RSM MBA Rotterdam Interview with Admissions Director
Written by Sameer Kamat
The Rotterdam School of Management within Erasmus University enjoys a top 10 MBA ranking in Europe. It offers the RSM MBA in 3 variations – the One-year International Full-time MBA, Executive MBA and Global Executive OneMBA.
Sameer Kamat (founder of MBA Crystal Ball) had a tête-à-tête with Maryke Luijendijk-Steenkamp – Director Admissions and Marketing at the Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University.
Maryke relocated from South Africa to Rotterdam and spends a lot of time globe-trotting to find the best talent for the RSM MBA. When she’s not going through marathon application review sessions, she’s training hard for the Rotterdam Marathon.
If you think you can be ‘comfortable with being uncomfortable‘ (a trait that’s valued by the RSM MBA admissions team), then read on.
RSM MBA Q&A | Rotterdam School of Management
Maryke Luijendijk-Steenkamp, Director Admissions & Marketing
RSM MBA Class Profile
MBA Crystal Ball: In the current class, are there any students from unusual backgrounds?
Maryke: At RSM we value diverse backgrounds in class, therefore we admit candidates that span a vast array of educational, professional and cultural backgrounds.
We have had fighter pilots, artists, rock stars, TV producers and even professional athletes in class.
MBA Crystal Ball: How many Indian students do you typically get in the class each year?
Maryke: Our average Indian intake makes up about 20% of our in-class composition. Having said this, ‘Indian students’ is a broad sweeping statement – our Indian students come from all regions within India and reflect diverse professional backgrounds, including international experience.
Academics @ RSM MBA
MBA Crystal Ball: Sustainability is a key focus topic at RSM. Can you provide a few specific examples of how this aspect is integrated into the MBA curriculum?
Maryke: All academics wanting to teach at RSM need to sign a contract in which they commit to a certain percentage of teaching that will comprise/touch upon issues of sustainability. This means that even hard core statistics classes will have cases that integrate sustainability into the curriculum.
We have specific compulsory courses that focus entirely on sustainability and we have elective courses on sustainability. We also have experential learning experiences that look at sustainability, including the “Kilimanjaro Leadership Project” and the “Bergplaas leadership retreat.”
MBA Crystal Ball: The program is in English. But how much of an advantage/disadvantage is it to (not) know Dutch, when it comes to life outside the campus?
Maryke: The Netherlands is one of the most language tolerant societies in the world! I can personally vouch for that – I am not a native Dutch speaker and have never had any challenges in settling in and making myself understood.
In fact, I am still amazed at the level of English the majority of Dutch society has. Thus, it is a great place for our MBA participants to live in since on average 95% are international and thus non-Dutch speakers.
RSM GMAT Scores
MBA Crystal Ball: The RSM blog mentions that the average GMAT score for some nationalities is 500, while for the others it is 700. I’m assuming Indian applicants fall in the latter bucket. How do you view Indian applicants who may not be close to that median?
Maryke: At RSM we will always have a profile based approach to admissions. This means that we take all aspects of the profile into consideration with the GMAT being just one of them.
My advice to candidates is to, regardless of admissions, always ensure that they submit a GMAT score that is as competitive as possible and as reflective of their potential as possible.
The GMAT is the one aspect of an application that applicants have control over – work experience and academic background cannot be changed – thus they should make the most of it!
MBA Crystal Ball: How much importance do you give to the GMAT score break (verbal, quantitative scores, the IR section)?
Maryke: We look at total GMAT scores. The breakdown is interesting to give us insight into the profile of a candidate, but we do not evaluate any of the sections in isolation. For instance, the IR section could provide interesting background/insight into the profile of our candidates.
RSM MBA application
MBA Crystal Ball: How does the rolling admissions process work at RSM? Do early applicants have better odds of getting in?
Maryke: We will treat all applicants equally, regardless of when they apply. I do advise candidates to submit an application as soon as they are ready. We will start the evaluation straight away after submission which means they will receive an answer soon after, enabling them to prepare for their relocation etc.
MBA Crystal Ball: How can RSM MBA applicants demonstrate their passion to make a difference to the environment and society in general?
Maryke: Applicants can demonstrate this passion by citing examples of what they’ve done in this regard, projects that they have been involved in, ideas they have on the subject etc. They can use the CV as platform and/or showcase this in their final, optional essay.
Tips to tackle RSM MBA essays
MBA Crystal Ball: How important is it for you to know that the applicant has a clear post-MBA goal? How can applicants show that in the essays?
