Posts Tagged ‘Preparing for London Business School’
John F. Kennedy — ‘Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.’
Having spoken and worked with admissions managers in recruitment, I learned that when they review applications, they often look for how applicants may bring value to the classroom and the wider LBS community.
The exact wordings of the essay questions on the application vary from year to year, but they are designed to help admissions managers to evaluate the following:
Are you bringing in experience, professional and academic, that is rare among members of the community (N.B. the community of current students, and not the application pool)?
When I was putting together my application for the MiM, I reached out to students in the programme via email and read their profiles (available online). I realized that what differentiated me from the pack was my experience in public service, combined with internships in varied fields (tech start-ups, government, and laws). Using that piece of insight, I started to develop a narrative for my personal statement.
Can you demonstrate that you have exemplified the core values (communal, courageous, engaged, ambitious and eclectic) of London Business School, and will continue to do so when you are here?
While LBS, just like all the other great institutions, celebrates diversity and uniqueness, it also appreciates recruiting prospects that can unify under some greater, esteemed values. They just wanted to know what drives your decisions and actions when under pressure. Over the course of my study at LBS, there had been moments that were stressful, and I was very fortunate to have colleagues that truly exemplified those core values. They made my life so much easier (and I hope I did theirs, too). I figured that’s why LBS is interested in the values that you uphold and embrace. Knowing why the School asks this question, I hope this gives you some ideas for which professional experience you’d like to share in your application.
Do you show, through your application, convincing motivation behind your application and your qualifications aligned to the requirements?
I personally find this to be the simplest and, yet at the same time, the toughest question to answer. Simplest because the answer could be as simple as “I want to be a consultant and studying at LBS would help me achieve this goal.” Toughest because it is very easy to see through it if you don’t have a strong case for it. My best advice is to take time and think through this most important question (I’ve briefly touched on this topic in my first post), then answer as honestly as you can (and should).
What do you add to the (London Business School) community?
Don’t overthink on this one. If you are an avid basketball player as I am, feel free tell them you’re interested in joining basketball club on campus and help organise events. If you have a knack of building connection with people and/or have an extensive network in a particular field, then the community might benefit from you when you bring in guest speakers in lectures or on-campus events. If you have spent the last five years studying a particular subject, the class certainly could benefit from your sharing of knowledge and in-class participation.
Write your application from the perspective of the admissions committee; include details that are relevant to them, and leave out things that would distract them from appreciating your uniqueness. The application should be succinct to a point that, when they are done with reading it, they should be able to identify you in your own category.
The ability to create and communicate your own brand is highly valued by the admissions committee, as well as prospective employers. It shows self-awareness, strong analytical and communication skills, and a healthy dose of self-confidence – skills that reflect problem-solving capability. Being able to communicate your brand in a way that emphasizes your value to the organization (e.g. London Business School) is even better.
So I decided to pursue an MBA degree. It is a thought process that many go through at some point in their careers. I did too. I even blogged about it. I finally decided to apply to the EMBA programme at the London Business School. Why, you ask? There were three very concrete reasons.
First was the structure of the programme. The modular format gave me immense flexibility. I could continue working and earning while I learnt. The format also enabled me to immediately apply what I learnt. Second was the nature of the programme. I am already past the individual contributor stage in my organisation. A General Management focus was just what I needed. Third was the brand name. Responding to the question ‘Where are you doing your MBA from?’ with ‘London Business School’ usually results in raised eyebrows (wonder, not suspicion) and a hint of a sense of awe. In fact, this programme fitted my needs so perfectly that I did not apply to any other MBA programme.
So, I started my application process. I have applied for full time MBA programmes at various top-ranked universities in the past. There is very less interaction with the admissions team until one gets an interview. With the London Business School EMBA, I had someone reach out to me almost instantly. The first thing I noticed was how nice she and everyone else I interacted with was. She was very courteous, knew all the answers to my (often frivolous) questions, and was prompt in her replies. It felt like they really wanted me to have a good application experience.
I went through the cycle of writing essays, re-writing them and then re-writing some more. The single most important piece of advice I can give you here, is that you must write from your heart. You’re combining so many pieces of information in your application that any discrepancies are visible almost immediately. Sure, you want to portray yourself to be the best candidate that you can be. But I think authenticity and honesty are valued immensely at the London Business School. I chose to focus on what I could bring that no one else could, on my unique story and on how much I would really love to be part of this programme.
Lo and behold, I had an interview call. I visited the Dubai campus on a scorching June morning. The interview started on time and I had senior programme members interview me along with the admissions committee. I liked the fact that selecting candidates was considered a task important enough to have such senior people present. They covered an exhaustive range of topics through their questions, and it felt as though they wanted to understand me from a holistic perspective. Now I recruit for my company, and have interviewed over a thousand candidates during the course of my career. But this was a different experience. I thought I was really good at reading people, but I came out of the interview with absolutely no idea of what they thought of me. I thought to myself, ‘These guys are good. I have never seen such a poker face.’
