London Business School Admissions Chat
European MBA programs have been gaining on their American counterparts. As London comes into its own as the world financial capital, London Business School (LBS) is striving to put its best foot forward, too. Applications are up again this year, says David Simpson (DavidSimpsonLBS), associate director of MBA Marketing & Admissions at LBS. "We're really pleased with the numbers and caliber of applications and look forward to welcoming an excellent class of professionals from all around the world with varied experience," Simpson told an audience of applicants and BusinessWeek.com reporter Francesca Di Meglio (FrancescaBW) at a recent live chat event.
Joined by LBS student Grace Maa (GraceMaaLBS), Simpson answered questions about everything from work experience requirements to how to get off the waiting list. Here is an edited transcript of the chat:
amit_1508_2: Is work experience required for admission?
DavidSimpsonLBS: We do require work experience before entry to the London Business School MBA Program. Our admissions process looks for candidates who have strong work experience, with evidence of progression. Much of the learning in the program comes from the contributions of students, so we expect a lot! Grace will add some information on why experience is so important from her perspective as a current student.
GraceMaaLBS: As a current second-year MBA reflecting on my experience here at London Business School, I do recommend having significant business experience prior to embarking on an MBA. It's not a matter of age, as experience levels can vary at any age, but more a matter of how much you'll be able to contribute to your fellow classmates and how much more you'll gain to learn after a meaningful work experience.
A good way of gauging your work experience is how well you know your professional strengths and weaknesses—and how clear you are on what roles in business you enjoy and never want to do again. Without this level of understanding and clarity, it is very easy to get lost in an MBA program and watch the experience whoosh by!
dchoi75: I'm on the waiting list. In the e-mail, it says LBS doesn't require me to send any extra information. Does that mean LBS discourages me from sending extra essays or recommendation letters unless LBS asks me first?
DavidSimpsonLBS: The only reason to send any additional information would be if your circumstances have changed markedly since your initial application. For example, if you've had a real change in your current role. Otherwise, the information provided together with our application process is sufficient.
maverick_sid: I'm a level-three CFA [chartered financial analyst] candidate with a little over two years' work experience with a securities firm. I have a GMAT score of 710. I was thinking of applying to LBS for its full-time MBA program. Would my relative youth work against me in the admissions process?
DavidSimpsonLBS: You have the basics of a strong application—good academics, including CFA level three. However, the strongest candidates have significant work experience to draw from, so you can reflect back and also offer contributions to your classmates.
To gain admission, applicants need at least a 600 on the GMAT. Our average is 690, and the range this year was 600 to 790. However, you can apply with a lower score if the rest of your application is strong, and we may short-list you for an interview and ask you to retake the test and gain a higher score. We don't reject candidates on GMAT alone.
shaamcs: Does this mean students without work experience are not admitted?
DavidSimpsonLBS: It would be difficult for an applicant to be accepted with no experience whatsoever. The average is five and a half years, and this year's range was 2 to 18 years.
MarkL: How soon do international students typically move to London?
GraceMaaLBS: Some students come in early June/July to find housing before taking time off to travel for a bit, while others (like me) wait until nearly the last moment. Most everyone is here about a week before the start of the program, either still looking for housing or just enjoying the chance to meet new classmates before the start of classes.
shruti384: In reference to the work experience question, would four years working in a top IT/management consulting firm be enough experience or are applicants expected to have close to five or six years of experience?
DavidSimpsonLBS: Your experience sounds well within range, but we would need to see a full application to give you a definitive answer.
dchoi75: Does LBS strongly recommend applicants visit the campus?
DavidSimpsonLBS: Whenever possible, we like candidates to come and visit. Even with the Web site, external guides, rankings, conversations with alumni and students, and overseas information sessions, there is no substitute for visiting the campus. Our campus has a real buzz about it, and obviously it is the students that make it so lively.
shruti384: When [an applicant's] work experience is closer to four to five years, what other factors can set apart an application?
