts of the UK and elsewhere the same networking connections, on-the-ground practical experience, and intangible benefits enjoyed by students at London Business School, Cass Business School and other institutions whose main campuses are located in London. You can see a list of all MBA programs in London here.

Warwick and Lancaster aren't the first schools to set up London connections. The trend of taking advantage of London's myriad opportunities stretches back at least a decade. In 2005, the University of Chicago's Booth School of Business opened a London campus, while Hult International Business School opened a London campus in 2009.

The Shard, London

Although Warwick and Lancaster are now both linked to London, the schools offer programs with different structures. Warwick's program is a full-time MBA delivered entirely in the famous skyscraper Shard in London.

"It's the same program that we offer in London as we're offering up in Warwick," says Crawford Spence, associate dean for external programs at Warwick. "But the cohort is predominantly London-based. They're working for international organizations. There's a more cosmopolitan mix to the student base."

Lancaster, on the other hand, delivers part of its full-time MBA curriculum in London, with students spending about 10 weeks in the capital, taking classes on topics such as finance and macroeconomics, as well as attending lectures by London speakers. Students also spend six to eight weeks over the summer working on projects in the city.

Peter Lenney, MBA director at Lancaster, says the contrast between a small-city environment and a bustling financial capital has proved invaluable to students.

"By being located in Lancaster and London, our students get a stimulating contrast of learning locations and context and learn to maintain a reflective mindset in the chaos of the capital," Lenney says.

Although Lancaster's and Warwick's programs are structured differently, officials from both schools cite similar reasons for rolling out programs in the capital, namely that studying in a bastion of finance and industry is invaluable for students who want to network.

"Students participate in networking and career capture activity with potential employers," says Lenney. "The students investigate and identify the employers and types of employers they wish to engage with and the team facilitates contact with them, often utilizing alumni."

Spence says that Warwick runs a series called Finance Fridays in London, which brings in a guest speaker every week to discuss the financial issues of the day.

"We're been very successful in getting people to come together in that respect. We wouldn't be able to have the same thing up in Warwick, with the same quality of people," Spence says.

Benoit Perrot, a French engineer who wants to transition into a leadership role and is pursuing his MBA at Lancaster, says his London modules have provided him with great networking opportunities.

"It's a big place for finance and accounting, and it's a good opportunity to go there, meet some great guest speakers, go to networking fairs, to organize an interview with a company," Perrot says.

"It opens your mind a bit, and confronts you with this turbulent city and market."

Perrot says that the London connection is especially advantageous for students who want to work in finance, but even for engineering students such as himself, the program provides an overview of different London options. For example, he was recently given the opportunity to tour British Petroleum's London office, an invaluable opportunity for an engineer.

The advantages of London-based learning have translated to a higher number of students enrolling in these programs than officials had predicted. Spence says Warwick typically enrolls about 25 students per cohort on its home campus, but that this year's first cohort in London enrolled 43 students.

"It exceeded our expectations," Spence says. "We were only planning to do one cohort per year in London, starting in September, but we just opened another one in March as well because there's so much demand for it."

Image credits:

  • Cmglee / CC BY-SA 3.0 (cropped)
  • Bjmullan / CC BY-SA 3.0
]]> Wed, 23 Mar 2016 00:00:00 +0100
<![CDATA[Visa Issues: Working in the US After an MBA]]> Oh, the woes of an international student who wants to stay in the US after an MBA!

You’ve gotten into to a great MBA program, did well, and may even have a job offer on the table. But then you find out that getting a work visa comes down to pure luck. That’s because international students who want to stay and work in the United States for more than one year after graduating from an MBA program must secure a visa through a competitive lottery system.

But before they do that, they must find a company willing to sponsor them-- a process that's becoming increasingly difficult, since the lottery system might make some potential employers a bit skittish.

"Companies make a lot of investments in terms of their talent acquisition, and they sometimes see [international students] as a somewhat riskier strategy because they can't control the lottery issue,” says Chequeta Allen, Assistant Dean of Career Development at the University of Virginia's Darden School of Business.

“If you pursue a student who ultimately doesn't clear the lottery, then you made a lot of investments that aren't ultimately going to produce the yield of a hire."

In theory, it's not difficult for an international student to stay and work in the US for one year after finishing his or her degree. Foreigners usually study in the US on an F-1 visa, which allows them the option of obtaining a one-year Optional Practical Training (often abbreviated as OPT) visa that allows them to work in a directly related job for a year after they finish their studies.

But after the OPT year, the process becomes tricky. Students who wish to stay in the United States must try to transition to H-1B status, which allows non-Americans to work in specialty fields in the US. The government places caps on the number of H-1B visas issued per year; in 2015 the cap was 65,000 plus an additional 20,000 for students with advanced American degrees. The government received 233,000 applications for those slots, according to Linda Gentile, director of the Office of International Education at Carnegie Mellon University. The government then uses a lottery to determine who will receive those 85,000 visas.

[Read about US post-MBA visa rules as well as those in the UK, Europe, and other countries on the Article Post-MBA: The Work Visa Rundown]

The one exception to this rule? Workers in science, technology, engineering or math (STEM). The US government offers a 17-month extension to the OPT period for students graduating in these fields, a valuable policy for these students because those extra months afford them the ability to go through the H-1B lottery more than once. The STEM OPT extension was set to expire on February 12, 2016, but was extended until May 10; its fate after that is uncertain.

Even so, in general the MBA does not fit into the STEM category (with some exceptions).


Naomi Lynch, Global Sector Lead in the University of Southern California's Marshall School of Business' MBA Career Services team, agrees with Allen that the competition is tough out there.

