INSEAD Looks for "Outstanding Traits"

Associate Admissions Director Johanna Hellborg on the qualities the B-school seeks in students and its international brand recognition

Every year, INSEAD, No. 3 on BusinessWeek's 2004 list of top non-U.S. MBA programs, enrolls close to 900 MBAs from 65 to 75 different countries across its two campuses -- one in Fontainebleau, France, and the other in Singapore. While INSEAD recently slipped from No. 1 in BW's biennial listing, it's still difficult to get into the B-school. Johanna Hellborg, associate director of MBA admissions at INSEAD, screens the thousands of applications that arrive in Fontainebleau each year.

She recently fielded questions during a live chat from audience members and BusinessWeek Online's Mica Schneider and Jack Dierdorff. Here's an edited transcript of the event:

Q: How should INSEAD applicants interpret the school's recent dip to the No. 3 spot in BusinessWeek's non-U.S. rating?


It's good that we have feedback on things that we can improve. We're already addressing any weaknesses we know of on the service side. For example, we've changed our food provider.

In terms of recruiting, it's always difficult to compare us with other business schools because [our students get placed in jobs] around the world, and it's not specific to some big cities. And we've nearly doubled our career-services management team to provide better service.

Q: What's the average percentage of students that are employed three months after graduation?


The detailed statistics are available on our Web site. We were up to 79% with offers before the end of the year.

Q: Do you see any trends in the applicant volume following your first-round deadline for the September 2005 intake?


It will probably be a slow start, but we have several colleagues on the road now, and we clearly see a rise in interest in our MBA program.

Q: Which intake (September or January) is harder to break into as an applicant?


There's no difference. It depends more on rounds. You have a bit more of a chance in round two than in round three.

Q: Are there any parts of the application that you weigh more than others?


No. We look at everything. Ideally, we would like to have all parts be strong.

Q: How much emphasis do you give GMAT scores?


We're looking at the balance of all aspects of an application. Prove that you can follow [our course] academically. We look at verbal and quant percentiles above 75%, but we definitely look at the rest of the application, too. We've rejected 800 GMATs.

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