MBA Admissions Q&A: London Business School |

MBA Admissions Q&A: London Business School

By Mike Grill

Updated March 23, 2021 Updated March 23, 2021

London Business School (LBS) and INSEAD have dominated the top two positions in QS’s regional MBA rankings for Europe since their inception, with the UK school wresting first place from its French counterpart in their most recent edition.

So, how does one go about winning a place on the London Business School MBA program?  In this interview, LBS’s admissions director, David Simpson, reveals the importance the school attaches to an additional interview that is carried out, not with a school official, but with an alumnus of the program. In guiding us through London Business School’s application process, Simpson also emphasizes the need for applicants to be honest in their MBA admissions essays as well as to understand and identify with what the school’s program is all about because, as he puts it, “we want people to want us.”   

What is the typical acceptance rate to the London Business School MBA program?

[Admission is] highly competitive, but we do not give out an acceptance rate. Most applicants could do a top MBA program elsewhere.

What is a typical ratio of domestic to international students accepted into the program?

The ratio is approximately 10% British and 90% international: 15%+ North American, 30% Asia-Pacific, 10% UK, 25% from the rest of Europe and 15% from Latin America, Africa and Middle East combined.

What are the most important aspects of the LBS MBA application process besides GMAT score, prior GPA, and current job position?

The full holistic view of a candidate is important, for example, what they want to do next, longer term, not just job aspirations and how this fits in with people’s lives and careers. They should be ambitious, driven, but also carry a sense of realism with regards to what they have done before and how this might play into what they will do next.

We require only two to three essays, but we look at them very closely and we ask for two recommendation letters. The most important part of the application process is the alumni interview with an alumnus in the same field - someone who has been through the program, who knows what is required and expected. An admissions officer will conduct a second interview afterwards, but the alumni interview gives a better view of complexity.

We are looking for how well people work in teams and diverse groups of people and how well people work with others – because no one gets through the program alone and learning comes as much from each other as from the professors. Understanding cultural differences, as well as language differences and barriers, and the way people act, and how much of this is about patience. GMAT and GPA are still factors, but ones that are combined with work experience and additional experience.

What is a common mistake you see applicants make?

Not giving us the whole, honest view of themselves. I’d rather see an application where a true personality shows through with a few rough edges than a completely polished application with no personality. If the alumni feedback comes back poor, the applicant probably won’t get into the program. We need to see the real you showing through, both strengths and weaknesses. If you are perfect, then why are you coming to business school?

Another point of concern is when we see people who do not make it clear that they understand LBS; we want people to want us, to do their research. We want people who are not just looking to get into a top program, but who see us as the school of their dreams.

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

I would like to see evidence that they understand the school, know what we do and that they have spoken to people and not just read the website. I’d also like to see honesty in an applicant’s essays.

What does the London Business School application process look like?

Researching the school, London, students and alumni is important. Then, following essays and references, an alumni interview is conducted locally. The admissions committee will then look back over everything. Every interaction counts - like all schools, we manage a waitlist, not just because of the number of applications, but also because of diversity targets - we don’t have space for an extra 50 students. Our challenge is to end up with the right number, and the right mix, of the right students in all aspects with no dominant nationality, or educational background. There is anything and everything.

What are some of the tests, official documents, and other hurdles that international students must negotiate?

We require university transcripts and the GMAT is compulsory. The visa process must be done independently, but staff are well connected with the government and can therefore help students. If you are tapped into the official network, we can make sure the right things are happening.

When it comes to financial aid and funding, you should spend as much time researching your options as you do researching your program. Look at available scholarships both internally and externally and in any area that applies to you. Also, try speaking to students that have something in common with you: are there any government grants, etc.? Do everything you can to minimize your own debt - it should be time consuming and all involving. In addition, Prodigy Finance works with the program as a community financier.

How can a candidate overcome a lower GMAT score?

We would rather they have a healthy GMAT score, our average is around 700 which is reflective of our international feel. No one gets in with a score under 600, but a 620 and a strong application can see you through. Likewise, a 780 and a poor application or a poor fit for the program and someone who is just a brain, might not make it into the program. We are not consumed with these scores, but if you could do better, retake it. The banks and consulting firms look at GMAT, so you should care. If you have taken it three times and gotten the same mark, you should be able to prove to us that you can contribute to the school in the classroom.

MBA admissions tips

Essay(s): Answer the questions and don’t go off on tangents. Consider how you would answer differently if another school asked the same question.

Interview: Open up - the more open and honest you can be, the better your chances.

Letter of recommendation: Avoid choosing the wrong person – go for someone you know well and who will say good things about you in a very informed manner. We want examples of your work and interactions with colleagues, someone who sees you as being successful in the future.

CV/résumé: Avoid over inflation and give a very concise view of what you have done; who you have worked for, what you have done and the results and things you have done best. One page, it must be one page - we also judge on layout.

School visit: We love to welcome candidates on campus for info sessions and coffee chats. While you’re here, meet as many people as possible and absorb the culture, don’t just look to interact with the most senior person of the admissions committee. Spend some time in the coffee bar meeting students and absorbing info rather than just looking to impress.

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

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