"It's really hard for international students and they're limited in terms of fields and functions. I do not think it's getting any easier," Lynch says. "It's getting harder." She adds, "You need to be open to going home."

Lynch says one problem affecting her students this year is a low number of offers from technology firms. She says that in recent years, tech firms have tended to hire a large number of international students, but that since these firms' stock prices are down, so is hiring.

"The year's not over, but the beginning of this year we've seen a tough start to the year for tech firms in general," she says.

She adds that the entertainment jobs of southern California aren't traditionally friendly to international students, although consulting, healthcare and big banking are typically better.

Staying positive

If you’re an international student who wants to work in the US after your graduation, it’s important to be optimistic and focus on the skills you can bring to the table.

Darden student Anupam Singh pursued his bachelor's in computer science in India, then pursued his master's at Stonybrook in Long Island, New York. He jumped into his OPT period, then asked his employer, Bank of America, to sponsor him for an H1-B. Once he decided to pursue his MBA at Darden, though, he had to start over with a student visa. When he graduates from Darden in May, he plans to fight for his green card.

While Singh acknowledges that it's tough out there, he says students should focus on the unique skills they can contribute to an American company.

"When you come in, it's a tough job market," Singh says. "What I would say is, instead of thinking too much about, hey, I'm from this country and why would an American company employ me and spend so much money on lawyers and H1-B fees and fighting for a green card, instead, focus on your strengths, skill sets, and the international exposure that you bring."

Singh says that his international outlook, as well as his technological expertise, has helped him stand out in the job application pile, especially at large companies that might want to expand to the Asian markets.

He also suggests that international students gearing up for the H1-B lottery should educate themselves about rules and regulations, and prepare to ask their company to relocate them to Europe, Canada or an office in their home country, if necessary.

Singh also points out that even for students who can't find work in America, or can't secure a permanent visa, an American degree and English-language skills will come in handy anywhere.

"Say you have communication skills, you work in America for a few years, but unfortunately you can't get a visa," Singh says. "But that skill set really positions you well to succeed in your home country."

]]> Tue, 08 Mar 2016 00:00:00 +0100
<![CDATA[MBA Admissions Test Choice: GRE or GMAT?]]> Betsy Kacizak, MBA director at the Wisconsin School of Business, says if a student asked her which standardized test to take before applying for MBA admissions, her answer would be easy.

"I'd say take the GMAT," Kacizak says. "I do prefer the GMAT for MBA programs. It specifically was designed for business schools, with input from business school faculty."

The GMAT, or Graduate Management Admission Test, used to be the sole standardized test for business school applications. However, more and more schools have started accepting GRE, or Graduate Record Examination, scores in lieu of the GMAT. There are currently more than 1200 business schools in 70 countries that accept the GRE, including London Business School in the UK, IMD Business School in Switzerland, China’s Tsinghua University, and McGill University in Canada. As of 2014, 85 percent of business schools were accepting GRE scores instead of GMAT scores, according to a Kaplan survey.

This increased acceptance of the GRE has led to a rising number of aspiring business students taking the test. In 2009, heavyweights like  Harvard Business School and NYU's Stern School of Business announced that they would begin accepting the GRE as an alternative to the GMAT. And the number of test takers in fiscal year 2015 who intended to study business increased by 10 percent over the previous year and doubled since fiscal year 2012, according to ETS, the group that administers the GRE.

But despite an increased acceptance of the GRE, many MBA admissions directors agree with Kacizak, saying that if all else is equal, they prefer the GMAT over the GRE.

"It's a long-standing test that was developed for business schools. Approximately 90 percent of our applicant pool takes the GMAT test," says Kelly Wilson, executive director of graduate admissions at Carnegie Mellon's Tepper School of Business.

"That said, for anyone taking the GRE, there's no penalty per se for someone taking it. But for a program like ours, the GMAT provides an additional data point that we find interesting, which is the integrated reasoning score."

The integrated reasoning section is one of four parts of the GMAT; the other three are analytical writing, qualitative and verbal, which the GRE also tests.

Lisa Shatz, Assistant Dean of MBA Programs at the University of Texas at Dallas' Jindal School of Management, says until a few years ago, her school only accepted the GRE for professional MBAs, and that even now, she still prefers GMAT scores over GRE scores. She also points out that some schools use a conversion tool to transform GRE scores into roughly equivalent GMAT scores, a method that's often imprecise.

However, although admissions directors prefer GMAT scores, they stress that students might still have valid reasons to take the GRE. Directors say that students should consider taking practice versions of both tests and see which they perform better on.

"If they have more confidence with one test versus the other, I would rather they submit their application to the test that they're most confident in when they're taking it," Wilson says. "I'd rather see them perform their best."

Can a Low GMAT Score Kill Your B-School Dreams?

In 2011, ETS revised the test to further emphasize data interpretation and real-life skills, according to Jason Baran, GRE Program Spokesperson at ETS. Baran says that these math skills are more applicable to business school than the skills the GRE tested previously. However, he attributes the high number of schools that now accept the GRE to two other factors. First, as more and more schools started accepting the GRE, other schools felt pressure to jump on the bandwagon, and the number of schools that accepted the test snowballed. Second, MBA programs wanted to attract a wider range of candidates.

Admissions directors agreed, saying that they don't want to turn away candidates with a diverse set of interests who may have taken the GRE directly out of undergrad before deciding to apply to business school.

We started accepting the GRE because “we didn't want to give up more candidates,” says Shatz.

