Here's what you've missed if you haven't been following. I began my journey by introducing myself and gave my two cents worth on the GMAT and TOEFL.
In Part 2, I visited IMD, INSEAD and LBS and rated my trips to these schools.
In Part 3, I decided to visit HEC Paris and I received an offer from Hult International.
OK, so this is the moment everyone (??) has been looking forward to: how did my journey end?
INSEAD didn't even invite me for an interview, while IMD and LBS did invite me and both offered me a spot in their programs.
About the LBS interview You can find a huge amount of information online so you have a great chance to prepare well. I ended up with a Word document of around 20 pages full of possible questions and my answers. It's very useful to have time to think about the most difficult questions to be ready with a topic to discuss when you are there. In all honesty, I didn't answer at all like I planned, but I think the preparation was crucial.
Do your research once you know the name of the interviewer using Google, Facebook and LinkedIn. My interviewer had some information visible to everyone on Facebook and sure enough the impromptu presentation I got from him was about a topic he felt strongly enough about to comment on it on Facebook (interviewers choose a topic among a list given by LBS).
About the IMD interview It's a great and fun experience. It lasts almost a whole day. I prepared for the interview using the same Word document I put together for LBS, tuning the answers where necessary. The impromptu presentation is very different from LBS. They give you 30 minutes to prepare and transparencies to project on the wall, plus there is an analysis of how you function in a group that is not possible for any school that does only individual interviews. On top of reading the case study they sent us, I also did a lot of research on the company so I found a lot of useful information that was not in the case study.
So, that's it. End of the line. Now I have a few days to make a decision between these two great schools and start the next chapter of my life. If I think about this whole process which started seven months ago, I get very excited. I was really thinking my age was a big handicap, and I'm really proud that I managed to achieve my target.
I also want to share with you a couple more lessons learned from this experience:
Money Applying to MBAs the way I did is expensive. I kept records of what I spent and all in all I spent around €3,400, including professional GMAT training, visits to the various schools and various exams and submissions fees. Please note the total could have been higher since I slept at friends' places whenever I could. On top of this, I also paid the down payment to Hult, an additional €2,700, and I haven't even started yet!!!
Timing In hindsight timing is everything. I didn't have the luxury of time because I did the whole process "in a rush" (seven months) and I didn't have the chance to make the process last longer. But if you have time on your side, I would suggest you to apply only to your two "dream schools" first and later (either later rounds or the following year) to your "Plan B" schools.
Otherwise, if you are accepted to your "Plan B" school, you are forced to pay the down payment for a school you know is not your first choice.Every school has different deadlines and different timings.
Deadlines They are easy to find online but maybe it's useful if I tell you exactly how long it took for each school to reply to each application. I submitted my application to INSEAD on the 7th of December (second round for September intake) and they replied telling me I was not accepted on the 13th of January (exactly as stated on their website). I asked a friend who was accepted at INSEAD for more details: she got invited for interviews the 12th of January and she had her two interviews on the10th and 17th of February. She was accepted on the 23rd of February and she had to pay a non-refundable downpayment of €6,000 EUR by the 23rd of March.
I submitted my application to LBS on the 5th of January (second round for August intake) and they replied telling me I was invited for an interview on the 10th of February (exactly as stated on their website). FAQs mention "an initial commitment fee" without stating the actual amount. I got their feedback on the 29th of March. To accept I must pay GBP£1,500 by the 23rd of April and then GBP£6,000 by the 21st of June.
I submitted my application to IMD on the 1st of February (first round for January intake) and they replied telling me I was invited for an interview on the 21st of February (the website states within six weeks). They proposed two days in March for the interview with the promise that they would reply with their final decision within two weeks of the interview date. I received their offer on the 22nd of March. To accept I must confirm by the 5th of April and pay a non refundable down payment of CHF15,000 by the 12th of April.
LBS and INSEAD are quite easy since you know in advance when their decision is communicated. IMD is the only school without clear dates, so I don't see any other way than to hope for good luck to have IMD's answer at the same time as another school's.
Ask for early decision if you need to Another interesting tip I've learned from two fellow applicants is that it's possible to ask LBS for an early decision (due to an other school's offer expiring). In both cases LBS replied with an early decision. So think about this opportunity as well.
Which offer will I accept? It's crazy how I'm changing my mind almost every day. Both schools have pros and cons, and I foresee a few sleepless nights in the coming week... :)
Good luck to everyone else, and maybe see you in Lausanne... or London! :)
Compare b-school rankings from the FT, BusinessWeek and Economist on the MBA rankings table