Advice on Applying for an International MBA

An MBA program is all about stepping outside your comfort zone to acquire new skills, expanding your network of professional contacts and encountering career opportunities you may never previously have considered.

To maximize these benefits of the degree, there’s much to be said for studying at an international institution, especially if you’ve decided to put your current career on hold and undertake the qualification on a full-time basis.

An MBA in Europe and what schools seek from candidates

For those in North America who are considering the merits of taking a program outside the region, QS research tells us that Western Europe – and in particular, the UK, France and Spain – provides applicants’ most-favored destinations for MBA study. Luckily, the region is also home to a number of world-renowned business schools, such as London Business School, INSEAD and IE Business School. The question is, what are these schools looking for in an MBA candidate and what advice can they offer to those interested in joining their upcoming cohorts?

Here are a few highlights from a series of interviews with admissions directors on, in which top business schools in Europe outline important aspects of their MBA application processes and tips for those applying:

“We are looking for candidates who are mature, who are going to teach as much as they learn through their own insights and who have strong communication and interpersonal skills – exchange and learning among the participants is as important as class instruction.” Pejay Belland, director of marketing, admissions and financial aid at INSEAD.

“We will ask the applicant to give examples from their past experience that indicate not only their management and leadership abilities, but also commitment, ambition, international exposure and teamwork skills.” Stephanie Kluth, head of admissions at ESMT European School of Management and Technology.

Understand which MBA is right for you before you apply

Of course, there’s no point in just applying to every reputable program you can find in your preferred countries of study with the aim of seeing where you wind up winning admission. That attitude isn’t likely to get you very far. As in the US and Canada, individual business schools in Europe offer differing emphases and experiences through their full-time MBAs – the program length can also vary between one and two years’ study. They will therefore expect you to have researched these distinctions thoroughly and to have identified why you believe their program is the perfect place for you to study:

“We want people to want us, to do their research. We want people who are not just looking to get into a top program, but who see us as the school of their dreams…I would like to see evidence that they understand the school, know what we do and that they have spoken to people and not just read the website.” David Simpson, admissions director at London Business School.

“A common pitfall for applicants is to blindly apply to a lot of top MBA programs, without giving enough consideration to their own suitability. We are looking for applicants for whom HEC Paris is an ideal fit, and who have made the conscious decision of choosing the school.” Philippe Oster, director of communications, development and admissions at HEC Paris.

“It is important to convey their motivation to study in Copenhagen as opposed to another city and the relevance of the Copenhagen MBA to their professional profile and post-MBA goals.” Thuli Skosana, admissions manager at Copenhagen Business School.

One way to get to know a specific MBA program better, and beyond the information you can find on a business school or third-party website, is to arrange a campus visit or attend an open day. The logistics here, however, aren’t always ideal, so a further possibility is to attend an event that showcases business schools and programs around the world under one roof. The QS World MBA Tour is one such event and it arrives in Toronto on May 8 2016. Those in attendance can meet and learn more about their options from representatives of leading business schools in Europe, including INSEAD, ESMT, HEC Paris and Copenhagen Business School, as well as those based in the US and Canada.

As a member of Admit Master you can receive free entry to this event, all you need to do is register in advance here:

Register to attend QS World MBA Tour for FREE