“If a student is calling and saying, 'I really want to get an MBA, what should I do?' we would say, 'Get a GMAT, take a prep course.”

“But what about the student who already took the GRE because they were considering an economics degree or engineering? Do we really want them to take another test? They might apply to another school that accepts the GRE."

Use FIND MBA's Advanced Program Search to find MBA programs by average GMAT

Kelly Wilson says that Carnegie Mellon's decision to accept the GRE stems directly from the desire to recruit a varied group of students.

"In terms of the GRE, we're looking to build a more diverse pool of applicants, and so by extending the option to candidates to take the GRE we believe that we'll be able to reach some folks that we might not otherwise reach," she says.

And Wisconsin’s Kacizak says that although she prefers the GMAT, the GRE is still an established test that's comparable in difficulty to the GMAT.

"The GRE is a fine test, so we would accept it, because I don't want them to have to go through the obstacle of taking a GMAT," she says. "It reduces some barriers for candidates. More people are taking the GRE because they're not sure which programs they want to apply to, and instead of making someone retake the exam, we are open to it. We know it's still a reliable test."

Image: Admissions360 / Flicker, CC BY 2.0 (cropped, rotated)

]]> Tue, 16 Feb 2016 00:00:00 +0100
<![CDATA[Acing the MBA Admissions Essay]]> If you're working on an essay for an MBA program this application season, here's one big tip: do not mention Hitler when you're writing about leadership.

Julie Barefoot, admissions director at Emory's Goizueta Business School, said that receiving a leadership essay about Hitler was the most egregious mistake she ever saw in an MBA application essay.

"It showed horrible judgment," Barefoot says. "Inappropriate on every level."

Most MBA applicants probably know not to make this mistake--and if they didn't know before, they do now. But the Hitler essay mistake is a manifestation of a problem that admissions directors say they see on a smaller scale with many applicants' essays: poor judgment.

"The jobs that our MBA students are getting are very meaningful jobs. These are big jobs. They certainly can affect or impact people's lives," Barefoot says. "[Therefore we're looking for] good judgment, strong analytical skills. These are all things we look for in an application. Not all of those are characteristics you can discern in an essay, but a lot of them you can."

An essay is just one part of an MBA application, alongside letters of recommendation, GMAT scores, resumes, work experience and GPAs. Essays can ask applicants to address a variety of topics, including their post-business school plans, their greatest achievements, and their role models. But all admissions essays have one thing in common: they present an opportunity for students to inject a personal flair into the impersonal numbers and lists of internships that comprise the rest of an application.

Schools therefore use the essays to assess candidates' intangible qualities, such as whether they will participate well in class, interact positively with professors, impress recruiters and ultimately enhance the schools' reputation and brand when they join the ranks of alumni.

Many admissions directors describe the essay as a kind of test. If a student can't put together a coherent 300-word essay answering a simple question, how can he or she succeed in graduate school?

How to Write MBA Application Essays

"For Goizueta we are very interested in getting a clear handle on the applicant’s post-MBA plans and how the applicant’s background, demonstrated leadership, interpersonal skills and the MBA skill set will enable them to transition into that new role," Barefoot says.

"If an applicant cannot clearly articulate their post-MBA plans or if they cannot convey how this post-MBA job is a good fit for them, that is very concerning to us."

Directors also say that students should think outside the box when writing their essays. 

"A good essay is an essay that's written in a student's voice and tells a story," says Kellee Scott, interim director for the MBA program at the University of Southern California's Marshall School of Business. "A lot of people use a lot of services to write a good essay, and that means you end up with a lot of cookie cutter essays."

Stay on topic

Stephan Kolodiy, senior admissions officer at Rutgers Business School, says Rutgers asks students to choose one of several topics and write an essay. Too often, students end up writing an essay on a completely different topic.

"It shows that they can't follow instructions," Kolodiy says. "It's basically a short paper. It's a two-page paper, and it's a very simple topic. If they can't follow instructions on this, then how are they going to be able to do it once they're in the classroom?"

Off-topic essays are often symptomatic of another big error that students make when applying to MBA programs: writing one essay and clumsily tweaking it for every school on their application list. Most admissions directors are adept at sniffing out when an essay's been copied and pasted. And sometimes, applicants make it blindingly obvious that they've reused an essay--by committing the cardinal sin of referring to the wrong school in an essay.

"When you get that essay that the other school's name is in, it really demonstrates a lack of interest in your school," says Scott.

"If they're a borderline candidate, you may not want to lift them over the border if they're indicating that their first choice is another school."

Then, of course, admissions directors hate to see other careless errors: typos, poor word choice, or badly constructed sentences. Error-riddled essays are difficult to read, and they also point to a certain sloppiness frowned upon in graduate school and in the business world.

"The most common communication vehicle now is email," Goizueta’s Julie Barefoot says. "Some students can be sloppy about responding to email. If you're sloppy about your essay, how are you going to be when you send an email to a recruiter?"

Of course, admissions directors have personal pet peeves and preferences when it comes to essays. Kellee Scott says she dislikes when applicants use too many inspirational quotes and phrases. Stephan Kolodiy doesn’t like when applicants use too much industry-specific lingo and he has to Google every other word in an essay.

Recruit an editor

So how to avoid all of these mistakes? Barefoot suggests that students send their MBA essays to a trusted friend, family member or mentor who has some prowess with the English language to review the text for errors and to see whether the writer has answered the question or not. Barefoot says a good way to assess whether the writer has answered the question effectively is by not telling the reader about the question, and asking them to figure it out by reading the essay.

Barefoot says that the best essays display personality and are easy to read because they are so well-written. And Kolodiy recommends that students use the essay as an opportunity to make a lasting impression on an application committee.

