MBA Admissions Q&A: HEC Paris | TopMBA.com

MBA Admissions Q&A: HEC Paris

By Mike Grill

Updated March 18, 2021 Updated March 18, 2021

Shooting up from 10th to 4th in the most recent edition of QS’s regional MBA rankings for Europe, is the program on offer at HEC Paris.

If the French school is on your list of targets, then you might find the thoughts of Philippe Oster - director of communications, development, and admissions at HEC Paris – useful, as he talks through different aspects of the school’s MBA admissions process.

Have you consciously decided that HEC Paris is right place of study for you? Do you plan to acquaint yourself with the school’s campus at Jouy-en-Josas before you apply? Which is more important – the seniority of your recommendation letter-writer, or said letter’s content? Oster’s advice to prospective students encompasses each of these questions, and a whole lot more besides:

Philippe Oster, HEC Paris
What is the typical acceptance rate to the HEC Paris MBA program? What is a typical ratio of domestic to international students accepted into the program?

The acceptance rate to the HEC Paris MBA program stands at 18%. Typically, 90% of our 200-strong student body are international, hailing from over 50 countries, and 10% are from France.

What is a common mistake you see applicants make?

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. 

What is something you would like to see applicants do more often?

In order to ensure that their decision to pursue their MBA studies at HEC Paris is properly researched and informed, we urge more applicants to visit the HEC Paris campus before applying to the program. We provide numerous opportunities for potential students to visit the campus, hosting at least two campus visits per month and regular open days.  What’s more, candidates should also make the effort to speak to alumni and current students, people who have already taken the risk of leaving their job to challenge their professional lives.

How should candidates approach the GMAT?

When preparing for the GMAT, it is important to familiarize yourself with the format of the test. Different cultures and educational systems favor different assessment formats, be it essays, practical exams, or multiple-choice tests.  Therefore, we advise candidates to familiarize themselves with the GMAT’s format, as it may not be what they are used to, and this could trip them up in spite of their theoretical knowledge. At HEC Paris, we recognize that it is more difficult for those who have gone through particular education systems and people from particular professional backgrounds to score well in the GMAT, compared to others. As a result, we do take this into consideration during the applications process. However, our minimum requirement is 600, and the average GMAT score of our admitted students is 685.

MBA admissions tips          

Essay(s):  When it comes to application essays, we look for the five ‘C’s:

1. Content:  Candidates should provide interesting and tangible examples of their achievements.

2. Correctness: Check, and then double check, all answers for mistakes – candidates should demonstrate that they are taking the HEC Paris admissions process seriously.

3. Clarity: Avoid any ambiguity in written responses.

4. Conciseness:  Candidates should aim to not ramble on, but at the same time, make sure that their answers aren’t lacking. Ideas should be expressed in the most efficient way possible.

5. Coherence: Although we understand that it is important for candidates to sell themselves in their applications, more important is remaining true to themselves and their achievements. They should be accurate and not overstate their accomplishments (we double check). We know that there is no such thing as the perfect candidate, and if there was, they probably would not need an MBA.

Interview: A key piece of advice we are keen to share is that candidates should aim for consistency – ensuring what they say at interview matches what they have written in their applications. It is also important that they practice their interview technique with friends and/or colleagues, and hold at least two mock interviews to ensure they feel at ease when it comes to the real thing.

Letter of recommendation: For the HEC Paris MBA, we value the quality of a recommendation over the person writing it. It’s all very well convincing a senior executive to write the recommendation but, if he or she has had little interaction with the candidate, it will show. It is much more useful for us to have a recommendation from someone who works regularly with the candidate, for example a colleague or even a client. We are not interested in recommendations from professors or teachers – unless, of course, the candidate works in the education sector. We are looking at candidates’ working competencies, so they should keep it professional.

CV/résumé: The CV tells us a lot about the way candidates present themselves – for this reason we have no particular recommendations to give, as we want to know how candidates genuinely present their achievements. The only advice we offer is to proofread, check and then get a trusted friend or colleague to double check.

  • You can learn more about HEC Paris, and what it’s like to apply for its MBA program, in a further interview with Philippe Oster, conducted earlier this year.

This article was originally published in July 2015 . It was last updated in March 2021

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Mike's remit covers content, SEO and blogger outreach. Outside of his work for TopMBA.com, he is an assistant coach for MLU outfit, the Portland Stags.

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