Maryke: Applicants need to honestly reflect their reasons for wanting to do the MBA and how that fits into their post-MBA planning. This does not necesarilly mean that we want to see detailed, five-year plans – we want to see that applicants have put some thought into and have answers to questions such as “why an MBA” “why now” “what must the MBA do for you” “where would you like your career to go with the MBA” etc
MBA Crystal Ball: In the hobby question, is it important to link back the benefits to the candidate’s professional goals? Or is it ok to talk about an interest that has very little overlap with the applicant’s job?
Maryke: This essay is completely open and, again, honesty is the best policy! We want to learn about our candidates and what their hobbies are – it can be absolutely anything that is interesting to our candidates, that they have a passion about and that they enjoy doing. Trying to link it to professional goals will probably make the answer lose it’s authenticity!
RSM MBA placements
MBA Crystal Ball: How easy is it for international students to get a work-permit in the Netherlands?
Maryke: We place almost 85% of our students within 3 months after graduation of which 76% in the Netherlands/Europe – in a class that is 95% international with an intake of about 30% European, these statistics speaks for itself…
The Netherlands is also very expat friendly. Our students are allowed to stay for a year post-graduation on a search visa if they are still looking for a job. There is also an expat tax ruling in place in the Netherlands as an incentive for foreigners to live and work in the Netherlands.
MBA Crystal Ball: In the last few years, what kind of jobs have Indian students taken up and in which region/city?
Maryke: A full overview of our career placements can be found here.
Our Indian students are comprised in this report.
MBA Crystal Ball: What can students do before and during the program to increase the odds of getting their dream job?
Maryke: Students need to ensure that they make use of all possible opportunities coming their way through the MBA. Even before the programme starts, they can tap into the MBA network to start profiling themselves amongst like-minded peers. It is important that they work with our Career Development Centre and career coaches in ascertaining what they want and how they will go about achieving their goals.
It is important to keep an open mind and to be reflective – the dream job as originally envisioned might sometimes not actually be the best fit for a student and it takes courage to re-assess these ideals/aspirations. Our Career Development Centre is there to assist in this process every step of the way. The opportunities are endless, it is up to the candidates to leverage these!
RSM MBA interviews
MBA Crystal Ball: Some applicants may be interviewed by the admissions team. others may have an alumni interview. How does the interview process ensure that two categories of applicants interviewed are evaluated equally?
Maryke: All our interviewers, be that RSM staff or alumni, are properly informed of the interview process and have extensive experience in interviewing. They all have a good sense of the type of profile that would fit the RSM MBA and as such we trust their judgement in assessing candidates.
The admissions decision is based not only on interview feedback but is made by a full Admissions Committee, hence we do ensure that no single candidate is evaluated by any single individual. This makes for great in-class dynamic and top calibre candidates – our track record has proven that and we are optimistic that we will continue this streak…(!)
MBA Crystal Ball: Apart from managerial, leadership & team work, What are the specific professional / personal traits that you look for in an applicant?
Maryke: We like to see candidates that will be open to the dynamic environment at RSM. Thus, we need candidates that are adaptive to change, are eager to learn from others and are excited about complex, multicultural scenarios.
Candidates need to be ready for their assumptions to be challenged, their pre-conceptions being tested and their borders being moved. We always say that our candidates need to be “comfortable with being uncomfortable”- a trait that serves them well during the MBA and, more importantly, during their careers after the MBA.
RSM MBA fees and scholarships
MBA Crystal Ball: Indian applicants are eligible for the Asia & Australasia Scholarship if they apply before 1st July 2013 and 14th October 2013. How much is the amount and how many students get this in the class?
Maryke: Our Indian students are eligible for numerous scholarship options. If they type in their native country on our MBA financing section (here), they will see all the options available to them.
Our scholarship range go up to 40% of the tuition fee. On average about 25% of our class receive RSM specific financial aid. Since the financial aid options are all partial, it is important that applicants also investigate alternative means of funding. Local Indian loans have proven very helpful for our Indian applicants. It is also useful to speak to current students or alumni to get their input as to how they went about funding their MBA.
MBA Crystal Ball: Does the program help in getting non-collateral loans as well?
Maryke: We have a loan agreement with the ING. You do not require a co-signer and payment starts only post graduation. Interest is paid whilst on the MBA. It is important to note that there are very specific eligibility requirements to apply for this loan. Details can be found here.
MBA Crystal Ball: I appreciate your inputs and your time, Maryke.
Maryke: Thanks for the opportunity, Sameer. I’d encourage your readers to read more about the RSM MBA on our website.
There’s plenty more on the RSM MBA website including information about the average GMAT, class profile, scholarships and placement statistics.