DavidSimpsonLBS: The amount of experience in years is only one factor of what we consider. We also take into account other factors. Whether you've led teams, whether you've innovated, whether you've had much international exposure professionally, for example, will also be taken into consideration.
TAMBA: I am from Latin America, and I would like to know if the school is considering increasing the percentage of students from this region, considering the economic importance of the region is increasing.
DavidSimpsonLBS: Our Latin American students add a lot to our campus environment—professionally and of course, socially. We are not necessarily looking to increase the proportion of students from the region. We make offers to the best individuals who apply. So, each year we may end up with different numbers from different countries. We have seen trends changing over recent years and are really pleased to see increases in applications from Latin Americans.
shruti384: I'm interested in doing an MBA combining operations and IT. I wasn't able to find particular majors outlined on your Web site. Is there a list of majors available?
DavidSimpsonLBS: Take a look at the elective concentrations.
dchoi75: Grace, what courses in LBS did you enjoy a lot? Can you share some?
GraceMaaLBS: It's interesting how everyone's favorite courses vary, depending on who you ask. One aspect I've enjoyed in particular across all my classes is the international aspect. Whether it's marketing or finance or organizational behavior, I've learned so much from the diversity of my classmates. In each class, I've learned about differences in business cultures and understanding between countries. My classmates have made my experience at London Business School incredible.
I've very much enjoyed my courses in finance and economics. My top course so far is "Creativity & Personal Mastery" (CPM). CPM is a unique course featured by CNN and Fortune and only taught at London Business School, Columbia Business School, and Haas (Berkeley). It is the only one that has its own alumni group. In my last term here, I'm also looking forward to "Topics in Asset Management" and "International Finance."
cidicula: How do you factor in advanced degrees, such as a master's, in your consideration of an applicant?
DavidSimpsonLBS: Having a master's degree can be beneficial when applying, especially if it was required for a technical career. If you already have an MBA, we'd ask for you to make it clear why you want another.
ajeet: How relevant are the leadership activities undertaken during the undergraduate course? It has been three and a half years since I graduated from college.
DavidSimpsonLBS: We are interested in hearing all your leadership experience, especially in your work.
KBreen: What was the main feature of LBS that sold you on it?
GraceMaaLBS: It's never easy picking the "perfect" MBA program. I knew that the top of the list for me would be a [program with a] global perspective and [that offered] future career opportunities. London Business School came out the strongest on both criteria. Looking back, I'm really satisfied with my decision. By choosing London, I feel I've gained not just an opportunity to develop professionally but also personally. The job opportunities available in London have been fantastic—along with the opportunities to travel all across the Continent and beyond.
anandha21: How much importance is given to international experience while assessing a candidate? Would candidates having no work experience outside their home country be at a disadvantage so far as international exposure is concerned?
DavidSimpsonLBS: While existing international experience is interesting to us, it is not a requirement. If everyone was already a "global citizen" you'd have less to learn from each other. It is the coming together of individuals from all over the world, with vastly different professional experience, that brings the energy to the campus. What we are looking for is the desire to have a global career post-MBA. This may even mean returning to your home country immediately, but we'd expect you to work in a global context (for example, with international clients), or influencing global strategy.
LBS_Aspirant2010: I applied in the second round for the class of 2010 and have been placed on the waiting list. Is it possible for a person on the wait list to meet the admissions committee in person at the campus for a feedback session?
DavidSimpsonLBS: Congratulations on being placed on the wait list—that is quite an achievement in this competitive year. The Admissions Committee does not generally take appointments to meet with candidates. Being on the wait list means we like your application, but when putting together the perfect class of only 315 students, we have to make some tough choices. We use a wait list to build the class over the full admissions year, so we have a wide range of professional and cultural backgrounds represented.
dchoi75: I heard about something called "Shadow Project." Can you explain a bit about it? Is it only for second-year students?
