HEC Paris is a popular business school in France and the class profile is among the most diverse in the world.
Sameer Kamat, founder of MBA Crystal Ball, interviewed Sara Vanos – Director of Marketing at the HEC Paris MBA, to find out more.
HEC Paris: Admissions, Scholarships, Academics, Careers
Q&A with Sara Vanos | Director of Marketing
HEC Paris MBA Admissions Process
MCB: What are some of the lesser-known facts about HEC Paris that you’d want to share with applicants?
Sara: Though the MBA program is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, the university was founded over 130 years ago, in 1881. HEC Paris has a long history of academic excellence and has continuously strived to give its students the knowledge necessary to become the business leaders of tomorrow. For other interesting facts about the university, you can read more here.
MCB: Apart from the official website, how can international students learn more about the MBA program and interact on a more personalized basis with the admissions committee and current students?
Sara: Prospective students have many opportunities to interact with staff, current students and alumni:
- They can chat with a Marketing & Recruitment Manager who specializes in their region and will give them feedback and coach them through the application process.
- Prospective students are welcome to join us at HEC Paris MBA events throughout the world, book one-on-one meetings with our Marketing & Recruitment Managers, join an online information webinar, or come to Paris for a campus visit. Visits include a tour of campus, a Master Class and lunch with current students.
- Interested candidates have access to an Ambassador Booklet, which gives them the opportunity to reach out to current students who may work in the same sector or be from the same region, etc.
- During the application process, candidates participate in two interviews with members of our alumni, usually located in their region.
- Last but not least, we encourage interested candidates to visit our HEC Paris MBA News Site to read our latest stories and check out our Instagram to be inspired.
MCB: How do you evaluate applications? Explain the step-by-step process that happens from the time the application is received until a final decision is made.
Sara: We offer monthly deadlines that guarantee that applicants will know within five weeks of the admissions deadline if they have been admitted to the program. For a complete list of our monthly admissions deadlines, visit our website.
The first step in the process is to connect with us via our simple, online form. Each submitted form is reviewed by one of our Marketing & Recruitment Managers, who can then provide personal advice and feedback to prospective students.
During the application process, candidates are interviewed by two members of alumni that are located in their region.
We look for candidates with an international mindset, evidence of career progression, and academic accomplishment.
We look forward to reading essays and learning about prospective students’ future career goals, as well as their extracurricular activities.
MCB: How does an applicant evaluate if he or she will ‘fit’ with the program? Then, how should that ‘fit’ be demonstrated on the application?
Sara: A prospective candidate should use all resources to find out more about the school. It is very helpful for candidates to connect with current students from their region in order to gain a better understanding of the university’s culture and to decide if the program is the right fit for them.
After submitting an application, our pre-selection jury will review it, looking for overall excellence. Following that, excellent applicants will go on to the next step in the process, which is one-to-one interviews with two MBA alumni.
This final round helps the candidate and the school assess fit with the program. Interviews take place in person, in the city of the candidate’s choice.
MCB: Can you share some DOs and DONTs – especially with the essays for international applicants? Anything that’s a complete turn-off?
- Be clear in your CV and with your careers goals. Be genuine; please don’t tell us what you think we want to hear! Don’t forget to include the languages you speak and any interests or hobbies that are important to you—they make you memorable.
- Demonstrate your open-mindedness. Let us know if you have lived/studied/worked outside of your home country and what this experience has meant to you. Or tell us about your personal travels, or work experiences in which you dealt with other cultures.
- Use your essays to show us the real you. This is a place to share your experiences and ideas with us.
- Choose the right references. When possible, you should select professional references, rather than friends or professors.
- Study for the GMAT or GRE. We accept both and have no preference between the two tests. Take several practice tests, keeping in mind that taking the actual test is always a little more stressful, so your scores might be lower than in your practice tests.
- Impress our alumni. Candidates chosen for the pre-selection round will meet two HEC Paris MBA alumni. It is your opportunity to gain more insight into the HEC Community and be inspired by our graduates. It’s their opportunity to determine if they would want you as a classmate.
MCB: HEC Paris has two intakes. How does a candidate decide between the two of them?
Sara: Students can start in either September or January. The program lasts 16 months for both intakes. You will have the opportunity to customize your studies with electives, a specialization, an internship and/or an exchange! The September and January intakes have the same course offerings.
Classes have a limited number of students, allowing for a lively and stimulating environment where students discuss, debate and brainstorm.
On average, our class is 93 percent international.
Our MBA students form a close-knit community for life. A perfect equation between our class size – capped at 280 participants – and our individualized approach to learning means that our students’ ideas and input are valued.
HEC Paris Scholarships & Financial Aid
MCB: Approximately what percentage of the incoming class receives a scholarship?
Sara: All applicants admitted into the HEC Paris MBA will have the opportunity to apply for scholarships.
We were able to offer our students over $2,000,000 in aid last year thanks to the work and donations of the HEC Foundation.
Details on the scholarships we offer can be found here. The list includes the HEC Paris MBA Scholarship for Excellence.
In our most recent intake (in January 2019), 36 percent of admitted students received our Scholarship for Excellence. The scholarship can cover up to half of the amount of tuition and can be combined with several other scholarships.
MCB: Are there separate scholarship essays as part of the selection process? Are they evaluated on a stand-alone basis or assessed in conjunction with the submitted application?
Sara: There are no additional essays for the HEC Paris MBA Excellence Scholarship. Once admitted, students may apply. The scholarship is for exceptional applicants who understand the added value of an MBA from our top-ranked business school.