In the end, I didn’t have to worry too much. I got my offer, and I accepted it without hesitation. The poker faces have been replaced with warm smiles. Now, with two modules completed, I am even more confident that my decision to apply to this programme was correct. But more on that later.
A year ago, I applied to the EMBA Global Americas & Europe. While I considered additional programs, this one was the only I decided to candidate to. Reflecting on this, I remember the application period as being both challenging and exciting.
Since I decided to apply, the application process took me about 6 months. For some of my classmates, this time frame was much shorter (for fewer, longer) but here is how I roughly split my time:
- Preparing the GMAT: about 3 months
- Completing the program application: about 3 months
Preparing and taking the GMAT is a must do that each of us has been through. I’m sure that for some it was a no brainer and for others it was more painful. I have a business background and I am not a native English speaker: my experience is that it is mostly a matter of perseverance. Taken individually, all exercises are do-able but the time constraint is adding up a little of spice. I bought plenty of books and spent about 100h practicing after work or during the week end. Just don’t give up at this stage, if you don’t score as high as you want, keep practicing.
When I first logged in the online application for the program, I was excited about what the non-GMAT part that would be ahead of me. Each section of the application had its own importance and I wanted to make sure that every single form was properly and accurately answered. Part of it is mainly administrative and most of it is about you, as a prospective student and future global leader. The essays were key, not only for the application itself but also for challenging me about my goals. I went back and forth to my essays and shared it with a couple of friends. I wanted to be 100% confident about every single line I wrote and asked myself: what is this sentence adding to my application? How does it help the recruitment team getting a better understanding of who I am and gauge the value that I can add to the program? My recommendations letters were written by people who knew me well and I had no doubt that they would share truthfully their thoughts. When I clicked on the “Submit the application” form, I felt like I did the very best I could.
Two weeks after I submitted the application (1st round), I received an invitation for an interview at the London Business School. I was happy to have passed the first step and I looked forward defending my case in a face to face interview. I was clear on my motivations and prepared a list of questions I haven’t had a chance to ask. The interview was run very, very professionally by two members of the recruitment team. They knew my application in details and while the interview was more of a conversation, I felt positively challenged during one hour.
A couple of weeks after the interview, I received an email which started by “Congratulations, …”
Despite being miles away from campus, I can sense all the excitement as the new class began its first year. Ambitions, aspirations, interests, enthusiasm, excitement – the start of the MBA journey is accompanied by a crazy adrenaline rush!
Looking back, these were my key first year takeaways:
1. Plan – “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there”. Everyone has a reason for pursuing the MBA. Be sure to not just know but write down your purpose. Have a plan for what you want to achieve. With the ocean of choices and wide variety of leadership roles and other opportunities, it is easy to get lost without a concrete plan.
2. Focus – Once you have your plan and know what you are after, it’s easy to focus on what it is that you want. Sometimes, despite the focus and the hard work, things don’t go as planned. This is when planning becomes even more important. Because when you plan, you also plan for contingencies. If the MBA has ingrained something even more deeply in my thought process, it is decision trees. I always think of situations and know the possibilities and can be prepared.
3. Don’t overcommit – Don’t fall prey to the FOMO (fear of missing out) game. It is humanly impossible to be part of every single activity on campus. Prioritise what you want. In my case, travel and some fun club activities took the backseat for career related stuff in the first term.
4. Balance – Balance is better than just being academic/ career focused or just partying. The important thing is that this balance is different for different people depending on their plans and reasons for the MBA. A career changer may have a different sense of balance than what a sponsored candidate would have. Knowing the right sense of balance for oneself is important.
As the current class of MiMs throw up their hats to celebrate graduation and pack their bags to move on to bigger and better futures in their chosen careers, its inevitable to look back and think about what we wish we might have known before we began this exhilarating experience.
So I bring to you a few things that the current class said when asked about the best advice they received when applying to business school and the advice they would pass on to future MiMs.
“Think about what value addition Business School is bringing to your education” “Go to the school with the best name for your CV” were some responses. I would agree and add that this is especially key for those who are still deciding what they should be doing for the next year of their life. LBS added a lot to my CV due to the clubs and activities I was able to be a part of and it helped give me a balanced education with my engineering background. How would it help you?
“Manage your time well and try meeting one new person everyday” while ambitious, is great advice because of the tremendous benefits a good network can lead to. “Enjoy your last year of university” - no doubt advice that has been born from the nostalgia of leaving, all MiMs would agree that in addition to studying and securing a job, the importance of making the journey a memorable one cannot be overstated.
