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My MBA Application Journey: Part One

34 yrs old, 720 GMAT, 10 year career, 3 and a half languages - enough to get into a top b-school?

This is an account of my experience trying to land a top MBA. I had to choose between writing a small and generic post signed with my name, or writing a useful and detailed article with a pseudonym. I went for the latter.

A bit of background about myself. I work for a multinational company in the high tech domain, I have a technical masters degree, I'm from a South European country, I lived in a few countries, I speak 3 and a half languages and I'm good with numbers. And I'm 34 years old. Bummer.

The MBA idea has been in the back on my mind for a few years now, but I always thought I could do it all by myself. I was wrong. My career has been steadily progressing for many years, gaining more responsibilities and more visibility with customers and in 10 years I
managed to triple my income (albeit from a South-European start). But since I entered the marketing and sales domain I realized that I
wasn't advancing so quickly anymore. I've been in my position for three years now. Enter the MBA.

I thought a new line in my CV (Acme school MBA 2013) would solve all my problems and I decided to go for it in full force. I knew my big handicap was my age, so I said to myself that to have a fighting chance I had to excel in every other aspect of my application.

I started with the GMAT. I did my research and in my city I found two preparation courses: ManhattanGMAT and Kaplan. Based on what I found online, I decided ManhattanGMAT was the best for me. I was aiming for a very high score and I liked the fact that their teachers scored in the 99th percentile. I think it's much easier to learn from smart people. I started my course just after holidays, in mid-September. Every week we had 3 hours of training and on top of that I put 10+ hours of practice.

My first test, after one week, was more or less 550. After 9 intense weeks during which I gave up my social life I was cruising around
720 and that's what I got at the official test (49 V 40 Q). Once I had that in my pocket, I decided I could have a reasonable
aspiration to get into a top school and I started working hard on everything else.

First, I compiled a shortlist of schools I wanted to apply to. For that I created an excel table with all the relevant data for me:

  • salary in EUR
  • % increase on pre-MBA salary
  • average pre-MBA salary
  • % graduates in jobs within three months
  • average age of students
  • average experience of students, months
  • tuition in EUR
  • duration of the programme, months
  • average (mean) GMAT (80% range)
  • min TOEFL

Plus the position of each school in the various rankings:

  • BW
  • Forbes
  • FT
  • Economist

Quickly I saw three winners: IMD, INSEAD, LBS (in alphabetical order, cause I don't believe one of these schools is better than the others). For various personal reasons I didn't consider the Spanish schools, but I'm sure they are great.

I have a few friends who went to INSEAD and LBS, so I started talking to them and I started to get feedback and suggestions. No need to mention they all advertised their respective school.

Next step, I planned visits. I wanted to have a feeling of the various schools and I wanted to be seen there. I'm really good at networking
and I thought being personally in touch with admission staff would give me an edge, so I organized trips to Fontainebleau, London and

I also decided it was a smart move to have a plan-B, in case all three schools would reject me and I decided to choose HEC as plan-B.

I hope this summary of MBA application journey has been helpful - please watch out for Part 2 in which I'll reveal the highs and lows from my campus visits, my MBA application forms and admissions essays!

Good luck to all the other MBA applicants out there...


Compare b-school rankings from the FT, BusinessWeek and Economist on the MBA rankings table

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