"All the other part of the application--the GRE, the GMAT score--that won't be something that we remember about them," Kolodiy says.

"But something we read in the essay will be something we remember about them."

Image credit: Birkenkrahe 

]]> Tue, 09 Feb 2016 00:00:00 +0100
<![CDATA[Seeing the World Through an MBA Exchange Program]]> When Mei wa Poon's classmates head back to Ithaca this January to start a new semester of their MBA at Cornell University, wa Poon will be flying across the Atlantic.

But wa Poon isn't dropping out of her MBA or taking a semester off. She's participating in Cornell's international exchange program, a scheme that allows MBA students to visit one of the university's partner schools for a semester of cross-cultural study. Wa Poon is studying at the London School of Economics; Cornell students can also choose to study at a variety of other institutions, from China Europe International Business School (CEIBS) to the University of St. Gallen in Switzerland.

Cornell University’s Johnson Graduate School of Management is one of a group of business schools, including the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School, University of Berkeley's Haas School of Business, and New York University's Stern School of Business, that offer students the opportunity to study abroad for a semester. Students typically choose to attend an international school that partners with an American institution, while the international school sends students from its programs to the United States for the duration of the exchange.

Schools outside the United States also typically offer students the opportunity to participate in exchanges. London Business School partners with 39 schools around the world for exchange programs, while CEIBS partners with 40.

Officials at these schools extol the tangible and intangible benefits of participating in an exchange program.

"I think an exchange program is a great opportunity to have a longterm cultural immersion in another part of the world while continuing studies," says Marc Johnson, Executive Director of Global Affairs at the University of Virginia's Darden School of Business, which offers exchange programs with partner schools such as Stockholm School of Economics, Melbourne Business School and the Indian School of Business.

"There's just a qualitative difference in spending two weeks in a country and spending two months in a country, living, studying and engaging with fellow students,” says Johnson. “We think it's a great way to broaden the global readiness and perspective of our students."

Between 15 and 25 percent of MBA students at schools that offer exchange programs choose to study abroad, according to officials. At some schools, such as Cornell, a portion of these students use their study abroad experience to build international networks and thereby find international positions post-graduation. But the majority of students use their study abroad experience to enhance the breadth and depth of their education.

"Students have the opportunity to learn about business practices specific to a region or country from local practitioners," says Caitlin Killmer, Exchange Program Manager at Northwestern's Kellogg School of Management. "Students are able to take courses in specialty topics, such as luxury brand management or sustainability and corporate social responsibility, that may not be available at his or her home school.”

“In terms of professional benefits, students gain a greater understanding of cross-cultural trade and business practices."

Intangible benefits

For Mei wa Poon, studying abroad in London is appealing because it will expose her to the different educational mores in the United Kingdom.

"There's a lot more lecture and theoretical types of teaching styles [in London]," wa Poon says. "It's different from what I was exposed to at Cornell."

Officials also say that exchange programs attract students because they offer intangible benefits not measurable on resumes or transcripts. Participation in an exchange program shows that students are flexible, adaptable and able to learn in other environments--key skills in today's globalized business world.

"As part of our educational aims in our MBA program, we want students who are globally ready," Darden’s Marc Johnson says. "Ready to go into a different environment, a different context. To know what they don't know.

Study abroad, Johnson continues, “helps you understand and develop your self-awareness to learn what you need to learn in a new context,” and imparts “broad life lessons, but it's also directly applicable in the business world as we know it today."

But there are some downsides

But studying abroad during an MBA program comes with some downsides. Unlike undergraduate degrees, MBA programs only last one or two years, so studying abroad basically means missing out on a large part of a program. Forgoing such a large chunk of an MBA program isn't the best idea for every student, and on top of that, study abroad can sometimes interfere with the all-important job search.

"The biggest constraint we see is on the recruiting side," Johnson says. "For a student to spend a semester in another part of the world, if they're still actively recruiting for a job, that can be a problem."

Betsy Dick, Associate Director of Student Services at Cornell, says this is a particularly pressing problem for some international students, who might need to be in the country to complete the process of gaining certification to work in the US after graduation.

"If they're international and want to work in the US after graduation, the OPT [Optional Practical Training] process, getting authorized to legally work in the US, kicks in and starts in their last semester. It hasn't necessarily been as problematic before, because the government wasn't tracking things as closely," says Dick, adding that the government is now scrutinizing students in this process more closely.

But wa Poon, who wants to work as a project manager in energy finance after she graduates, says she's heard that exchange programs can help with longterm networking.

"People say that you meet people overseas, expand your network," she says. "You never know: five or ten years down the line, someone you met during the program might be able to help you out."


  • Header: Bill Abbott / CC BY-SA 2.0 (added background, cropped)
  • Body: Aotearoa / CC BY-SA 3.0
]]> Mon, 25 Jan 2016 00:00:00 +0100
<![CDATA[MBA Applications: What to do About Low Work Experience]]> As an undergrad, Nik Hazell was attending Oxford University as a rower and engineering student when he was injured during the Oxford Cambridge Boat Race.

Hazell suddenly found himself with more time in his schedule. He wanted to stay at Oxford for his masters, and he cast around for the right academic path for him. An MBA from Oxford's Saïd Business School sounded appealing, but Hazell had a problem: he had never worked in business, save for one week at a finance firm.

Less than one percent of students admitted to Saïd have under two years of work experience, but Hazell says the admissions committee was impressed by his ability to balance rowing and engineering during his prior Oxford career.

