My MBA Application Journey: Part two

This week our anonymous MBA applicant sits the GMAT a second time and visits INSEAD, London Business School and IMD

And here we are with Part 2...

If you have read Part 1, you know I passed my GMAT and decided to apply to IMD, INSEAD and LBS, plus HEC.

One thing I forgot to mention in Part 1 is the most important tip for me in dealing with the GMAT. When you sit to start the math part you have a new booklet in front of you (cause you asked for a new one during the break, right?). Instead of reading the informations (cause you already read them at home while doing the downloadable GMAT test you receive when signing up for the GMAT, rigth?), use these precious seconds to draw a cross on each sheet of the booklet and a tiny number somewhere on the page. 

Start from 3 and keep adding 8: 3, 11, 19, 27, 35, 43, 51, 59, 67. That number is the number of minutes left you should have at that point. Let me explain. When you start, you will have an A4 page in front of you sliced in 4 areas by the cross you draw before and with a 67 somewhere on the page. This has two great advantages: you make sure you don't waste time asking for a new booklet during the test (cause you can't run out of space) and you know how you're doing compared to time left at a glance.

If, after finishing the first 4 exercises your time left (shown on the PC) is more than 67 you are ahead of schedule. Great! If it's less by more than 2 minutes, you are better off skipping the next exercise. Skipping means skipping. Don't read, don't try. Just guess. It's more important to finish the test than to not finish it but having all correct answers. And remember to practice already like this at home. You want to be comfortable with the method and with using just 1/4 of a page for each answer.

Ok, back to the story.

At this point I have the GMAT, but not the TOEFL. Don't underestimate the timing of the TOEFL, cause it takes 2 weeks to deliver results and (at least in my city) you only have two days per month to take the exam and it's normally already booked for the current month. This was my only challenge since I've been working in English for many years. I just bought the official book to take a test at home (to get a feeling of what the test is like) and went to do it. I got 115 over 120.

At this stage I started going to the various events and I started working on essays.

Let's start from the schools. For sure you've heard the "rumors". IMD is mostly for people coming from and going to the industry sector.
INSEAD is for the McKinsey consultants (or consultants in general) who want the stamp and get back to work as quickly as possible. LBS is for people working in finance that aim to work in the City.

I don't necessarily agree with these broad categorizations and I saw their stats. All schools sport an incredible diversity both in terms of nationalities and in terms of job functions. What I can tell you is that they are all damn good and very professional.

First visit was to Fontainebleau. My first impression was that Fontainebleau is really far from everything. I was born in a little village and although I can see how this can be appealing for students who lived all their lives in London, it's not a plus for me. Did you ever asked yourself why is INSEAD there? Luckily they exlain it to you. INSEAD has been establish in 1957 in Fontainebleau because of some nearby NATO establishment. These facilities ceased to function in 1967. I don't think it's a coincidence (if you compare INSEAD to IMD and LBS) that INSEAD is the only top European school with a campus in Singapore and Abu Dhabi.

But, wow, these guys know how to put up a show. We had a tour, a "fake" lesson with one of their best professors, a chat with various
stakeholders (marketing, career services, current students) and a cocktail with Q&A at the end. Especially the lesson was great. Very interactive and highly interesting. They even gave us homework beforehand and tested us. One important aspect that I noticed was the accent they put on extra curriculum activities (e.g. the culture weeks and so on). Final note: all the staff was very nice and they answered all questions and follow up emails I shot at them.


Location: 6/10
Ability to show their best face during the visit: 9/10
Availablity to follow up with specific needs: 9/10
Brand quality: 10/10

Next up was London and LBS. I joined for an evening event hosted by their iron lady: Mary Ferreira. Since I visited INSEAD already, it is obvious for me to compare the two. First and foremost: location. They know about it and they push it a lot; they call it the London Experience. Say what you want, but one year in London is not one year in Fontainebleau. One negative remark in my opinion was that (at least in the event I attended) they had no mock lesson. The highlight there was the quality of students and alumni. Very helpful. If possible, they put even more accent on the social aspect of life at LBS. They have an event called Tattoo and the Santa pub crawl and so on. Maybe you've heard the saying "the hardest part of an MBA is getting in". Well, LBS gave me the strongest impression in this sense.


Location: 10/10
Ability to show their best face during the visit: 8/10
Availablity to follow up with specific needs: 7/10 (very available
students, a little less LBS staff)
Brand quality: 10/10

Last but not least: IMD. I flew to Geneve for an evening event. In my opinion, between these three schools IMD is surely the one with the strongest differentiator. What I mean is that they clearly have a different target and style. IMD has the highest average age among the top schools and the smallest class. This probably rises question on the depth of their network (from a simple mathematical prospective compared to LBS and INSEAD). The saying I mentioned earlier should be changed in: "the hardest part of an MBA is getting in, except if you study at IMD". Do you remember "Fame", the TV show from the '80s? IMD reminded me of the theme song: "You've got big dreams? You want fame? Well, fame costs. And right here is where you start paying ... in sweat." I was impressed by the fact that instead of relying on their alumnis for final interviews they organize a full day of assessments on campus. And believe me, there was no mention of drinking games and funny evenings. There was no mock lesson but the quality of alumnis was really high.
They brought a CFO from a big company and a few clearly talented individuals. They were the only school that (regarding the Executive MBA) mentioned the possibility to fail a class and consequently the need to take it again.


Location: 7/10
Ability to show their best face during the visit: 9/10
Availablity to follow up with specific needs: 9/10
Brand quality: 10/10

In the next post I cover my "B-plan", essays, some answers from the schools and my questions to you...


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

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