As far as particularly applying to LBS, “Prepare your application and interview thoroughly and get advice from someone who has been accepted into a top school” “Be prepared, you will be surprised how many candidates enter the interview without doing their research”. I put these first since I have also had a fair share of experience with candidates who go through the admissions process only to be surprised mid way through the process when interview questions leave them unprepared. The first stage of essays is also very crucial “Take it serious and let your friends and family proofread your essay’s. If they recognize your personality in your writing, you’re on the right track.” “Make sure to tell your story through your essays”.
Once accepted, this year can be overwhelming with opportunities. “Be mature, know your objectives. Be sure you are clear about them, and MiM will help to achieve them.” “Enjoy every event and meet as many people as you can because thats where you will learn the most from” “If you have a business background, the MiM at LBS will be more beneficial if you are looking for a programme that gives you a network and personal development training”
Others say “Be certain about atleast three career choices and know that you have researched them well. It might sound clichéd, but “be yourself” is sound advice – be the best version of yourself.” “Don’t underestimate Marketing!” and “Make sure you don’t forget to have fun!”
More questions regarding the course can be directed to MiM student ambassadors or leave a comment below
The first day of school is always special and I was really excited on my first day as an Executive MBA (EMBA) student at London Business School. Heavy snow greeted the London and Dubai EMBA class, who had come together for the first day of the orientation week on a cold Sunday in January. The weather could not dampen the enthusiasm of the 130 students who had gathered in the Dining Hall for the welcome address – there was a buzz in the room with handshakes and enthusiastic introductions.
As the week progressed, I realised why London Business School was described as an ‘aah’ school by the Dean in his welcome address (‘aah’ being the standard reaction when you mention LBS as your alma mater!). You look around the class and every student is an Achiever– a mix of entrepreneurs, directors, VPs, project managers and students in various other leadership roles. I absolutely love the class debates where everyone has a different perspective on analysing a case study – viewpoints that are so different to mine that every lecture has been a great learning experience.
Another impression I have carried from the Orientation week is that the quality of teaching is absolutely fantastic – I really enjoyed the Leadership Skills course run by Dr. Margaret Ormiston and the Understanding General Management course run by Dr. Yiorgos Mylonadis. The teaching standards set in the first week are high and if all our professors are this good, then it will be a really enjoyable (and challenging!) 20 months.
Before the first term started we were already loaded with course information and list of required readings.
It became clear to me that the most important during the EMBA course will be the ability to navigate through this sea of available information and focus on the areas that are most relevant to me and my business.
The process that took place in my head while prioritizing my activities became a key learning experience of the EMBA programme so far – I had to define clear objectives for my professional aspirations in order to be able to successfully manage the priorities.
Of course, as most of the people, I couldn’t define the exact role or even the industry that I wanted to work in the future. It’s normal if you don’t know the answer to this question – during the EMBA programme you will receive sufficient support to help you concretize these goals.
Much more important is to use the preparation time to define your “own vision” for your professional life, the values you want to live your life, your inner “north pole”.
The sooner you have it the easier it will be for you to navigate through the EMBA programme and manage your life.
Middle of 2012, LBS admit in pocket, I found myself traveling around south east Asia! There was a sense of satisfaction and a completely different perspective to work. I was thinking on how best to transfer knowledge and leave a legacy behind with my employer Shell. Though, at times, I had conflict in my mind whether MBA was the right thing, but that was fast quelled by speaking to people who had been through the MBA journey. These conversations with MBA students and alumni (at and beyond LBS) were the most useful bit of my MBA preparation. It got the right thought process going… what do I want after MBA and what do I really want in long term! Though these aren’t the puzzles that can be solved overnight but earlier the better.
Another thing to start early is getting MBA financing sorted. Try and apply to as many scholarships as possible; some provided by school, some by your country and others. Some of these scholarship deadlines are as early as Nov of the preceding year, even before your admit. As for loans explore bank, family or other sources.
Further, I took the CFA level 1 to get me back into the “school mode” and lessen my upcoming academic burden. Particularly coming from a engineering/industry background, CFA provided a complete new world of knowledge, turning out to be quite handy for my 1st year courses. Alternatively, LBS provides you access to some online pre mba courses, which could also be seen in the same light sans the CFA certification.
Apart from this there were certain functional preparations. Booking cheap travel early; Packing for London’s notorious weather; Exploring accommodation (temporary & permanent) and potential flatmates. Though accommodation can also be sorted once you reach campus, say couple of week in advance.
My first blog was more functional in nature and representative of pre MBA life; next one would provide insights into the wicked MBA life!!!