MBA Admissions: Q&As with Admission Staff at Top Schools

MBA Admissions Q&A

From narrowing down the multitude of programs out there, to actually pressing ‘submit’ and dispatching your final application, the MBA admissions process can be daunting.


Speaking directly to schools is an essential part of this process – to ascertain what makes their programs unique, to see what they are looking for and whether or not you and the school have that all-important chemistry known as ‘fit’.

The QS World MBA Tour offers candidates the opportunity to speak directly to MBA admissions staff and to hopefully get a little closer to finding out the answers to these questions. Below is a selection of quick Q&As with MBA admissions staff from top schools who attended the recent London leg of the World MBA Tour to three quick questions – what makes your program unique, what are you looking for in prospective candidates and what advice would you give the applicants to your MBA program.

Poul Hedegaard, MBA director, Copenhagen Business School

What makes the Copenhagen Business School MBA unique?

First of all it’s about location – this is the only MBA program in Copenhagen. Secondly, if you’re looking into sustainability, this is the program to go for. There's a very strong focus on diversity in the class – over 90% are international, and around 50% are women. If you’re looking to start a company, we have a very strong focus on entrepreneurship, and Denmark is one of the easiest countries in the world to start a new business. Finally, there’s a very strong emphasis on leadership.

What are you looking for in prospective Copenhagen Business School MBA candidates?

Apart from all the normal requirements, we are looking for people who are unique, who are highly motivated and want to achieve something with their lives, who can contribute to the whole class.

What advice would you give to applicants to the Copenhagen Business School MBA?

The best thing you can do is talk to our students and alumni to get an idea of how it is to be a student on our program. And check out our student blogs – from students to students.

Patricia Hind, senior faculty member, Ashridge Business School

What makes the Ashridge Business School MBA unique?

We are extremely practical; everything we teach has direct relevance to the workplace. We focus on personal leadership development, looking at personal impact and really developing people’s confidence. We don’t do anything but business – we don’t have any undergraduates walking around reading modern history, we only have practicing business people. And we are an amazingly beautiful place!

What are you looking for in prospective Ashridge Business School MBA candidates?

We look for people who are prepared to participate, who will bring experience to the room. We value the diversity that a mixed room brings and feel that people learn as much from each other as from the people at the front of the room, so we require experience that is rich, and that people are willing to share it.

What advice would you give to applicants to the Ashridge Business School MBA?

Jump in!

                                   Caroline Followell, business development manager, and Vishali Darbar, recruitment executive,

 Henley Business School

 What makes the Henley Business School MBA unique?

The caliber of individuals that come from diverse cultures and industries make it a tremendous learning process. It’s a full 12 month program  where individuals still have the option of doing projects internationally, for example going to South Africa, and working with NGOs.

 What are you looking for in prospective Henley Business School MBA candidates?

 Our full-time MBA is more for people starting off in their careers so the entrance criteria is a minimum of three years’ work experience and a good  first degree. Even at that stage we find that people have a lot to bring to the program. The average age on our full-time program is around 30. We  look at the individual more than anything. We welcome applications from any background in terms of industry and sector – so long as they can  show a good progression, and how an MBA fits into this. They need to be clear on how an MBA – and how Henley specifically – can help them.

What advice would you give to applicants to the Henley Business School MBA?

Be yourself, first and foremost. Sometimes people underrepresent themselves. Come out and show what you have and be proud of it, and show your passion – it’s good to show what you’re passionate about, be it over the telephone when speaking to representatives of the school or in a more concise way in your application.

Hamza Siddiq, MBA programs manager, Imperial College Business School

What makes the Imperial College Business School MBA unique?

Our approach – we’re really focused on problem-based learning. With our core courses, we don’t just teach management disciplines, we’ve engineered them to be in line with the challenges within the organizational landscape today. For example, in competing in a global marketplace, we don’t just teach marketing and strategy, we help students tackle particular questions, looking at relevant theory to really help them answer the challenges that businesses face today.