"Without juggling the extracurricular activity and his academics, they wouldn't have considered me," says Hazell, who ended up earning a place in the course and is now pursuing his MBA. "It showed that I could juggle a lot."

Many MBA programs do not publish hard and fast rules about minimum full-time work experience, but most internationally accredited business schools say they prefer at least two years, and many schools admit classes with average overall work experience of five to six years. Hazell's story is an illustration of a principle espoused by MBA admissions directors: if a student with less than two years of work experience wants to apply for an MBA, he or she must be exemplary.

Anna Farrus, head of admissions at Oxford - Saïd, says a strong academic background, scholarships like the Rhodes, internships and part-time work experience can help sway an admissions committee towards accepting a student with lower-than-average work experience.

Regina Regazzi, assistant dean and director of career services at UCLA’s Anderson School of Management, says that her school sometimes accepts students directly out of undergrad--but that those students must be outstanding.

"We had a student a few years ago who was really smart," Regazzi says. "The lowest grade on his undergrad transcript was an A. He was young, coming straight out of undergrad, and we interviewed him from an admissions perspective. He was so wonderful, he had a great personality, the right spirit and attitude. I thought, we can't lose him, let's take him and we'll figure it out."

Why work experience is important in an MBA program

Exceptions like Hazell and Regazzi's student aside, admissions directors say they're often leery of accepting students with limited work experience because a huge part of an MBA involves learning from your classmates. Dee Leopold, Managing Director of MBA Admissions and Financial Aid at Harvard Business School, says students with less work experience should figure out whether they have anything to contribute to that invaluable symbiotic relationship with other students.

"There's plenty of ways to get to know people at Harvard Business School and say, ‘gee, would I be able to make a contribution in this classroom?’" Leopold says. "That's what it's all about. Certainly not to think about just what you're going to get but what you're going to give to this two-year conversation."

Students with less experience might also encounter problems after they finish their MBA. UCLA’s Regazzi says that companies in certain industries balk at hiring candidates with only a few years of work experience; consulting companies, for example, are often nervous about putting an inexperienced candidate in front of a client.

Regazzi says that students with less work experience who want to attend an MBA now should use their resume to emphasize their specific experiences.

"Put one or two bullet points on the most recent job that you had. That could be really helpful," Regazzi says. "Did you help write a business plan? Did you write a marketing plan? Did you do financial modeling?"

Regazzi also says that when UCLA accepts students with less work experience, the school often encourages them to pursue academic internships, bolstering their attractiveness to employers upon graduation.

Harvard’s Leopold says that students with low work experience who feel strongly that they're ready for an MBA should consider applying.

"There's not a prescription that one size fits all," Leopold says. "Some people are really ready after two years."

But Regazzi says students should think twice before heading down this road.

"It's possible to get into school with no work experience if you're a great candidate," she says. "But if I were that person, I would probably try to go get a few years of experience."

MBAs right out of undergrad

For business-minded recent graduates, a masters in management program—often referred to as "MiM," or MSc—is often a good choice, since these programs are generally aimed at those with little to no work experience.

However, for those who are sure they want to pursue an MBA at some point in their twenties, schools like Harvard, Yale’s School of Management and the Stanford Graduate School of Business offer programs where college seniors can apply, then defer enrollment for several years. For example, Harvard's program, called the “2+2” MBA, accepts students directly out of college, then requires them to work for two years before matriculating at the program.

Leopold says Harvard uses the program to recruit talented and promising college seniors.

"[Recruiting for] MBA programs can be a challenge; where do you find large groups of people?" Leopold says. "Colleges are one place to do that. They're also inexpensive to visit, versus renting hotel ballrooms in big cities. But you have to go to college with a product. What are you going to tell the college students if you have to be 27 to enroll?"

And the advantage of the 2+2 program for students, says Leopold, is that it provides two built-in years of exploration, followed by a guaranteed spot in a prestigious program at age 24.

"[Millennials] have been on achievement treadmills for an awfully long time, trying to get that next accolade or honor or stepping-stone to something," Leopold says. "What would it feel like if for the next couple of years, you didn't have to do that?”

“What would you do if you had the gift of two or three years to really explore what you really love?"

]]> Tue, 12 Jan 2016 00:00:00 +0100
<![CDATA[How to Get an MBA Scholarship]]> A big question on the mind of many an MBA applicant: “How do I get a scholarship?”

“It's a question that everybody asks,” says Garry Cooke, assistant dean for student recruitment at the University of Illinois at Chicago’s College of Business Administration (UIC).

Indeed, an MBA is expensive, and when you include living expenses and the opportunity cost of taking a year or two off from work, the grand total for getting the degree might seem astronomical. Fortunately for many cash-strapped applicants, many business schools tend to award scholarships to promising MBA applicants.

This year, for instance, China’s CEIBS awarded around 12 million yuan (around 1.85 million USD) in merit scholarships, which was distributed to some 80 students, covering between 20 to 80 percent of tuition costs for each recipient.

At NYU’s Stern School of Business, around 20 percent of all admitted students receive merit-based scholarships, the majority of which are awards for either full tuition or half tuition.

Merit scholarships are just that: they’re given out based on how well an applicant has done, often in past academic and work endeavors.

“These are awarded based on applicants' academic and professional achievements, personal accomplishments, interview performance and potential contributions” to the MBA class, according to Yvonne Li, the director of admissions and career services at CEIBS.

How do business schools make these decisions? In terms of potential contributions to an MBA class, “work experience is very important,” says Christine Cordt, MBA marketing manager at the Frankfurt School of Finance & Management, since a student with a strong background will be able to bring a lot to the table during class discussions.