GraceMaaLBS: The Shadow Project is terrific! When else can you contact someone senior and successful in business, government, arts, or a nonprofit and ask to follow him or her around for three days? It's a fantastic opportunity while you're in business school, and students can undertake a Shadow Project both in their first and second years. After shadowing the person for three days and observing the way he or she leads, you write a report and present your findings back to the person directly. Past projects have [had students shadowing] renowned captains of industries, directors of international orchestras, and even heads of state.
FrancescaBW: Grace, please tell us about living in London. What is it like for an MBA student?
GraceMaaLBS: Where to begin? Living in London as an MBA means access to some of the world's biggest companies and brightest minds in business and economics. I'm really grateful for all the amazing speakers that various organizations have brought on campus. In the past year, I've been able to visit the trading floor at Canary Wharf, heard stock-picking critiques from one of Britain's most renowned investors, participated in L'Oréal's annual e-Strat competition, and met with a number of successful entrepreneurs in different stages of their career.
For this past term, Luke Johnson (who floated Pizza Express) and top Pizza Express investors came and taught my "Financing the Entrepreneurial Business" course. The amount of access we have here at London Business School has been incredible.
On a more personal level, London offers a thrilling opportunity to travel with friends and classmates around the world. I've learned to drive manual-transmission cars in Sicily, watched flamenco in Seville, tasted the best risottos and pastas in Venice, Rome, and Naples, dipped my toes in the sea on the Amalfi Coast, and photographed the incredible architecture in Prague. I'm looking forward to more travel over the next few months with friends before we graduate and spread across the globe.
For more on students' experiences at London Business School, be sure to check out Inside the London MBA. You'll find it on the site blogs [from students and alumni]. Lots of interesting reading for prospective applicants.
For more information on the various student clubs (professional, athletic, specific interests), visit the Web site of the Student Association at London Business School.
cidicula: How do you keep your alumni engaged in the LBS community?
DavidSimpsonLBS: Our alumni are such an important part of our community. We have 27,500 alumni in around 130 countries, and they remain engaged with the school in many ways.
For example, we in the MBA team rely on them for admissions work. Alumni carry out our applicant interviews for us, with admissions staff only doing follow-up interviews. This gives us a great extra perspective from someone who has taken the program and benefited from the learning and networks. It also gives us fantastic local knowledge when carrying out interviews in so many countries each year.
yaayaa: If I submitted my application with a not-so-stellar GMAT score, but I am currently retaking it, does it help to send an update to admissions to let them know this? I believe that the rest of my application is strong, but fear that I may be denied a chance to interview due to my GMAT.
DavidSimpsonLBS: You should definitely let us know that you are planning to resit and tell us the date. As soon as you have retaken the test, e-mail your scores to us.
shruti384: What are some of the differences between the 15- and the 21-month programs, besides a more cramped schedule for the classes and perhaps internship opportunities?
DavidSimpsonLBS: Our MBA has a flexible end date, so you can choose to complete in between 15 and 21 months (not either/or). In fact, many students are choosing to complete in around 18 months. It does create a more compact schedule, and there may well be trade-offs. It is tough to go on exchange (we have exchange agreements with over 30 schools and around one-third of our students choose to do this). It generally doesn't affect your ability to take an internship or [multiple] internships because they take place in the summer between classes.
MarkL: I am a third-round applicant. None of my recommenders were LBS alumni, but my company recently made an investment with another fund run by an alumnus of the LBS PhD program. Would his comments about my work with him improve my application at this point?
DavidSimpsonLBS: Unless the alum has worked closely with you for a substantial period of time, we would not want a reference from him. Referees need to know you quite well in a professional context to be of use. It is certainly not essential to have a reference from an alum or student, and there's no guarantee of a place even if you do.
romans: I am planning to apply with three years of work experience in IT (Britain/Russia/Canada). I had some international exposure while working with customers all over the world. What would you recommend doing to improve my chances of getting into LBS? My degree is in computing from Imperial College. However, I have not had any managerial positions yet.
DavidSimpsonLBS: I can't give you too much specific advice, but you have a degree from a great institution and some international exposure. You should maximize any management of projects or teams that you've had, either while at university or at work.