What are you looking for in prospective Imperial College Business School MBA candidates?

The main question I ask myself when looking at an MBA application is, ‘would I be proud to have this person representing the Imperial brand and also representing a program that I’ve worked hard for over many years?’ Apart from the normal entry requirements, what we’re really looking for is a real fit with our culture and values. Our cultures and values are very much about collaboration and teamwork and that’s really important; we’re looking for people who will really flourish in this environment. If they don’t fit in with our culture, we’ll be very honest, and recommend somewhere else.

What advice would you give to applicants to the Imperial College Business School MBA?

Think of applying to an MBA like a first date. Be yourself! Don’t try and paint yourself a certain way. Let us tell you whether you’re suitable, because you don’t want to be on a program that doesn’t fit your particular needs.

                                 Antony Tommis, MBA marketing and recruitment executive, Manchester Business School

What makes the Manchester Business School MBA unique?

At Manchester we focus very much on practical experience and learning by doing – something we call the ‘Manchester Method’. Students get 600 hours of client contact throughout the course; this really brings the theory they learn in the core courses to life, and allows them to enjoy the benefits of interacting with real companies. Even though you’re taking time out of the job market, you have the chance to add three real clients to your résumé before you even finish the program, which can be invaluable when targeting companies after the MBA. In addition to that, we’re able to offer an internship because, as opposed to most schools in the UK and Europe, our program is a year and a half long. Finally, we’re very international – in terms of our cohorts, faculty and course content.

What are you looking for in prospective Manchester Business School MBA candidates?

Part of the MBA experience is learning from your peers. We’re looking for people who are able to add something to classroom discussions, who can share their ideas and have solid work experience to draw upon. It doesn’t really matter what sector, as we’re looking for a lot of diversity in the classroom. We’re also looking for people who are very collaborative, because of the nature of the program – they’re going to be on 16-17 different teams during the MBA, so they need to be good team players.

What advice would you give to applicants to the Manchester Business School MBA?

Research schools well. You’re only going to do one MBA in your life, because of the cost in terms of both time and money, so really do your homework. Know your own profile and make sure you are able to communicate it to the schools you’re applying to. Make sure schools feel like you’ve put some effort into your application. Know what you want from your MBA and what each school can offer to make sure there’s a good fit.

Stein Jacobsen, director of corporate development – Team Europe, IMD

What makes the IMD MBA unique?

First of all, it’s the size – 90 very select candidates every year. It’s almost a perfect global mix of very high caliber candidates, not only in terms of work experience and academically, but as people as well.

What are you looking for in prospective IMD MBA candidates?

There’s something to be said for global ambitions – these are people using the degree as a stepping-stone to get to the top. We’re looking for complete people. If you’ve reached the summit of Mount Everest, that will help in your application, if you’re a concert pianist, that would help too. It’s taken for granted that they are top-level academic people.

What advice would you give to applicants to the IMD MBA?

Get the GMAT right – don’t let this ruin your opportunities!

Christopher Smart, European recruiting director for MBA programs, Hult International Business School

What makes the Hult International Business School MBA unique?

Ours is the only course which has been effectively designed by employers. Based upon their feedback, they wanted a program that’s much more focused on soft skills. The biggest complaint that the Fortune 500 has is that the MBAs they hire can’t put into practice what they’ve learned, so our aim is to address this.

What are you looking for in prospective Hult International Business School MBA candidates?

The biggest thing we are looking for is students we can help go on to success, and who have something to offer other students. Students learn as much from each other as they do from the professors. We’re looking for diverse, hands-on people with international experience.


What advice would you give to applicants to the Hult International Business School MBA?

Make the process as personal as possible; don’t just rely on brochures or even fairs. Get to know the school – it may take a bit of time, but ultimately you’ll choose the right school for you.

Written by Mansoor Iqbal

Mansoor is a contributor to and former editor of TopMBA.com. He is a higher and business education specialist, who has been published in media outlets around the world. He studied English literature at BA and MA level and has a background in consumer journalism.

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