Chat Transcript: London Business School

Among the top international MBA programs, a berth at London Business School (London Full-Time MBA Profile), is among the most coveted in all of Europe. As a result, the competition to get in is getting fiercer. During a live chat on July 21, Oliver Ashby (screen name: OliverAshbyLBS), manager of recruitment and admissions at LBS, fielded questions from the audience and Bloomberg Businessweek reporter Francesca Di Meglio (screen name: FrancescaBW) about what it takes to get accepted at LBS and what career opportunities lie in store for graduates. Here are edited transcripts of the chat:

Kwabena: What does LBS look at when it comes to selecting candidates for its programs?

OliverAshbyLBS: This is a very good question. At London Business School we take a holistic view when assessing applications. All our programs require a GMAT score, references, and some form of essay. We also believe that cultural fit is hugely important.

iris: Is the LBS curriculum targeted mainly at finance? Does it provide opportunities to learn about entrepreneurship or general management?

OliverAshbyLBS: The full-time MBA course entails subjects such as corporate finance, but we believe an MBA should be a degree providing a wide range of business acumen. Entrepreneurship and general management are both integral to the course, and there are numerous opportunities to cover these areas.

matejt: Is it possible to be accepted into the MBA program if your bachelor's degree is from a Slovenian university?

OliverAshbyLBS: Absolutely. London Business School will consider academics from all countries.

Kwabena: The Masters in Finance program at LBS expects you to have minimum working experience. Is that obligatory?

OliverAshbyLBS: Yes, work experience is mandatory for the Masters in Finance. [Nevertheless,] we now run a Masters in Management for those applicants with no experience.

jupiterc: Where in London is LBS located?

OliverAshbyLBS: The school is in central London in Regent's Park. It's an excellent location for corporate recruiters and high-profile speakers to visit us.

kshitij1988: Is experience a compulsory [criterion] to get into an MBA program?

OliverAshbyLBS: For the full-time MBA program, we require a minimum of two years postgraduate work experience. The typical average is 5½ years.

ganden: Do you have any tips on answering essay No. 4, which asks applicants to describe their international experience, what they gained, and how it will contribute to the school?

OliverAshbyLBS: Essay 4 is an important question. This is an opportunity for you to explain how you can bring your international experience to London Business School to add value to the community. We are extremely proud of our diversity, and we think international experience is key to helping those around you learn.

tahsin: I would like to know about the opportunities for entrepreneurial studies and entrepreneurship at London Business School, specifically networking and help launching a startup from the school.

OliverAshbyLBS: There are numerous opportunities for entrepreneurship at London Business School. Aside from the highly active entrepreneurship club, in the first year all students take "Discovering Entrepreneurial Opportunities," which develops the tools and mindset to recognize potentially successful entrepreneurial ventures but also is designed to build real-world business acumen to equip students to deal with all aspects of the entrepreneurial world.

ganden: Is it a bad thing if a company I would want to work for post-MBA does not recruit at LBS?

OliverAshbyLBS: Our career services team brings some of the biggest and best corporate recruiters to campus. If the company you want to work for isn't one of our corporate partners or is maybe a small to medium enterprise, this doesn't mean you won't be able to land a post-MBA job there. Having 30,000 alumni across more than 100 countries means you have a vast global network at your disposal.

alexholiday: What sort of network and recruiting activities would American applicants expect [if they] have plans to return stateside upon graduation?

OliverAshbyLBS: First, we have a broad and accessible alumni network all over North America. Our students also take part in job treks, where they travel to places such as New York and Silicon Valley to visit companies at their doorstep.

mc47e: Are applicants with a basic background in English still considered for the MBA program?

OliverAshbyLBS: All non-native speakers who haven't spent two years in an English-speaking country (or completed a bachelor's degree) should take the TOEFL test. We look for a score of around 110.

User1: Will some of the content discussed on this chat also be applicable to admissions into the Masters in Finance program offered at LBS?

OliverAshbyLBS: I am happy to answer questions related to the Masters in Finance.

billg8s: What range (in years) of work experience would the average 80 percent of admitted students fall into when applying? I stress applying, as I often hear stats of average experience, but it's never specified if [it's] at the time of application or when starting the program.

OliverAshbyLBS: It does vary from school to school. For us, the full-time MBA program requires a minimum of two years and an average of 5½.

danielS: Does a high score on the quantitative section of the GMAT offset a C in math in the undergraduate transcript?

OliverAshbyLBS: I'd like to answer this in more general terms. In our application, there is an opportunity for you to explain any GPA or other score you are unhappy with.

mc47e: What do you mean by cultural fit?

OliverAshbyLBS: I'm glad you asked. Aside from the standard admissions criteria, we look for applicants who are likely to fit in with the London Business School community. For example, our MBA program requires a great deal of teamwork, so it's really important you are social and positive.

billg8s: How can less-than-average candidates, specifically someone with 2½ years of work experience, stand out?

OliverAshbyLBS: One of the key things we would look for is if you are ready to join a study group. We have to ask ourselves, "This person is going to be in a study group with people who have eight years' experience; will he or she add value?" I can confirm we take students every year with two years' experience, but they submit very strong applications.