This award is our way of attracting the best students and helping them to realize their full potential and achieve their personal and professional goals.
MCB: Does HEC Paris have agreements with financing institutions? What proportion of students take out educational loans with banks and financing companies?
HEC Paris Academics
MCB: How is studying in Europe different from studying in other popular destinations like the US?
Sara: The length of the HEC Paris MBA (16-months as opposed to many 2-year programs in the US) gives students enough time to graduate armed with the latest knowledge of today and well-prepared to solve the business problems of tomorrow, while not keeping them out of the workforce for too long.
In addition, the program is one of the most diverse in the world. Our 93 percent international student body enriches the overall experience of the program, helping students to shape their view points, and prepares them to work with people from many different backgrounds and cultures.
Finally, the campus is located only 17 kilometers from Paris, allowing student to easily explore the rest of Europe during long weekends and vacations.
MCB: What are some of the unique courses and learning methodologies adopted in the HEC Paris MBA?
Sara: Participants’ learning experiences are not confined to the classroom. Instead, the program combines rigorous academic theory with learning by doing, driving students to stretch their limits.
Our students develop an approach to problem solving and decision making that they will use throughout their lives, preparing them to go further than they ever thought possible.
At the HEC Paris MBA, we have a strong focus on leadership development. We teach students the theories behind leadership, then provide the ideal environment to put those theories to the test.
A series of hands-on opportunities, such as the off-campus, two-day leadership seminar at Saint Cyr and the student-run, multi-sport MBA Tournament (MBAT), develop participants’ confidence to lead in all circumstances, and teach them how to motivate others to work toward a common goal.
MCB: How do you ensure that the curriculum retains its practicality despite its shorter format?
Sara: The program’s 16-month length maximizes ROI andour participants’ chances to transform their careers. It gives students enough time to acquire the best practices of today’s business world and prepares them to solve the business problems of tomorrow.
In the first phase of the program, participants develop the core management skills needed to excel in any industry, anywhere in the world. The second phase of the program is designed around flexibility and customization, and students can pursue specialized studies and hands-on learning in the sector of their choice.
Sixteen months is the ideal length of time to have a real impact on the future of our students – it gives them time to digest new information and build a CV through internships and specialized courses without keeping them out of the workforce for too long.
Careers @ HEC Paris
MCB: The 2018 employment reports states that 17% of the jobs were in the Technology industry. That is an encouragingly high number compared to other top schools. Do you see this sector as being more open for international candidates, on a relative basis, compared to others?
Sara: Technology encompasses many companies, from telecoms to software to web services and more. This sector is growing across the world, so it is natural that we would grow in this sector. In general, hires into Technology enjoy a better work/life balance and more perks than in IB or Consulting, so more and more students are choosing this sector.
Additionally, technology companies are very MBA-friendly. Those hiring from HEC Paris are generally multinational firms that highly value the MBA degree and have specific MBA training programs and roles.
Tech firms visit campus regularly and have a clearly defined hiring process. They can hire local and international students in bulk and they are able to sponsor visas where needed.
MCB: Is getting a work permit difficult for international candidates? What proportion of international students remain in France after receiving their diploma?
Sara: With the HEC Paris MBA degree, students can stay in France for up to one year post graduation to search for their dream job if they wish. Many student receive work visas for France and the surrounding Schengen countries.
Over one-third of our international students stay in France. Speaking the local language helps with placement in Europe, so we encourage those dreaming of a post-MBA career in France or Europe to start learning French or the local language even before the program.
The percentages of non-French finding jobs in France, and non-Europeans finding jobs in Europe were 74 percent and 50 percent of the placement rates in these regions. 60 percent of the Class of 2018 secured employment outside of their home country.
MCB: Are there any roles that are generally preferable (analytical, planning etc) or out of bounds (e.g. front office marketing) for international students with no prior cultural and language exposure?
Sara: If students are not fluent in the local language, we suggest they target a large multinational firm, as they are more likely have English as their working language.
In general, Finance roles do not require the local language in day-to-day work;however, it is a nice-to-have, to better integrate into the work culture. Every year, there are students who secure jobs in France without a good understanding of the French language.
However, if they take the time to learn a little bit of French and the French culture, they will have more opportunities overall. Students can also use their knowledge of culture and language and try to find a firm doing business in their home country – this is often a great way of providing a huge value to the hiring firm.
MCB: Are there any new initiatives that are underway at the HEC Paris MBA?
Sara: We continually take steps to ensure that the HEC Paris MBA advances its position among the world’s most prestigious MBA programs. Curriculum reviews take place regularly to ensure we are providing the most innovative and cutting-edge courses to prepare our students for global leadership in the 21stcentury.
Every year new courses are introduced to reflect social topics and market demand. We recently introduced two new specializations: Digital Innovation and Sustainable & Disruptive Innovation.
There are also continual efforts to enhance campus life. We recently added an MBA Lounge, transforming a classroom into a space exclusively reserved for MBAs to relax and feel at home within the MBA building.
New residences are being built on campus.We have enhanced our private shuttle service and more bus-lines are stopping at campus, so getting to Paris has never been easier.
Changes have taken place across the Career Center with new recruitment forums launched around the themes of ‘Smart Cities’ and ‘Energy’.
In addition, our policy to strengthen international recruitment was bolstered by recent campus visits by Bain & Co and McKinsey – leaders in the market of global strategy consulting – representatives coming from ten international offices.
These efforts have helped ensure that 93% of our MBA graduates are employed within 3 months of graduation.
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