IMD's Tough Love

Says Admission Director Katty Ooms Suter: The B-school's admissions process is totally thorough, demanding, and uncompromising

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Applying to business school is a hassle, no doubt about it, yet those who apply to IMD in Lausanne, Switzerland, deserve a little extra respect. They have to write 17 short essays, produce three recommendations, and endure day-long assessment visits with IMD faculty and admission committee members. That's just for starters.

Recently, Katty Ooms Suter, Director of MBA Admissions and Career Services at IMD, explained to BusinessWeek Online how she chooses 90 people from among 700 applicants for each year's program. Ooms Suter and current student Aruna Subramanian fielded questions from a live audience and from Mica Schneider, BW Online's reporter covering management education, and BW Online consulting editor Jack Dierdorff. Here's an edited transcript of that event:

Q: Katty, IMD's first admissions deadline for the incoming class of 2005 just passed. Your peers at other schools are noting that fewer people are applying to their MBA programs. Do you expect IMD to experience the same dearth of applications?

Ooms Suter:

In 2003, our applications were down about 15%. That's consistent with trends in the overall market -- actually, better than the market.

Q: What would you say most distinguishes IMD from other schools?

Ooms Suter:

First is our admissions process. It's totally thorough, demanding, and uncompromising. We try to craft the best group of 90 high-caliber participants and potential future leaders from 35-plus nationalities.

The second thing that distinguishes us is our real-world, real-learning approach. We have four hands-on projects where every participant learns different facets of leadership. Those four [consist of] entrepreneurship, network building, international consulting, and leadership experiences. These range from one-on-one coaching, to classes on organizational behavior and leadership in organizations, to taking the whole class to Bosnia and Herzegovina for a week to meet with leaders in business.

The third element that makes us different is the IMD network. It's a critical source of information and opportunities for our job candidates. The network includes our strong alumni base, IMD's corporate development team, 150 learning network partner companies, and our faculty -- all of whom are in constant contact with companies that may have job opportunities.

Subramanian: Most attractive to me, apart from the [school's high] ranking, was the opportunity to work with a small class of 90 experienced people who are at similar stages in their lives. The admissions process was stringent and consistent, so I was reassured of the quality of the class. There's also a strong focus on hands-on industry experience. We're working on industry projects already!

The location and shorter duration [IMD is a 10-month program] are a bonus. After a month, I'm not disappointed. There's a huge focus on individual development, which has been very helpful to me.

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