TechQuila: Could you give us more details as to what exactly you look for in the essays?

OliverAshbyLBS: We look for a number of qualities in the essays. First, we want to see that you have some form of plan post-MBA. We also want to see evidence that you have done some research into why London Business School is unique. It is also important that you communicate passion, energy, and personality. This is why we have added the new creative question. You can see our new essay questions here.

kshitij1988 : Can I join the MBA program right after [the undergraduate program or its equivalent]?

OliverAshbyLBS: You would need a minimum of two years of post-graduate work experience.

Chokoloko: How important is international exposure? Is it a requirement for admission to the MBA?

OliverAshbyLBS: International exposure is important. We believe business is global, and we expect our students to have an international mindset. What is really important is that you see the value of international business.

stephens: Should the previous working experience be in the corporate environment?

OliverAshbyLBS: Not necessarily. Our students come from a huge range of backgrounds, including doctors, ex-military personnel, and architects. To give you an example—the Class of 2011 consists of a doctor from the U.K., a marketing director from China, a banker from Costa Rica, a real estate manager from Italy, a management consultant from Germany, and a lawyer from the U.S.

Chokoloko: How would you describe the culture at LBS?

OliverAshbyLBS: The London Business School is tremendously collegiate. The bonds that our students make last for a lifetime, and we have a culture of helping each other achieve our goals. It is common for students to get post-MBA job offers through fellow students.

User1: I noticed on the application form that LBS asks whether I have informed my current employer that I plan to attend business school. If I have not, do you view this as a negative on my application, even though I will give ample time for my current employer to find a replacement for me?

OliverAshbyLBS: This will in no way have a negative impact on your application. It is so we can make sure that you are contacted by us with discretion.

danielS: When you say that the average work experience is five years, does that count up to the time of the application submission or the enrollment? For example, if I apply in October with three years of experience, I'll have almost four by the time I actually enroll in the fall of the following year.

OliverAshbyLBS: We'll consider the amount you have by the start of the program.

tahsin: For demonstrating academic ability, how important are GPAs and GMAT scores and which, if any, is more important?

OliverAshbyLBS: Our GMAT range is 600-800, with this year's average being 697. It's important to note that at London Business School, applications are viewed in a holistic manner, and the GMAT is one of multiple criteria. It is not unusual for candidates to receive places with a below-average GMAT score if the rest of their application is strong and they interview well. The same can be said for your GPA.

TechQuila: This is Tapas from India. I graduated from the Indian Institute of Technology in June 2008 and have been in the infrastructure role within Barclays Capital (Singapore) for the last two years. I recently took the GMAT and have secured 750. Considering that I've been in IT for the last two years, is my work experience a disadvantage? Considering the distribution of students admitted to LBS each year, will my Indian origins count against me, too?

OliverAshbyLBS: No you are at no disadvantage, and students from a technology/IT background are a hugely valued part of our class. Your application will be viewed according to its merit.

alexholiday: I understand that LBS places emphasis on diversity, and most of your focus is on diversity of nationality. What other types of diversity does LBS value?

OliverAshbyLBS: At London Business School we value diversity. Our MBA program is 91 percent non-U.K. and is made up of more than 60 nationalities. Our alumni number around 30,000 and cover more than 100 countries worldwide. As you point out, diversity is not just about nationality. Our students come from all backgrounds and industry sectors. We look at the added value an individual can bring to the program. Ex-military personnel, for example, can offer highly valuable leadership experience.

tahsin: I have been in the workforce for four to five years, would it be better to have both references from the workforce? I am in close contact with my adviser from graduate school and would like him to refer me.

OliverAshbyLBS: References are an extremely important part of your application; you should choose very carefully whom you ask. I would recommend using individuals who have observed your work closely and who you trust to [devote] a decent amount of time, ensuring we are provided with sufficient information. In general we would recommend professional references before using academic ones, as the MBA is a highly vocational program. But perhaps you can use one of each.

billg8s: Common career paths post-MBA are often investment banking, consulting, international business, etc. What would you say are the top fields for which LBS prepares its graduates?

OliverAshbyLBS: A good proportion of our students will go into financial services or management consulting, but an increasing number are getting jobs at [other] top firms. Some of our major recruiters have been PepsiCo (PEP) and Johnson & Johnson (JNJ).

TechQuila: What's the average GMAT score? Can a high GMAT score compensate for less work experience and average essays?

OliverAshbyLBS: Currently the average is 697, but it is important to note that applicants with lower GMAT scores do get made offers if they stand out in other key areas.

ADevan: I'm currently working in Singapore, I'm very interested in LBS. Is it advisable to arrange to visit the campus to sit in on a class and meet with current students and faculty to get a better idea of the LBS program?

OliverAshbyLBS: I would definitely advise coming to visit us. Business school is a tremendous commitment, and it's vital you make the right choice. You can come to one of our campus information sessions by signing up here.

tahsin: I have a masters degree in engineering and four to five years of experience in IT consulting and will be 30 years old when I enter business school, how does LBS look at older candidates?

OliverAshbyLBS: Age is not a concern for us. We look at the number of years of work experience. It's important that as a student with a greater number of years of experience, you feel you can learn from high-caliber students with two to three years of experience.

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