Additionally, according to Cordt, when awarding scholarships, the Frankfurt School will also look at valuable contributions outside of class, such as a willingness to organize class events.

"Show me your numbers"

Beyond potential contributions to an MBA class, when awarding merit-based scholarships, many business schools will also look at a potential student’s hard numbers. “Because we're trying to keep it as equal as possible, we're looking at the GPA and the GMAT score,” says UIC’s Garry Cooke.

At UIC, the scholarships range from between $2,000 to the full cost of tuition, and an estimated three percent of students receive some kind of award, according to Cooke. In terms of successful scholarship recipients, “typically, if it's the GMAT they're taking, they'll have a 650 or above,” Cooke says, and “their GPA is usually a 3.4 and above.”

For potential MBAs who did poorly in their undergraduate years, this might present a problem. However, those who can get a high GMAT or GRE score are in luck.

“A lot of times your grade point average, it is what it is,” says Cooke. “So it's usually the GMAT or GRE, that's something you can have a bigger impact on.”

Tracking Down the Funds: How to Pay for Your MBA

However, a high GMAT score will not always seal the deal, as many business use coveted scholarship money to build a diverse class. “We look at the whole profile,” says Christine Cordt from the Frankfurt School.

“We don't want to have a class full of students with 800 GMAT scores,” but instead, “we want to have a class where they can have good discussions, with students from various backgrounds, who come from different countries or cultures.”

“So what we're looking at is a mixture.”

Along these lines, Cordt says that the MBA applicant groups with the highest chances of getting scholarships are women and those from developing countries, along with entrepreneurs.

Apply early, apply often?

How can you improve your chances to get scholarship money? “It is a highly competitive process so the earlier you apply, the better,” according to CEIBS’ Yvonne Li.

Representatives from some business schools agree that MBA applicants who need scholarship money should try to apply as early as possible. “The chances are higher that the earlier you apply, the better it is to receive a scholarship because the pot is fuller,” says the Frankfurt School’s Christine Cordt.

“If there are 20 good students applying at the last minute, then we might have already given out a big part of the scholarships” by that point, says Cordt.

However, applying early does not in itself guarantee a scholarship. “If someone is highly qualified, and they apply early, they'll be awarded that scholarship as early as possible,” says UIC’s Garry Cooke.

“However, I'm not going to award money to people who apply early” if they do not meet the same standards of typical scholarship recipients, says Cooke.

In this sense, potential MBA students should only apply when they feel their application is ready. “They should apply when they feel they'll be putting their best application materials forward,” Cooke says.

But beyond that, being friendly and not demanding can go a long way. “Trying to build a rapport with us always helps, says Cooke, “because you're getting to know the person, and that's always a plus.”

Some more scholarship info and MBA funding tips

  • Some business schools offer graduate assistantships—or other work study programs—which can help offset the cost of an MBA.
  • For second-year MBA students at some schools, merit scholarship, based on academic performance during the first year, are also available.
  • During the MBA application process, some business schools require separate scholarship application letters, but some do not.
  • Other funding opportunities include external scholarships, offered through organizations and other groups not directly associated with business schools.

Image: Jeff Belmonte / CC BY 2.0 (cropped)

]]> Tue, 22 Dec 2015 00:00:00 +0100
<![CDATA[Standing Apart from a Highly Competitive MBA Applicant Group]]> This is the fourth in a series of profiles on the winners of FIND MBA’s recent MBA application advice contest, where three top MBA application consultants analyze the chances of MBA applicants. Read the first installments herehere, and here.

Pulkit Sharma, from India, has a very diverse skillset: he’s worked as a flight steward as well as a business strategist for a manufacturing firm, and he’s done an internship in product design for a furniture design firm. In total he has about 5.5 years of work experience, although some of that was done before he completed his bachelor’s degree.

Sharma’s GMAT score is 720 and he’s looking to do his MBA either in India—at the Indian School of Business—or internationally, at a school like INSEAD, LBS, IMD Business School, the National University of Singapore or Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, among others on his list.

His main career goal is to transition into working for nonprofit organizations.

Three admissions consultants recently analyzed his chances and made some suggestions, based on his profile.

Work experience

Compared to some other MBA applicants from India, Sharma has quite a diverse range of work experience, which might help set him apart. “The fact that he was a furniture designer and an international flight steward makes his profile more distinctive, more interesting,” says Dollaya Chaibongsai, managing director of The MBA Exchange.

The main issue with having such a diverse background is that it might be challenging to tie the experiences into a coherent story when applying to MBA programs.

Indeed, all three admissions consultants advised that Sharma use his application essays to develop a story that ties together his previous work experience with his post-MBA goal of working in nonprofit organizations. “Where has he gotten the experience that will help him with his career goal?” asks Stacy Blackman.

“Where has he gotten the inspiration for his career goal? Where does this come from?”

A main concern with regard to Sharma’s work experience is that some of it—about 2.5 years as a flight steward—took place before he received his bachelor’s degree. “That definitely counts against him,” says Duncan Chapple. “Most schools will look only at post-baccalaureate work experience, because that's the kind of work experience that's useful.”

Even so, Dollaya Chaibongsai says that it might be useful for Sharma to mention it during the application process.

“I believe that can be beneficial, but the rigor and relevance of those jobs determine how much value it adds to his candidacy,” Chaibongsai says. “The key is to convey how those experiences relate and add value to his current and post-MBA career.”

GMAT score

All three admissions consultants considered Sharma’s 720 a strong GMAT score, with some caveats. "Being an Indian male, although not an engineer, puts him in a very competitive pool," of many applicants who have strong GMAT scores, says Stacy Blackman.

