The Admissions Experience: 5 Questions with HEC Paris Admissions Director Philippe Oster | TopMBA.com

The Admissions Experience: 5 Questions with HEC Paris Admissions Director Philippe Oster

By john T

Updated November 10, 2015 Updated November 10, 2015

This article is sponsored by the HEC Paris MBA program. Learn more

HEC Paris’s bucolic campus is situated on some 340 wooded acres outside of the city from which it takes its name. However, the school, which lies just 12 miles southwest of the French capital, can hardly be accused of isolated provincialism.

“With the change in times,” says HEC Paris on its MBA recruitment website, “we have reevaluated your needs and have worked in partnership with consultants from Bain & Company to overhaul and restructure our curriculum to meet current market demand.”

Historically a grande école, the university has long been considered an elite destination by French-speaking students. But as part of HEC Paris’s transformation, it has adopted English as the language of its classes.

TopMBA.com spoke with Philippe Oster, director of communications, development, and admissions for the HEC Paris MBA. Prior to joining HEC Paris in 2009, he worked in the UK and the Baltic States. With two master’s degrees from Strasbourg University, and an MBA from Paris Sorbonne University, he has worked in higher education admissions and communications for over 18 years.

HEC Paris has undergone a number of changes over the last few years. Tell us a little about the effect some of those changes have had on admissions and MBA applications.

The reputation of HEC’s program has been rising exponentially, and from the early 2000s onwards, we have been a permanent fixture in the top 20 of global MBA rankings. Since then, the MBA application pool has become increasingly internationalized. The diversity we now see in our applicants is staggering, and this is reflected in our current 200-strong student body, around 90% of which is international, hailing from over 50 different countries.

What types of things should potential applicants consider before applying to HEC Paris?

Before applying to HEC Paris,MBA candidates should make sure they have thoroughly researched the program to make sure that it is a fit for them. We are looking for applicants for whom HEC is an ideal fit, who have made the conscious decision of choosing the school.

We advise targeting the top-20 MBA programs worldwide as this will guarantee top academic quality and cutting-edge infrastructure. It will also, by definition, mean that the student body will have been selectively chosen as well as being culturally and professionally diverse. This will ultimately ensure efficient career services and a powerful alumni network, which will be hugely beneficial to the candidate’s ensuing job search. Within the top 20 worldwide, there should be no more than three schools that will meet both the MBA candidate’s professional objectives and their personal mindset.

In your opinion, what components would make up the ideal applicant?

First of all MBA candidates have to meet two prerequisites: fluency in English, and having the intellectual agility to fully participate in classes given on subject matters with which they might be familiar; this is what we essentially look for when analyzing GMAT or GRE scores. Once these two prerequisites have been met, we use 17 criteria for admissions purposes. These criteria fall into four main areas:

A) Academic accomplishment: A degree from an accredited university, with a solid knowledge base; candidates who are able and willing to mobilize and adapt their existing knowledge in order to use it within their MBA program. Students must have the intellectual capabilities to thrive in demanding circumstances.

B) Professional experience and career progression: We want to see evidence of clear career progression over time, and proof that they have excelled in their current role. They must be able to display the ability and desire to progress professionally.

C) International exposure: A global outlook – international exposure on a personal or professional level, the number of languages a candidate is proficient in, and confirmation that a candidate has had experience of multicultural environments. The ideal applicant would be a globally-minded, well-rounded individual, with a good understanding of cultural differences.

D) Leadership potential: we look for demonstrated leadership experience, and the MBA candidate’s ability to convey their potential in their essays and interviews.

Could you tell me a little about the steps toward admission to HEC Paris? Also talk about the initial review process and how it has streamlines admissions.

The admissions process at HEC Paris is fast, thorough, and efficient for both us and the applicant. Starting from when the applicant submits an application to when he or she is notified of admission, it lasts five weeks, six if waiting for a response concerning scholarships.

This quick, streamlined process is made possible by the fact that we hold 12 admissions committees per year. It is also achieved because of our initial review process; because there is no time to waste – for either us or the MBA candidates – applicants are encouraged to complete our optional candidate profile. This is an excellent opportunity, giving them the opportunity to receive free, personalized feedback on their profiles from a member of our admissions team before the MBA application process even begins. The feedback they receive will inform candidates if they are the right fit for the program, and if they should continue with their application.

MBA candidates will then have to apply using our online application system, and ensure submission before the deadline date for their preferred round.

Following application submission, the admissions board will then meet for a preselection committee, where they will examine applications in detail. If successful at this stage, candidates will be invited for two interviews.

Our interviewers are HEC Paris MBA alumni, as we find that they truly understand what makes a strong MBA candidate and what it takes to succeed in our program. What’s more, our alumni are keen to meet potential future peers as they are often MBA recruiters. Throughout the interview we will assess the candidate’s communication skills, leadership potential, and ability to contribute effectively to discussion, as well as consider whether their personality complements our mindset and culture at HEC Paris.

The final stage of the application process is the admissions committee. After the interviews have been carried out, a meeting is held which is attended by senior representatives of the French Ministry of Education, HEC Paris alumni, and MBA faculty, as well as the dean and associate dean. They will review every aspect of the candidates’ applications, from essays to interview performance. This meeting has three possible outcomes for the candidate’s application: they may be admitted onto the program, not admitted, or placed on the official waiting list. Candidates will be informed of the committee’s decision within hours.

What proportion of graduates opt to remain in France? In the past, when the school was less international, did more of the graduates remain in the country?

Around 25% of our graduates pursue their post-MBA careers in France, a number which has remained quite stable over the past decade. This is down to the fact that our students benefit from HEC’s proximity to La Défense, the epicenter of European business with the highest concentration of multinational corporation headquarters on the continent. These companies are constantly on the lookout for international talent to join their ranks, as they are able to act as ‘connectors’ for international businesses and implement their global strategy locally around the globe. 

Responses edited for length.

This article is sponsored by the HEC Paris MBA program.

This article was originally published in March 2015 . It was last updated in November 2015

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Content writer John began his career as an investigative reporter and is a prolific educational writer alongside his work for us, authoring over 100 nonfiction books for children and young adults since 2000.