A balanced score—where the verbal and quantitative scores are similar—might help set Sharma apart from other candidates from India, especially those who have strong quantitative skills but whose verbal skills are lacking. A strong verbal score would help in this sense.

“A 720 can be solid and a 720 can be not as good,” depending on how balanced the score is, according to Dollaya Chaibongsai.

“If the verbal percentile is less than 80, then I would also be really curious if he had taken the TOEFL."

School selection

Sharma is looking at a range of schools all over the world. Besides the schools listed above, he’s also considering IE Business School in Spain, the University of Oxford’s Saïd Business School, the University of Cambridge’s Judge Business School, and Carnegie Mellon University’s Tepper School of Business.

“These schools don't have anything in common,” says Duncan Chapple. “I can't take seriously anybody who says that they want to be either at ISB or IMD, because these are totally different schools.

Chapple suggests that Sharma re-focus his school choice, with an emphasis on the schools that will help him meet his goals. “Obviously, if he wants to build a nonprofit, the idea that Yale is not on his list, for example, is quite exceptional.”

Likewise, Stacy Blackman advises that Sharma should hone his focus on the schools he really wants to get into, and then develop his admissions essays based on each individual school.

“He should have a story for each school, for what he wants to get out of that specific school, “Blackman says.

“Out of that set, research all of them and pick four or five.”

Participating Admissions Consultants:

]]> Tue, 01 Dec 2015 00:00:00 +0100
<![CDATA[UK Visa Issues: Staying in the Country After an MBA]]> When the British Home Office announced plans to change its post-study work visa policies in 2012, politicians and experts worried that the new regulations would discourage foreign students from applying to schools in the UK, wrecking business schools' numbers, decimating enrollment, and driving skilled workers out of the country the day after graduation.

Three years after those regulations went into effect, those predictions have come true--to some extent. For many business schools, enrollment certainly dipped in the year following the changed regulations, with 2013 numbers dropping to an eight-year low, 21 percent lower than at the height of enrollment in 2010, according to Global MBA data from the Financial Times.

"The 2012 visa changes (along with the associated impression that the UK was no longer welcoming to international students) undoubtedly had a significant impact with recruitments from overseas down. This was especially true with applications from India," says Adam Bolton, marketing and communications director at Association of MBAs (AMBA), an international group that studies and monitors business programs.

The numbers for foreign MBA students staying in the UK have also dropped. Forty-five percent of foreign MBAs who graduated in the UK in 2011 stayed in the country to work, but only one-third are still there, according to Financial Times data from early 2015. That compares with one-half of foreign MBA students who remained in the US after studying there, and two-thirds of foreign MBA students who studied in Canada. Critics attribute the UK's lower retention rate to the country's changed visa requirements.

But there's another side to the story, one that suggests that the new regulations haven't driven students away as predicted. For one thing, the number of international students enrolling in MBA programs has leveled out: between 2014 and 2015, international enrollment only went down for four of the 12 top UK business schools listed in the Financial Times annual rankings. For two other schools, enrollment stayed the same, and for the rest enrollment rose, with Imperial College Business School seeing the highest increase, 12 percent.

The number of visas granted is on the rise too. According to UK governmental statistics from 2015, the UK saw 10,648 more Tier 2 visas granted in the year ending in March 2015, an increase of 13 percent over last year.

And school officials at some of the UK's top schools say their programs haven't seen a drop in enrollment, for one simple reason: students who are qualified to stay and work in the UK typically find a way to do so.

A UK entry visa stampIs it harder to obtain a visa now?

The new visa regulations introduced in April 2012 had some effect on student visas. They increased English language requirements for incoming students as well as tightened requirements for students to demonstrate that they could support themselves while studying in the UK.

But the most significant change affected graduates, not students. Prior to April 2012, students could stay in the UK to work for two years after graduation. But the new regulations required students to switch over to the Tier 2 visa scheme, which requires students to secure an offer of a skilled job from a licensed employer to stay in the UK.

In other words, students who want to stay in the UK after graduation need to line up a job before they receive their diploma.

Canada, on the other hand, offers a visa to students that allows them to stay and work for three years post-graduation, even without sponsorship from a company lined up. The US offers an Optional Post-Training visa, which allows students to stay for up to one year after graduation to work in a field related to their degree.

In the UK, the April 2012 change also introduced a new visa category. The Tier 1 graduate entrepreneur visa allows students with a “genuine and credible business idea” to stay in the UK for up to one year. Students applying for this visa must be endorsed by UK Trade and Investment—a government agency—or by an authorized UK institution of higher education.

However, the number of Tier 1 entrepreneurship visas issued has dropped recently, with 2,980 fewer applicants in 2015 than in 2014. The UK government attributes this drop to a stricter oversight of granting these visas, which started in 2014 after the government realized that some students were submitting bogus business plans so they could obtain visas to stay in the UK.

Has the visa change kept MBA students out?

In 2012, officials said the new regulations were a gamble for a country whose higher education industry relies heavily on foreign students, with 1,400 students from 100 countries accounting for 90 percent of all MBA students enrolling in the UK in 2014.

But these days, school officials paint a different picture than their erstwhile predictions and current statistics, saying that students who are truly qualified to work in the United Kingdom will find a way to stay.

Helen Foley, visa compliance manager for degree programs at London Business School, says that more than 50 percent of LBS' non-EU MBA students stay to work in the UK after graduation, a number she attributes to the school's connections in the finance and consulting industries that help jobs for students.

"We do not believe nationality should be a barrier to this [job-seeking process],” Foley says in an email.

Foley said the introduction of the Tier 1 graduate entrepreneur visa has also been a welcome boon for LBS' students, and that since the visa was introduced, the school has successfully endorsed 47 students to stay and start businesses in the UK.

“These have ranged from innovative home products, to creative mobile applications, to high-level finance consultancy services, to educational gaming apps for children,” Foley says.

Derek Walker, director of careers at Oxford University's Saïd Business School, says fewer foreign Oxford students are staying in the UK. Last year, 45 out of the 136 students who reported location data stayed in the UK, and he suspects that number would have been 50 percent ten years ago.

But Walker says it's a common misconception that students are heading home because of the visa requirement change. Instead, he attributes the shift to changing mores in companies. Over the past five to ten years, British companies have moved away from hiring foreign students who want to work in the UK for a few years, then move home. Instead, they prefer to hire locals who are already experienced with the UK's business and cultural climate, and who plan to spend the bulk of their career living and working the UK.

"There's a misalignment between MBA students who want to work for two or three years and then go home, and the companies, who want [candidates who will do] exactly the opposite [stay in the UK for a long time]," Walker says.

He says it's specious to blame the falling number of foreign students who stay in the UK on changed visa requirements.

"If they want to hire you, they'll get you a visa. It's not about percentages. It's about making yourself a dream prospective employee," Walker says.

"Schools and students need to think about that and about the requirements of the marketplace, rather than the rules. It's a bit like blaming the referee for a team's inability to score a goal."

]]> Tue, 24 Nov 2015 00:00:00 +0100
<![CDATA[MBA Applications: Round One or Round Two?]]> This is the third in a series of profiles on the winners of FIND MBA’s recent MBA application advice contest, where three top MBA application consultants analyze the chances of MBA applicants. Read the first and the second entries.

Isidro Martinez, from Mexico, wants to do his MBA at a top US business school, such as the Stanford Graduate School of BusinessUC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, and the Wharton School, among others.

He has around four years of work experience, mainly in controlling roles for Heineken Mexico. However, earlier this year, he launched a solar energy startup. His goals are to continue working in the renewable energy field, in Mexico.

His GMAT score is 650; he has a bachelor's degree in industrial engineering from the Monterrey Institute of Technology and Higher Education (ITESM).

Martinez wants to know, given his GMAT score, if it’s better to apply in round one or round two, as well as what else he can do to get into the best business school possible. Three top MBA admissions consultants analyzed his profile and his admissions chances.

Work experience

According to the admissions consultants, Martinez’s hybrid work experience in controlling and as a managing director of his own startup might be an asset in his application chances.

“He only has four years of work experience, but being a partner and managing director of a startup that's successful and is growing, that shows an extremely steep career trajectory,” says Dollaya Chaibongsai, managing director of The MBA Exchange.

Duncan Chapple says that the strength of Martinez’s work experience will look positive to application committees, who will have an eye towards his post-MBA placement. “It's relatively impressive, and I think a school would be able to place him easily, with his experience.”

However, even if the work experience is strong, he will have to explain, in his application essays and interviews, how he made the jump from working in controlling roles at Heineken to starting his own solar company. “I would want to understand, what piqued your interest in solar energy? Fill in that gap for me,” says Stacy Blackman.

Dollaya Chaibongsai would agree. “He needs to connect the dots between what he's done in the past, what he's doing now, and what he wants to do moving forward, and show how an MBA can help him get there faster,” she says.

Another point that might come up during the application process is what would happen to Martinez’s business if he goes away to business school for two years.

"These schools will be wondering, 'is this person's business going to be successful?’" says Duncan Chapple.

“He's just founded this business, why is he leaving so early?”

GMAT score

Although 650 is a solid GMAT score, it is far below the average of accepted students at the schools that Martinez is looking at. The average GMAT score for the class of 2017 at Stanford, for instance, is 733. At Wharton, the mean GMAT score of this year’s entering class is 732.

At other schools that Martinez is aiming for, such as the University of Texas at Austin’s McCombs School of Business and Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, the averages are closer to 700, which is still above Martinez’s 650.

Can a Low GMAT Score Kill Your B-School Dreams?

“His work experience is a bit light for some of these schools, and his GMAT score is definitely light,” says Duncan Chapple.

Since the business schools that Martinez is looking at are highly competitive, all admissions consultants advised that Martinez hold off until a later round to apply, and work on his GMAT score. “I say do round two with a 700,” says Stacy Blackman. “A score in the 700s is going to be much better than a 650.”

Likewise, Dollaya Chaibongsai says that “If he can raise his GMAT score even by 30 points, I think he should go for it, and I think he should apply in round two.”

“And then he has more time and can use that time to build and strengthen all other aspects of his candidacy.”

School selection

While the schools that Martinez is looking at all offer top-ranked MBA programs, Duncan Chapple suggests that he might instead look at lower-profile schools that are perhaps more appropriate for his career goals.

“He definitely needs to consider, is he a strong candidate for the types of firms that recruit from the programs he's looking at?” Chapple says.

For instance, the University of North Carolina at Charlotte’s Belk College of Business has a dual-degree MBA program with Mexico’s EGADE Business School, which might be worth considering.

“If he wants to study in English but understand the Mexican market, then he should go to EGADE,” says Chapple.

Likewise, since his long-term career goals include staying in Mexico, US schools with strong connections to the Latin American region, such as the University of Miami’s School of Business, might also be good choices.

Participating Admissions Consultants:

Image: "Calendar" by Dafne Cholet / Flickr (cropped, rotated)

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